Woman is holding credit card and using laptop computer. Online shopping concept. Close up.

As the retail industry underwent ongoing disruption in the pandemic, impacting the supply chain, consumer expectations of service remained high — leading the way toward new fulfillment options for products and services, including buy online, pick up in-store, curbside pickup and delivery.

According to new research from Blue Yonder, the digital supply chain and omnichannel commerce fulfillment company, convenient, efficient fulfillment are top priorities as they look to enhance sustainability and consumer experiences. The logistics executive survey, which was conducted from March to April 2021, analyzed responses from more than 150 C-suite and senior executives across manufacturing, retail, third-party logistics, transportation and warehousing, with responsibility for logistics and manufacturing operations in the U.S., as they make plans for a “new normal.”

Overall, the authors of the report stated that while 2020 was all about speed and availability, 2021 will “clear a place at the table for sustainability.” In fact, 57 percent of logistics executives are planning to invest in more sustainable upstream operations to maximize sustainability throughout future supply chains.

At the same time, with convenience and efficiency raking as top priorities, logistics professionals reported they plan to maintain and optimize popular fulfillment options including buy online, pick up in-store, curbside pickup and delivery — ranking these flexible options as the most important factor for enhancing consumer experience post-pandemic and ultimately a way to bolster sustainability. Fifty-nine percent of all logistics executives and 71 percent of consumer manufacturing executives also said they plan to offer flexible delivery windows for online orders to maximize sustainability throughout the supply chain.

Blue Yonder

Blue Yonder data.  Courtesy Image.

“As many companies were ill-prepared for the mounting pressures of delivering enhanced consumer experiences caused by pandemic-induced e-commerce surges, logistics executives are turning their energy and resources to meeting new and rising expectations,” said Fab Brasca, group vice president, Global Solutions at Blue Yonder. “To compete in this consumer-centric world, companies will have to adopt technologies that not only provide efficiency, but real-time visibility to meet skyrocketing customer expectations.”

Notably, while in some cases the pandemic forced companies and individuals to rethink and reposition sustainability actions, Blue Yonder’s report found that these efforts have been largely reinstated. Overall, 54 percent of logistics executives said they had paused sustainability initiatives due to the pandemic, however, 77 percent of those have either fully or partially reinstated them. For logistics executives that plan to enhance sustainability, 50 percent said they are implementing eco-friendly packaging options.

Meanwhile, executives reported logistics technology investments will be key to meeting demand and reducing costs amid growing demands. Nearly half of logistics executives told the company they plan to “implement and/or enhance their warehouse management systems and cloud infrastructure” in the next year. Additionally, 42 percent said they would plan to implement or enhance artificial intelligence (AI and/or machine learning, 42 percent said they would implement or enhance sales and operations planning and/or sales and operations execution and 41 percent said they plan to implement or enhance transportation management systems.

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