The pandemic has driven unprecedented change across industries and one such industry that has been at the forefront of disruptions is the supply chain and logistics. Enterprises across industries be it retail, grocery, e-commerce or manufacturing are increasing investments in areas that will make their supply chain and logistics operations resilient in the coming year. The impact of the ongoing pandemic will sprawl over 2021, hence it’s only logical to expect those new supply chain and logistics trends that emerged in 2020 to lead the way next year. Let’s quickly glance through some of these.
Increase in Mail-Order Drug Delivery
Lockdowns during the onset of the pandemic triggered a sudden spike in mail-order drug delivery. For instance in March, mail-order prescriptions grew 21 percent in the US from the previous year to bring their share of the prescription drug market to 5.8 percent, the highest share in at least two years, the WSJ reported. Pfizer said that for patients in its assistance program, it is sending more medicines directly and extending shipments from 30-day to 60-day supplies. Now with lockdown restrictions being relaxed across the globe, people are continuing to buy medicines online as online pharmacy providers are making onboarding customers easy, applications interactive, ensuring medicine authenticity, and also helping patients easily connect with their preferred physicians.
Investing in Technology to Scale Deliveries Efficiency
To build resilient and highly scalable logistics operations delivery stakeholders will find themselves increasing focus on three critical areas--last-mile delivery, real-time transportation visibility, and customer experience.
● Last-Mile Delivery
In a world driven by virtual or online purchasing, businesses are quickly waking up to the reality that the last mile is the most important physical touchpoint between a brand and the customer. Embracing digital tools that enhance routing, scale deliveries, boost driver productivity, shrink delivery turnaround-time, and optimize delivery costs will be the smart way forward to build robust logistics operations in 2021.
● Real-Time Transportation Visibility
With 62 percent of enterprises identifying ‘visibility’ as a major challenge in the supply chain, poor visibility will continue to remain a serious concern with regards to executing seamless transportation operations. Investing in advanced transportation platforms that provide real-time tracking and tracing and ensure predictive visibility of ground-level and intermodal logistics operations will be a key trend in 2021.
● Enhancing Customer Experience
At a time when businesses were finding it difficult to keep up with lightning-fast delivery expectations, new models like contactless deliveries added to existing logistics complexities. Then there is an acute need to provide customers with self-service delivery models and ensure high-levels of delivery visibility. Hence, to improve the delivery experience and boost customer loyalty savvy businesses are using cutting-edge delivery platforms to quickly change delivery workflows based on customer needs, provide real-time notifications on delivery progress and delays and drive payments through secure digital gateways.
Curbside pickups gained immense traction this year. Not only does it eliminate the need to stand in queues and spend more time outside to buy groceries and other essential items, but it also provides customers with flexibility. Leveraging curbside pickup facilities, customers can select their own delivery pickup windows and store location. According to the ‘COVID-19 And The Future Of Commerce’ survey, 87 percent of customers want brick and mortar outlets to continue to offer curbside pickup and other processes that limit the need for in-person visits. In fact, According to digitalcommerce360 nearly 44 percent of top 500 retailers with stores now offer curbside pickup to ensure a better customer experience. Clearly, curbside pickups will sprawl across 2021 as an important trend with regards to keeping customers happy and loyal.
When the world paused for a few months, nature got a brief relief from growing carbon emissions. This significantly contributed to driving environmentalism mainstream. A report highlighted that 71 percent of people today think it’s important for brands to take a stance on social movements. We are already seeing a significant increase in demand for eco-friendly products, it's only a matter of time when consumers would want their brands to ensure carbon-neutral deliveries. As a proactive measure, Amazon recently announced its plans to introduce ‘Shipment Zero’ that will drive the company's vision to have 50 percent of all deliveries reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. A key to achieving eco-friendly deliveries will be things like order consolidation, loop optimization of delivery routes, greater first-attempt delivery success rates, and more.
Bringing Inventory Closer to Customers
Surging demands amid localized lockdowns and travel restrictions made inventory management extremely difficult. To respond to this problem savvy enterprises bought inventory closer to customers by converting localized brick and mortar stores and retail outlets to fulfillment centers, dark stores, or mini-warehouses. Realizing the benefits of this strategy like faster pickups, easier inventory management, customer proximity, scaling daily delivery volumes, and more, brands are willing to stick to it for a longer period of time and realize its full potential.
Keeping Customer Experience at the Core To Drive Loyalties
Owing to the growing popularity of online purchasing, a key driver being the COVID-19 pandemic, there is no single preference of a consumer anymore. They are constantly looking for products across disparate online channels and also in-store facilities. They are buying apparel, furniture, grocery, medicines, and more just by a few clicks and swipes. The demand is driven by the need to be instantly gratified. Irrespective of the channel used to place orders, consumers expect a seamless delivery experience accompanied by quick delivery turnaround-times. This means that businesses need to be present and available to customers every time they buy via a channel of their choice. Hence, an always-available inventory and more importantly seamless and quick logistics operations are keys to satisfying modern customers. Therefore, businesses will need to drive robust omnichannel logistics operations.
Omnichannel logistics empowers businesses to quickly service customers by tying together inventory, distribution, and transportation across sales engagement channels, including in-store, social media, e-commerce portals among others. In 2021, the need to create omnichannel logistics operations will gain rapid momentum.
These are some of the key trends that will continue to shape the online delivery and logistics industry in 2021. Embracing advanced digital delivery tools will empower enterprises to not only navigate these trends smoothly but also master them.