E-commerce Fulfillment

Big retailers have to find innovative ways to compete. As price isn’t always the best way to get the edge over your competitor, they constantly explore different avenues. E-tailers and Retailers that have the Omni-channel strategy already ingrained into their DNA are already taking the next steps to ensure free same-day or next-delivery to the ever increasingly, demanding consumers.

How do they intend to do this? Well if you look at the forerunners, you can look at Amazon and Walmart to see what the future holds. It is unlikely that smaller retailers will be able to afford the solutions that will hit the market in the next 18 months, but still worth a look at what’s coming. It is noteworthy that no singular technology is likely to to give retailers what they need in order to make them achieve these very ambitious goals, so its more probable that we will see integrated solutions because there are so many variables to consider.

  • Drones
    Drones have been a long-awaited solution since we saw the Amazon videos going viral. Drones leaving the Amazon warehouse and delivering at the customer’s door. We were all amazed as it seemed so Sci-Fi’ish. In April however, a unit of Google became the first drone operator to receive government approval as an airline, which is a big step toward delivering products to customers. Drone regulations are still keeping this option at bay though, so it could be a while still before this gets used to target that same-day free delivery.
  • Robotic enabled warehouse
    Alibaba has one of the most impressive warehouse setups where you see hundreds of robots picking up products and moving them neatly around to enable faster delivery and accurate picking. If you haven’t seen the videos, do yourself a favour and go look on Youtube for some of these videos.
  • Autonomous delivery
    More big players are currently testing deliveries through autonomous delivery vehicles. This is a very probably solution however there will still be some laws (per country, per region and per city) to consider, but autonomous driving is much closer than we think, so definitely one to keep an eye for.
  • Robotic e-commerce fulfillment
    Click-and-Collect models are always popular, especially in large malls. Retailers are now testing robotic scanning and pick-up to use the retail stores as micro-fulfillment centers. This is to allow shop assistance to still take the advisory role, and using robotics to connect customers and products quicker.
  • Pickup Towers
    Walmart is testing pickup towers where mall shoppers buy online and get the products at a pickup tower in the store by using bar code scanning technology. This has already been rolled out at one of their super stores in the US.
  • Pickup Lockers
    Another click-and-collect method used by shops allocated in malls. Customers order their products and receives OTP’s or Bar Codes to unlock their lockers and get their goods. These are very popular for the customers that want to avoid the chaos of going to a mall or simply wants to pick up a parcel on the way home from work.

It is fascinating to see how technology is being used to cater for the demands of the customer, and even more fascinating how much money is being invested currently to get to the customer first. The race is on!

Cassie van Wyk is the main author of this blog and has years of experience in the field of channel marketing and e-commerce respectively. He has a passion for writing and sharing knowledge, and does a lot of research in order to bring factual information to all the blog visitors. Feel free to reach out at any time!

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