Next Gen Commerce and Industry 4.0

Maia Benson
Managing Director

The Future of E-commerce & Logistics: A Futuristic Vision by Maya Benson

In this article, we delve into the insights shared by a seasoned SAS product and platform executive, Maya Benson. As a 20-years veteran in the field and an enthusiast for next-generation e-commerce and logistics, Benson's insights lay the groundwork for what the future could hold in these sectors.

Maya Benson: A Glimpse into her Journey

As a founding force behind significant names such as Lexus, Nexus and Pitney Bowes, as well as being a crucial part of the high growth company Shopify, Maya Benson comes with a rich and diverse professional background. Besides playing pivotal roles in these renowned companies, Benson has also taken the entrepreneurial plunge and had her own successful stint as a founder of a luxury fashion NFT company.

Recently, she has transitioned onto the venture capital investment side of the landscape, focussing her efforts on B to BS companies at Forum Ventures, where she is a partner and managing director.

Visualizing A Futuristic E-commerce & Logistics World

Benson takes us on an exciting journey, projecting a future e-commerce world where we could use glasses or contacts to browse and purchase products. This futuristic technology would know our preferences, loyalty benefits, purchase history, body type and dimensions, ideal pricing, and even our favourite social influencers. "Imagine the convenience of an intelligent AI suggesting the two or three best-fit products for you!" she enthuses. Also, visualizing the product in our space or on our body, taking into account carbon impact, could be a part of the virtual trial experience in the future.

In the future, Benson believes personal AI will also suggest products based on our current context, like a pair of new shoes for a run, without us even having to express the intent.

Key Takeaways for the Future of E-commerce & Logistics

  • Data-Driven Demand Planning, Inventory Placement, and Manufacturing: Harnessing the power of data can help drive smart demand planning, inventory placement, and on-demand manufacturing in a way that is closest to us, both economically and ecologically.
  • Innovative Returns Process: Benson imagines a seamless return process where just taking a picture of the product can help determine its quality and the best return procedure.
  • Electrification of Ground Transport: To drive down carbon footprints, Benson stresses the need for electrification of ground transport, which currently carries 70% of commerce.
  • Next-Gen Hardware: Benson envisages the future with next-generation hardware like wearables, which could revolutionize our shopping experience.
  • Robots and Automation: With a shortage of labour, Benson advocates for automation and robots to bridge this gap in human labour supply.

Steps Towards the Future

This futuristic world of e-commerce and logistics envisioned by Benson is made possible by key tech trends in the industry: personalization leveraging first-party data, the building of next-gen loyalty or membership experiences, as well as the adoption of generative AI.

In the shopping phase, the main challenges lie in data normalization, optimizing inefficiencies, selling cross-border and minimization of Cart Abandonment.

While delivering the products, Benson highlights the need for the exact date and time, empowering consumers to compare delivery prices, optimizing human capital in warehouses, and promoting electric vehicles to reduce carbon footprints.

Benson stresses automating the returns process, by focusing on better data visibility, instant refunds, and brushing up returns policies.

Note: This article is derived from Maya Benson's transcript on her vision for the future of e-commerce and logistics. For more in-depth insights, you can contact her directly at her email

Video Transcription

So, hi, everybody. I'm Maya Benson and the 20 year SAS product and platform exec uh really have always been founding building and scale new things for big companies like Lexus, Nexus and Pitney Bowes and high growth companies like Shop of five.I've also been uh a founder, so I jumped off the cliff myself and became a founder uh launching a luxury fashion NFT company. And then as I thought about what I wanted to do next, what I got really excited to do was uh you know, basically have a bigger wallet and more founders. So I've joined the venture capital investment side of the fence and I work for a firm called Forum Ventures uh where I'm a partner and managing director and we exclusively focus on B to BS um uh companies. And so if you're building anything, if you're looking for tech, next generation eco logistics or supply chain tech, uh please don't hesitate to reach me at the email address below. So folks, I wanna take, I wanna kick this off today by jumping forward and moving into the future of next generation e-commerce and logistics with you. And I want, I want everybody to kind of sit back for a second and join me in this futuristic world.

It might look something a little bit like this. So if I've got some idea or some purchase intent, uh I believe the future will look like you or I kind of whispering into glasses or contacts that we're wearing someday. They won't be, it won't be a mobile phone, what we want or what we look for and, you know, a I will pull two or three or four kind of Best Fit and this is where Best Fit is important to kind of pause on. It's gonna know where my loyalty and membership benefits are. It's gonna know what I've purchased in the past and what I've returned, it's gonna know what's in my closet. It's gonna know my body type and fit and dimensions. It's gonna know what pricing is best for these two or three suggestion. It's gonna know if I follow any social influencers and, and kind of what they think about it and it's gonna know what reviews have already been put out there by consumers. So just imagine this smart A I surfacing, the only two or three things I should look at that are gonna be the best fit for me. And then I'm gonna have the option with my glasses or my contacts to visualize what either I would look like my house would look like basically what this product would look like in the space or on my body, right?

Just then and there kind of think of it as a virtual try on. And I would also know like in my event valuation as I'm trying virtually things on how much impact carbon impact this, this this these products have had or would have on the uh on the planet getting it from uh where it is today to to to me. So that that carbon calculation will be, you know, part of the easy evaluation criteria that we have in order to finally choose the two or three best fit things with all this context, personalized context, I've just brought to to life. Um I will just simply wink, move my eye, do something extremely simple to purchase and that biometric, you know, validate or prompt will make the the transaction complete. Um All right. So that's the intent vision of the future. Let's say I don't have any intent. Well, gosh, we are gonna be wired up with these glasses and contacts and these wearables and the context that those will provide to the life moment I'm in also will generate um suggestions for what might be useful for me in any given moment in time. Maybe I'm running and the, the A I knows that and knows that I'm running at a less efficient pace and it could be because uh I have uh shoes that have been purchased five years ago and I should probably get a new pair of shoes.

So anyway, I think that the A I is gonna start to really drive with or without intent, a magical experience and some next generation of, of hardware and, uh, we will facilitate that as well. Once we've winked or blinked or done whatever we've done to, uh, to nod that we would like to purchase something, then we've got a lot of other future experiences ahead of us. We've got, um, a consumer like you or I that can pick up and order an electric vehicle. Uh If we choose to have it delivered, it can be routed to the warehouse closest to our cons to, to us where we are. So think about all the heavy lift on data with smart demand planning, inventory placement, um even maybe on demand manufacturing and then if it's delivered to us, it comes in an electric vehicle and ideally with fully recyclable or biodegradable packaging. If we, if for some reason it doesn't work out for us and we need to return it. Uh Wouldn't it be great if we could just take a picture of the product so that it can internalize the quality? And A I will recommend how to wear and where to best return it again, including all the calculus for the carbon carbon footprint that uh any of these options would have on the product uh uh on the planet, excuse me.

So this is a future I want to kick us off with because now we get to have some fun on really diving into some of the drivers that, that are gonna make this potential future come, come to life. Um One thing that I thought would be fun to kick off with is I fed this future vision into dolly into A I into generative A I and I got back these images which I thought were kind of fun and worth sharing. So you can clearly see we've got whispering into, into glasses and visualizations of products. So, so you know, the powerful world of A I is um is generating this, this this lens on on my pretend future um key drivers of the future, Gen A Igaiga. I, I'm sure everybody's attended many sessions today that speak to the uh unbelievable capabilities that this technology will unlock. Um This builds on uh the A IML wave that we've also been been enjoying for really the past decade. I think computer vision bringing the physical world digitizing the physical world to drive material. Next gen eco and logistics experiences. It is gonna be really, really powerful uh QR codes taking physical to digital again. Um Next generation hardware, everything from the wearables that we just talked about down through um what we're gonna see in warehouses for automation um and fun stuff like that we scratched on. We've got a, we've got to drive down carbon footprints, period, hard stop.

So I think electrification of, of anything that drives on the ground is gonna be, be really, really uh an important powerful trend, you know, 70% of commerce moves on the ground. So vehicles are the key place to go. Um I think there's a lot of data that's gonna drive better and smarter charging. So I think that's another exciting correlated uh uh trend. Um There is a race for first party data given the increase of um uh uh cost of acquisition that we'll talk about in a few minutes. So I think any and all innovation around maximizing the use of the first party data that you have uh is gonna be critical and we can call it membership or something like loyalty. But, but the, the net result is capitalizing and driving better experiences for, for the, the all the loyal audience that you already have um robots and automation won't surprise anybody. So, you know, shortage of labor that's probably only scaling in the negative. So how do we basically augment and supplant the the gap in human um labor supply we'll have over time. And then as I mentioned in the returns vision, uh what can we do to help make sure the products that we buy have longer lives?

So, and you know, all things circular. Um we gotta do all this and these, these technologies and these drivers that we want to harness uh because commerce is the largest pl on the planet, right? So if you just zoom in for a second on the impact of transportation. Um, you know, manufacturing industry, electric power, I think what becomes pretty evident is, uh, uh, all the excitement that we can do to, to lessen the burden um, based on what, what these commerce drivers are. Um All right, let's, let's dive into each of these. We're gonna go look at the impact of the future and these tech trends through the lens of um, really kind of the the shopping path uh or better said the commerce path. So we'll start with discovery, we'll go to shopping um delivery and then finally, finally with returns. All right, I've got a lot to talk about in what looks like 10 minutes. So get ready folks for strapping in. It's Ferrari time uh customer acquisition cost. We, we talked about this, right? So Apple and um the C CPA and about to be Google next year have changed the privacy, right? Regulations. And so it's harder to target uh audiences and therefore uh budgets have to go up because the spend is uh impacts is is much less efficient. So I think the trend this is gonna drive is consolidation and a lot of retailers looking to outsource that cost of acquisition as much as they can through um other channels or collaborative partnerships. Um We are living in a the omni channel world.

So all of us know that we shop in multiple places. All of us have a mental model as consumers is we're just shopping, this is just called commerce. It may happen to be in person, it may happen to be on the web. But this omni channel existence for consumers is is normal. But an incredible problem to manage for sellers. On the discovery side, we we know we've traded a lot of data already. And you know, if you look at the right, we were asking for that trade in data for, for a lot of personalization. So you heard that theme in my future vision? Um And so that's that is that is a still a massive opportunity to um for all of us to, to engage and again, kind of this, this generative and a IML will, will help us climb that hill uh a lot better. Um I get excited when I see next generation kind of uh memberships back to owning that one P data. So, so if, if, if I'm a sweet green lover, I love what they've started to do with unlocking membership to harness that first party data. So I think, I think stuff like this will start to hopefully see more and more of Jenny. I is here. Again, I mentioned at the top of the key, we could give an entire talk on this.

And again, I hope everybody's joining, enjoying those sessions, but you're starting to see it applied in places like the shop app, right? So this is now a world where it's not like I need a pair of white jeans. It's help me decorate my living room, generate that set of options for me to do that. So just massive, massive powerful shift that um you know, it's we're just in the early early days of experiencing together. So the net net kind of uh uh uh worlds to harness as we think about uh tech trends for a future of of commerce. It you know, from a discovery per point of view is really get personalized, right? Leverage that data, leverage your first party um data CRM and personalize shopping, uh discovery experiences, build those, you know, next generation loyalty or membership experiences. So you can uniquely engage those consumers so that you don't have to buy new ones off the street and expensive cas.

And um if you're not playing with experimenting with bringing gen A I into your e-commerce logistics uh workflows, today, I would highly encourage you to hop quickly on that bus and, and shoot me an email if anybody wants some suggestions of early days of how to do that. But this is going to be a revolution for how we think about um uh commerce um and execute commerce. All right, we're gonna pivot to shopping. So now we've discovered something, we just said this earlier with Omni Channel. We're living in an omni channel world. We shop everywhere.

What's funny to me and worth worth noting is social media may account for 12% of our uh spend. But boy, we spend about five hours doing that. So there's still a disproportion of time spent versus yield. We also like to shop locally, right. So we all live in communities that we want to support. And there's a deep, deep continued trend in e-commerce. Really being democratized is online. A lot of value for local businesses, shopping trends. Boy, it is hard if you're a seller to uh manage selling in all the channels, they don't all work like Amazon Walmart's got its own rules. Ebay has got its own rules, et cetera, et cetera. And so that, that, that standardization and optimization of of data is a critical pain point as is selling cross border, cross border is an exciting growth avenue. But you're really talking about localizing store experiences managing payments, cross border with FX headaches, et cetera and lastly not least managing cross border fulfillment. So as you think about shopping in these tech trends, uh remember that a we know is hard. So we've got to work with partners or internal data teams to normalize orchestrate and optimize um everything from the listings to the price, to the ad strategy, to all the fulfillment costs, right? What matters is selling skews wherever you sell them that are profitable.

So I think, I think that's a massive data opportunity. Um shop local boy, if I'm a local merchant, I am excited to really lean into these premium cost of acquisition and really drive new hyper personalized experiences within my local community. And then because we shop everywhere.

I don't know about you guys, but I'm sick of walking into a store that I do a lot of business with online and I go into the store and they don't know who I am. Excuse me? Delivery? Oh, Amazon can't be the only one on the planet to tell me exactly when I'm gonna get my order. This has to get fixed date ranges aren't helpful to my life. Um Show me the price for pickup versus delivery. This is a quick image will tell you that stuff will be more expensive if you get it delivered. Just show me option A and option B empower me to know what that price is so I can make better choices and trades. Um We need more evs on the on the on the road, right? Um These are just unbelievably tiny. You're talking about 80,000 trucks, electric trucks on the road. The US in Green here owns very, very little share. Um where we, you know, it's exciting to see the fleet starting to get electrified. But boy, there's a long way to go post pandemic folks. We also want choice, right? So we we don't just want ship it to me, but if we can buy online and pick up in store, get curbside pickup. Um that's a trend that's uh proving to be pretty sticky lastly uh packing boxes and um working in warehouses is hard.

So we need to get very conscious about optimizing human capital. Uh There's exciting investment in automation that's gone into market and um I think this will be continue to be more and more prevalent. So in this delivery space, don't forget, give me date, specific time, specific, um dates and times for pickup or delivery. Um Show me pricing that lets me empowers me to make a choice whether I want to burn fuel to have it delivered to my house or not. And then lastly, human capital's finite. Let's get warehouse um optima optimization in place so that we're leveraging the most expensive capital as efficiently as possible. And then yes, carbon offsets are great. We don't have enough supply of them. So, so we've got to drive the electrification of these leads. Um And I really can't wait to start to see the carriers start to showcase some of the electrification through some discounted pricing um returns. We might not like something. This is a headache, right? It's a huge market um And growing and at least 10% of all e-commerce order uh sales. If we look at at the apparel and cosmetics industries, you're talking, you know, 10 to 30%. Um uh I think I skipped a slide returns matter. They are massive attribution for a Bannon and Cart like you won't get the order if you don't have uh uh a free returns or a solid clear returns policy.

So they impede conversion um when they're handled poorly on the process, warehouse processing side, they take too long to get back to stock, which means you're losing another order. And then lastly, we know this is a headache for the warehouses and the three PLS to manage. So I'll start kind of backwards on that. Um We need a lot better data visibility in the warehouse to why these to the status and the quality and the condition of these queues when they come back. So, so retailers can make really hyper automated decisions on what to keep and what to dispose. It's also great feedback into how they think about merchandizing and buying future stock. So like let's get some better data there. Um Instant refunds where consumers like the minute it hits a ski, a label, a transportation label carrier scan that money should go back in our pockets. Um And then lastly, we talked about the importance of not losing the cart because you've had a poor returns experiment uh experience as we think about this future. There's one image that I just think stands out and embodies what this next generation e-commerce and logistics future looks like.

And it's this Humanoid A I powered um uh uh thing that's, you know, living in our, our glasses, helping us expedite commerce, uh more personalized and candidly with less friction and faster for us as con consumers. And then on the back end helping automate uh all the labor that it requires to get something from, uh you know, the manufacturer of the warehouse to our front front door. So I think they just wanted to share it again. This, this what I find is an incredibly powerful image. So I've, I think I've, I've met my 20 minutes. It's been great, great uh to, to be able to talk to everybody. And uh I don't know that we have time for questions, but I shared my email address early on. Uh don't hit, don't be afraid to hit me up with uh with any thoughts uh asks about these next generation technologies. Um And, and I thank you so much.