Top Logistics Trends for 2014 – Part 1

Top Logistics Trends for 2014 – Part 1

As we leave 2013 and enter 2014, we are encountering a period of worldwide economic growth coupled with rising consumer demand for new technologies delivered faster than ever. As evidenced by the consumer backlash to UPS and other parcel service holiday delivery failures, we are reminded that logistics plays a key role in the customer experience. Companies that are able to meet higher customer expectations by improving their supply chain capabilities this year should be able to outperform their competitors in the coming years.

We lead off our top logistics trends with the one trend that is front in center this time of year, and the one that is the most important to your success in 2014.

1. Customer Service

Your company can perfectly take care of thousands of customers today, but if one customer with a large enough social media following is not taken care of; your successes can quickly be washed away in the court of public opinion.  As 2013 closed, we saw many online retailers and delivery services criticized on social and traditional media for not being able to meet an unforeseen spike in guaranteed two day and next day deliveries in time for Christmas.

Being able to deliver an amazing customer experience requires that companies review every link in their supply chain to see where customer service is helped or hindered. From overseas suppliers unable to meet spikes in demand to the training of customer service agents in handling returns, companies must holistically review each part of their operations in detail in 2014. You don’t want to have your name in the news next year as the company that ruined Christmas.

Two Trends to Improve Customer Service

To close out the first part of this series on 2014 trends, we will look at two of the key initiatives that companies can consider in the year ahead to meet customer service demands. In part two of this series, we will discuss the physical distribution and system trends that we see being front in center this year, and in part three we will look at some meta-trends that will affect

2. Multi-Channel Fulfillment

A few years ago, you either had to order something online and wait for it to be delivered or go to a store to see if you could get the same product for a similar price. In 2013, more companies started to allow customers to order online for home delivery, or pick up an item in the store the same day or a few days after ordering.

Typically companies would fulfil Internet orders from dedicated facilities or parts of facilities. While we see this continuing for many companies, there is also a need to get inventory as close to the customer as possible and that can mean shipping direct from retail stores where the inventory could be sitting. This is not a new idea, but in 2014 we will see if brought up as companies find ways to bring visibility to their inventory for customers.

3. Same Day Delivery

A parallel consideration to multi-channel fulfillment is same day delivery. Amazon, Home Depot, and other retailers are spending millions of dollars on new facilities across North America and in some cases worldwide to support same day and one day delivery to customers.  This will put pressure on suppliers and competitors to offer a similar service to meet the expectations that major retailers are setting with consumers.

Moving Beyond the Four Walls

The three trends we have looked at so far show that 2014 will be focused outside of the four walls of a typical warehouse or distribution center and in many cases into the palm of the consumers hand with the rise of mobile applications for buying, selling, and browsing the web.  As our customers seek improved interactions with our companies, our physical and information systems must be improved to meet demand. Stay tuned to part two of the 2014 trends to see what physical distribution and system trends will affect you in 2014.

See Also:
Top Logistics Trends for 2014 – Part 2
Top Logistics Trends for 2014 – Part 3

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