As if the world’s supply chain consultants did not already have enough complexities with which to wrestle when imagining the continued evolution of the sector in the years ahead, it seems that technology is set to be used in dramatic new ways within supply chain and delivery systems by retailers in the period leading up to 2021.
Innovative delivery and automation on retailers’ minds
That was the takeaway discovery of Zebra Technologies’ latest Retail Vision Study, which showed that by that year, almost two-thirds (65%) of retailers planned to explore innovative delivery services, including delivery to workplaces, homes and even parked cars.
Automation is another subject of interest to many retailers, with 57% of them expecting it to shape the industry by 2021. Respondents anticipated that the technology could be instrumental in assisting retailers with the packing and shipping of orders, the tracking of inventory, the checking of in-store inventory levels and helping customers to find items.
Retailers also indicated that they expected a dramatic expansion in click and collect over the next four years. While only half of retailers currently offer the service, it is thought that this will rise to 92% by 2021.
Just some of a raft of technologies expected to reshape retail
Such findings, while indicating that we will see drastic changes in retail in the years ahead, are not necessarily the most dramatic future developments in the sector to have been mooted.
3D printing, driverless lorries, blockchain technology and open-source systems where retailers share data have all been discussed as retail technologies of the future, showing how rapidly new innovations are emerging and threatening to redefine the entire nature of the retail supply chain.
Such technologies, it has been said, could even serve to eliminate the delivery process for goods altogether. It could mean that one day, instead of a delivery being brought to a customer’s door, it will arrive digitally to their 3D printer, which will proceed to make the item there and then.
Another recent development to hit the news headlines, and which will be of interest to many future-minded supply chain consultants, is department store John Lewis’s work with Jaguar Land Rover’s mobility and venture arm, InMotion, to trial delivery to shoppers’ car boots. It has been made possible via the InMotion-supported start-up, toBoot.
It may not be so surprising, then, that such trends have even moved Sainsbury’s Argos chief digital and marketing officer Bertrand Bodson to suggest, at a major retail logistics event in January, that his company was becoming “a tech company as much as a retailer”.
What it could all mean for today’s supply chain consultants
It seems that everything we have come to accept as a ‘standard’ retail logistics offering is set for pretty dramatic change. Technology is enabling faster than ever disruption in supply chains and with innovations like that of toBoot now offering – in effect – click and collect to parked cars, the demand for 360 product visibility is set to become significant.
Talk to Bis Henderson Consulting’s highly experienced and capable supply chain consultants about how such key developments in the years to come could contribute to the evolution of your own supply chain – and what changes you could make to optimise that supply chain right now.