How smart addressing eases e-commerce fulfilment in the global pandemic

Smart addressing employs precise grids to assign unique addresses and add contextual information to location.


The coronavirus pandemic is leaving a significant mark on economies worldwide. However, at least one sector remains viable-e-commerce. 


E-commerce is not that simple and straightforward, though. There are many factors and challenges to account for; one of which is fulfillment. Most online buyers would take addressing for granted, but it can be a serious challenge especially in places with poorly established and organized addresses like those in India, Africa, and South America. According to insights from UNL Global, a leading worldwide smart addressing platform for navigation and location-based services, approximately 75 percent of the world is badly addressed, with over 4 billion people unaddressed.


Couriers can be forced to spend more time trying to deliver the product or end up returning it to the seller. Worse, some sellers often decide to simply exclude certain areas altogether to avoid inefficiencies. This deprives many of access to online shopping. In some cases, this could deprive them of necessities like groceries.

Challenges in logistics

“About 60 percent of the overall delivery costs are generated in the last-mile delivery stage,” says Xander van der Heijden, founder and Chief Executive Officer of UNL Global. In the context of the ongoing pandemic, the most critical difficulties can be summed up as follows: safety, speed, and efficiency issues.



Delivery personnel are often regarded as “front liners”, as they play an important role in helping consumers get what they need while brick and mortar stores are closed. They are frequently exposed to instances that can lead to infection. Many of them don’t have adequate protection.



Many delivery personnel cannot casually ask neighbors about specific locations as there’s also a growing stigma in some communities against strangers entering quarantined neighborhoods. Slow deliveries mean costlier deliveries. With increased online shopping demand, a few minutes of delay can create serious backlogs that affect the delivery time of succeeding orders.



Efficiency problems result from a number of factors. These include lack of an organized order management and aggregation system and the absence of a reliable addressing infrastructure. They often lead to lost, mishandled, failed, and returned deliveries. Inefficiencies can also be attributed to poor route planning and inadequacies in vehicle and personnel capacity.

Smart solutions to logistics challenges

There are several ways to address these challenges. For example, logistics companies can turn to autonomous delivery solutions. It’s ambitious but doable. Robots or drones with micro-precise landing capabilities can be deployed. A dedicated lane for autonomous vehicles may be established.


The use of drones, however, means that human delivery crews will lose their jobs. The alternative is for logistics companies to invest in adequate protective equipment for their delivery personnel. They also have to provide intensive training on how delivery personnel can protect themselves, their customers, and the packages against exposure.


On the other hand, the solutions to speed and efficiency problems are interconnected. These solutions boil down to the need for accurate data and careful planning. 


“It is possible to increase the delivery efficiency of parcel delivery services by applying changes in the last mile: changes in location, time, route and behavior. It clearly appears that the delivery efficiency is closely related to (demographic) characteristics of an area by the application of multiple linear regression techniques to develop address intelligence out of the big data with deliveries,” states J.H.R.van Duin et al., in a white paper for the 9th International Conference on City Logistics.


Delivery companies can plan their routes better if they have access to up-to-date and reliable data not only on customer addresses but also the routes and local government actions affecting traffic and pedestrian movement. Shippers can save a lot of time if they refuse deliveries to locations that are unlikely to let delivery services in. For communities that are unlikely to let delivery services in, self-service lockers can be installed, powered by IoT and location-based private code access.


Again, accurate data and planning are vital to speed up deliveries and prevent inefficiencies. Logistics companies need information to plan first and last-mile navigation and custom routing to optimize deliveries. They can integrate with UNL’s micro-cell 3D grid technology that assigns a unique, global location ID, similar to a domain name, to every physical location in the world, both indoors and outdoors. This makes it easier to locate addresses, especially rural and unverified ones. Based on the World Tourism Organization’s (WTO) data, around 80 percent of addresses in emerging economies–and 20 percent in the developed world–are still not verified.


Many shippers rely on the simple and time-tested solution of assigning delivery personnel to areas they are already familiar with. However, given the global pandemic, employee turnover can be quite high. There’s no guarantee that the delivery team employed at present will be the same for the next few months or years. It is, therefore, advisable to have a standard system that facilitates efficient deliveries regardless of who the delivery people will be.

The role of smart addressing​

Accurate and contextual or context-rich data as well as thoughtful planning for delivery companies allows these companies to take advantage of smart addressing solutions. 


A universal smart addressing infrastructure like UNL’s, for example, creates universal unique addresses for people and places. It’s an infrastructural technology backed by micro-precise 3D neural grid of micro-cells and the use of metadata, navigation logic, as well as a smart layer to make locations anywhere programmable.


“UNL is building the Internet of Places, where we bring a new dimension to real-life places through content, context and automation. Where locations become dynamic environments in which we experience, interact and consume — powering services from delivery to mobility, to smart city and autonomous solutions,” says UNL’s van der Heijden.


Instead of relying on the area familiarity of delivery personnel, smart addressing employs precise grids to assign unique addresses and add contextual information to location. It can also integrate information from various sources, including traffic conditions, custom last mile navigation, and embed entry instructions and private codes to find the most efficient paths for delivery teams. Moreover, such a system disregards addressing idiosyncrasies in different places to avoid confusion while supporting location customization and programmability.


“People who don’t have an address will be able to claim and personalize their own unique, digital address by assigning a custom name, adding and managing private metadata or last- mile navigation information,” says van der Heijden.

The takeaway​

Smart addressing helps solve the speed and efficiency challenges of logistics, and enhances e-commerce significantly to serve more customers especially in far-flung areas where addresses are disorganized, unverified, or practically nonexistent. Technology companies like UNL are at the forefront of developing the critical delivery and addressing infrastructures to solve modern addressing and location-based challenges, especially in light of COVID-19.


E-commerce has become a necessity as a means of doing business during times of physical distancing. With smart addressing, e-commerce can be made faster, more efficient, and less costly than before. With improved customer address location and delivery route planning, businesses and enterprises can serve more customers more efficiently.


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