This Week in Logistics News (June 1-5, 2015)

I’m on limited time this morning, so let’s go straight to the supply chain and logistics news that caught my attention this week:

enVista formally announced its new software solutions business, Enspire Commerce, which provides “the market’s first and only true cloud-based, multi-tenant architecture solution focused on omni-channel selling, optimization, fulfillment and integration for small to mid-market retailers, distributors and third party logistics service providers (3PLs).” Here are some additional details from the press release (emphasis mine):

The Enspire Commerce Enterprise Commerce Management (ECM) platform enables companies to readily leverage and rapidly integrate any or all of Enspire Commerce’s solutions, including: Retail Engagement/Point of Sale (POS), Trading Partner Management, Order Management and e-Commerce Solutions.

enVista CEO Jim Barnes said, “Many mid-market companies face the same omni-channel complexities as larger retailers. We founded Enspire Commerce to address gaps in the marketplace for price-competitive solutions that solve the complexities of omni-channel inventory visibility, order routing and fulfillment execution between retailers and their stores, logistics partners and vendors. At the heart of our ECM platform is an integration framework that allows trading partners to connect and create trading partner communities. This is a very different, customer-centric approach to retail that drives revenue and profitability by capturing sales, fulfilling from multiple inventory sources and delivering a unified cross-channel brand experience to consumers.”

I highlighted Enspire Commerce in my comments last week about how solution providers have been strengthening the link between the front-end of e-commerce (order capture/management) and the back-end (order fulfillment). Part of what differentiates Enspire Commerce is its market focus (small and midsize companies) and that it brings together software with B2B connectivity in the omni-channel space (see Where to Find Supply Chain Innovation).

I’ve often pointed to enVista (a Talking Logistics sponsor) as an example of how the business models of software vendors, consultants, and logistics service providers are converging, and the launch of this new software business further underscores this point.

On the technology front, a hot space right now is local/same-day delivery solutions. Key Software Systems issued a press release highlighting its Xcelerator and MobileTek solutions, which provide “a rich toolset bringing together on-demand, routed, distribution and warehousing workflow in one end-to-end solution.” Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal featured another solution provider, Grand Junction, in an article this week. I highlighted one of Grand Junction’s retail customers in a post last year (see The Most Critical Factor in Last-Mile Delivery: Managing the End-Customer Experience). The WSJ article highlighted the value of Grand Junction’s technology and network for carriers such as Air Traffic Services. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

In years past, Air Traffic Services had a large sales team that went door-to-door and made cold calls to introduce its services to potential shippers and national carriers, said CEO Lance Dearborn. People found them in the Yellow Pages, and later through Internet search engines, but it was difficult for shippers looking for fast delivery to find them.

Today, Grand Junction accounts for about 40% of Air Traffic Services’ business. Shippers looking to make deliveries in Mr. Dearborn’s region can look up his firm, work out a price, and use Grand Junction’s platform to arrange shipping and tracking without hefty technology investments that Mr. Dearborn said companies like his simply can’t afford.

This is yet another example of the unique value proposition found at the intersection of software, B2B connectivity, and social networking (see The Most Overlooked Cloud Opportunity).

Finally, UPS and comScore, Inc. released the fourth UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper™ U.S. study this this week. Here are some interesting findings:

  • 40% of consumers have purchased from retailers based outside the U.S., with nearly half (49%) reporting they did so to find better prices, and 35% said they wanted items that couldn’t be found in U.S. stores.
  • Free shipping remains the most important option during checkout according to 77% of online shoppers. More than half (60%) have added items to their cart to qualify for free shipping.
  • 48% of online shoppers said they ship items to the store, with 45% of those saying they made additional purchases when picking up their order
  • More consumers are open to alternate delivery options. In 2014, 26% said they prefer to have packages delivered to locations other than their home, this year it rose to 33%. When not at home to sign for a package, 32% want it shipped to another convenient retail location.

The rise of international e-commerce is a big reason why Pitney Bowes acquired Borderfree a few weeks ago and why UPS acquired i-parcel last year. But it’s both an opportunity and challenge for the industry. As I wrote last October in The Messy Reality of Cross-Border E-commerce, it may sound simple, but enabling a consumer in one country to buy from an online retailer in another country is incredibly complex. In addition to language and currency considerations, there are many other factors that come into play, including cost factors (duties, taxes, brokerage fees), customs compliance requirements (product classification, restricted party screening, import/export documentation), and complying with the address formats of destination countries to prevent delays and other issues with last-mile delivery.

Nonetheless, the study findings underscore what we already know: consumers (that is, you and me) are continuing to transform the retail and logistics industry, which is driving new opportunities and challenges for retailers, suppliers, logistics service providers, and technology companies.

And with that, have a great weekend!

Song of the Week: “Peaches” by In the Valley Below