The tie up announced yesterday between e-commerce companies Rakuten and JingDong (JD.com) to develop an unmanned delivery service in Japan highlights how logistics are becoming ever more important in online shopping – for both retailers and customers.

JD.com already operates autonomous delivery vehicles in China, on the ground and in the air, and vice president Xiao Ju sees “many opportunities” in Japan for drone deliveries in mountainous areas and remote islands, the Japan Times reported.

“The unmanned drones and vehicles are just the first step in the Japanese market and we would like to co-operate with other leading Japanese companies in product development and application,” he told a Tokyo news conference.

Such services aim to cut the time and cost of shipping packages from warehouses to doorsteps, benefitting e-commerce companies and consumers.

China is arguably a world leader in the development of smart retail technologies of all sorts. Amazon made headlines in the West when it launched a store with no staff, but cashier-less stores are “so last year”, according to Peking University professor Jeffrey Towson, who pointed out these were operational in China in 2017.

Speaking at a recent event in Singapore, Towson noted how JingDong is investing heavily in smart logistics to take humans out of the equation further up the supply chain. (For more, read WARC’s report: What China can teach the world about new retail.)

“The idea is, the warehouses will connect directly with the cashier-less stores, and automatically supply them. This is their vision: we’ll see how far along they’ll go on this path.

“You can kind of see where it’s going with on-demand delivery,” he added.

Towson predicted “a lot of traditional business strategies are going to get turned upside down” for merchants, brands and retail companies.

“Logistics may matter more than product selection. On-demand delivery may trump having the right SKUs in your store,” he said.

Sourced from Japan Times; additional content by WARC staff