Some ripples of major change are being seen in places, such as the shipping industry and software-tracking, as the old collides with the new to meet new demands. Many companies are paying to track their merchandise in real time.
Everyone involved in the shipping industry from logistic providers to retailers are using software companies to monitor shipments and alert customers when a delivery is going to be on time or will be held up due to inclement weather or bad traffic.
They want to know what these new levels of high-speed deliveries will mean for packaging, drive time, and overall profits. Will there be a demand for truckers and people with a love of delivery logistics?
What is the Amazon Effect?
If you purchase any kind of product, chances are you’ve checked out Amazon.com. The site began as a small, online book retailer, run out of founder Jeff Bezos’ garage as a means to get books all over the country. Within two months, it blew up and became one of the darlings of the technology world, raking in more than $100,000 a month.
Amazon built on its success with the literary market by offering a broad range of products and services. Today, shoppers can buy everything from a maternity dress for a new mother, to toys, and school supplies for growing children.
Back in 2005, Amazon introduced a new option they called Amazon Prime. The new service was a nod to the fact that business had survived the burst of the dot.com bubble and, as an added bonus, found a way to upsell almost everything. Prime members don’t pay for shipping, and this “free” option means they place many more orders from the shop.
A tool kit can be combined with a toy tool kit and a tire gage, all bundled together in one order to be sent for free. Prime members spend approximately double what non-prime members do and are promised 48-hour delivery time.
Prime offers even more bonuses like access to Amazon original shows, free rentals of digital movies, and extra cheap e-books. People are now buying everyday items on the site, such as soap for the shower or milk by the gallon. Shopping online is now just plain shopping and seen as ubiquitous by anyone who has used the site.
What does this mean for shipping?
According to an article written by shorr.com, the shipping industry is predicted to see a 45% increase by 2040. This will place the amount of goods consumers have carried to their doors up to 29 billion tons. While most of this will take place on the back of a truck, it won’t exclude water, air, and rail shipments.
This will have a huge effect in several sectors. On the upside, this means more jobs for truck drivers, a profession that hasn’t been mainstream for many years. Training, certification classes, and trucks on the road will all increase, which means more jobs at every stage of the trucking industry. Amazon will have to foot a pretty big bill for all of this, as customers are taking advantage of the free shipping option, but they have a plan in place.
To help reduce costs, Amazon is building fulfillment centers in many locations all over the country. These mini-warehouses hold a variety of items that can be delivered faster and over shorter distances, making Amazon even more convenient and efficient.
However, there is a downside to all of this. First, the environmental effect of all those trucks on the road will be huge. Anyone who’s driven behind a large trailer knows how heavily they emit fumes.
Also, because the items that are bundled together are often smaller, including impulsively purchased additions like makeup or a nice pen, many trucks find themselves delivering without a full trailer. That means Amazon has an efficiency problem within its speedy service — trucks are hauling large amounts of empty space along with the smaller packages.
Finally, this creates opportunity. The act of ordering online means that customers will typically want more information on their order as it travels. Most people have already tracked an order with small, national services, but many e-commerce services still don’t offer this option. As the screen-to-door experience expands, more carriers can offer customers the bonus of tracking their purchase as it approaches their home, assuring them the package will arrive as scheduled.
The race to show the route
So, how does tracking come into play? Some major players have already made some moves. The Descartes Group purchased MacroPoint LLC and offers trucking services based on the location of the order. Many other startups are hoping to jump on the trend and offer better solutions for reducing delivery times.
The promise of 48 hours delivery time from the site has put a lot of pressure on other major providers to reconfigure their own services. Some are even saying they will have a penalty for employees who don’t fulfill orders quickly.
Options to track orders help more than customers — it also helps those in the shipping industry to get their product moving in better, more efficient ways, leading to better feedback from customers.
Smithfield Foods Inc., a pork producer that works with over 200 trucking companies around the U.S., has already implemented this program. Once they started using a tracking software from FourKites Inc., they saw a big jump in on-time deliveries. Now, 94% of their orders arrive faster and by better routes because they track their trucks. Their success has also inspired them to look for new tech solutions, such as temperature tracking.
Specialized tracking can also expand to international shipping, providing customers with the opportunity to give feedback much faster after a delivery arrives. This will help shipping companies work with markets and cultures all over the world and adjust accordingly. So, who will be the Amazon of shipping?
Fleet management software companies will feature many perks in order to compete in the market. Many offer to push notifications for all problems, while others take extreme weather into account. There are currently thousands of software options available, and the market is anxious to see who will rise to the top as more trucks hit the road.
One major contender is Telogis, which softwareadvice.com puts at the top of their list for best software options on the market. Telogis offers help with every stage of the delivery and takes truck maintenance into account by offering help with repair center scheduling. The company also offers total fleet tracking so managers can look at all their trucks in one quick frame.
Telogis, however, is far from alone and is at the top of a list of 50 different tracking options. The many companies that didn’t make this list aren’t out of the running, either. All of them are anxious to find the key ingredient that puts them at the top of every list and in a position to buy up the competition.
Right on their tail is ClearPath GPS Software, a company that serves larger industries and focuses on moving items like solar panels, trees, and construction materials for small to mid-size fleets. They stand out by being overly specialized, serving those smaller markets and making sure their customers have access to apps on their phones and iPads.
This provides fleet managers with the ability to check on trucks no matter where they are and to know about any problems within seconds. They also offer a no-contract service, meaning customers don’t have to use them all the time but rather only during seasons when they’re needed.
RTA Fleet Management takes another route, focusing on suites to streamline fleet management and help managers keep an eye on repairs, fuel usage, and full work order history. The software can also help technicians by giving them a goal time in which to complete a repair. RTA is also interested in reducing liability and increasing efficiency, which is why it tracks performance at every level and keeps constant reports in the form of graphs and spreadsheets for all its users.
All these companies are keeping software developers up at night to find even more great additions to add to their offerings.
From the sidelines — apps that help customers track
Tracking is far from limited to the boss and the fleet manager. Customers want in on the game. We already track the arrival of our Uber or our dinner as it comes to us from the restaurant, so why not our new laptop or a pair of shoes? Applications for Apple and Android phones want in, and shoppers are only too happy to have a little help knowing when something is going to arrive.
Customers want their applications to let them add new packages to track without a lot of bother, quick notifications about their package and how it’s traveling, as well as sleek, modern design. Some designs have already received some attention and are being downloaded to help ease the shopping experience.
The app Deliveries has some wonderful touches to its design that make it very easy to use. It detects when a user has copied and pasted a tracking number and automatically adds it to its to-do list. It also refreshes automatically and has a little widget marked ‘Today’ that comes up to the main screen for users to click for quick updates. It’s also color-coded for those who order from several different places at once and need to keep everything organized.
Parcel, a free application with a paid premium option, is great for anyone who orders online occasionally but not for business purposes. It lets customers know how their shipment is doing with easy-to-read icons next to each parcel being tracked. Its design is more sleek and businesslike.
Slice not only looks at packages on the way, but they also let customers know if a past order has been recalled or if something a user is lusting after is available for a lower price. Syncing it up with an email account helps it work faster and smoother.
There are other free applications available, and many that are available for a couple of dollars, as that their interfaces are more complex.
What does all this mean?
Basically, all of this data adds up to the fact that delivery systems and companies must get on board with the technological advances happening in their field. Anyone insisting on doing things by phone or not keeping track of items in the air or on the road is going to be left behind.
As shoppers and retailers demand quicker and more accurate delivery, the need for these tracking services is increasing. Amazon’s successful and reliable two-day shipping service is forcing other retailers, specifically e-commerce, to offer a similar service.
The growing popularity of online shopping has increased the number of deliveries, including next day deliveries, and the shipping industry has to respond by using the right tools not only to transport the product, but also to track the merchandise door-to-door and keep the customer informed.
It also means new responsibilities to buyers, to employees and even to the environment, as more shipping happens faster, across shorter drive times, and all under the watchful eye of the buyer.
The shipping industry will have to work with software trackers and help them find the best way to synergize their goals. As packages are tracked, the software tracking them will also come under scrutiny as different approaches are tried, and growing pains are tweaked over the coming years. For the sake of shoppers and sellers everywhere, we’re all hoping to see a revolution in deliveries, speed, and help in all forms so everyone involved can walk away smiling.