An inside look at how technology is changing
There’s no getting around it: over the next 5-10 years, last mile delivery is set to be disrupted. Technology will automate workflows and back-end processes to make for faster, smoother and more efficient deliveries.
Current workflows will be replaced with automated processes that significantly improve the delivery experience for consumers and reduce the cost of last mile delivery.
Of course, the technology doesn’t just work itself. This transport evolution will happen on the back of hard work and the same pragmatic approach that businesses have always taken. It’s up to us to get this right.
So, how is last mile delivery changing, and what can you do to make sure your business evolves with the technology?
We’ve written this article to take you through everything that we think the transport industry needs to know about the importance of last mile delivery and why you need to optimise it (every single step of it).
What is last mile delivery?
Between the consumer clicking ‘Buy Now’ and their new linen sheets arriving at their door, a lot happens doesn’t it? Last mile delivery is the final step in that process. If you’re delivering the last mile (which may actually be physically much longer), your company is responsible for getting those sheets into the consumer’s hands.
Last mile delivery, despite usually being the shortest distance moved in the supply chain, is often where businesses feel the pain of inefficiencies: slower delivery times, unsatisfied customers and lower profits.
Last mile delivery is mostly a part of the eCommerce supply chain. Given the eCommerce market is expected to double over the next ten years, there’s a huge opportunity for those businesses who can get this right.
Why is it so challenging?
Most people have received a frustrating notification before, which reads something along the lines of ‘Your package will be delivered between 7am and 10pm’ - even if the item is only travelling a short distance.
Unlike most legs of a shipping journey, the majority of items in transit on the last mile will have a different destination. In cases such as consumer product deliveries, there can be upwards of 50 items in a single truck. This introduces a new range of variables into the shipping equation that aren’t present in other legs: the amount of time spent on each delivery is unpredictable, and stops can be anywhere from dozens of kilometres apart in rural areas to separated by gridlock traffic in urban centres.
These variables make it extremely difficult to create efficient routes and give customers accurate delivery estimates.
Why is last mile delivery important to the final consumer?
Last mile delivery can be seen as the final stage in a consumer’s purchase. And in this highly competitive eCommerce market (where customers are the least loyal of any generation, ever) it can be the difference between whether they shop with that retailer again, or not. That is, your last mile delivery service is essential to the retail business you are servicing (or working for).
And if you can’t deliver your service to a high enough standard, someone else definitely can.
So what do you most need to get right to keep those consumers happy?
- Fast delivery: consumers want their goods fast. Even in a country as geographically diverse as Australia, the regions are getting used to faster deliveries than ever before. In our cities, same-day delivery is no longer surprising.
- Delivery tracking: Those little notifications telling you that your French cheese has been dispatched? Aussie consumers have come to expect them. Precise order tracking is simple with the right order tracking technology.
- Security: Consumers want to know that their goods are safe and secure before giving you their hard-earned money. Security should be guaranteed, and you can even offer insurance for orders to cover any potential mishaps.
- Convenience: Last mile delivery needs to be seamless and convenient for the consumer. That means clear communication and appropriate time windows for delivery (and making sure your drivers can meet those time windows). Read our guide to route optimisation for more advice on this.
Why is last mile delivery important to your business?
In a bricks and mortar store, the last mile of the delivery and purchase happens in a shop. In eCommerce, the choice is made with a click of their device and the last mile is largely up to you (with input from your customer).
If you don’t get this part right, that consumer may not return to where they made their purchase. Which means that your customer probably won’t want to return to work with you, either.
There are four main challenges during last mile delivery, and they’re the things you need to get right to stand out from the competition.
- Cost: keeping delivery costs as low as you can while ensuring a quality service can be hard. Operational costs can be high, but customers don’t want to spend too much on delivery.
- Efficiency: deliveries must be fast and efficient. A full-featured software that can automate many of your processes will keep you ahead of the game and reassure you that efficiency is optimised.
- Communication: we’ve established that consumers expect to be kept updated about their delivery. To really achieve this, you can set your system up to give status updates and even a tracking map if possible. Again, your choice of software is what allows you this comprehensive transparency.
Smooth delivery process: to win repeat business, you need to deliver what you say will, exactly when you say you will. This means focussing on areas of potential delays and miscommunication. Of course, there’ll always be the odd mistake here and there (hopefully rarely). But a comprehensive software which also comes with solid support can help you with: 100% visibility along the chain, optimised routes and automated notifications.
Make last mile delivery better with TransVirtual
Logistics management is complex, and getting it right requires the proper tools. For your business to remain relevant and competitive in this digital era, using the right technology is critical.
TransVirtual is a fully-featured Transport Management System that improves your last mile delivery process in many ways. Let’s take a look at those.
Simplicity and efficiency for every delivery so that freight coming in from every direction is easy to manage.
- Consignment consolidation: multiple consignments going to a single location are automatically consolidated in the app to ensure maximum driver efficiency. Just capture one signature.
- POD management: delivering freight for multiple customers with a single signature is only really possible when we do the back end work for you. We’ll automatically return the POD back to every sender, in exactly the format they require, live as it happens.
- Live driver alerts: ensuring your drivers complete the correct process is easier when you can fully customise pop up alerts in the mobile app. Stop/hold freight from being loaded or misdirected and never miss an ATL again with intelligent data mining to trigger driver alerts.
Whether dealing with consumers or your customer, communication is your key to good service (and customer satisfaction). TransVirtual allows you simple and seamless communication by automating much of the process, so that real-time notifications are triggered by certain actions. Drivers and other personnel can send and receive messages, too, when something needs clearing up.
Data and analytics
All the data you need is always at your fingertips, because from a single scan to a truck load of pallets or a nationwide network, you can’t manage it without timely and authentic data.
When it comes to reporting, we know that one size doesn’t fit all. You can personalise how you capture your data with TransVirtual and make it work the way you need it to. We give you the ultimate in reporting flexibility, from simple spreadsheets and customisable PDF’s through to in-depth business analysis.
If you’d like to learn more about your reporting capabilities with TransVirtual, click through to find out more about: meeting your DIFOT KPIs, getting event-based alerts, addressing risks to your business, analysing performance and managing your equipment.
To ensure your last mile delivery is seamless, your drivers can use the TransVirtual mobile app on their own device. This can include things like sign on glass, direct customer contact, turn-by-turn navigation and even capturing geotags and timestamps for 100% visibility.
Having this kind of technology available to your whole team means that you will improve in every area of your business. So that your last mile delivery can become seamless, faster and more efficient.
And over to you...
We hope this guide has made it clear just how fundamental technology is to the future of last mile delivery. Of course, we know that choosing and implementing the right technology for your business isn’t easy or simple.
If you’d like to read more, try our guide to implementing a TMS, or how to use TMS software to increase delivery efficiency.