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FLEXE Hub: Warehouses of the future

A roundup of the latest news on logistics, retail, and industry trends

The logistics and retail industries are under a lot of pressure. Every day is a different news cycle and we’re inundated with updates. Sometimes it can be difficult to cut through all the noise.

Because there’s a lot going on, we curated a few of the articles we’ve been reading lately, including news on logistics innovation, startups, retail trends, and buying behaviors.

Let’s talk logistics

Warehouses of the future

eCommerce has changed more than just the way consumers shop. It’s changed the way warehouse employees work, too. eCommerce requires more time and effort because individual parcels have to be picked, packed, and shipped. A lot of businesses are feeling squeezed, especially in light of the fact that delivery promises are only getting shorter. So, what’s the solution? According to Karen Leavitt of Locus Robotics and Sudha Chandrasekharan of HighJump, it’s technology. Warehouses of the future will rely on WMS, voice technology, and robots to increase efficiency and empower the workforce. Leavitt assures us that “robots should be collaborative and work alongside humans, not replace them altogether.” Until they all band together and rise up against us, that is.

Story via Supply Chain Dive

Home goods needs help

Home-goods retailers like Ikea, Lowe’s, and Target are all hopping on the VR/AR bandwagon, but according to Hart Posen, associate professor of management at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this won’t be enough to save brands who are already struggling. If they can’t keep up with customer expectations around delivery and shopping options, the fact that they have a cool VR feature won’t matter. "We forget that who's winning and who's losing in this industry and related industries comes down to economies of scale and scope, efficiencies and logistics, and distribution and effective online platform tied to logistics.” — Hart Posen

Story via Retail Dive.

Startup spotlight

Is everyone coming up unicorn?

Last month, three new unicorns were born. Casper, Rent the Runway, and Glossier all reached valuations of $1 billion or more, earning them the coveted unicorn status. And according to Forbes, ThirdLove, Poshmark, and Away might not be far behind. As more digitally native brands reach the pinnacle of startup success, we can expect only more growth and disruption to happen in the retail space. The higher valuation increases the pressure on other brands and prompts the question: How can we do that too?

One place to look is their shared characteristics: Solid offerings, strong brand followings, and competitive delivery promises that include easy returns, premium kitting, and/or fast, affordable delivery. Those commonalities have undoubtedly played a role in their path to near-mythical levels of achievement.

Story via Forbes.

Retail, reinvented

Tech talk

Will robots save retail? At the annual Shoptalk conference, retailers revealed new futuristic tech like customer facial recognition technology and same-day delivery robots. The goal? Do anything and everything to remain relevant in an industry that’s constantly evolving.

Story via The New York Times.

Bye, “link in bio”

Mobile commerce just took a big step forward. Shoppers will soon be able to purchase products directly from the Instagram app, rather than having to navigate through a “link in bio” or an external site. This is one big step for retailers in making it easier to shop on the platform, but possibly an even bigger step for the industry as a whole. It opens up a world of new possibilities for the future of mobile shopping. In an interview with recode, Instagram’s Ashley Yuki expressed that she “would love Instagram to become a de facto shopping destination: a service that brings you all the brands and personalization you want, but that doesn’t require you to download and navigate a bunch of different retailer apps.”

Story via recode.

eComm goes to the mall

Don’t call it a mall. Hudson Yards is a new 18 million sq. ft. “shopping center” with a dedicated space for digitally native brands known as the “Floor of Discovery.” It’s not eCommerce brands’ first foray into physical retail, but it is the first time a retail space has been built explicitly for them. Meet you in the food court?

Story via CNBC

What’s Amazon up to?

Amazon is making waves with the supposed success of its private label brands. However, Marketplace Pulse reported that Amazon’s private labels are not quite the hit everyone is making them out to be. They analyzed more than 400 brands under the Amazon “Our Brands” umbrella and found that 81% of sales are from the top 10 labels, including linchpin Amazon Basics, while the other 390 brands are barely contributing.

But, according to Retail Dive, this story requires a little more context. They point out that many of its private label brands are still very new and haven’t had the time to build up the brand equity of its more well-established lines. And beyond that, Amazon is known for experimenting and trying new things until it gets it right. As Oweise Khazi, senior principal at Gartner L2 puts it, "Brands don't need to worry about the 100s of brands that Amazon is putting out. They need to worry about the [one] in their category that succeeds.”

Stories via Marketplace Pulse and Retail Dive

FLEXE news & events

Megan, you’re daring

Our own Megan Evert was featured in Seattle Business Magazine’s Daring Women column. Megan is FLEXE’s VP of operations and she shares advice and lessons she learned over the course of her career. If you’re in the mood to be inspired, give it a read.

Is FLEXE the next Tech Titan?

Geekwire has nominated us for the 2019 Next Tech Titan award. We’re honored to be listed among fellow nominees Outreach, Remitly, Rover, and Stay Alfred. Stay tuned to find out if we win.

The age of ordinary retail is over

Read the recent article from evo CEO and founder, Bryce Phillips. Retail is changing. To the businesses that want to survive: You have to stand out, not stand still.

Upcoming events

FLEXE will be making our way through the supply chain event circuit over the next month. Here’s what’s coming up: