Ryan Webber, SVP of Enterprise Mobility, SOTI
Despite the retail industry experiencing a drop in overall sales during the pandemic, online shopping continues to boom globally. This surge has created an entirely new landscape in the retail and transportation and logistics (T&L) sectors and will likely influence new trends far into the future for both.
One trend, however, is already here. As online sales surge, efficiency in the supply chain and reliable last-mile delivery are becoming even more critical to creating a positive shopping experience that consumers expect and now demand.
Consumer Expectations Drive Need for Adoption
The increasing demand for online purchasing options has raised expectations for painless and seamless, delivery and return experiences. 38% of those surveyed in a recent SOTI study, From Bricks to Clicks: State of Mobility in Retail 2021 Report, said that they would look elsewhere if a retailer could not offer delivery in two days or less. Additionally, 63% said they would prefer an automated returns process, and 59% said they view an easy returns process as a major incentive to buy more product from a retailer. These expectations are having a serious influence on how consumers view brands and their loyalty to those brands in the future.
Warehouse Staff and Drivers Are Crucial
To best address the demand for optimized delivery and return options, retailers must focus on their supply chain and empowering staff, such as pickers, packers, and drivers, to facilitate a better process. As it stands, last-mile delivery remains the weakest link in the supply chain. Over 60% of those surveyed in another SOTI study, The Last Mile Sprint: State of Mobility in Transportation and Logistics, shared that last-mile delivery is the least efficient stage in the delivery process.
Supply chain workers, however, pointed to a technological deficit as the main culprit in these inefficiencies. 49% in that same study said the technology they are being instructed to use on the job is out of date and is holding them back from being able to operate as efficiently as possible.
If businesses believe they can thrive in a retail landscape that relies on pickers, packers, and drivers more than ever before, without providing the technology those professionals need to succeed, they are likely to be left behind.
Better Technology to Meet Expectations
Retailers should ask: what are the technologies that can support and empower these workers to operate at peak efficiency? The professionals in the T&L industry (IT Managers, IT Directors, Senior Management, and C-Suite Executives) that were surveyed noted that a mobile-first strategy — and a platform that can manage it — is essential to creating an efficient supply chain in today’s retail landscape; 76% of those surveyed in the T&L study stated a mobile-first strategy enables a better customer experience, and 58% agree that a mobile-first strategy for last-mile delivery has reduced their operational costs.
Insights like geolocation, analytics, and real-time inventory data can be used to gain visibility over the full supply chain and keep delivery operators updated. As a result, the entire supply chain is optimized, empowering professionals within it to react and adjust in real-time to any discrepancies or issues.
Those already using such a strategy are seeing the benefits. 48% of respondents from that same study agreed new technology has improved their productivity, and 46% agreed new technology increased visibility into their supply chain.
If deliveries and returns continue to be so important to the consumer experience, retail and T&L companies will need to be prepared to expand their delivery operations and use a mobile and IoT management platform designed with scaling up in mind.
As retailers and T&L companies look to the future and how to best adapt to the changing demands of consumers, they must view delivery and return options in a new light. Those with the quickest and easiest deliveries and returns will not just survive the future, but also thrive. They will lead the pack with the strategies and technologies needed to empower their workforce to be efficient and productive, delivering exceptional customer service.