What if smart parcels were the future of logistics?

At a time of accelerating climate change, the e-commerce sector is facing logistical challenges to which smart packaging – or intelligent parcels – could provide answers.

Constantly increasing in recent years (source Fevad), e-commerce in France weighed 129 billion euros in 2021. The same year, it generated the shipment of more than 1.7 billion parcels according to theArcep (the Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority). Faced with the climate emergency, these figures illustrate the challenges of the sector logistics and e-commerce that smart packaging – or smart parcels – could help solve.

Towards a new transformation of parcels

In Antiquity, packaging intended to protect shipments of goods was made from natural materials (leaves, wood, terracotta). In 1751, they were transformed with the invention of cardboard then by the discovery and use of plastic materials in the middle of the 20th century.

Since their creation, packaging has met three fundamental needs: protecting products to store them, transporting them, and carrying out exchanges. They are now at the dawn of a more sustainable and connected design to respond to ecological and logistical issues: waste management, order returns, last mile optimization or even tailor-made deliveries, data optimization, intelligence artificial, and security.

And optimized logistics thanks to connectivity…

The intelligent or smart package packaging is a connected packaging integrating a multitude of technologies: geolocation, movement, temperature and pressure sensors, camera, digital label, security against theft, etc… The Internet of Things (or IoT) is at the center of this logistics of tomorrow: the use of tracers and sensors makes it possible to gather data in order to inform, empower and optimize each actor or stage of logistics. Delivery information is available in real time and in a secure manner, both for the sender and for the end customer.

The processing of the data collected by the connected parcel can then be carried out by artificial intelligence algorithms and machine learning. They can detect anomalies and optimize inventory management, the number of packages per transport, the routes taken and the last mile delivery, and therefore, at the same time, reduce costs and improve customer service.

The journeys of these intelligent parcels are then made more fluid thanks to a multitude of technologies: vehicles with automatic guidance, robotic arms, connected warehouses, supervision systems. All these systems can be connected, with all the intermediaries of the logistics chain (TMW platforms, WMS, supervision systems, mobile applications) and communicate to create a truly optimized logistics network.

…to transform the delivery customer experience

These technologies offer a new experience to professionals and consumers who now have access to new services and valuable information. It becomes possible to precisely and safely track a parcel in real time via a mobile application or dashboards, to change the delivery address while it is being sent, or even to send personalized messages to the recipient, control the opening. The data – anonymized – collected by the parcel allows companies to optimize services, detect defects and create new experiences for their customers based on their consumption habits and preferences.

The innovation doesn’t stop there. The contents of a delivered package are often returned to the sender in the event of a defect. Between April 2021 and March 2022, the return rate in France was 39% (source: Statistics). The implementation of reusable and connected packages makes the return of products very simple and ecological (since the same packaging is used for the return).

Beyond the strong optimization of logistics and the unique improvement of the customer experience, the smart parcel reduces the environmental impact of deliveries thanks to the reduction of the waste that composes it and by optimizing the routes. The environment has become a major consumer concern (source: Citeo study): companies must transform their logistics to meet these expectations while reducing their costs.

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What if smart parcels were the future of logistics?

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