If you look closely enough, it can seem as if online retailers are stuck in a kind of moth-to-the-flame dance with the consumers that fueled their rise. As merchants entice shoppers with promises of free or low-cost express delivery, those shoppers get hooked on the promise and demand it of every retailer they visit.
That means only those with the supply chain improvements to handle the constant churn of consumer demand (Amazon and Alibaba, namely) can hack it.
Forbes broke down the surge of investments both companies have recently made into their fulfillment processes - improvements meant to maintain or grow their leads over their respective competitors. Amazon, for instance, spent May negotiating a deal to lease more cargo airplanes under the Amazon Logistics banner, and an Alibaba subsidiary's 2013 investment of $16 billion into supply chain innovations is continuing to reap rewards through 1,800 distribution centers and 97,000 delivery stations across China.
The crutch to all this growth, Forbes points out, is how independent Amazon, Alibaba and all the others that imitate them can become from traditional shipping networks that still rule the roads. Of course, drones may be a transformational technology, but their future of widespread disruption is likely still a few expensive years' of shipping fees away.
And in many ways, these online retail giants have only themselves to blame when it comes to fingering the ultimate cause of today's express shipping frenzy.