While interviewing industry experts for my March/April APICS magazine feature article, “Logistics Trends and Transformation,” I learned that parcel shipping is on an upward trajectory. In fact, according to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, more than 31 billion parcels were shipped around the world in 2015. Omnichannel commerce is a primary driver of this growth, and my research made it quite clear that omnichannel-related parcel volume will only continue to surge. Unfortunately, online orders too often involve glitches for shoppers—particularly those in Asia. The businesses that tackle these shipping challenges intelligently, that innovate collaboratively, and that adapt to ever-increasing customer expectations are sure to be the ones to prosper.
Consumers in 13 countries were surveyed by Pitney Bowes about their 2015 holiday shipping and returns experiences, and numerous pain points were uncovered. Forty-two percent of all respondents said they faced challenges when making purchases. Issues included tracking inaccuracies, non-transparent return policies, the wrong item being shipped, an item being shipped to the wrong address, and duty and tax miscalculations. Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Singapore, and China were among the nations with the greatest headaches.
Meanwhile, many companies are facing steep, potentially unsustainable costs related to delivering an omnichannel customer experience. Many of the subject matter experts I interviewed noted that delivering personal, seamless, and differentiated service; managing and affording disparate systems; and overcoming limited visibility have supply chain management professionals at a crossroads.
The good news is that innovations related to both technology and process are on the rise and can help supply chains of all sizes. I learned that best-in-class omnichannel innovation requires two interdependent components: upgraded customer interactions and enhanced business-to-business collaboration. These mutually supporting elements will be a key omnichannel competitive advantage in the coming months and years.
First, the successful fulfillment of online orders requires increased agility and responsiveness compared with traditional methods. Innovations around same-day delivery, hourly windows, store delivery, robotics, and shared-delivery services must be explored in order to streamline the tracking of both individual parcels and large transport capabilities.
At the same time, developing collaborative relationships with carriers is becoming increasingly important. Communication and collaboration among companies and their slate of carriers and stakeholders must be a priority. These capabilities are bolstered by sharing or democratizing data, which also demands that supply chain management professionals dedicate resources to defining, collecting, analyzing, sharing, and securing that data. Even internally, connecting multi-divisional structures in order to share competencies will be essential.
Omnichannel is top of mind for many supply chain management professionals today. Innovation is integral to the end-to-end value chain and can make the difference in how businesses delight consumers and advance together. With a truly innovative supply chain infrastructure, significant omnichannel value can be seized and maximized.
To learn more about strategies for improving parcel shipping processes, read my cover story, “Logistics Trends and Transformation,” in the March/April 2017 issue of APICS magazine.