Product intelligence: the future of ecommerce?


Date: 2 January 2014

Product intelligence: the future of ecommerce?/boxes stack for delivery{{}}When you’re selling online, how quickly you’re able to deliver your products can make or break your business. If your next-day delivery promise turns out to be hogwash then you’ll see customers switching to more reliable competitors.

The University of Cambridge, working together with James and James Fulfilment, is carrying out research that it thinks could lead to a new means of online order delivery — allowing consumers to interact with their order almost right up until it arrives.

Ecommerce product intelligence

The research is based on the concept of ‘product intelligence’, where computer models allow every product and order in a warehouse to effectively think for itself.

What does that mean? Well, if the researchers are correct, orders themselves will soon be able to communicate with warehouse and delivery staff to make sure that they are processed correctly.

Product intelligence could let consumers interact with their order right up until it is delivered.

For instance, currently if a customer wants to change the delivery address once an order has been dispatched, they have to contact the courier. But with product intelligence, they could let the order know the new address — electronically.

Popping out? Let your order know

In fact, it could be possible for consumers to interact directly with their online orders at every stage of the journey.

You might be able to tell your order that you’re are not at home because you’ve popped to a café down the road. Or you could even say: ‘use my mobile phone to come and find me’ while your parcel is out for delivery. Imagine that: no more ‘we called while you were out’ cards.

The difference with product intelligence is that the order will tell the carrier what it needs to do, rather than the customer telling the carrier. It sounds futuristic, but the infrastructure is mostly already in place, so the technology could become available very soon.

Product intelligence and efficiency

Product intelligence could also allow goods to decide where in a warehouse they should be stored. The researchers have found that doing this can be 20% more efficient than current best practice.

Although it might seem obvious that the fastest-selling products should be kept closest to the packing station, actually getting the information required to arrange products correctly is not easy.

When the products can confer amongst themselves, products that are frequently shipped together will know they should be stored together.

While online ordering has vastly improved in the past decade to become a slick, real-time process, many fulfilment centres and carriers have failed to invest at the same rate.

That’s why product intelligence has such huge potential: it could save businesses considerable time and money, and deliver much higher levels of customer satisfaction.

This is a guest post from James and James Fulfilment.

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