In our ongoing series exploring the links between connectivity and innovation, we spoke with Mike Glenn, executive vice president of market development and corporate communications, FedEx Corporation. Glenn leads marketing, sales and communications across the FedEx enterprise.
Access: What is the relationship between increased global connectivity and innovation? What does that mean for FedEx?
MIKE GLENN: Global connectivity leads to innovation. Not only innovation in technology but business innovation and how people source commodities. From a FedEx standpoint, we connect businesses, large and small, to every corner of the world so they can market their goods and services. And that helps improve the quality of life for everyone.
Access: What’s the most revolutionary innovation you see on the horizon?
MG: We often take the internet for granted, but 4 billion people around the world still lack online access. Improving access to the internet will create connections that can change millions of lives. Giving people the capability to get online is empowering, but when you connect that many people it also has a powerful multiplier effect. At the same time, the use of big data will be instrumental in changing the way we think about global challenges and how we can solve them.
Access: What are the biggest impediments to innovation?
MG: I don’t see much holding us back from innovation. I think we’ve reached a tipping point where people understand the power of access to information and how it can be used, how it can change lives and solve problems.
Access: What are the implications of democratizing web access for the global economy?
MG: We’ll see the same multiplier effect we’ve seen here in the U.S. as more and more people have gotten connected. It’s a phenomenon that will have an impact on lives around the world. People in underdeveloped countries may desire the same commodities as developed countries, but they don’t have access to them. When connections improve, so will access, and those economies will see the benefits and prosper.
Access: The new Wi-Fi standard (802.11ac) is rolling out in 2014, promising twice the speed of the current standards. How are “bigger pipes” going to change what technology can do for us as business owners and consumers?
MG: The faster Wi-Fi standard is an economic accelerator. Mobile-enabled commerce is rapidly accelerating and will become the norm, from purchase through shipping and tracking.
Access: Wearable technology is changing how people exercise. Industry leaders report that worldwide spending on wearable technology will hit $1.4 billion in 2013. By 2018, they estimate $19 billion. Where will this phenomenon go next?
MG: Wearable technology is already having a significant impact on FedEx team members who are involved with package sorting and pickup and delivery. We do this today, for example with ring scanners, and as technology evolves we’ll see productivity increase.
Wearable technology has a wellness and healthcare component to it as well. I, like many people, wear a wrist band that displays my sleep patterns and daily calories burned. Take that to the next generation and I could be constantly measuring my pulse or other vital signs and transmit the data to my physician.
Access: Global e-commerce activity grew 21 percent in 2012. Have we reached a new e-commerce tipping point where it’s now a fundamental economic driver? How does FedEx view the e-commerce boom?
MG: As one of the fastest-growing global channels, e-commerce is a primary economic growth engine. The same is true for FedEx, where it represents an important component of our growth strategy. We’ve recently launched products and services to provide added flexibility for our e-commerce customers, including FedEx Delivery ManagerSM, FedEx One RateSM and FedEx Ship&Get®.
The reliability, confidence and commitment to customer satisfaction instilled within the FedEx brand is powerful — attributes we hope will encourage customers to continue selecting FedEx® shipping over other alternatives.
But we should be aware that e-commerce faces many challenges on a global scale. The infrastructure in some countries isn’t developed enough to handle lower-cost delivery to consumers. Customs is another challenge. Global e-commerce is a significant area of opportunity for FedEx, and our customers worldwide will demand access to it.
Access: For e-commerce businesses especially, shipping options have become key to customer acquisition and loyalty. What is FedEx doing to provide B2C businesses with the tools they need to compete for customers?
MG: FedEx is helping e-commerce customers by providing a comprehensive suite of services to meet all of their shipping needs. This starts with a low-cost shipping option, FedEx SmartPost®, which allows e-tailers to market free shipping. Thanks to our strong relationship with the United States Postal Service, we’re able to utilize their network for final delivery of low-cost, lightweight shipments.
A major challenge for e-commerce customers is returns. And we have a full suite of return capabilities, which include FedEx SmartPost and FedEx Express® returns. We spend a lot of time working to understand global e-commerce needs. We play a big role here but believe we have an opportunity to expand.