Amazon vs. Walmart: Who Will Control the Future of Shipping?


Retailers are sparing no expense in the race toward faster shipping. Amazon has invested more than $800 million in one-day delivery for Prime members. Meanwhile, Walmart is following suit with free, one-day shipping that could be available to three-fourths of the U.S. population by the end of the year.

As the two retail giants continue to up the ante on shipping, an important question remains: What will it take to satisfy the soaring expectations of today’s shoppers? Having grown accustomed to faster shipping speeds than ever before, shoppers aren’t likely to settle for anything less.

To deliver on their promises for quicker shipping and keep customers happy, both Amazon and Walmart should consider investing in real-time tracking technology. Although real-time tracking might seem like a small improvement, such innovations have the potential to make a big impact on shopper satisfaction. From eliminating counterfeit items to solving customer service issues, retailers can reap the rewards of real-time tracking in a variety of ways.

Greater transparency

Customers don’t like to be left in the dark about their purchases. A recent study from UPS found that 56% of online shoppers track the status of their deliveries. For retailers, the choice is clear — adopt real-time tracking technology that makes it easy for customers to keep tabs on purchases or risk losing business to the competition.

The devices used to power real-time tracking are not only smaller than traditional GPS innovations, they’re also cost effective. This combination of size and affordability is especially important for retailers like Amazon and Walmart that often have millions of products in delivery at any given time.

Rather than assuming a package is on its way, retailers can leverage real-time tracking technology placed on either a shipping container, an internal package or the product itself to ensure a package ends up in the right hands. Better yet, shoppers no longer have to wonder where their purchase is.

Fewer counterfeit items

Third-party products account for 54% of all items sold on Amazon. Given the billions of dollars of counterfeit goods seized every year, chances are some of those products aren’t the real deal. Retailers like Amazon and Walmart risk damaging their reputations in the eyes of shoppers who unknowingly purchase inauthentic items. The good news? Nanotechnology can help put an end to counterfeit items sooner rather than later.

Tracking devices implemented throughout the manufacturing process make it easy for retailers to see exactly where a product originated as well as where it goes during delivery. Instead of assuming a product is legitimate, both retailers and shoppers can rest easy knowing they have access to the entire lifecycle of a verified product.

More efficient recalls

Hundreds of consumer products are recalled each year, creating massive disruptions for retailers who have no choice but to inspect every item in hopes of pinpointing the problem. With nanotechnology, however, there may be a more efficient way to conduct product recalls. Retailers can leverage the tracking ability of nanotechnology to locate and remove the affected products without recalling an entire line of items.

Real-time tracking also means shoppers will no longer miss out on potentially life-saving recalls. Customers who aren’t sure whether there’s an issue with their specific product can use a mobile device to scan a chip applied directly to the product and subsequently verify the product status. Instead of hoping to hear about a recall from a friend or on the evening news, shoppers can take matters into their own hands by using nanotechnology to gather information on a specific item.

The road ahead

Change usually doesn’t happen overnight. And in the case of real-time tracking technology, retailers shouldn’t expect anything different. While it’s poised to deliver a number of benefits — including increased transparency, fewer counterfeit goods and a more efficient recall process — nanotechnology isn’t the gold standard in tracking yet.

Retailers like Amazon and Walmart will likely need to test the technology before rolling it out to shoppers. But considering how inexpensive chips are as well as the communication infrastructure already in place, implementation of real-time tracking should be a breeze. In the same way barcodes quickly became a popular tracking option, it’s only a matter of time before nanotechnology becomes common across retailers.

Scott Fletcher, President and CEO, LocatorX

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