A Brief Commentary on the Future of Delivery

I’m heading back home today from the MercuryGate Velocity 2017 user conference in Las Vegas. I arrived Sunday night, and being on east coast time, I went to bed relatively early. At 12:30 am, a loud alarm went off in my room announcing that the resort (The Cosmopolitan) was being locked down. In my sleepy haze, I had no idea what to think. Was someone trying to rob the casino? The alarm continued to blare for a minute or two, and just as I thought about getting up, it stopped, so I rolled over and fell back asleep.

It wasn’t until I received a desperate text from my wife at 4:30 am asking if I was okay that I realized something bad must have happened. It was worse than I could have imagined; it was tragic.

Luckily, nobody associated with the conference was killed or injured. Instead of a spirited start to the conference, Monica Wooden, MercuryGate’s CEO, called for a moment of silence to remember the victims and their families. When the moment passed and we opened our eyes, the conference began without fanfare, like a concert without music.

I’ll share my takeaways from the conference in a future post. Today, I want to share some brief thoughts on “The Future of Delivery,” which was the theme of the conference.

What is the future of delivery? There are countless possibilities, especially when you consider emerging technologies and delivery models like drones, driverless trucks, hyperloop, and the Uber-ization of freight. What role (if any) each of these things will play down the road remains to be seen. The only sure thing is that the future of delivery will be very different than today. It has to be.

Think about it: if our existing delivery networks, processes, and technologies are already near the breaking point and e-commerce sales are still less than 10 percent of total retail sales, what will happen when e-commerce sales reach 30 percent or more?

There are two other sure things about the future of delivery:

  1. Some of the technologies and delivery models that we currently believe are on the fast track to adoption will ultimately stall or fail (similar to what happened to RFID in the early 2000s), and those that we believe are at least a decade or more away from reality will actually arrive much sooner than we predict.
  2. The future of delivery will involve technologies and business models that we are not thinking about or talking about today — or even exist yet. As I mentioned to the attendees at the conference, if I was giving a presentation ten years ago today about the future of delivery, I wouldn’t have a single slide about “the Uber-ization of freight” or about “sharing economy” delivery models. Why? Because Uber didn’t exist in 2007 (the company was founded in 2009) and the original iPhone, which revolutionized the smartphone and ushered in the app economy, was barely three months old. None of us saw in 2007 what was just around the corner in 2009.

What is the future of delivery? Different than today and defined by what we can’t predict or see at the moment.

What do you think? Post a comment and share your perspective!