Today, eCommerce has evolved beyond a trend, firmly establishing itself as a cornerstone of the modern-day retail commerce experience. While the global logistics industry is expected to hit US$6.3 trillion in 2023, Asia's e-commerce revenues alone are predicted to reach US$1.92 trillion by 2024.
The vast potential presents significant opportunities in the interplay between e-commerce and the logistics network.
Shippers and merchants are now pursuing and catering to a global audience, necessitating a multimodal logistics infrastructure that can support warehousing, international shipping, customs clearances, and managing diverse consumer expectations across various markets.
To meet these evolving demands, logistics providers are adopting innovative strategies, from optimising delivery routes to embracing automation and digitalisation, as well as leveraging data-driven insights.
In recent years, the role of supply chain orchestrators, or fourth-party logistics (4PL) players, to synchronise all aspects of the logistics to ensure an end-to-end outcome for shippers and customers has received significant attention.
Why so? Because in a world as complex as the e-commerce industry, the ability to seamlessly coordinate across multiple markets, network points, and partners becomes critical to success.
This is a world of speed, service, reach and, of course, economics.
The collaboration that is sought by orchestrators centres on shared goals of enhancing customer satisfaction, streamlining operations, and ensuring sustainable growth.
Transformative synergy of 4PLs
Many shippers and retailers face daily supply chain management woes. From optimising inventory to ensuring efficient order fulfilment, from sourcing the “ideal” carriers to coordinating with multiple carriers for different regions, and from managing customs regulations to responding to unpredictable delivery delays, many are grappling with the intricate web of logistical requirements worldwide.
4PLs facilitate shippers and retailers in sharing insights and data to optimise supply chains and create seamless customer journeys.
In such a collaborative ecosystem, 4PL providers play a pivotal role, harmonising the complexities of logistics with the demands of a rapidly changing commerce landscape.
A proficient 4PL player should be able to offer streamlined logistics solutions to enable smart point-to-point cross-border delivery, from the first mile to line haul dispatch, customs processing and reliable last-mile delivery, leveraging a pool of carriers to best serve the retailers.
Driven by tech-savvy consumers, logistics and 4PL must keep pace to ensure efficient and timely deliveries.
Likewise, as logistics undergo transformations powered by technology, commerce must reimagine its strategies to create seamless experiences that match customer expectations. The 4PL seamlessly integrates itself into this narrative, acting as the bridge that optimises logistics operations to align with the evolving commerce landscape.
Earlier this year, SingPost welcomed Freight Management Holdings Group (FMH Group), the parent company of one of Australia’s leading fourth-party logistics (4PL) providers, into the SingPost Group family.
efm Logistics, the 4PL in the FMH Group, takes a control tower approach to supply chain management, strategically optimising every aspect from end to end.
Through the unique combination of sophisticated proprietary technology, deep and extensive relationships with carrier partners, and their highly trained people, efm tailors solutions to meet customers’ unique needs and then manages the implementation of the solution, continuously finding and realising opportunities to create further efficiency.
The model benefits not only customers but carrier partners as well. By partnering with efm, carriers gain more opportunities to participate in multi-modal transport solutions and ensure they ship appropriate volumes and freight suited to their business model, enhancing their operational efficiency and profitability.
The next step of development is to supercharge 4PL with data insights and decision-support algorithms. The advent of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and the Internet of Things (IoT) is reshaping traditional processes, enabling real-time tracking, predictive analytics, and enhanced visibility across the supply chain.
4PL, tightly intertwined with logistics, is instrumental in orchestrating the integration of these innovative technologies to optimise the entire supply chain.
Using generative AI, advanced analytics and big data integration, 4PL players can help retailers harness large amounts of data generated throughout the supply chain and convert it into actionable analysis.
This allows retailers to make better data-driven decisions, identify and address routing mix inefficiencies, and predict demand patterns, leading to more efficient and cost-effective logistics operations. The possibility is vast.
Imagine the end-customers can experience hyper-personalised delivery, with a choice of fastest, cheapest or lower carbon emissions route, getting accurate estimate arrival day/time and receiving instant alerts for any delays, with re-route options.
From having insights, line-of-sights and even foresight to environmental transparency, the retailer can be empowered to make informed decisions to advance their business and reach.
Likewise, efm leverages sophisticated proprietary technology developed by FMH Group’s technology company, Flip. The efm app gathers robust data from across the customer’s supply chain.
This deep visibility enables the efm team to uncover and implement new opportunities to maximise efficiency and drive ever-improving performance, both operationally and commercially, for shippers in Australia.
Embracing broader purpose, UPU network
In a world increasingly conscious of climate change and resource depletion, ethical consumerism wields a significant influence.
This has led businesses to prioritize social responsibility, amplifying the importance of resource pooling, shipment consolidation, and inventory management. To excel in this arena, effective 4PL providers must actively engage in initiatives that reduce emissions, minimise excess stock, and curb waste.
The strength of a 4PL provider lies in its network of partner carriers and organisations.
At SingPost, the deep understanding of the modern logistics landscape enables the firm to assemble optimal carriers and providers tailored to each retailer's specific needs.
This network extends beyond the realm of business. As a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), SingPost0 is able to leverage the postal network for small parcel delivery, promote international trade with bilateral agreements, help ease eCommerce dispatches and provide resource efficiency.
The UPU has constantly provided practical recommendations and valuable insights for postal organisations, policymakers, and executives to support the development of e-commerce. With robust policy frameworks, expanding on our postal solutions, and supply-chain integration, a strong postal network across the ecosystem can help advance cross-border e-commerce markets.
Seizing future opportunities
4PL has already proven its mettle in addressing the challenges faced by retailers, offering supply resilience, cost-efficiency, and robust partnerships.
Through COVID, SingPost’s 4PL solution has provided capacity resilience through a pooled network of carriers, far more than each customer can marshal on their own. The firm has also added value by moderating costs for customers by providing cost-effective options for them.
All this while levelling up capacity utilization and tech integration of our supplier network. Customers have peace of mind while benefitting from a single solution. Truly a win-win-win proposition.
At the intersection of business, logistics, data, innovation, regulation, and consumer demand, retailers can streamline their logistics operations and seize emerging opportunities to go global. To thrive in an industry marked by change and unpredictability, both 4PL providers and retailers must embrace agility.
As the world of commerce continues to evolve, businesses should be ready to navigate the logistics landscape to foster growth, efficiency, and innovation for retailers around the globe.
By Vincent Phang
Group Chief Executive Officer, SingPost