Shipping is evolving. Are you? #WordsofBizdom

There’s a revolution occurring in shipment tracking and delivery generated by new technologies like blockchain and drones. What can small businesses do to integrate these methods into their processes?

by AT&T Business Editorial Team

Recently, Agility Challenge runner-up winner Phillip Ashley Rix was interviewed by celebrity author and business expert Chris Gardner. This is the fourth episode in a five-part interview series that highlights successful strategies employed by Rix. Each episode will be complemented by a breakout discussion of the topic, as well as additional strategies for you to consider.

It didn’t take many melted chocolates or melancholy customers for Phillip Ashley Rix to reinvent his shipping approach. As his summer-withstanding packages remind us, it’s a new era in shipping for all businesses. Here are just a few ways that may make conveyance more convenient for your enterprise.

New kid on the block(chain)

Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies dominate our news apps’ business section with their volatilities in value and acceptance. But the technology that drives these enigmatic denominations is already being used to track transports—by companies that ship a lot: FedEx and Walmart. 

Blockchain is, at its simplest, a system of encrypted, shared digital transactions. Which, in theory, may help make tracking shipments more efficient and perhaps even more trustworthy among shippers, carriers and retailers.

In fact, Sean Healy, SVP of Transportation, International, Planning & Strategy at FedEx, recently told USA Today, “Ultimately what we believe blockchain will allow us to do is, in a controlled way, have sheer visibility across the supply chain to key pieces of information that we need.”

And it will, theoretically, create a new level of control and transparency with customers, too. Within the next 18 months Healy hopes to release an app that will let customers keep track of shipments electronically. That’s a giant leap from the modern method, in which 80 percent of shipments are governed by printed bills of lading.

And in a recent patent applied for by Walmart, the retail giant describes a “smart package.” This package will potentially be able to use a blockchain to record information regarding the package’s contents, its environmental conditions, its location and more.

This smart package might even be used in tandem with other emerging technologies including drones. Which means we probably need to talk about drones.

Air supply

Sure, drone delivery may seem like a fantasy. After all, if you squint, the airborne automatons nearly resemble robotic pixies. But most people, including your customers, see drones as the mail carriers of the future.

In fact, 84 percent of consumers believe that the notion of drone delivery is if not “extremely” or “very,” then at least “moderately” appealing. And what do those surveyed believe could realistically be delivered by drone? Gifts, medicine or ready-to-eat foods. Which means we may soon ship bath soaps, baby clothes or even Phillip Ashley chocolates though the friendly skies.

The benefits of drone delivery, especially for small businesses, are many. Operational costs are lower because you eliminate middlemen, fuel and cost of labor. But the biggest advantage is speed of delivery, since they can get to the retailer or warehouse straight to the customer’s door, rather than as part of a route.

Green peanuts 

Whenever a package arrives, we all tend to go through a little roller coaster of emotions.

First, we’re excited to see what’s inside. Followed by the subdued guilt that comes with trying to figure out how to recycle the packaging. Because of this, consumers are asking retailers to advance the way products are stuffed and packed, and especially move away from petroleum-based plastics.

Bioplastics are unsurprisingly the fastest-growing segment in the plastics industry, and are evolving the way retailers stuff their boxes. Innovators are rethinking packaging peanuts, air-filled plastic bags and foam packaging using components like lignin, the fibrous compound that makes trees and woody plants rigid.

Visit our small business solutions page to learn more about tools that can help your company succeed.