6 Retail Shipping Trends to Watch in 2020


Kayla Matthews
Guest Contributor

Retail in 2020 will look familiar in many ways but different in others, and merging old techniques with new ones - even non-glamourous ones like shipping - will allow businesses to improve upon their strategies and gain a competitive edge.

The retail industry has had to change rapidly in response to transforming customer needs. Shoppers want their orders the next day, with free shipping whenever possible. They want new, convenient ways to receive packages that fit in with their busy schedules.

Though some companies have struggled to keep up, others are adapting and revolutionizing the way modern retail operates.

The rise of e-commerce has encouraged businesses to rethink how they communicate with consumers and manage their supply chains. And fortunately, the best is still yet to come. Here are some of the most significant retail shipping trends to look for in 2020.

1. Same- or Next-Day Delivery

Next-day delivery has been a staple of retail for a while, but Amazon popularized the trend with its Prime program. However, pulling off this feat is harder when companies exist in only one geographical area, a factor which especially applies to small and medium-sized businesses. A SmartHub study found that only 23percent of retailers have a regional distribution model for shipping goods across state and country lines.

In the next few years, small companies will need to expand their facilities to reach more consumers. Same- and next-day shipping isn’t suitable for every business model, but it provides a leg up on the competition.

Big companies will keep growing by decreasing their shipping times. Best Buy recently adopted free next-day delivery, while Target expanded their same-day delivery to more eligible products.

2. Artificial Intelligence

Businesses have turned to artificial intelligence to speed up the picking and distribution of packages. Robots are surprisingly easy to integrate into many facilities across various industries due to their deep learning abilities and efficiency.

These droids sort inventory and place products into the correct drop zones for packaging by human employees. Supply chain AI is making its way to the front lines too. In fact, 900 Walmart stores have in-store robots that can hand people their products when they come in for pickups.

Supply chains also use robots for shipment tracking. With so many moving parts in a business, it can be hard to know where someone’s package is heading at any given moment. Amazon has taken it up a notch by employing delivery drones to deliver packages to people’s doors while accounting for weather conditions. Starship Technologies has a home-delivery bot that operates using GPS sensors, and future versions will have even more advanced features.

Companies that use ships to transport goods can also benefit from AI. Machine learning technology can analyze the weather patterns, the speed of shipping seasons and the potential risks of using specific ports. Researchers can use this analyzed data to correct inefficiencies within a business’s delivery methods.

3. Big Data

Retail stores share a lot of data — internally through the supply chain and externally among their customers.

Streamlining these information-sharing processes makes completing orders much faster for all parties, and deliveries can ship in less time. Predictive analysis is the key to speeding up shipments without causing disorder. These strategies have major potential for transportation management systems.

Companies can look back at previous transportation schedules and routes and optimize upcoming shipments for better service. Suppliers see sales happening in real-time and know where they’ll need to send merchandise to meet demand.

It’s common for trucking companies to use predictive systems for GPS and fuel consumption. Using these evaluation methods to coordinate with shippers enhances efficiency and communications. Businesses that employ predictive systems for their stocking and shipping could be more likely to meet ship dates and save money than those that don’t.

4. Freight Factoring

Delivering retail orders can put a strain on fleets due to money holdups.

If customers haven’t yet paid for their orders, the truck company won’t have enough money to cover the costs of fuel and maintenance. With freight factoring, trucks receive funds from third-party participants and can ship packages in time. The factoring company sends money to cover the order invoice and fulfill the fleet’s monetary needs.

This arrangement benefits both the trucking business and the customers. Small- and medium-sized fleets can rest assured they’ll receive their compensation, while consumers will get their products on time.

5. Third-Party Logistics

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, has become increasingly popular in the form of Uber drivers and Amazon deliverers. Companies employ individuals and organizations separate from their own to carry packages and manage inventories. A 3PL arrangement manages shipping logistics, such as consolidation and freight forwarding. Supply chain managers can work with private fleets and keep records of freight payment.

Organizations can retain their autonomy while hiring external workers. Outsourcing work reduces expenses, and businesses can spend more time on core operations rather than onboarding new employees.

Large retailers have to efficiently handle numerous parts of the supply chain to satisfy their customers and their partners. Hiring companies that specialize in each section of the chain removes the stress of managing all operations alone and speeds up production and delivery.

6. In-Store Pickup

BOPIS, also known as “buy online, pick up in-store,” lets consumers shop at home and pick up their goods at a brick-and-mortar store. Some businesses require customers to complete the payment digitally first, while others accept the money during the pickup. This strategy is more suitable for stores with widespread regional distribution — people don’t have to travel far to receive packages.

The tech company Zebra predicts that 93 percent of retailers will adopt this strategy by 2023, while 83 percent of respondents expect BOPIS to become the default delivery method.

More stores are looking to turn their brick-and-mortar buildings into fulfillment centers, with many already using store inventory to fill orders. This method will be convenient for the numerous shoppers connected to the internet, but those who live far from participating stores may lose out.

Investigating Trends in Retail

Retail in 2020 will look familiar in many ways and much different in others. Merging old techniques with new ones will allow businesses to improve their strategies and earn more revenue. If more corporations take the lead on integrating new trends in retail, they’ll rise ahead of the competition and reach success.

About the writer: Kayla Matthews is a technology journalist and retail tech writer covering big data, AI and real-time monitoring in the retail industry. To read more posts from Kayla, visit her blog, Productivity Bytes. Follower her on Twitter @KaylaEMatthews.

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