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Ocado’s first store, Amazon’s innovation, and some EDX16 takeaways


Last week, something like 5,000 people visited EDX16 and IRX16 at the Birmingham NEC – the jointly-hosted expos of eDelivery and InternetRetailing, along with colleagues from TameBay and eSeller.
I can’t remember the last time I walked as much in a single day as I did on Day Two, although that has a lot to do with having to walk back to my car to look for my phone upon realising I couldn’t find it. I was also recognised several times across both days by people I’d never met before because they’d seen my photo on the eDelivery newsletter. Thankfully, everyone was pleased to see me and no one seized the opportunity to bend my ear.

If you were there I hope it was a fruitful use of your time. Every exhibitor I spoke to told me they’d got enough leads in to have made it more than worthwhile, which is always good to hear as it spells out to me the value within the eDelivery readership, and of having EDX co-located within IRX.

I didn’t get to speak to as many people as I hoped to, but that – I’m afraid – is the nature of the beast, really. I made some new contacts, caught up with some familiar faces, and met lots of people for the first time. I also came away with some very clear ideas of features I need to write in the near future, though.

One is about packaging. I was impressed not just by the number of packaging companies exhibiting at EDX but by how committed they are to making packaging a more visible part of the online retail story. From saving time to being environmentally aware, through to safety and using packaging as a branded marketing asset.

It’s also a sage reminder that just about everything bought online and subsequently delivered – or collected – has to be put in a box by a person at some point.

Another topic that lodged itself in my head was cross-border shipping. It was great to see, and meet, so many exhibitors and visitors from other parts of Europe, and from further afield to get a real sense of the importance of our sector when it comes to global trade.

But one conversation stood out above all the others on this subject, and that concerned itself with the links between b2b delivery and cross-border b2c services. There’ll be more coming on that theme before too long.

Beyond those two areas there are a couple of delivery stalwarts that I’ll be turning my post-expo attention to.

One is returns and how they are affected by peak trading periods. What does peak mean in 2016 and what should retailers and carriers be doing right now to ensure returns don’t – once again – become the straw that breaks fulfillment’s back?

Another is click-and-collect. Is click-and-collect still fit for purpose? Has it become so widely adopted by shoppers that retailers are struggling to maintain in-store provision that can give customers a great collection experience without breaking the bank? Does someone need to be really brave and say ‘enough is enough’ or braver still by investing more in making their stores click-and-collect centres of excellence?

I’m already interviewing people about that, and I genuinely can’t wait to start writing. I’m still keen to hear more views though, so if you have an opinion on click-and-collect, let me know.

One more thing that caught my eye, and my attention, and led to me to use the phrase “I think I’ve seen the future of shopping” came courtesy of a series of touchscreen kiosks and panels that could – if connected to the right delivery options – completely change the relationship some shoppers have with retail stores; what would be better than getting hands-on with an item in a store then ordering it online later that day? How about ordering it online before you’ve even left the store via a large display panel that can offer you convenient delivery/collection. Could be just the thing if you don’t want to go back to the office after lunch sporting whatever it is you had to buy while you were out and about.

In the final session of Day One, in the eDelivery Theatre, I interviewed Richard Locke, who heads up general merchandising at Ocado. It was a really good session made great by the quantity of quality of the questions from members of the audience. One of the things we all got to hear about, for the first time in most cases, was that Ocado will be opening its very first store when it branches out into selling beauty products.

Some people might view Ocado’s overall non-food ambitions as an attempt to counter Amazon’s increasing expansion into shoppers’ daily lives, by offering as many regularly purchased items in one drop as possible. Amazon, of course, continues to innovate as part of its plans to stay ahead of the game. Like Ocado it is no stranger to automation, and in this feature from the latest eDelivery Magazine, my colleague Emma Herrod looks at how Amazon is innovating in the warehouse.

Not very long ago, being able to offer next-day delivery was innovative. Now it’s ubiquitous, and according to the boss of one logistics services company, next-day delivery might be doing more harm than good. If you’re bending over backwards to offer customers something that they consider to be low value, he argues, you need to stop and think again.

As always, if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. But we won’t spam you – you don’t like spam, do you? We don’t. You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.

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