The last few years have seen major shifts in the retail landscape, such as the rise of ecommerce, and ever-growing demands for personalisation, omnichannel fulfilment and faster delivery options. AutoStore Australia and New Zealand outlines the key trends to watch in 2024.

Retailers are working hard to stay ahead of the curve as consumer preferences continue to evolve, explains AutoStore Australia and New Zealand business development manager Jason Wu.

“The retailers who get ahead of the pack are those who invest in the innovation of their warehouses and fulfilment processes,” said Wu.

The online retail environment unpacked

IAB Australia’s latest Australian eCommerce report revealed that between June 2022 and June 2023, Australians spent $53.29 billion on online retail.

“While this is 5 per cent less than shoppers spent in the previous year, it still accounts for almost 13% of the total estimated retail trade,” said Wu.

Commenting on the decline in spend, Wu adds that shoppers are spending more cautiously because of high interest rates, rising inflation and rising living costs.

“However, the same IAB Australia report finds that 32 per cent of local shoppers have increased their use of online shopping, perhaps because online shopping platforms enable them to research products and pricing. In addition, online shopping habits have remained steady over the last two years with 50 per cent of online shoppers continuing to buy groceries and 73 per cent buying non-grocery retail items, at least once a month,” said Wu.

Wu said the major driver for online shopping was still convenience.

“Shoppers are prepared to pay more for a retail offering that helps them manage their costs, adds value and makes their lives easier. This means retailers have to prioritise hassle-free shopping and faster fulfilment, at lower costs,” said Wu.

Retail trends to watch as 2024 approaches

Wu outlines five key trends that retailers should adopt to stay ahead of the curve in 2024:

1. Warehouse optimisation, digitalisation and automation

The integration of digital technology and automation (including robotics, AI and machine learning tools) with space-optimising vertical or cube storage systems, enables retailers to streamline their warehouse processes. “Through automation, retailers can also reduce their labour costs and their energy consumption – a saving that can be passed to customers,” adds Wu.

2. Enhanced shopping experience

Think personalised shopping, AI-assisted 3D shopping, price comparisons, discounts and more choice. “To deliver these benefits to customers, retailers will rely heavily on the integration of digital platforms and automation with their warehouse management systems,” notes Wu.

3. Omnichannel fulfilment

The seamless integration of physical retail stores with digital platforms enables retailers to create a consistent retail experience.

“Having an automated warehouse management system, which accurately tracks stock levels and caters to click-and-collect shopping, is highly beneficial in the omnichannel environment,” said Wu.

4. Same day delivery

Shoppers are demanding the convenience of rapid fulfilment, driving the Direct To Customer (DTC) trend.

“Retailers are seeking out warehouses closer to customers, and optimising them with vertical storage systems and automation, to allow for faster, more cost-efficient delivery,” said Wu.

5. Return logistics

The influx of returns is an inevitable side-effect of the growth of eCommerce, and it’s one that threatens to take a bite out of retailer profits.

“Businesses will look to analytics and technology tools that will help them understand why customers return products, with a view to reducing the volume of returns.

“Having an automated warehouse system in place, which can handle returns accurately and efficiently, is essential,” said Wu.

An ASRS solution

Wu recommends an Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) that can enable order fulfilment times of less than a minute from order to shipping. Autostore’s ASRS Grid is modular and can be customised to meet the layout of a customer’s floorplan, enabling 90 per cent of warehouse space utilisation.

“The flexibility and scalability of the AutoStore systems offer a streamlined fulfilment process, fast delivery and reliability, and employees, likewise, can benefit from enhanced working conditions,” said Wu.

Packaging News

Under pressure from shareholders to cut costs, Unilever has released a revised sustainability strategy that CEO Hein Schumacher describes as “unashamedly realistic”, while critics call it shameful.

Warwick Armstrong is the new managing director IPE Pack Oceania, joining the company with a wealth of experience in the Australian packaging industry, and deep knowledge of equipment and materials.

The ACCC has instituted court proceedings against Clorox Australia, owner of GLAD-branded kitchen and garbage bags, over alleged false claims that bags were partly made of recycled 'ocean plastic'.