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Methods in the Madness – 2021 and beyond

2020 has been a tumultuous year, and globally, the population has had to adapt as best they can to the ‘new normals’ of society. Lockdowns, eCommerce, face masks, hand sanitisers, and social distancing, have all made an extended appearance over the past months. To ease the load, we have had to implement new methods for our everyday lives to function. Eagerly adopted in 2020, and easily predicted to continue into the new year, are these the changes now dictating the way we live our lives until the virus can be eradicated?

1. Kerbside eCommerce

Social distancing is now paramount to our everyday lives, and kerbside eCommerce is no stranger to this strategy. Also known as buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), this format of retail provides consumers with a convenient yet safe way to continue to purchase both essential and non-essential items.

A commerce method beneficial for consumers and the supply chain alike it not only negates the need for people to physically leave their homes and enter a store, but this hybrid option also provides a way to eliminate one of the most costly aspects of the e-commerce supply chain, last-mile logistics.

To further reduce costs, ideally, retailers choosing to adopt this method of delivery will have invested in a best-of-breed WMS integrated across all its distribution channels, requiring fewer in-store order picker staff. Now favoured by many, kerbside commerce can improve stock visibility, automate goods returns and handling, and even serve to prevent bottlenecks.

Recognised as an essential commodity during lockdown has seen UK retailers Aldi and Co-op expanding their hybrid e-commerce services, with plans to offer both kerbside and ship from store services.

2. Unwanted retail space converted into urban logistics hubs

Sites originally intended for the expansion of retail floorspace are now prime picking for some of the first locations to be repurposed as urban logistics developments. One of the UK’s largest retail landlords, British Land, has identified the potential for a 1.5 million sq. ft. last-mile logistics facility in their shopping centres alone.

With this lack of demand for retail space, spare park space could potentially also be acquired to develop more offices or even new homes.

As the future of traditional retail begins to wane, and eCommerce continues to grow in demand and strength, demand for logistics floorspace will continue to grow whilst demand for retail parks shrinks; despite rents on retail parks and urban logistics rents now being more or less equivalent.

3. Dawn of digitisation

As a result of Covid-19 lockdowns, supply chains witnessed a sharp increase in consumer pressure for eCommerce fulfilment with purchasing behaviour moving away from the high street. This trend is predicted to continue through 2021 and beyond. Following the rise in online retail, new cases for the use of robotics within our supply chains have been identified.

2020’s accelerated transition to eCommerce from physical store retail forced a growing number of businesses to not only automate their processes but also establish more sophisticated technology within their supply chains, to allow them to meet customer demand and provide improved visibility for all deliveries and returns.

Traditionally picking for physical stores relied on pushing pallets of product to stores. Online orders, however, require article based delivery. As such, automation technology, and the prospect of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT), in addition to blockchain technology is predicted to transform business models, warehouse facilities, and their eCommerce and omnichannel processes alike.

Challenging times have been faced, and many more lie ahead, yet there are high hopes for the supply chain industry to be supported by, and even evolve with the plethora of new technologies now available. Many businesses and facilities have built-up their resilience to the pandemic by adapting to change and continuing to function throughout the adversity of Covid-19. Helping many achieve greater operational efficiency throughout 2020, hopefully, this diligent digitisation and adoption of new strategies will continue throughout 2021 and beyond.

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