In the post-scarcity, retail-space-at-a-premium economy that we seem to be hurtling towards, it is increasingly unlikely that buying decisions will be made amid cavernous, row-upon-row depots, jam-packed with products one on top of each other. No one debates this. Rather, the debate is what will come next.
Artificial intelligence (AI) plays a huge role in this metamorphosis. The patents outline a fulfillment process that relies almost entirely on robots, coming as they do with far lower overhead costs than human labor. That move to AI is one that all retail channels will have to grapple with in the near future, much like manufacturing and other industrial sectors already have. We have all seen the estimates that suggest 73 million jobs could be eliminated by automation by 2030. Much of retail work has traditionally been unskilled labor, the kind ripe for such automation. Since the internet has taken over many aspects of our lives, the perception of time has changed. You click a button on your computer. If it does not respond almost immediately, you may be tempted to press it again, and again, and again. Expectations of a rapid response get shorter and shorter.
In the health products e-commerce race, the fastest and most agile win. These days e-commerce fulfillment seems more like a race than a retail endeavor. In 2019 and beyond, the companies that make it to the finish line first will be the ones that are best able to keep pace with the ever-churning customer demand machine. It’s customers who are leading the charge on e-commerce fulfillment. Nowhere is that more true than when it comes to health products. Customers want what they want when they want it. It’s a phenomenon that’s forcing health product sellers to not only work smarter but also put money into parts of the business that may have been neglected.
More companies are starting to invest in relationships with established logistics ecosystems in order to speed up delivery of online purchases. Most health product sellers want a way to improve the overall efficiency of their operation. They recognize that all the channels they possess to get products to customers must be fine-tuned and simplified.
While many sellers are working to speed up deliveries, they recognize it’s also important to provide their customers with a consistent brand experience within those deliveries. A survey commissioned by a leading fulfillment company showed that two thirds of Americans (66 percent) believe the packaging of their shipment shows them how much the retailer cares about them and their order. Just under half (48 percent) think the packaging reflects the value of the shipment. It’s not only how fast they get it but how it looks when they get it.
In 2019 and beyond, sellers that deliver in-store experiences, at customers’ doors at the speed these customers demand, will have the best chance of winning the e-commerce race. We have been promised a lot from our future. It’s nice to see some signs on the horizon that new innovations are being explored.
Benjamin Patipa is vice president of healthcare strategy for MonarchFx.
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