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A study by Zebra Technologies Corporation found that mobile technology investment is a top priority for 36 per cent of organisations.

E-commerce demands faster field operations: study

A study by Zebra Technologies Corporation found that mobile technology investment is a top priority for 36 per cent of organisations and a growing priority for an additional 58 per cent, to keep up with rapidly evolving and increasing customer demand. The findings of the Future of Field Operations report indicate investments will be made in new technologies and enterprise mobile devices to enhance frontline worker productivity and customer satisfaction in field operations including fleet management, field services, proof of delivery and direct store delivery workflows.
“Driven by the acceleration of e-commerce along with customers’ heightened expectations and more focus within companies on differentiating service levels, the field operations industry is rapidly adapting the way it looks at its mobile technology investments,” said director of vertical marketing strategy, manufacturing, transportation & logistics at Zebra Technologies Jim Hilton. “Our study shows how growing challenges related to the on-demand economy drive organisations to adopt transformative technologies such as augmented reality and intelligent labels to provide visibility and integrate business intelligence for a performance edge.”

Key survey findings

Equipping frontline workers with enterprise mobile devices remains a priority to stay competitive.

  • The survey shows today only one-fifth of organisations have a majority of their field-based operations using enterprise mobile devices. This is estimated to reach 50 per cent in five years.
  • Respondents indicate most organisations intend to invest in handheld mobile computers, mobile printers and rugged tablets. From 2018 to 2023, handheld mobile computer usage with built-in barcode scanners is forecasted to grow by 45 per cent, mobile printers by 53 per cent and rugged tablets by 54 per cent. The higher levels of inventory, shipment and asset accuracy provided by using these devices is expected to increase business revenues.
  • A key driver of productivity, efficiency and cost-savings in field operations is ensuring ruggedised enterprise devices replace traditional consumer ones. Nearly 80 per cent of respondents usually or always conduct a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis of business devices prior to making a capital expenditure. Only 32 per cent of respondents believe that consumer smartphones have better TCO than rugged devices.

Tertiary concerns and post-sale factors are important for organisations when evaluating frontline worker enterprise mobile devices.

  • The survey reveals these TCO considerations when investing in new frontline enterprise technology: replacement (47 per cent), initial device (44 per cent), application development (44 per cent) and programming/IT (40 per cent).
  • Almost 40 per cent of respondents say device management and support costs are important as well as customer service (37 per cent), device lifecycle cadence (36 per cent) and repair costs (35 per cent). Such factors increasingly influence the purchase cycle, showing that those who do not provide clear value or cannot control these costs will quickly be overtaken by those who do.

Emerging technologies and faster networks are disrupting field operations.

  • The survey shows seven in ten organisations agree faster mobile networks will be a key driver for field operations investment to enable the use of disruptive technology.
  • Significant industry game-changers will be droids and drones, with over a third of decision makers citing them as the biggest disruptors.
  • The use of smart technologies such as sensors, RFID, and intelligent labels also play a role in transforming the industry. More than a quarter of respondents continue to view augmented/virtual reality (29 per cent), sensors (28 per cent), RFID and intelligent labels (28 per cent) as well as truck loading automation (28 per cent) as disruptive factors.

Key regional findings

  • Asia Pacific: 44 per cent of respondents consider truck loading automation will be among one of the most disruptive technologies, compared respectively to 28 per cent globally.
  • Europe, Middle East and Africa: 70 per cent of respondents agree e-commerce is driving the need for faster field operations.
  • Latin America: 83 per cent agree that faster wireless networks (4G/5G) are driving greater investment in new field operations technologies, compared with 70 per cent of the global sample.
  • North America: 36 per cent of respondents plan to implement rugged tablets in the next year.

Survey background and methodology

  • The Future of Field Operations Vision study reports why mobile technology investment is a top priority for organisations, with over half planning investments to keep pace with more proactive, customer-centric, business-driven systems.
  • The online survey interviewed 2,075 mobility decision makers from 20 countries across the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Argentina, France, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

 

Online returns piling up in a warehouse.

Online returns: the silent profit killer for online retailers

With online shopping growing at exponential rates, it is inevitable that online shoppers will want to return some purchases, and until recently, returns have been treated by both shoppers and retailers as a hassle. But in 2019, returns policies can be make or break for retailers who are facing a dilemma – how to respond to increasingly demanding consumer expectations without killing their profits in the process.
Power Retail has examined the issue in its latest Spotlight Series monthly report titled ‘Returns – The Profit Killer?’.
The report distils over 5,650 interviews with online shoppers and Australian online retailers, to provide insights and strategies for retailers to balance the art of attracting shoppers while remaining profitable.
Managing director of Power Retail Grant Arnott said: “In this competitive climate, retailers are attempting to both limit and encourage returns. The issue is that the benchmarks are being set, often by large international retailers, who can afford to take a short-term hit when strategising for the long-term, big-picture view. But what consumers view as the ‘new normal’ isn’t actually maintainable for many. Yet at the same time, returns are a massive marketing opportunity.
“There is no single solution to minimising returns, though online retailers such as Hunting for George demonstrate the type of multifaceted approach that is required. From educational videos to providing samples for larger purchases and offering a live chat service, they have engaged with their target audience and designed services that address their specific needs.”
Key findings from the Returns Report include:

  • 91% of online shoppers consider a retailer’s returns policy when making a purchase online.
  • On average, Australian online retailers have a return rate of 9%. This varies dramatically depending on the category, with some online fashion retailers experiencing a return rate of 40%.
  • When it comes to the biggest hassle in returning an item, finding an opportunity to lodge the return (33%) and getting around to it (20%) are interrelated and significant issues, with some prepared to pay for a courier pick-up service.
  • 41% of Australian consumers would choose free returns over a range of other desirable options, including next day delivery.
  • Females (56%) were much more likely to return their last online purchase because it didn’t fit, or they didn’t like the colour compared to males (34%).
  • High quality product images, information and customer reviews all help reduce returns, and Amazon Australia is currently setting customer expectations in all of these areas.

Following an analysis of this issue within the industry, Mr Arnott provides his top four predictions of returns for the next five years.

  1. The report found that 24% of online shoppers aged under 25 consider returning an item compared to only 12% of those aged over 65. With this in mind, young consumers will continue to hold retailers to ransom, as they’ll only shop with retailers who offer generous returns policies.
  2. Retailer profit margins will continue to be eroded as growing numbers of ‘serial returners’ take advantage of generous return policies at a significant expense to the retailer. 74% of Australian online shoppers expect free returns on all items, meaning the retailer must bear the cost of the delivery to the customer and the delivery of the returned items.
  3. Offering free returns and longer return periods in pursuit of a sugar hit in sales and customer satisfaction is a short-term strategy that is unsustainable in the Australian market with the high cost of reverse logistics.
  4. The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to returns, and hundreds of retailers chasing fickle consumers who love returns policies that allow them to ‘try before you buy’ are going to find themselves in a world of hurt in the next few years. Like discounting, it becomes a race to self-destruction.

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