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How Logistics Management Technology is Transforming Retail

If any theme or keyword could be applied to our post-2000s world, it would be transformation. Since the early 2000s, the rapid emergence and evolution of new and existing technologies have completely disrupted and transformed our world. Cellphones are now supercomputers compared to the bricks of the 80s and 90s, ridesharing apps have transformed the landscape of how taxis operate, and medicine has changed with the emergence of telehealth platforms that enable at-home consultations. This transformation has even reached the areas of life and business that aren’t regularly in the spotlight, like logistics and supply chain management — the effects of which have led to even more change, especially in the retail sector.

Triggered by the booming growth of internet-based sales, new logistics structures and technologies purpose-built for the retail sector were born out of necessity. After all, as traditional retail expanded to incorporate e-commerce, people didn’t just want the convenience of purchasing items online, but wanted them to be delivered as quickly as possible. This meant that last mile logistics models had to be optimized to enable the fastest and most efficient delivery possible from the business or distribution center to the consumer.

Those with the financial backing and scale latched onto this want early. Amazon, for example, created and implemented tech-backed logistics models that made same and next-day delivery possible. While this last mile delivery efficiency was – and is – great for the customer, businesses without the same backing or scale found themselves facing what could be described as a success or failure proposition: either invest the capital to create their own last mile logistics strategy, or find an alternative lower-cost solution to this problem.

Related story: Retail Delivery and Fulfillment: Pain Points and Opportunities Ahead

For many businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic added an extra layer of urgency to this situation. Thanks to social distancing mandates and government-enforced closures, many had to shut their doors and take their businesses entirely online. This is a significant transition for any business under regular circumstances, but the lack of warning compounded with a new bundle of anxieties left many doubting the long-term viability of their businesses. As such, business owners were left scrambling to find solutions around handling the intricacies of delivery, a problem many hadn’t considered prior to the pandemic.

This is where logistics management technology comes in, enabling businesses of any size to compete with corporate giants like Amazon in terms of delivery efficiency and capability. These platforms have the ability to track and optimize deliveries using a single map interface, with additional capabilities enabling businesses to plan and manage their dispatch schedule, delivery routes and capacities. This means that businesses of any size can see and understand where their fleet is at any time, while also optimizing their delivery schedules as conditions change for increased efficiency.

These platforms and their logistical capabilities are likely to continue pushing retail transformation forward, granting businesses who may not have been able to afford commissioned logistics infrastructure the ability to offer expedited delivery, resulting in a retail landscape that places streamlined and efficient service at the forefront. Additionally, this type of logistics management software should help businesses expand the breadth of their service offerings that make self-managed logistics especially challenging, including preferred delivery time slots, real-time tracking for customers, and revamped returns practices.

Eventually, this ease of access should result in a retail landscape where purchases are primarily made online, and where brick-and-mortar stores exist more as showrooms where people can go to touch, experience and interact with items, and have theirs delivered later on the same day if a purchase is completed. With the retail sector employing more than 29 million people full-time, while also supporting the income of 45 million people, any change that fuels the transformation of retail has a significant effect on the economy at large and job availability. In the context of retail logistics, it should mean more employment opportunities in the form of delivery fleets.

While the nature of disruption and transformation is difficult to predict, one thing is for certain: change is inevitable. For those in the retail industry who want to keep ahead of, or at the very least move with these changes, utilizing available technologies that arm businesses with the same tools and capabilities as large corporations are key. By doing so, businesses of any size can keep abreast of the customer wants and technological leaps forward that enable the continual transformation of the retail industry.

Dinesh Dixit is the vice president of the account management practice at LogiNext, which sits at the intersection of clients, product and business development teams to operationalize and scale the LogiNext transportation automation platform.

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