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E-commerce would have grown at a bullish pace over the last decade even if the pandemic hadn’t accelerated the sector beyond all projections. It has led to a proliferation of platforms, brands, retailers, logistics providers, and a host of other businesses that support the industry.
While this has obviously benefited consumers, players on the supply side, especially smaller ones, are having to fight tooth and nail to stay afloat. They’re increasingly finding that when customers buy online, they care about more than just product quality. Speed and reliability are often just as important.
The realization has hit home that logistics can be as much a competitive differentiator for manufacturers as product and price. If you’re an e-commerce supplier, chances are you’ve already considered this and you’ll want to keep up with all the developments in the industry that are likely to give you an edge.
Here are five trends in e-commerce logistics you should be aware of:
Digitization and automation are absolutely key for logistics operations to remain competitive. It helps reduce costs while increasing efficiency across the supply chain. It also frees up your existing staff to do other core-business tasks.
For a fully automated supply chain, you need to remove or reduce all manual friction during the process, including phasing out cash payments, integrating end-to-end ERP systems, and even technical upskilling for employees where necessary. You’ll also want to leverage Big Data and machine learning to predict market behavior and forecast customer requests before they happen.
2. Real-Time Visibility
One of the effects of the dominance of Amazon’s shipping services, as well as those of other e-commerce giants like Walmart and eBay, is that all your stakeholders now expect real-time order updates and package tracking.
They want to be able to monitor their shipments so that clients and end-customers can plan their needs accordingly. You can enable this by implementing supply chain visibility platforms and integrating those with your own warehouse management and ERP systems.
The supply chain platform tracks packages via GPS/ELD devices on the vehicles and transmits that information to your own ERP systems which have all the customer data. This data is then integrated to send your customers automated updates on their orders.
3. Resiliency and Reach
If the pandemic and the ensuing years have taught us anything, it’s the importance of supply chains being resilient and thriving even in the face of multiple global crises, including everything from a global virus outbreak to an energy crisis, inflation, and even war. These accumulated crises have caused a downturn of as much as 10% in the e-commerce industry, just in the past year.
Customers, especially B2B ones, often come to rely on their suppliers for timely deliveries. If they don’t receive those deliveries it goes on to disrupt their own customers and downstream stakeholders. As a result, manufacturers need to partner with logistics providers that can withstand these pressures and execute globally to support dependent businesses.
4. AI Chatbots
There are a few ways AI chatbots might prove vital for e-commerce logistics.
Customer service, for instance, has become heavily dependent on them. Part of the reason is the lower business cost, but just as important is delivering a satisfactory experience for global customers 24×7.
Backend integrations with logistics ERP systems can help e-commerce chatbots provide another level of service to their customers by offering information on everything from package tracking to rescheduling, revising delivery details, processing returns and refunds, and more.
And frankly, there’s another reason you should partner with a reliable e-commerce logistics partner. How long before customers forego online search in favor of simply asking ChatGPT, “Which store is going to send me my (insert product) the quickest?”
At that point, you really want to be one of the few names the app suggests. And what’s more, SEO might not help you there as much as verified online reviews vouching for a brand’s speed.
5. Made-to-Order Shipments
The popularity of e-commerce together with the demand for faster shipping means that logistics partners are increasingly being asked to ship smaller lots for individual retailers.
As a result, logistics companies have begun to source smaller deliveries from multiple retailers, all of which together can fill up the entire carrier space in a solution known as Less Than Truckload (LTL) demand. This is a highly efficient method that results in lower costs for consumers and retailers alike, while also reducing the environmental impact of shipping.
E-commerce and logistics are practically inseparable industries. Technology will continue to change and shape these industries and those who adapt quicker and better will continue to have an edge.