Here and now: Can augmented reality transform last-mile delivery?

AUGMENTED REALITY is exciting because it is a simple technology that helps create new user experiences without the need for new user devices or equipment.

The technology has already made a big impact in the retail industry with companies such as IKEA, Macy’s, and many more experimenting with and trialing its use in new and engaging campaigns. E-commerce giant Amazon is also a heavy user of the technology, especially in the beauty category.

At the recent CES 2020 event, Here Technologies SVP and GM APAC and Japan Stanimira Koleva said the company is betting that augmented reality will make a big splash in last-mile delivery in the next few months.

“Augmented reality can help van drivers find the precise address in the most efficient way, tackling road closures, beating traffic, and so on.”

In a fast-paced digital world, 84 percent of customers never repeat purchase from a vendor who has failed to deliver on time — that’s a statistic from a recent survey and it drives Koleva and her team to constantly look for ways to optimize last-mile delivery in a world where the volume and size of e-commerce transactions are skyrocketing year on year.

According to Statista, retail e-commerce sales in APAC grew from US$646.92 billion in 2014 to US$1.49 trillion in 2018 to US$2.34 trillion last year. This year, multiple forecasts suggest that revenues will touch between US$2.7 trillion and US$3.6 trillion this year.

Thanks to the recent coronavirus outbreak, retail e-commerce has spiked significantly just in the first two months of 2020 — making analysts even more optimistic about their forecasts.

Of course, the APAC has been leading the world in terms of retail e-commerce growth at 25 percent (2019), but a global average of 20 percent indicates the accelerated pace of growth, and the urgent need to make last-mile delivery more efficient.

Source: eMarketer | https://www.emarketer.com/content/global-ecommerce-2019

At CES, Here Technologies explained that the company has been using LIDAR (light detection and ranging)-powered imaging devices mounted on cars (called True Cars at Here) that drive around the world, including the APAC, to collect 360-degree information about urban landscape to create maps in augmented reality.

“Using such data, logistics companies can help their on-ground staff to pin-point the exact destination of the parcels they’re carrying. When traffic and other data is factored in, this becomes even more efficient.”

Given the way that logistics companies around the world run their business, even the slightest scalable improvement helps save meaningful sums of money. A one percent improvement in last-mile delivery efficiency could easily result in a saving of more than US$20 million or more for a sizeable operator.

Koleva is passionate about the (unlimited and untapped) potential of augmented reality. She believes new and emerging technologies such as 5G, the internet of things (IoT), and others will play a big role, but ultimately, expects that industry players will be keen and swift to adopt new technologies to optimize last-mile delivery.

“The time to wait and watch has passed, it’s time to leverage digital innovations, it’s time to buckle up and race ahead,” concluded Koleva.

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