I’ve been looking into my crystal ball for next year, and I can see a revolution coming… Customers have been told by retailers what they can have and when they can have it for long enough, and next year will see the consumer seizing control, thanks largely to developments introduced by retailers’ delivery partners.
We were in a push-economy, with manufacturers and retailers prescribing how much of each item reaches the shelves of what shop, and when. They also decreed the day your item would be delivered. Now, however, rapid advances in technology mean we are entering a pull-economy: customers are in the driving seat, and are deciding exactly when and where they want their products.
Old fashioned High Street stores might have trouble adapting to these changes, and no doubt some old skool logistics managers, buyers and wholesalers were happier when they were in control of their supply chain, but, mark my words, next year the internet retail delivery and international parcel market is poised for some significant developments.
Coming into focus in my crystal ball I can see some big changes starting in 2015:
Cooperation between retailers, manufacturers and deliverers will increase rapidly. 2015 will be the year retailers and manufacturers embrace their delivery partners. That’s because the more flexible the delivery options they can offer, the more sales they will achieve. Delivery will be as essential a component of any item as design and price. Retailers will need to integrate more of their systems with both manufacturers and delivery companies so that, for example, a fridge can be delivered direct from manufacturer to customer, without ever seeing the retailer’s shelves or warehouse. It all means that retailers and their chosen delivery companies are going to have to cooperate more closely than ever before to gain the delivery advantage over their competitors and ensure customer satisfaction.
Increasing real-time delivery options will be a growing feature next year. Hat’s off to ParcelHero partner DPD who helped revolutionise customers’ experience in 2014 with its multi-award winning Predict and Follow My Parcel services. It won awards from a variety of organisations. Now customers can receive a one-hour delivery window and reschedule the parcel while the delivery is actually on the road. Real time tracking follows the delivery, and there’s a 15 minute countdown. You even know your driver’s name! My fearless projection is that other delivery companies will be offering full real time information and ‘in flight’ delivery change options.
Sunday deliveries will also become more widespread, as, after a little bit of reluctance from those of us dedicated to our Sunday lie-ins, they have proved to be a hit with consumers. While there may be a question mark over harder to reach areas, city centre Sunday deliveries will become the ‘new normal’.
Same day deliveries will expand rapidly. Increasingly we are used to getting what we want right now, and the appeal of instant gratification is not going to go away. We’re now used to being able to download a book or music instantly. Some people are willing to pay handsomely to get that particular pair of shoes or shirt on the day they order it. Improved ordering, picking and GPS technology has all combined to make this possible.
Better signature proof systems will benefit retailers and customers. Increasing use of mobile devices with cameras to record exactly who accepted what parcel, and when, will lead to less lost and missing parcels, and fewer allegations against couriers. A win-win for consumers and delivery companies!
Electric and even hydrogen powered delivery vehicles will be an increasingly familiar site in our towns and cities as the effort to improve the air quality of our urban areas continues. Some people argue that electric vehicles simply move the pollution from the street where the vehicle is, to the power station where the electricity is generated. Hydrogen vehicles are one solution. The technology is still in its infancy, but already one company is trying out this even greener alternative to electric vans. And watch out for DHL’s increasing use of pedal power, as cycles make a parcel comeback.
Unmanned drone deliveries may sound the stuff of science fiction, but Amazon is getting tough in its belief that this is a practical technology. Recently Amazon threatened the US Government that the internet giant will take the development of its R&D outside America if the US doesn’t make some concessions to the developing technology. There’s already one German island that is being served by drone delivery technology in a DHL experiment. And in the UK Amazon Prime Air is developing drones for trial in Cambridge.
Finally, the end of the road for cut price untrained delivery drivers and the cheap-and-not-so-cheerful companies that use them, cannot be far away. This Christmas some low-cost couriers failed to cover themselves in glory. Their woes captured national headlines. It really won’t be long before everyone wises-up to those companies who are failing to meet basic delivery standards, and, even more significantly, stop doing business with those retailers who continue to use them. Internet retailers should not be penny wise and pound foolish when it comes to customer satisfaction. In Christmas 2013 US delivery companies had a bit of a meltdown, but they learned from their mistakes for 2014. Likewise those UK companies that had a poor 2014 will improve quickly for 2015, or be facing their Last Post.