E-commerce is growing at a staggering pace, projected to generate almost US $4.5 trillion in retail sales by 2021, soaring over 140% since 2016. Retail supply chain and operations leaders must swiftly adjust to this changing world. This exponential growth is forcing decision makers to shift to a robust omnichannel fulfillment strategy that meets the modern consumer’s needs.
In response to today’s online-buying, smartphone-wielding consumer that expects a seamless, faster purchasing journey, Zebra Technologies Corporation’s the Future of Fulfillment Vision Study which shows that 78% of logistics companies expect to provide same-day delivery by 2023 and 40% anticipate delivery within a two-hour window by 2028. In addition, 87% of survey respondents expect to use crowdsourced delivery or a network of drivers that choose to complete a specific order by 2028.
The study is a global body of research analysing how manufacturers, transportation rms, and retailers are preparing to meet the growing needs of the on-demand economy.transportation and logistics (T&L) firms.
Key survey findings
• Only 39% of supply chain respondents reported operating at an omnichannel level. The survey
found reducing backorders was the biggest challenge to reaching omnichannel fulfillment for one-third
of respondents followed by inventory allocation and freight costs.
• 76% of surveyed retailers use store inventory to fill online orders, and 86% of retail respondents
plan to implement buy online/pick up in store in the next year. Retailers are investing in
retrofitting stores to double as online fulfillment centres and shrinking selling space to
accommodate e-commerce pickups and returns.
• Globally, 87% of respondents agreed that accepting and managing product returns is a challenge. The
increase in free and fast product delivery corresponds with an increase in product returns, a costly
concern that retailers struggle to manage efficiently across many different purchasing models. Seven
in 10 surveyed executives agree that more retailers will turn stores into fulfillment centres that
accommodate product returns. More than 60% of retailers that currently do not offer free shipping,
free returns or same-day delivery plan to do so while 44% expect to outsource returns management to a
• Although 72% of organisations utilise barcodes today, 55% of organisations are still using
inefficient, manual pen-and-paper based processes to enable omnichannel logistics. By 2021, handheld
mobile computers with barcode scanners will be used by 94% of respondents for omnichannel logistics.
The upgrade from manual pen-and-paper spreadsheets to handheld computers with barcode scanners or
tablets will improve omnichannel logistics by providing more real-time access to warehouse management
• Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology and inventory management platforms are expected to
grow by 49% in the next few years. RFID-enabled software, hardware and tagging solutions, offer up-
to-the-minute, item-level inventory lookup, heightening inventory accuracy and shopper satisfaction
while reducing out of stocks, overstocks and replenishment errors.
• Future-oriented decision makers revealed that next generation supply chains will reflect connected,
business-intelligence and automated solutions that will add newfound speed, precision and cost
effectiveness to transportation and labour. Surveyed executives expect the most disruptive
technologies to be drones (39%), driverless/autonomous vehicles (38%), wearable and mobile technology
(37%) and robotics (37%).
Next-generation supply chains
Next-generation supply chains will also utilise robots and automation to perform traditionally manual tasks such as picking, sorting, inspecting, storing, handling and classifying products to improve overall efficiency, worker productivity and speed to market.
Some warehouses are turning to autonomous vehicles to bring merchandise to sortation and packing areas. Others are using drones and RFID for inventory management. In Asia-Pacific, drones were ranked by 85% of those surveyed as one of the most important disruptive technologies.
“Driven by the always-connected, tech-savvy shopper, retailers, manufacturers and logistics companies are collaborating and swapping roles in uncharted ways to meet shoppers’ omnichannel product fulfillment and delivery expectations,” says Jim Hilton, Manufacturing and Transportation and Logistics Global Principal, Zebra Technologies
“Our Future of Fulfillment Vision Study found that 89% of survey respondents agreed that e-commerce is driving the need for faster delivery,” he continues. “In response, companies are turning to digital technology and analytics to bring heightened automation, merchandise visibility and business intelligence to the supply chain to compete in the on-demand consumer economy.”
Surveys were conducted in conjunction with research partner Qualtrics in 2017 across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Russia, Spain, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.