Augmented and Virtual Reality Selling and Fulfillment Yes, really. Much like robots, AR and VR technology seemed somewhat of a novelty prior to the pandemic. But 2020 saw a dramatic drop in in-store foot traffic (an average 16% decline, according to Retail Dive), leaving many retail shippers seriously reconsidering the at-home shopping experience. Brands such as IKEA, Macy’s, and Sephora began heavily emphasizing AR/VR-enabled mobile apps that let consumers visualize everything from furniture sizing/placement to lipstick colors. It’s estimated 100M online consumers were AR shoppers in 2020, making for an incredibly effective retail selling tool; however, these brands also discovered an impact on returns. The common belief is that AR/VR technology lets consumers understand products better, which leads to fewer returns. Macy’s notably reported that return rates for its AR/VR-assisted purchases dropped to less than two percent (up to a five percent difference from the industry average). But this technology goes beyond
selling — shippers of all types, as well as vendors, are finding that wearable computing devices can decrease order picking and packing times. One study found “wearable computing devices” increased the average picking speed of new warehouse employees by 37%, and DHL prominently expanded its “Vision Picking” smart glasses worldwide after finding a 15% bump in warehouse employee productivity. And again, while not exactly new, this technology directly addressed some of the unique challenges created by the pandemic, such as social distancing measures, filling gaps created when employees had to quarantine or chose to leave the job due to safety concerns, as well as a growing desire amongst brands to speed up order fulfillment as much as possible to seemingly increase delivery speeds during unprecedented decreases in carrier capacity. Should you go all-in on AR and robotic order fulfillment? That depends. Much like the rise of carrier diversification, these order fulfillment strategies were not created during or by the pandemic;
however, they have amassed huge interest and buy-in from shippers of many types and sizes (especially e-commerce retailers) looking to combat pandemic-driven industry challenges. And, almost all of these new fulfillment strategies enhance the customer experience. Our best advice? As you envision near-term future enhancements to your order fulfillment strategy, consider the technologies necessary to ensure you’re not playing catch-up with your competitors and the market.
Rebecca Wyatt is a Solutions Manager at Green Mountain Technology (GMT), where she partners with clients representing nearly $1B in parcel spend to provide GMT’s strategic Parcel Spend Management solutions — Network Optimization, Spend Analytics, and Contract Management. Cam Elliott is the Brand Manager at GMT, where he oversees the design, creation, and direction of GMT’s customer touchpoints, particularly as they relate to the mission, vision, and values of GMT and its audience.
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PARCEL September/October 2021