February 2, 2016

It’s a new month once again, which means another opportunity to look back at the world of order fulfillment and remind ourselves of what happened up and down the supply chain as 2016 got underway. Continue reading Order Fulfillment in Review: January 2016

April 7, 2015

Is it really April already? Yes, the seasons have changed and one-third of the year has already rushed by. If you haven’t yet planned an annual review of your operations, spring is a great time to do so.

Even as we’re busy preparing a must-attend webinar for all of you who want to keep customers coming back for your outstanding order fulfillment, we’ve still compiled the most important logistics industry stories from the past month, in case you missed them. Continue reading Logistics Industry Review: March 2015

August 20, 2014
Aleksanterinkatu, Helsinki, looking west.
The streets of Helsinki will soon see driverless cars mix  with other modes of transport. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last time we looked at automated vehicle delivery, it involved a courier using GPS to locate a car’s coordinates for order drop off. So not really that automated at all, except for the location and scheduling part.

When it comes to using driverless vehicles for transport planning, however, we’re firmly at the automated end of the equation.

While still a long way off, we already see the technology ready to roll for driverless vehicles. Google’s work in the field has been news for some time, but an ambitious transport project underway in Finland will certainly have the eyes of the world watching, as Helsinki aims to connect up all forms of transport for a seamless, shared transit experience.

The project is sublime in its simple objective, yet unimaginably complex in the underlying logistics. Helsinki will attempt to integrate all forms of transport, old and new, manned and unmanned, into a single app, designed to connect origin and destination with the most efficient route. If that involves connecting up an old bus with a new, shared-use driverless car, all the better.

The theory underpinning all this is that schedules are known, moving parts can now be tracked thanks to geo-location devices, and our own location can be flagged in the same way. By connecting all three and applying some smart algorithms underneath, the optimum route can be calculated based on speed, expense, or any other parameter that matters to the person making the journey.

The parallels and potential applications for driverless, mode-agnostic transport planning in the supply chain are many.

Consider just how similar the proposed system in Helsinki is to solve the challenge that transport planners face every day. It’s often as simple as getting from A to B, but there are hundreds of considerations en route that make actually scheduling the moving parts incredibly complex. Managing this complexity is at the heart of logistics, and any help that technology can offer along the way is warmly received.

A transport planning team with mobile access to an app that calculates the complex variables of their industry gains a significant competitive advantage. The clearest immediate gains are the time saved on factoring in these influences manually to come up with an optimal route. Subsequent spin-off wins could include new transport opportunities being flagged, increased adoption of intermodal transport solutions, and reduced training costs as less-experienced employees can be brought up to speed on complex systems in a shorter time frame.

Furthermore, it’s easy to see an entire industry popping up alongside this sort of software, providing customization for the unique transport challenges of each business and helping managers navigate the roll out of such systems. Service providers already exist across the realm of warehouse management systems and freight transit tracking, so it would be no great leap to say that a support system would be required for automated transport planning.

Overall, it’s another reason to keep your finger on the pulse of technology and watch those newswires. Or you could just continue to follow this blog and watch our Facebook / Twitter / Google+ feeds… we’re here to keep you moving!

 

 

 

July 2, 2014
Web test devices
What does your smartphone mean for your shopping habits? (Photo credit: mono_spaced)

Mobile technology and ecommerce are inextricably linked, so any significant shift in the dynamic of the former can have major implications for the latter.

Here at the business end of the industry, where online activity is finally translated to physical delivery, we see and feel these shifts more than most.

So when Amazon announced its new Fire Phone last month, those of us in the business of order fulfillment started calculating the likely impact.

 

Amazon Drives Up Shopping on Smartphones

The move is the next logical step for Amazon, who moved quickly a few years ago to secure delivery of digital goods through their Kindle Fire tablet.

Positioned at the cheapest end of the market -and presumably sold more or less at cost – the device brought a raft of new users to the 7″ inch screen. More importantly for Amazon, it brought plenty of new customers into the company’s retail ecosystem.

With an “always-on” connection, the Fire Phone is likely to have a similar effect, even if competition in the more mature smartphone market limits adoption. At its most fundamental level, Amazon wants you to be able to buy anytime, anywhere, and spend more as you do so. As Marketwatch reports a 55% increase in spend when using an Amazon device, it seems to be working.

Or, as credit expert Ben Woolsey puts it in the same article, “Amazon Fire Phone definitely appears to be a mobile wallet first, with the phone functionality being a necessary but ancillary feature.”

 

How Your Smartphone Choice Influences Your Shopping

Amazon’s expansion into the mobile phone market means even more ability for consumers to define just how much we want to do with our smartphone. Consider these 3 ways your smartphone influences your shopping:

  1. Seamless Purchases: Browsing on your smartphone is becoming almost indistinguishable from actually buying. One-click purchasing takes most of the opportunity for buyer’s block to hit, so being plugged into Amazon’s vast online retail space as part of the phone’s operating system. This is less likely for physical goods on Android and Apple phones, but digital content and in-app purchases can still make a dent in your wallet without a moment’s thought.
  2. Impulse Buys: Where as physical points of sale can only store a few select items to impulse buy as you check out (usually those that are everyday necessities or that tempt your sweet tooth), online retailers can add a wide variety of extra recommendations, targeted to your unique buying patterns. Recommendation algorithms are getting better at knowing exactly what we want, when we want it, and are bumping up shopping bills as we add extra items to the cart.
  3. Access Everywhere: Your smartphone goes everywhere you go, more or less, and enables retailers to communicate with you in almost every way. Emails, texts, push notifications and in-app advertising all offer a route to push your shopping buttons with special offers and limited-time sales.

It remains to be seen whether Amazon will wield the same kind of influence on smartphones as they have achieved on desktop and tablets, but online retail as a whole is undoubtedly going to thrive as more consumers go mobile. Just make sure you keep an eye on those credit card bills!

 

 

January 21, 2014
English: A shopping cart full icon from "...
Shopping cart full icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia – iSimple System Icons)

If there was any uncertainty over the importance of ecommerce to retailers and the wider world economy, the sheer speed of its breakout growth is quickly dismissing that doubt.

A study conducted by OC&C and Google set the six-year growth of online retail at the $130 billion mark by 2020, taking into account major Western markets including Germany, Britain, and the U.S.

The figure may not surprise those of us who see first-hand the amount of physical goods flowing through the supply chain thanks to orders originating online, but there are many retailers whose ecommerce platforms need some fine-tuning at best, or a complete overhaul at worst. The order fulfillment process lies at the heart of this improvement, but there are also implications for the customer service, sales and marketing functions right behind getting the order correct and in the hands of the customer.

Interestingly, despite the vast consumer base and the fact that many technology solutions originate here, the U.S. is not the world’s most advanced ecommerce market. That distinction goes to the considerably smaller U.K., which nonetheless has an online trade surplus of more than $1 billion.

The U.S. still has a healthy $180 million by the same measure, but will be expected to catch up with its European counterparts as more of the population owns one-click consumption devices like tablets and smartphones. North American businesses need to be ready to transition to taking a majority of orders online as that happens, again referring back to that expected fivefold increase in ecommerce by 2020.

This latest study is proof positive that consumers are moving to the 24/7 ordering model, with all of the associated opportunities and challenges that come with it. If you have questions about how the supply chain of your business must change to rise to the ecommerce boom, get in touch with us!

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