Behind every Christmas click, the battle for sales. By Vocollect
written by Darrel Williams, Regional Director, Vocollect
Forget seasonal cheer – November and December are months of all-out war for the retail industry and this year the landscape has changed along with the recipe for success. According to the British Retail Consortium, total UK retail sales increased by just 0.3% in December 2012 on a like-for-like basis over December 2011, while e-commerce sales shot up 17.8% over the same timeframe.
With the trend continuing through 2013, then many multi-channel retailers will be heavily reliant on online Christmas sales to boost their overall revenue. Success, profitability (and survival) will be determined by their e-commerce operational efficiency. Retailers need to ensure that customers receive the right goods, first time, on time. Yet despite this many still focus solely on the glitzy front end of their web sites potentially making promises that they can’t deliver
Operational dexterity becomes an even more significant criterion as consumer buying habits become less and less predictable. In the earlier days of e-shopping they tended to click early in the day as shopping times were restricted to when consumers had access to the internet – which for many was during office hours. This meant that the warehouse & logistics company had time to pick, pack, dispatch and deliver orders almost at their leisure with the pinnacle of service being a premium option next day service - The new gold standard.
However, with the increasing use of always connected smartphones and tablets, these patterns are changing. A recent report on British shopping habits by John Lewis shows that although there is still an online browsing blip around lunchtime, activity increases as shoppers use their devices on the commute home rising to a crescendo as they settle down on the sofa with their tablets and TV from 5 to 11 pm. The window left for the warehouse to fulfil this demand whilst maintaining the now expected and common-place ‘next day delivery’ has shrunk drastically, and it’s these activities which now are the critical path to success or lost business.
The consumers ‘need’ for added value in this multi-channel fulfilment has also seen a dramatic rise of ‘click and collect’ shopping. With seemingly more constraints on our time over Christmas – who wants to be Cinderella and wait at home for a delivery? This brings a greater need to interact with a store’s traditional network to execute work faster and with more flexibility than ever before.
So how are retailers ramping up their processes to meet this demand? Many have already recognised that Voice technology is key to greater productivity and accuracy. But some are also addressing rigid working patterns to ensure greater responsiveness to unpredictable and changing business volumes during this period. This helps avoid employing extra staff in anticipation of an uplift, only to have them sitting around when it doesn’t happen – or, just as bad, missing the opportunity because of unpredicted heavy demand.
For example, voice-enabled technology is currently enabling the industry to fulfil next-day, and late-night pledges, enabling a 20% lift in productivity whilst ensuring accuracy rates of 99.9%. It is obviously ideal for manually-intensive tasks such as order processing, but many warehouses are now extending their use to include cycle-counting, receiving, loading, put-away, replenishment and put-to-store.
The simple directive nature of Voice instruction, means workers now have the tools to work across multiple workflows so can be used wherever they are needed. Shift managers get a real-time view of progress so are able to plan and allocate resources more efficiently.
In this way, it is also the answer to streamlining those traditional work patterns. Because training times for new tasks are dramatically reduced, workers can, for example, manage receiving tasks in the morning, order pick for much of the day and finish up replenishing or loading – all supported by the same intuitive voice-directed link to the host system.
It’s clear that the fight for a greater portion of the Christmas e-pie will be fiercer than ever, with only the most accurate and, importantly, the most agile winning through. Retailers obviously need to attract custom in the first place, but the smart investment in what happens after the click will ensure the investment is recouped – over Christmas and by the development of long-term customer relationships that endure well after the tinsel comes down.
Uber Freight to Acquire Transplace in $2.2bn Deal
Uber Freight is to acquire logistics technology and solutions provider Transplace in a deal worth $2.25bn.
The company will pay up to $750m in common stock and the remainder in cash to TPG Capital, Transplace’s private equity owner, pending regulatory approval and closing conditions.
“This is a significant step forward, not just for Uber Freight but for the entire logistics ecosystem,” said Lior Ron, Head of Uber Freight, and former founder of the Uber-owned trucking start-up Otto.
Uber’s Big Play for Supply Chain
Transplace is one of the world's largest managed transportation and logistics networks, with 62,000 unique users on its platform and $11bn in freight under management. It offers truck brokerage and other capacity solutions, end-to-end visibility on cross border shipments, and a suite of digital solutions and consultancy services.
The purchase is the latest move by parent company Uber, which launched as a San Francisco cab-hailing app in 2011, to diversify its offering and create new revenue streams in all transport segments.
Transplace said the takeover comes amid a period of “accelerated transformation in logistics”, where globalisation, shipping and transport disruption, and widespread volatility are colliding.
Uber Freight plans to integrate the Transplace network into its own platform, which connects shippers and carriers in a dashboard that mirroring the intuitive experience found in its consumer vehicle booking and food ordering services.
“This is an opportunity to bring together complementary best-in-class technology solutions and operational excellence from two premier companies to create an industry-first shipper-to-carrier platform that will transform shippers’ entire supply chains, delivering operational resilience and reducing costs at a time when it matters most,” said Ron.
Frank McGuigan, CEO of Transplace, said the resulting merger will offer enhanced efficiency and transparency for shippers, and benefits of scale for carriers. “All in all, we expect to significantly reduce shipper and carrier empty miles to the benefit of highway and road infrastructures and the environment,” he added.
History of Uber Freight
Uber Freight was established in 2017 and separated into its own business unit the following year. In 2019 the company had expanded across the entire continental US, established a headquarters in Chicago. Later that year it launched its first international division in Europe, initially from a regional foothold in the Nertherlands, and later moving into Germany.
The logistics spinoff attracted a $500m investment from New York-based Greenbriar Equity Group in October 2020, and launched a new shipping platform for companies of all sizes in May, partly in response to a driver shortage in Canada.