Trends that will keep your logistics and supply chain business ahead of the curve in 2019


The year 2018 has been one of transformation for the sector, owing to the remarkable use of technology and the parallel growth of other sectors that which depend upon logistics for their appropriate functioning.

Winter is here and so is 2019! The global logistics industry has only been advancing with time, equipping itself well to support the functioning and growth of multiple other industries, especially ecommerce. The year 2018 has really been one of transformation for the sector, owing to the remarkable use of technology and the parallel growth of other sectors that depend upon logistics for their appropriate functioning. It is only natural that 2019 will see a meteoric transformation. Technology has moved from being an enabling function to a driving function.

Here are the key trends that we believe will transform logistics & supply chains in the coming year:

Blockchain - The use of blockchain growing steadily in 2018 could prove to be a real game-changer in this space moving ahead. The use of this breakthrough technology allows industry players to efficiently track all types of transactions safely and securely. Besides this, the biggest advantage of using blockchain network is that it ensures complete transparency of logistics operations throughout the entire process, until the goods are finally delivered. All this builds a greater level of consumer trust, and saves time and cost in a great way. Currently, there are only a few companies that have implemented the use of this one-of-its-kind technology. However, moving into 2019, we would see a growing number of industry players leveraging the same to impart efficiency to their operations.

Hyper-personalisation & hyper-localisation

In continuation of chatbots, we saw a basic implementation of these bots at several instances in 2018. But the real challenge is how to humanise and hyper-personalise the experience. With email filters and SMS filters for ‘Notifications’, you don’t want the result of your million dollars of tech investment ending up in a place where they don’t even get noticed. Eighty percent of customers stick to a brand because they have managed to create personalised experiences. How do you create near-human experiences with the help of technology? We all know clearly that a one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work in any scenario. Pushing the limits of AI-based bots with hyper-personalisation on top priority will be an interesting trend to watch.

Hyperlocalisation has been established as a growing need in today’s world, as the consumer demand for instant personalized services has been only growing with time. Businesses are therefore expected to be fast in delivering products, and are focusing on building robust supply chains that are located close to both, buyer and seller. Various big ecommerce players are already using hyperlocalisation as a part of their strategy, and this is going to continue in 2019.

Lightning deliveries amidst capacity crunches

Same-day deliveries and expedited deliveries are the new normal. According to industry reports, customers are even willing to pay extra for these deliveries. However, brands cannot afford to place them at such a high premium to cover the entire cost of delivery – until and unless logistics becomes cheaper. The reality is that companies are facing serious challenges with regards to capacities. Volatile demand patterns, throat-slitting competition, rising fuel costs, expediting deliveries is, if anything, but a serious dynamic cost. Brands, especially consumer-facing ecommerce brands, need to find a way to balance hyper-fast deliveries in a consistent manner without eating much into their capacity. Having real-time and predictive visibility, intelligent capacity planning and flexible process control mechanisms go a long way in helping them strike this balance.

Building your logistics arm

Walmart in the past few years acquired a couple of logistics companies. Amazon is expanding its logistics capabilities. This brings up an important question: should all retailers have their own logistics arm? And is that the world we are gradually getting into?

As large players have started building their own logistics, then it can be safely assumed that it’s important and can generate significant business value. The kind of customer experience a business can provide by leveraging their own logistics arm will surely be better than someone else doing it for them. In other words, it’s always smart to own a customer’s delivery when you own the customer.

Predictive multi-modal visibility

With global supply chain networks, multimodal transportation networks are only expected to grow. With this increasing complexity of such mesh networks, getting real-time and predictive visibility will be a core area for organisations to focus on. Even with the rising complexities, organisations can no longer take a reactive approach to managing exigencies and zero-day emergencies as it will have a domino effect in inventory management, service to the clients and go-to-market time. How cutting-edge, modern visibility platforms fit into traditional, manufacturing practices such as JIT and Kanban, and how they adapt to each of these specific scenarios is an interesting thing to watch out for.

Optimised reverse logistics

 It is interesting to note that as much as 30 percent of all orders placed online are returned compared to only 8.89 percent when purchased from brick-and-mortar shops. Large volumes of returns can put unprecedented pressure on supply chain processes, especially in terms of logistics expenses. Poorly planned reverse logistics can cost businesses upto $260 billion. Optimising reverse logistics can not only save logistics costs but also help manage inventory better and increase an organisation’s ability to retain customers.

Here’s one easy tip to plan reverse logistics better by leveraging analytics: businesses can align supplier and carrier data of a returned product with a reason behind the return. This can help businesses understand what’s exactly causing the returns and predict the same when they look like they will recur.

Omnichannel collaboration

Users are empowered with several ways and means to communicate, interact and engage with brands. Ensuring a consistent omni-channel experience and also continuity of dialogue across multiple channels is a challenge. For example, a user may have a query about delivery and may post it on Twitter. The updates and notifications that follow should automatically be coherent with his query and not stick to default formats. Artificial intelligence could be of great help here and the rise of chatbots will go through a whole new evolution in ensuring a seamless, consistent experience across multiple channels.

These are some of the key trends that will impact the supply chain and logistics industry in 2019. But only time will tell where we will be by the end of this new year. Till then we hope your business keeps thriving and innovating as it did this year.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)