AHK Event Report: Evening Forum 'The Future of Logistics and Transport in the Age of eCommerce'

On June 18, the German-Australian Chamber and chamber member Moore Stephens welcomed around 70 guests to our Evening Forum. Tina Thoms, our Membership Director, welcomed the guests on behalf of the German Chamber, followed by an introduction of the keynote speaker by David Considine, Associate Director at Moore Stephens.

We heard from Jodie Auster, General Manager at UberEats, how consumer expectations and behaviour have changed dramatically in recent years. In an inspiring keynote, Jodie not only focussed on enabling success for platform partners, but on the importance of social responsibility towards cities, communities, and small businesses. Jodie, an emergency doctor turned start-up executive, stressed that it is possible to be disruptive and human at the same time.

In an effort to reduce traffic congestion, Uber has announced several projects. The audience was excited to hear that Melbourne has been selected as a test city for Uber Air. A trip from Geelong to Melbourne could see travel times reduced to 14 minutes. Uber has also partnered with Late Night Rapid in Canberra, servicing the first and last mile to and from public transport. This week, the company launched JUMP, an e-scooter sharing service.

As for our eating and cooking habits: Jodie believes that UberEats makes healthy eating effortless by giving customers a vast amount of options. But not just customers benefit, according to Jodie – restaurants and food retailers can join the Uber network within a week, without the need for their own website which would be harder and costly to maintain and update. It also offers a good platform to try innovations.

In the end, Jodie thinks that online and ‘brick & mortar’ businesses can coexist. Consumer desires change depending on different situations – during the week, we might be stretched for time and order food that is either ready to cook, heat, or already cooked. But it won’t replace the dining-out experience.

Key points:

  • 97 % of customers prefer personalised offers
  • Half of our day to day transactions is digital
  • Future of transport will be shared, electric, and automated
  • Reduce traffic congestion by reducing car ownership
  • increase in ride-sharing and micro-commuting
  • Food trends:
    - 51% of Australians dread cooking; 58% view delivery as normal
    - Priority: convenience

For our panel, moderated by Jessica Ip (Head of Commercial and Transport, Couriers Please), we were pleased to welcome Jodie Auster, Dr. Bjoern Johansson (Managing Director Kuehne + Nagel Australia), Dr. Jonathan Spear (Executive Director Infrastructure Victoria) and Marshall Hughes (CEO at Passel). By having representatives of such different parts of the logistics, transport and e-commerce industry, we naturally heard some different points of view.

Bjoern delivered insights into the challenges that the logistics business is facing when it comes to adapting to a changing landscape dominated by e-commerce. He also stressed that while marketplaces such as Amazon work with same-day delivery in other countries, Australia faces the challenge of getting the goods into the country first. Not to mention, as Jonathan pointed out, the huge cost of distributing the goods, which equals the cost of shipping.

Jonathan gave us a glimpse of the future by not only talking about the potential for automated vehicles but the role of the government specifically in Victoria with regards to ports and freight planning, automated transport and waste management. He reminded everyone that optimising the process from port to customer requires long-term infrastructural planning. A greater variety of electric vehicles would lead to sustainability benefits.

Bjoern noted the difficulties that have arisen from selling the port to private companies and an impending law change with regards to fuel. His company notices increased congestion on the last mile. While seeing and accepting the immense growth of e-commerce and marketplaces like Lazada and Amazon, he was also critical of our wasteful shopping habits where ordering multiple items and returning most of them has a big impact on society, traffic, and environment.

Marshall from Passel has seen a gap in retail, where delivery often takes a long time compared to online marketplaces. He also acknowledged that our desires as consumers change depending on the situation we are in (how urgent do we need the item). His start-up aims at reducing net congestion by turning customers into delivery people. Since retail is the second biggest employer in Australia, he aims to help retailers to compete. While they often can’t compete on price, they should leverage their uniqueness.

As for the question of how ‘brick & mortar’ businesses can compete, Jodie believes that the key is to give customers a choice. Jodie and Marshall both see that small businesses need to understand the importance of personalisation in order to not miss out on the sale. Traditional operators need to adapt and change, or they will not survive for long in the new context.

Marketplaces like Amazon have quickly become ingrained in the customer experience – retailers have to raise the bar since consumers expect fast delivery. But not only fast, according to Jessica: a survey by Couriers Please has shown that the majority of customers want free shipping. Which, as Marshall pointed out, “is a myth – someone is paying for it”. Jonathan pointed out not only the monetary cost of free shipping but time and congestion.

Key points:

  • Future trends: Data personalisation
  • Customer choice will determine the future of retail and e-commerce
  • Big costs are happening in the last mile (money, pollution, congestion)
  • Free shipping is a myth

At the end of the panel, there were questions of “how much is enough?” Can carriers continue to absorb the cost of these expectations? This extends not only to the actual cost of delivery, but also to the cost to health (noise, air pollution) and the environment. While there is no definite answer to these questions, we hope that our guests went home with a glimpse of the future – and with some thoughts on the price of convenience.

We thank our member Moore Stephens for hosting this event, and of course our speakers and moderator for delivering such an insightful and energetic discussion.