No question about it: E-commerce consumers are spoiled. Raj Patel, senior director of 3PL global industry strategy with Blue Yonder, explains how retailers and third-party logistics providers are meeting demands for rapid delivery of orders, despite the pandemic.
The rise of e-commerce has radically changed customer behavior over the past two to three years. Patel likens the shift to the revolution in mobile phones; online shoppers are experiencing a similar transformation in how they relate to technology. And that has made them more demanding of retailers and e-tailers. Today, he says, they not only want their orders in two days or less (even, increasingly, within the same day); they demand the ability to control where those orders are being delivered. That could mean changing the destination address — perhaps from a home to an office — as late as one hour before delivery.
Such diversions aren’t yet happening with maximum efficiency, Patel says, “but they’re happening.” And that puts an additional burden on carriers to meet customer expectations for navigating the final mile — regardless of the additional complexities of maintaining service quality during a time of pandemic, labor shortages and supply chain gridlock.
Making matters even more complicated is the expectation of shoppers that they’ll get this level of service either free or at a price well below what it cost the retailer and carrier to provide it. Again, the burden falls on the logistics provider, although any lapse in service is typically blamed on the brand or retailer, not the carrier.
All of this makes it necessary that third-party logistics providers step up their game. “3PLs have got to get creative,” says Patel, citing robotics, artificial intelligence and machine learning as technology tools that can help them meet the expectations of the modern-day “spoiled” consumer.
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