Even before the pandemic abruptly upended shopping behaviors, consumers were increasingly expecting their e-commerce orders to be delivered fast. Back in 2014, a McKinsey report identified same-day delivery as the next logical step in the evolution of shipping. And in 2016, a Dotcom Distribution survey put shipping speed as a key factor in repeat buying decisions for 87% of online shoppers. Now, the rules of global e-commerce have been re-written by COVID-19, and the expectations for speed and always-available express delivery are accelerating by the minute.
And it isn’t just retail consumers who are relying on express delivery to meet their needs. Across industry sectors, businesses are re-imagining their supply chains and transforming their logistics strategies to prioritize speed. Express logistics experts and shipping providers like DHL have designed new transportation solutions and technology tools to lead the way toward a faster future. Here’s a closer look at express delivery developments across key business sectors:
Retail and E-Commerce
Global e-commerce is growing dramatically. While the pandemic has pushed online buying around the world into overdrive, there are more fundamental factors behind today’s retail revolution. First, expanding internet access and the rise of mobile commerce are allowing emerging markets to rapidly embrace e-commerce. At the same time, a constant stream of new technology is opening powerful online sales pathways every day. Augmented Reality promises to reshape the online shopping experience, for instance. Voice search and chatbots are playing a greater role. And Artificial Intelligence (AI) is helping retailers understand their customers as never before.
This rapid growth and globalization of e-commerce translates into more packages delivered, and more customers with expectations for speed. But the fact is, consumers are demanding a convenient and consistent experience in the way that they buy and receive their goods – whether they buy online or in a retail store. Increasingly, consumers may visit a store, but when a product is not in stock, they will take delivery at their homes. At the end of the day, retailers need to create a seamless omni-channel supply chain that integrates ordering, delivery and returns, no matter where the product is purchased – and express delivery needs to be part of the fulfillment equation.
Life Sciences and Healthcare
The life sciences and healthcare industry is experiencing a supply chain transformation, and the unique manufacturing and transportation needs of the industry are on full display as COVID-19 vaccines are distributed around the world. The global health crisis has shown the necessity of DHL’s express services in supporting the movement of critical materials from outbreak to final cure – this includes the initial need to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) was abundant for frontline workers to the delivery of testing kits to collect patient samples for analysis and results. Moving medical supplies, pharmaceutical products and medical devices requires efficiency and often involves time-sensitive materials and cold storage requirements, and it can demand quick access to remote geographic areas. Logistics strategies in this sector are complex and require differentiated routes to market, and they are driven in part by a growing consumer demand for fast and convenient healthcare solutions.
In addition, the industry is being challenged to enable digital supply chain solutions; only four years ago, a McKinsey Global Institute report ranked the industry in the bottom 20th percentile in terms of digitization. There is growing recognition that digital tools will redefine how pharmaceuticals are distributed, how medical equipment is ordered, and how healthcare services are delivered.
As in other sectors, express delivery is central to the future of logistics in life sciences. Rapid delivery solutions must be future-proof, designed to comply with evolving regulations, and able to meet the challenges of temperature control and cost efficiency.
The world of technology is itself fast-moving and subject to rapid change and sudden competitive shifts. It makes sense, then, that technology companies would need to obtain materials and components quickly and deliver their finished products with equal speed – all to reach today’s consumer and business customers, who demand everything faster and want to pay less for it.
The security and speed of supply chains for the technology industry has broad implications across business sectors, since so many companies depend on technology products to operate and succeed. Technology organizations need dynamic, global and resilient supply chains that maximize efficiency and speed.
How important is the integrity of supply chains for the technology industry? In February, the Biden Administration began the process of “Securing America’s Critical Supply Chains” with a review of specific product areas, including semiconductors and large-capacity batteries (such as those used in electric vehicles), that are vulnerable to supply chain interruptions. The review will identify concrete steps that the Administration can take, including with Congress, to address vulnerabilities in these important supply chains. Critically, the initiative will also examine an element essential to the U.S. life sciences industry: Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s). The Administration’s Executive Order notes that, “In recent decades, more than 70 percent of API production facilitators supplying the U.S. have moved offshore. This work will complement the ongoing work to secure supply chains needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Banking and Finance
The fast, secure movement of documents and small packages remains essential in day-to-day operations for the banking and finance sector. Banking trade docs including bills of lading, which allow exporters and imports to clear the sea containers and goods at the major ports around the world, are essential to ensure smooth operation. For example, with supply chains stretched during the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade services at banks were deemed an essential service at their office sites, and they worked hand in hand with DHL to keep global trade moving – even in the strictest of lockdowns like in Europe and India. In addition, millions of credit cards were delivered so people could shop online from home.
Automotive companies need to rethink their supply chain strategies to exploit new market opportunities, reduce costs and maintain competitive advantage. The supply chain challenges involved in the movement of vehicle components are unique and frequently require rapid solutions. For optimal utilization, the raw materials and components must be available to assembly plants in close co-ordination with the production schedule. The development of “build-to-order” or “just in time” systems also demand a more flexible production environment and more responsive supply chains.
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