E-commerce: the future in our hands

#Tags:
Warehousing, Fashion, Food retail, Parcel, e-commerce
How can we predict the unpredictable when it comes to e-commerce? If anyone can offer an insight, it’s Vanderlande’s resident expert (and Channel Director E-Commerce) Ruben Jakobs.  
In an age of high demand and instant access, it’s impossible to imagine our world without its reliance on e-commerce. Our expectations for rapid deliveries – whenever and wherever we want – have become embedded in the way we think about products and services. However, the reality of our fast-paced society is that this must somehow be facilitated. 
The simple act of ordering goods online forms part of a monumental logistics operation taking place across the globe. Figures from 2014 showed that over 1.1 billion of us spent an average of $1,700 each on e-shopping. The expected global turnover for 2015 was forecasted to be a staggering $2,251 billion! This means a network of unseen, automated warehouses must process huge volumes of orders and high levels of customer returns, fast! 
This is all very well, but when we consider the explosion of e-commerce in recent times, the question is: what does the future hold? It seems the goalpost is continually shifting. We are witnessing a rise in the popularity of same day deliveries – although next day is still the current standard. Some companies even guarantee products to be with consumers in a matter of hours.   
“The one most responsive to change will survive”
For warehouses and distribution centres, they can expect to face a number of further challenges in the next few years. In addition, classic retail models no longer fit with an omni-channel approach. Therefore, warehouses must evolve quickly and remodel appropriately, or face tough, uncertain futures.  
However, I see this is as an opportunity not an obstacle. In all honesty, I love what I do, because I am always talking to my customers. Speaking with them every day helps me to understand what’s keeping them awake at night, and help offer the best solution. For example, do they have many customer returns, or intensive competition? For me, my response is always – how can we help? 
It’s my mission to make sure e-tailers are getting exactly what they need, both now and in the future. For example, food and fashion warehouses have different requirements from an e-commerce point of view. Moreover, the expectations of big players will be vastly different to those of a smaller operation that still utilises manual picking.      
This means our core philosophy is to be proactive and build lasting relationships with customers. It is only by actively listening to them and understanding their unique challenges that we can turn trends into logistical solutions. 
Excitingly, there are still breakthroughs to invent and we aim continuously to create innovative solutions that aren’t already in the market. By adopting this way of thinking, we guarantee support to any operation regardless of its level of automation or maturity in the e-commerce market.  
Predicting the unpredictable
It is a fascinating time as we shift our company’s focus more to e-commerce. We are trying to put this emphasis firmly on the map, both internally and externally. It is clear that while people often notice the buying power of consumers, fulfilment methods are mostly overlooked.
In predicting the unpredictable, I’m confident we have the wheels in motion already. In addition to a think tank of my creation, I believe that the present can also influence the future. In this respect we are quite unique, because we are one of the only companies with combined experience in warehouse automation, and parcel and postal solutions. Being able to deliver to big European players, such as Amazon and Zalando, already highlights our ability to drive operations forward at all levels.

About the author

Ruben Jakobs
Director E-commerce

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