Cyber Monday puts e-commerce shipping woes in the spotlight

When you hear the phrase Black Friday, what do you visualize? Most likely, it’s the huddled masses waiting for hours on end outside of department stores, hoping for a chance to get the best deals on the must-have presents of the season. Year after year, the same song and dance marks the start of Christmas shopping for Americans across the country.

However, more and more people are ditching the camping chairs, tents, and overnight bags, looking instead to online retailers for their post-Thanksgiving deals. Cyber Monday, e-commerce’s answer to Black Friday, has entered the cultural lexicon.

The Monday after Thanksgiving, online retailers reward savvy shoppers with deals equally as competitive as those on Black Friday, but you can capture them from the comfort of your home. Cyber Monday has grown in size every year, with last year’s christening the largest online shopping day in U.S. history.

Experts are predicting this year will keep the tradition going and break last year’s record. Amazon has already said this Cyber Monday was its biggest shopping day ever, and Adobe Analytics says U.S. spending was up 19 percent from last year.

Yet, Cyber Monday’s overwhelming success shouldn’t be pigeonholed as some sort of fluke post-Thanksgiving occurrence. It’s indicative of a much larger trend in the retail industry: e-commerce taking over. If you look at the data, retail e-commerce is on an upward trajectory, gaining more steam with each passing year. In 2016, consumers spent around $390.5 billion on e-commerce. That number is likely to grow to a projected $500 billion in 2018 and a projected $700 billion by 2022.

This trend can be seen right here in Wisconsin. Facing a modern economy that has been unfavorable to department stores, the state’s largest employer, Kohl’s, has tapped into online sales. And it hasn’t just kept them afloat. According to Zacks, the company’s 2018 Q3 Sales & Earnings are projected to grow. At a time when competitors like Sears are filing for bankruptcy, Kohl’s is thriving.

There’s no question that the retail industry has had to adapt to changing consumer preferences to keep their edge. But these changes have also disrupted the retail transportation network and logistics sector as a whole. Just last year, Kohl’s opened its fifth e-commerce fulfillment center to keep up with demand. Not everyone has been so well equipped.

If businesses want to reap the full economic benefits of this e-commerce growth, they need to get smart about developing new ways to meet demand.

Take the trucking industry as an example. The industry has been getting pummeled year after year with a growing driver shortage, all the while being leaned on to keep up with the changing retail landscape. After all, somebody has to deliver the rising number of Amazon orders.

It would be wise to look to new ways to address these issues in the industry. One proposal, legalizing Twin 33 tandem trucks nationwide, was endorsed by the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board, as it wouldn’t cost a cent in government money to implement.

These Twin 33 trucks are specifically intended to carry the types of packages that you would get when shopping online — those that are typically smaller and lighter. Therefore, this proposal wouldn’t even raise the current weight limit on trucks. To legalize them nationwide would simply require extending the length limit for these kinds of trucks, a process that could be started if a provision were included in Congress’s year-end transportation appropriations bill.

Easy solutions like legalizing Twin 33s nationwide should be a no-brainer for our nation’s lawmakers. As e-commerce growth continues its rapid ascent, there is no better time than now to saddle up and address these longstanding issues. It’s the only way we’ll be able to keep the American economy moving in the right direction.

–By: Matt Cordio, founder and president of Startup Milwaukee