Evolution of Online Retail

How logistics affects your shopping

Since the turn of the century, consumer behaviour has been steadily changing in favour of online shopping. Before the advent and popularisation of the Internet, distance selling had come in the form of catalogues and offers in newspapers. Mail Order still exists, but the vast majority of catalogues run alongside an ecommerce offering.

The ease of browsing and the extensive choice that ecommerce brings has triggered a huge change in consumer habits in the last fifteen years. This, in turn, has meant an upturn in the logistics industry; from distribution and warehousing to parcel delivery. Just last month saw the opening of Europe’s largest parcel hub, operated by DPD in Hinckley, Leicestershire. This is the result of a sustained increase in parcel activity, especially in the peak pre-Christmas period.

The proliferation of consumer choice has meant an increase in imports, as more and more manufacturing is contracted out to the Far East. The supply and demand of consumer goods has become a mutual cause and effect, as accessibility changes the expendable nature of everyday items. For example, our parents’ generation might have taken a pair of worn shoes to a cobbler, whereas it can be just as cheap nowadays to simply buy a new pair. Choosing the right WMS is one of the most important implementations a warehousing provider will make, and it is the customer’s faith in such a system which ultimately educates their decision to award their business. After all, an efficient warehousing operation means minimal wastage of resource. Staffing is of course important for any organisation, but employing staff just to deal with the extra work that is generated through inefficiencies is a bad sign. When a customer sends a pick request or demands an inventory report, that exchange of data has to be flawless, otherwise the business service just isn’t up to standard. This consumerism means that the movement of goods is increasing, which affects several industries. Aside from the supply chain, it is also retail models that are evolving. For example, Argos is making the transition quite smoothly from catalogues to online, and its click and collect functionality is being adopted across other industries such as electrical retail. It’s no secret that Amazon are the largest online retailer. There are currently 8 Amazon Fulfilment Centres in the UK, with a presence in a further 9 countries across Europe. As such, they hold the position as the most ubiquitous of all e-commerce websites. The initiative that has caused the biggest stir has been the concept of aerial drone delivery. The idea is that an Amazon Fulfilment Centre can despatch your goods via a flying vessel, bypassing the standard delivery network. Whilst this rather futuristic method probably won’t be embraced en masse, the click and collect idea that many physical shops are employing seems set to flourish.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday being adopted in the UK, this Christmas is set to be as busy as ever for British retail. However, there has already been several months of behind-the-scenes activity for suppliers, retailers and supply chain companies. Every gift that is sent to your door has undoubtedly been imported into the UK, then transported to a supplier’s warehouse, then on to a retailer’s warehouse before its final journey to the customer. The shopping is the easy part.