2020 Will See Retailers Spending Profits to Optimize Delivery and Logistics

ABI Research’s 2020 Technology Trends Report identifies the key freight transportation and logistics market trend that will transpire in 2020 – and the one that will not

Total e-commerce revenue in 2020 will reach US$3.52 trillion, an explosion that will force retailers to find faster and more convenient modes to reach the final mile and yard, states global tech market advisory firm, ABI Research.

In its new whitepaper, 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020, ABI Research’s analysts have identified 35 trends that will shape the technology market and 19 others that, although attracting huge amounts of speculation and commentary, look less likely to move the needle over the next twelve months. “After a tumultuous 2019 that was beset by many challenges, both integral to technology markets and derived from global market dynamics, 2020 looks set to be equally challenging,” says Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer at ABI Research.

What will happen in 2020:

Retailers will trade profits to continue investments in e-commerce explosion:

“ABI Research forecasts total e-commerce revenue of US$3.52 trillion in 2020, growing Year-over-Year (YoY) at nearly 19%. This growth depends on ever faster and more convenient modes to reach the final mile and yard in suburban and urban markets, as well as share in rural areas,” says Susan Beardslee, Freight Transportation and Logistics Principal Analyst at ABI Research. This includes the increase of one-day delivery and seven-days-a-week delivery in 2020 to reduce “click-to-door” time and combat the Amazon effect. There is increasing convergence of online and in-store businesses, with brick and mortar positioned as hubs closer to the customer, as well as e-commerce sites directing package delivery to retail outlets. Additive investment will grow in Buy Online Pay in Store (BOPIS) options.

China giants Alibaba and JD.com now have greater focus on growth through lower-tier cities, chasing fast growing, third place Pinduoduo’s rural playbook to reach the next 600 million people. Singles Day in China for 2020 will surpass not only all of the U.S. retail holidays (Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday), but 2019’s record-setting US$38.4 billion for Alibaba alone, at a 26% increase YoY.

Retailers need to address their increasing costs and consumer expectations through new business models and optimized transportation and logistics methods. “Amazon already felt the financial pressure in 2019, with North American margin compression, as it grew investments in its next-day Prime delivery, expected to impact Walmart as well. Other retailers have been pushed into offering expanded shipping options and reverse logistics in order to compete,” Beardslee says.

What won’t happen in 2020:

Self-driving trucks:

“Despite numerous headlines declaring the arrival of driverless, self-driving, or robot vehicles, very little, if any, driver-free commercial usage is underway beyond closed-course operations in the United States,” Beardslee points out. Alphabet’s Waymo has been in testing mode since 2016. Its latest vehicles are still manually operated by trained drivers. Heavy-duty leader Daimler Trucks’ (DTNA) 2020 Cascadia with Detroit Connect 5.0 will offer Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Level 2 partial automation features, initially with automated braking, steering, and forward lateral control. DTNA just delivered two eCascadias for customer testing. In partnership with Gatik AI, Walmart has been testing “self-driving” Ford Transit vans that are planned for middle-mile deliveries. The vans will also be operated by drivers in the pilot.

“Despite the successful primarily manned testing and early revenue operations, there are no known regulatory approvals or fully autonomous methods to address the first and last mile for heavy-duty big rigs through challenging urban and suburban locations,” Beardslee adds. Additional cultural acceptance is another factor. Successful revenue-generating routes will remain highway-only for the foreseeable future, with ABI Research not forecasting a material level of SAE Level 4 shipments prior to 2023 in North America. The journey from SAE Level 2, early commercial OEM deployment this year to ubiquitous highly automated Level 4 and fully automated Level 5 is still years away, which does not grab attention or Internet clicks. Many other opportunities, including closed courses (e.g., airports, ports, mines, oil and gas operations, universities, corporate campuses), are early movers, with opportunity growing for altering the role of “drivers” in vehicles equipped with significant AI.

For more trends that won’t happen in 2020, and the 35 trends that will, download the 54 Technology Trends to Watch in 2020 whitepaper.

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