In our ongoing series exploring the links between connectivity and innovation, we spoke with Henry Maier, president and chief executive officer of FedEx Ground. Maier has a unique perspective as the head of a world leader in small-package ground delivery.
Access: How is e-commerce shaping the global economy right now?
HENRY MAIER: E-commerce is fundamental in changing consumption around the world. After all, economics is about consumption, and e-commerce is just a new way of consuming. With that comes new ways of selling and different expectations from buyers and sellers — shippers and recipients. It’s simply a redefined form of commerce.
Convenience is the name of the game. With e-commerce, stores are always open, items are always in stock and purchases come right to your doorstep. Consumers can easily compare prices and read others’ opinions of the product they’re about to buy. E-commerce may never truly replace the full in-store shopping experience where a shopper can engage all of his senses in the buying decision: How does it feel? Is the color right? But increasingly these questions are being replaced by: Is shipping free? How easily can it be returned?
Access: Shopping online is a different experience for consumers, but so is how they ultimately receive their purchases. What are some innovative ways a company like FedEx is making it easier?
HM: Of course this focus on convenience for both e-tailers and consumers has led to an evolution in transportation. The number of residential deliveries is growing exponentially compared to the number of deliveries to stores. What used to be a dozen packages delivered to a single retail location are now a dozen packages delivered to a dozen different homes.
FedEx is enabling this new “e-economy,” because we have a price level and service offering for every shipping need. Whether a package requires an appointment and/or signature delivery, or is low-weight and low-value, whether a customer desires speed or economy — FedEx can deliver it with full visibility and unmatched reliability. We do it by making sure a package is in the right network to meet the customer’s specific needs.
Access: So how is innovation changing the way businesses manage their supply chains?
HM: If you visited a FedEx Ground hub and could look inside the boxes, you’d see many products that didn’t originate in the United States. The contents could have been made in Asia, Europe or South America, loaded on an ocean container bound for the U.S., and transferred into the FedEx Ground® network. That’s the magic of the FedEx bundle — our ability to connect goods on one side of the world to the people who want those goods on the other.
And one could say our industry is even bigger than that. By connecting people across the country and around the globe, we’re connecting possibilities. Whether it’s helping small businesses grow or getting relief aid to a community affected by natural disaster, we make it happen.