Sometimes innovation in the commerce and payments space is a matter of a new technology or a new process. As recent news from the fulfillment world demonstrates, sometimes the Big New Thing is merely an extra floor or two in a warehouse.
That’s the story involving Amazon (and, it seems, The Home Depot as well). The eCommerce operator reportedly is leasing some 500,000 square feet of space in a three-story warehouse in Amazon’s hometown of Seattle, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is also said that the home improvement chain will lease space in the same building.
That might not sound like such a big deal, but it really is – at least when it comes to Amazon and retail fulfillment in the U.S. “While common in densely populated Asian and European cities, modern warehouses with multiple floors have been absent until recently in the U.S., where higher land and construction costs deterred developers,” the report states. “The warehouse is the first of its kind to open in the U.S. with multiple floors that large delivery trucks can access by ramps, property analysts say.”
In turn, such warehouses can promote the further use of quick (same-day) deliveries. One way? Delivery trucks can use ramps to reach those higher floors, according to the newspaper, and freight elevators reportedly can carry forklifts.
Amazon, of course, is the leader and main inspiration for such same-day delivery efforts. And beyond this warehouse news, the eCommerce company is also experimenting with other – perhaps sexier – shipping innovations. For instance, Amazon has begun using Scout, its six-wheeled autonomous delivery robot, in a neighborhood in Irvine, California, according to a report.
As the company had been testing the robot in Seattle, it was said to be accustomed to many different types of weather conditions, including that of sunny California.
“Over the last few months, Amazon Scout has delivered thousands of smiles to customers just outside of Amazon’s headquarters in Washington state. All the while, the devices have safely and autonomously navigated the many obstacles you find in residential neighborhoods – trash cans, skateboards, lawn chairs, the occasional snow blower and more,” the company said in a blog post. “Scout has even made a handful of furry neighborhood friends, like Winter the cat and the excitable Irish terrier Mickey.”
UPS, too, is going down the robotic path, and is seeking a certification to operate commercial drone flights. The company applied to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Part 135 certification under a subsidiary business called UPS Flight Forward. It could receive the certification as early as this year, enabling UPS to have one of the first fully certified, revenue-generating drone operations in the country. The certification allows drone flights beyond an operator’s visual line of sight, and for flights occurring day or night.
Other eCommerce operators have recently announced their own eCommerce initiatives, including eBay. To provide sellers with cost-effective fulfillment that increases reliability and speed of delivery, eBay plans to roll out a Managed Delivery program next year starting in the United States. The initiative will let high-volume inventory sellers meet growing customer expectations while also reducing complexity and costs, the company said in an announcement.
“A common request we hear from our high-velocity sellers is to help make delivery of high-volume items easy and fast,” said eBay President and CEO Devin Wenig. “Managed Delivery will be a competitively priced logistics solution for businesses selling high-volume goods in popular categories like electronics, home and garden, and fashion. The implementation of this service will dramatically lessen the shipping burden on sellers, while improving the shopping experience and making unboxing fun for buyers.”
The offering will let sellers store, pack and ship their products through expert logistics partners managed by eBay. Through the service, sellers will be able to store inventory closer to buyers in warehouses strategically located across the country. And, while eBay will power the Managed Delivery experience via a global technology platform, third-party partners will run the operations. The service will be available to fulfill orders placed on eBay as well as other online platforms, per the company.
Fulfillment is a multi-pronged problem, and these new developments show that solving for it requires various types of innovations.