The inaugural eDelivery Expo took place on 25-26 March 201 5at Birmingham’s NEC. Emma Herrod, executive editor of both eDelivery and InternetRetailing was on hand to report on the show. This recap of last year’s event is a great indicator of what we have to look forward to at EDX16 in just four weeks time.
The eDelivery Expo brought together the front end of ecommerce and retail with their operations colleagues with the inaugural eDelivery Expo running alongside the InternetRetailing Expo (IRX) which is now in its fifth year.
Retailers from Amazon, Dixons Carphone, Groupon, Carrefour, Tesco, John Lewis, Deckers, Shop Direct, Mondelez and Wayfair all took to the podium in the eDelivery Conference which ran across both days of the Expo.
Maxim Romain, general manager of Wayfair Europe explained how the online retailer of furniture and homewares is currently making significant investments in Europe.
“We have ambitions to start trading in more countries,” he told Sean Fleming, editor of eDelivery prior to the event. “An important first step will be the creation of a Europe-wide freight network that can take products from one place in Europe and deliver them anywhere else. Once we have that in place our goal is to open in multiple European countries by leveraging the same infrastructure, freight network and suppliers,” he said.
In a panel discussion on fulfilling customer expectations in the final mile, speakers from Tesco, John Lewis and French association FEVAD agreed that customer experience and communication is more important than speed and convenience. “The longer the lead times, the more you have to communicate with customers,” they said.
If something’s going to go wrong, it’s far better to phone the customer and tell them, explained Edward Osborne, head of dropship operations, Tesco.com. In the run up to Christmas, for example, his team watched every dropship order and in one case watched minute by minute to ensure that a Christmas Eve delivery of an ‘Elsa dress’ arrived with the customer on time. Of all the orders delivered, “27 did not go right and everyone knew on time and we were able to help them,” said Osborne.
Damian May, senior manager – customer delivery, John Lewis agreed. “Our first point resolution has to be spot on,” he told delegates.
While discussing the phenomena of Black Friday 2014, May admitted that “it was a challenge”. Some 20% of click-and-collect orders on that day came from in-house partners. At Tesco “returns were ridiculous,” said Osborne. He cited the situation with TVs; what is the point of discounting TVs which when people got them home discovered that someone had put their knee through the screen. Looking further ahead, May believes that returns will be the game changer in the next 12-18 months.
The second day of the conference was keynoted by John Munnelly, head of operations at John Lewis. Outlining the history of the retailer’s NDC, he explained how the company’s plans in 2005 revolved around a strategy of 10 in 10; 10 more department stores opened over 10 years with a “dusting” of ecommerce which would amount to £300m by 2017!
The company has managed to “keep our nose ahead” of the changes in the industry, firstly through the “defining decision by the board was to build the capacity bigger than necessary with the ability to scale,” he told delegates.
Staff are now used to expansions each January through the addition of mezzanine levels, for example and a second building in April last year.
Flexibility through the mixture of automation and manual processes has also helped. While the automated part of the DC continues 24/7 throughout the year, a number of manual pack stations can be brought into operation at peak times and then mothballed again when not required. The company brought in 1,200 agency staff at peak last year.
Black Friday though “was close,” he admits. Sales of £44m in just one day led to 2.6 orders being processed every second. As to what the company will be doing to give more scope for Black Friday 2015, Munnelly would not be drawn. “I can’t share the list of initiatives,” he said but implied that they were looking at how to get ahead quicker and use suppliers in different ways.
“We’re privileged that people think that we’re ahead in the omnichannel stakes but there isn’t a finishing line and there are many hurdles ahead,” he said. Would John Lewis have been able to do this without the automation? “I don’t think so,” he responded. “Without automation, the scalability would not be there and we couldn’t cope,” he said. The profile of the company’s stock, doesn’t enable it to have a regional DC structure so it “contains the beast by a scale of automation.”
EDX15 also saw its fair share of announcements and launches across the ecommerce delivery industry.
WnDirect launched an international PUDO network enabling shoppers to buy from websites in other countries and pick up their order from their local locker, third party collection point or one of the retailer’s own stores. The company has partnered with the market leaders in 30 countries, such as InPost in Poland, but is initially launching the service to 11 countries. The others, including Japan, will be added in the coming months, explained Chloe Harris, head of innovation, WnDirect.
A web portal has also been developed which plugs seamlessly into the retailer’s website with the retailer able to choose the countries and services their shoppers will be able to see along with the level of cost that is passed onto them. Returns can also be handled by the service. While the costs vary massively by country, Click & Collect is “on average 20% cheaper than home delivery,” said Harris.
US company Borderfree was also exhibiting as it announces its entry into the UK market. Already well known in the US, where it works with retailers such as J. Crew and Macy’s, Borderfree offers services to retailers wanting to expand into international markets.
Warehousing and packaging systems were also on display. Sealed Air launched Korrvu Lok, which uses the latest compression design technology to secure products safely in the centre of their packaging and keep them locked in place with film. Visitors to its stand were also given the chance to win an Easter egg by breaking a fresh egg protectively enclosed within its Instapak cushion packaging and placed inside a cardboard box using a mallet.
The team of IR Towers look forward to seeing you again at the inaugural eDelivery Conference in London in October.
DRONING ON AT THE NEC:
EDX15: fowl play during quad-copter demo
For one heart-in-mouth moment on the opening day of EDX15, we were almost all out for a duck.
SkyGlide were demoing their drone, which they had rigged up to carry a parcel containing an Apple Watch destined for the winner of a competition being run by Scurri . The drone looked and sounded the part, as it flew up and over Pendingo Lake outside Hall One of the NEC.
One of the local residents, a duck, was less than impressed though. This mallard was clearly no dullard, and upon spotting the drone hovering over the lake, the bird made a bee line (or should that be bird line) for it, clearly hell bent on defending its territory.
Thankfully, at the last minute Daffy changed course and the mid-air collision was avoided.
It’s hard to say who would win in a fight between a duck and a drone, but there’s every chance there’d be no winners, just losers – and feathers… and bits of drone.