Guest Post

Automation, AI and more: 2017’s Fulfilment Trends


There is a large focus on online eCommerce technology trends, but what about the fulfilment physically delivers it all? With new technologies springing up, the desire for greater efficiency is becoming a reality. Artificial Intelligence(AI) is set to infiltrate our warehouses, vehicles. Customer expectations are at an all time high for speedy delivery and cross-border commerce – order fulfilment needs to keep up. A number of technologies are set solve the problem of demand.

Optimised Warehousing

As demand continues to rise for storage, warehouse space has become a precious commodity. Not only does this mean that more warehouses are being built, but it means both retailers and fulfilment providers need to evaluate how their space is being used.

This has lead to many warehouses being completely overhauled with some facing their first redesign in decades. But not only will these warehouses have re-designed layouts, but potentially changing technologies, teams and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Fulfilment operations will be pressured to up their game as their competitors start to optimise  their resources. Retailers who outsource will be provided with an ever more efficient and accurate service as more and more elements of the fulfilment process become automated. Over the next three years, 15% of warehouse executives plan to introduce autonomous mobile robots to their business. The introduction of AI to the workplace would bring additional benefits including:


  • Drive efficiency and accuracy
  • Supporting the highly skilled staff
  • Human error reduced to 0%
  • Unskilled workers would be replaced
  • All data would be automatically harvested from the robots
  • They wouldn’t tire or require pay rises


Whilst some people might consider complete automation, the be all and end all of warehouse optimisation, it’s unlikely many companies would be able to implement it due to long return on investment. Several big businesses (such as Ocado and Coca Cola) however have bought in and replaced entire workforces with automation. It’s a sleek, expensive but entirely plausible operation that will be implemented more and more as the years go on and the costs fall.

Greater Shipping Choice

Customer demand for speedy delivery is on the rise. Not only do consumers want their delivery as soon as possible, but they want free shipping as well. Over 50% of potential buyers have abandoned an online purchase due to being unsatisfied with the delivery options available. Whilst it comes down to the eCommerce retailer to provide the delivery options, it’s down to the 3PL/Couriers they work with to provide the service.


By offering delivery options that meet their needs, customers are given the last element of control over their buyer experience. 27% of retailers now offer four or more delivery options; convenience and flexibility are driving an improved customer experience. Here are some of the most popular delivery options offered:


  • 72% of retailers offer next-day home delivery
  • 24% of retailers offer nominated day delivery
  • 42% support Saturday delivery
  • The most in demand delivery option is same-day, but only 7% of retailers offer this
  • 50% are willing to pay for a more convenient delivery option such as a selected time frame, however very few e-retailers offer this

Rise in Exports

For those who choose not to outsource internationally, exporting to meet customer demand is on the rise. Consumers are now able to buy from anywhere in the world – frequently importing from different countries. Around 21% of online trade is now cross border and it doesn’t show any signs of decreasing. Consumers have confidence in their purchasing  and 67% report purchasing from abroad to try and secure cheaper prices.



Over 40% of consumers shop online for brands that aren’t readily available in their own country – exporting ensures that customers aren’t being left behind and you’re building strong relationships with your buyers across the globe.


Autonomous trucks driving into the future

Very much an up and coming piece of technology which has been set to fundamentally change how haulage and shipment works, autonomous trucks with driverless haulers that capable of completing a part of (or an entire) preset journey without the need for a human driver.


With tests already carried out last year (Uber’s Otto run truck hauled over 50,000 cans of Budweiser 120 miles without a driver) automated trucks look to be set for the next few years. The cost of hauling will lower significantly without the need for a driver (though many companies intending to use the technology would only utilise it on motorways, so a driver would need to be present at other parts of the journey). 3.5 million US citizens are professional truck drivers but even then, there is a shortfall of around 48,000 drivers which completely automated trucks could easily fill.


Here are some other positives to utilising fully automated trucks:


  • No payroll needed, so a fixed investment
  • No complicated background or drugs checks required for drivers

Closing Thoughts

Technology is changing the world of order fulfilment. The new technologies and methods that are available to eCommerce businesses are allowing rapid growth and increased customer satisfaction. What are your views on current fulfilment trends and do you agree that those we’ve discussed will help improve and develop the logistics and fulfilment industry? Let us know your thoughts!

Hannah is a marketer for James and James Fulfilment (@JamesFulfil). She is passionate about helping people better understand the world of eCommerce fulfilment and researching the newest trends.


At James and James, we’re passionate about technology-driven order fulfilment. We make it easy for eCommerce brands like you to delight customers, service international markets, scale quickly and gain a competitive advantage.



  • Text Hover