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PREDICTIONS 2021 delivery trends for 2021

Another year of the delivery economy

COVID-19 is going to be with us a lot longer than we all want; it has accelerated ecommerce adoption and permanently changed buying behaviour. Companies have struggled to keep up with the demand through their own efforts or with carriers. In one respect, 2020 was a tremendous accomplishment considering the volume of shipments that were handled; however, it was also a step backwards in terms of delivery timeliness and reliability.

In 2021, retailers will focus on improving home delivery scale, service quality and, most importantly, differentiated delivery service offerings. Distributors and other B2B companies will also see customers demand more from their last mile capabilities as consumer expectations continue to bleed into the B2B markets.

Chris Jones, EVP Marketing & Services, Descartes

Carrier apps are on the rise

lConsumer expectations are getting higher and higher when it comes to the delivery service of online orders. Consumers tend to be on top of their orders and as a result they seek immediate access to tracking updates. Good tracking information via email or text is the norm these days.

However, it doesn’t stop there. More and more consumers are turning to carrier apps to keep track of their orders. Brits are leading the way in this area: no less than 35% of consumers like to receive delivery updates via the carrier’s tracking app compared to a European average of 24%. 

Apps have historically offered a far better user experience than desktop sites accessed by a mobile. Progressive Web Apps (PWA) are here to recapture the intuitive and seamless shopping experience typical of shopping apps – only on a web browser. They function in the same way as a mobile app, with the speed and optimized user experience to match. 

Royal Mail already launched its first tracking app in 2018. The app not only offers the possibility to track a parcel, but also to receive push notifications, change the delivery options or easily return a parcel. However, the possibilities of apps are endless. 

At the Dutch carrier PostNL, for example, it is even possible to see which parcels are on their way on the basis of a verified home address, without the need for a tracking number. The ease that apps can offer fits in well with the demand for more flexibility and there is a good chance that apps will occupy an important position in the coming years. 

Rob van den Heuvel, CEO at Sendcloud


Retailers will invest more in logistics than anything else for speed and flexibility

Global retailers have invested in logistics for years. But when pandemic-driven demand spiked this year,  even Amazon had to throttle shipments, and Walmart CEO Doug McMillon noted the challenges of keeping shelves stocked. Retailers and brands will invest in new logistics solutions to maintain or grow their business as they navigate the market, supplier, carrier, and environmental changes  ahead.

Think speedier, more flexible delivery via dark stores and microfulfillment centers located  closer to customers; subscription shopping, so the customer never runs out or has to panic buy,  while the seller can bank on predictable revenue; or drop shipping to offer consumers broader and  deeper product assortments as well as the flexibility to adjust assortments on the fly in response  to sales trends. A few retailers will invest in annual subscription services like Walmart+ that lock  in customers and lock out competitors, one whole year at a time.


Fiona Swerdlow, Sucharita Kodali, Brendan Witcher with Stephen Powers, Nicole Murgia, Forrester

A second chance at over-delivering

The pandemic, the election, and Brexit taught consumers a lesson in delaying gratification. Across the globe, we’ve been forced to be patient as we await(ed) results of an ever-changing vaccine timeline, the outcome of long-drawn-out US election and UK Brexit processes, and the delivery of our much-anticipated purchases. We’ve experienced more pre-ordering, queuing, and early voting this year than ever before.

2021 will be about seizing this cultural moment. While shoppers are giving retailers a bit more grace, brands that are able to serve in a quality, yet expedited manner, will be rewarded for exceeding consumers’ recalibrated expectations. From receiving a package on the same day as it was ordered, to returns being picked up from your home address without having to jump through re-packaging hoops, the real winners of the year ahead will be the ones who can promise a frictionless end-to-end shopping experience. We can expect retailers to get extra creative with their delivery methods, along with a doubling down on support functions such as digital assistants and machine learning to personalise customer service.

Melissa Minkow, Retail Industry Lead at CI&T

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