What’s in store for the retail world? Store closings, omni-channel missteps, and the inability of traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to cost-effectively compete with online channels have created a period of turmoil. Against this backdrop, multichannel retailers are working to determine the role that stores play for customers who shop across online, social media and physical locations.
Ever since Amazon transformed two-day shipping into a basic offering, other retailers have looked to new and exciting business models to keep up with the competition.
The word blockchain has been seen on almost every conference agenda this year as various industries begin to share perspectives on how it can help their businesses. Still many questions remain.
With headlines frequently mentioning the “retail apocalypse,” some traditional brick-and-mortar retailers are panicking. But despite these disturbing and attention-grabbing headlines, traditional retailing certainly is not dead.
The mere mention of autonomous transportation still evokes images from sci-fi movies for some people. However, the reality is that this concept is not pie-in-the-sky talk — it’s really here. And it won’t be long before it’s mainstream. In fact, PwC’s 2017 Commercial Transportation Trends report revealed that 2016 was a breakout year for new technologies in the commercial transport industry, even while many companies still resisted them.
According to the 2015 Manufacturing Report by Illinois-based accounting firm Sikich LLP, 53% of those polled are still using manual processes to measure key performance indicators (KPIs). Eleven percent of survey respondents reported using custom built/legacy applications to monitor their KPIs, and only 26% are using an ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution. So, if you’re reading this and your company still isn’t too far down the automation spectrum, it may offer some consolation knowing you’re in good company.
When looking for ways to optimize productivity in a warehouse or DC, often the emphasis is on time- and labor-saving features and functions of hardware and software with less attention given to ergonomics, which is the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. Unless your company plans to run a totally automated warehouse, it’s important to look beyond equipment speeds and feeds and consider ergonomic factors, such as equipment design and feel and the workflows employees follow to complete their daily tasks. A few tweaks could make a world of difference not just in productivity, but safety too.
Despite a lot of talk about mobile payments over the past decade, we’re still way behind many other countries. Right now, in China, for example, there are entire cities where cash is virtually not used and plastic is being used less and less. A recent article from NPR reported that China did $5.5 trillion through mobile payments last year (about 50 times the amount in the U.S.).
The holiday rush is quickly approaching, and if last year is any indicator of what’s ahead, retail sales are about to skyrocket, beginning with Black Friday. Last year, online sales grew 20% over 2015, and overall retail sales grew 10.5%, reaching $97.7 billion between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Black Friday was the top online shopping day ever in the United States last year — until it was surpassed by Cyber Monday sales a few days later.
Amazon isn’t the only company finding common ground for humans and robots in its warehouses. Earlier this year in Tennessee, DHL began testing robots to assist its pickers in order fulfillment. Rather than pushing a bin or cart, the robots work alongside workers, helping them pick out medical devices that need to be shipped quickly. Third-party logistics provider Quiet Logistics Inc., which fulfills online orders for retailers like Bonobos and Zara, uses the same type of mobile robots in one of its warehouses to support its employees.