The top five megatrends of 2020

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Drones and mobile robots

Automated, guided vehicles, and autonomous mobile robots used in logistics are forecast for massive growth in the next five years. This is based on the growth of omnichannel retailing, e-commerce, and increasing customer demand for faster and cheaper deliveries. The market for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), also known as drones, is forecast to grow at an annual rate of more than 50% over the next five years.

The retail giants are getting ready, with Walmart and Amazon, for example, filing for, or receiving, patents for drones. Amazon plans to develop a fleet of drones to get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less, while Walmart’s drone would help farmers spot crop problems.


Blockchain is a database that holds records of digital information (in a nutshell). It is expected to be able to improve a range of supply chain transactions, including asset transfer recording, purchase order tracking, and the sharing of product information. It continues to be considered capable of transforming supply chain management because its efficient deployment is highly flexible, accessible and transparent, can be used in many applications, and is not controlled by any single entity.

Reshaping retail

Major changes in retail started with the online era and the transformation is still in full swing. Today’s shopping experience is all about endless choices, same-day delivery, and even same-day returns. FedEx announced it was going to offer a new technology enabling high-volume e-retailers to quickly improve their customer experience with a return tool, allowing them to track reverse logistics.

But it’s not just the giants – the number of smaller stores with more exclusive products is expected to increase, and quick inventory turnover will push the market. According to, e-retail sales amounted to $2.3 trillion in 2018 and projections show a growth of up to $4.48 trillion by 2021.

Trade tariffs

Around the globe, governments have enacted – or threatened to enact – market-restraining tariffs that have a huge impact on the flow of goods across borders. Barriers drive up costs, create market uncertainty, and invite politically motivated counter measures (also known as trade wars) that can hurt a trader’s bottom line.

Such measures are likely to become more frequent and require companies trading across borders ascertain when and how tariffs will impact their business. For example, the US’ recent steel tariffs had US companies increasingly looking for domestic rather than overseas suppliers in order to keep costs down. Likewise, US companies exporting overseas are evaluating their products for competitiveness and are exploring new markets accordingly.

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is also still considered a digital disruptor, promising to enhance supply chain visibility by recognising risks and exposing issues before they become problems that cost time and money. AI will increasingly use market data to create predictive models and algorithms, enabling companies to improve planning and forecasting for product demand and inventory needs. It will be more and more used in the drive for smart factories, where machines “talk” to each other to understand the conditions of the production processes end-to-end.

It will also direct the transportation of parts and products on driverless truck platforms – operating in an endless stream of efficiency. Many companies are currently gathering data, but struggle with knowing what to do with it. But the software-to-support AI is getting better and more widely available and, in the future, AI will significantly increase performance and automation.

Geoff Taylor

Geoff Taylor is Managing Director of AEB in the UK and has been with the company since 2017. Together with his team, Geoff works closely with manufacturers and traders across industry sectors to understand the impact of market developments on global trade processes and what it takes to build efficient and flexible supply chains in the digital age to ensure future success.

Comments (1)

  1. Jaimie :
    Jan 04, 2020 at 06:35 PM

    Considering the massive increase in online retail stores and sales, it will be interesting to see how the high street fares in 2020. I definitely think that more stores will concentrate on online sales and close their retail branches. Thanks for sharing!

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