E-commerce growth and innovative technology are shaping the shipping landscape. Retailers and carriers are seeking solutions outside traditional transportation methods as competition continues to intensify. Here are four shipping trends to watch out for in the coming year.
Infrastructure for traditional carriers could use an overhaul and carriers are placing their bets on better technology. To keep up with the frenzy of online purchases, technology will become an even greater focus. In an attempt to take efficiency up a notch, DHL partnered with computer chips manufacturer Nvidia and auto supplier ZF to mobilize self-driving delivery trucks on the road. The self-driving delivery trucks will rail a delivery person on the way to drop packages. Even with UPS’ announcing the use of new technology to aid in the holiday rush, the giant carrier still had to recruit accountants to deliver packages during Christmas rush. While some retailers are experimenting with drone delivery, FedEx believes robots will lead the way in delivery automation. Although not a risk-taking company like Amazon, FedEx has partnered with Peloton Technology to use small vehicles to make deliveries without human drivers.
Blockchain is much more than a buzzword. UPS and FedEx have both taken an interest in blockchain technology and its ability to increase efficiency and transparency. Using blockchain, shippers can track the capacity, cost and estimated delivery times for possible shipment routes before making a final selection. Supposedly, carriers will be able to constantly update their capacity for shipping vehicles and adjust the fairest pricing.
Next-day or two-day delivery is currently the standard, but retailers look to shave off delivery time even more. Big e-commerce retailers are deploying drone trials across countries. Amazon plans to deliver customers’ orders within 30 minutes through its Prime Air delivery program. This could accelerate the growth of online retail sales and encourage more online shopping which will be bad news for carriers that can’t keep up with Amazon customer expectations. Right now, shipments are being tested in rural areas and are on track to scale to more populated places. With new avenues being explored in artificial intelligence, the future of shipping and logistics seems to be moving toward a model that is entirely autonomous.
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The days of shipments being placed on your doorstep are diminishing. Retailers will test and implement ways to deliver your groceries and product orders inside your house or directly to you. Amazon Key will let couriers unlock your front door and drop packages inside the home. In September, Walmart announced a partnership with August Home, a smart-lock startup, that would allow a delivery person to collect customers’ grocery order and put groceries away in their refrigerators, all while being closely monitored by August Home camera technology. Amazon is going as far to discuss ways to deliver products to your trunk. It would come at no surprise if they added other services to these home delivery options.
The shipping industry has largely been dominated by UPS, FedEx, and DHL. Regional carriers have a small slice of the pie, but some companies are looking to offer alternative shipping options to combat rising courier costs. Roadie, an app that connects people with items to send to drivers going in the right direction, specializes in sending large and out-of-box items nationwide at a lower price than the major carriers. There are no DIM weights or weekend surcharges to calculate. Sure, it has some big shoes to fill, but its existence proves that alternative shipping options are becoming more mainstream.