E-commerce has shifted the parcel industry toward meeting faster delivery schedules and providing greater service levels to customers. Retailers and their carriers are investing in last-mile visibility tools to meet time-sensitive needs, share delivery updates directly to consumers, and ensure their shipments stay on track. In the U.S., not only are the main parcel carriers (such as UPS, USPS and FedEx) pushing last-mile delivery to the next level, the gig economy is also adding to the frenzy.
Today’s U.S. e-commerce landscape gives more power to the consumer. Thanks to integrated mobile and e-commerce technology, potential customers now have price-comparison options from various online marketplaces, and can choose when and where to receive their items. In fact, 93% of consumers want to stay informed throughout the delivery process, from in-transit status to final arrival date. This puts pressure on an organization’s supply chain and its last-mile strategy to take a holistic approach to managing shipment visibility and transparency, in order to support and enhance the customer experience.
In the past, shipment visibility for many packages ended when they were loaded onto a truck. In today’s market, multiple scanning “checkpoints” can track when a package is received or transferred along the route to its final destination, providing valuable real-time delivery data both to the customer and shipper. UPS offers visibility tools such as UPS Tracking and Quantum View. USPS utilizes Informed Visibility, which takes the customer through three delivery stages in real time, and FedEx’s tracking tool InSight utilizes reference numbers. Amazon, the greatest timeframe challenger of all, provides a visual MapTracker showing how many stops away a delivery driver is from the dropoff destination.
Customers may be alerted via text message or e-mail when a package is dropped off at their residence or alternative pick up location, such as an Amazon locker, or if it has arrived at the brick-and-mortar location and is ready for pickup. Delivery obstacles that add to the increasing cost of meeting fulfillment timeline requirements include route unpredictability, inclement weather, address issues and customer availability.
As the market moves toward a more automated and scalable future, retailers will need to tackle these challenges to work toward perfecting their last-mile delivery. By investing in an integrated system to trace the journey of a package, and utilizing predictive analytics to continue optimizing routes and improving service, shippers can further refine their visibility and transparency processes. When done well, this results in boosted productivity, scalability and profitability, and proves to be a competitive advantage for any shipper.
In order to stay competitive in the rising e-commerce and mobile world, retailers will need to make strategic investments in their final-mile strategies. As consumers may be willing to pay a premium to receive their goods within an expected timeframe, suppliers must meet that expectation without compromising service quality. A number of useful technologies exist in today’s landscape that help enable a shipper to ensure that deliveries are completed with full transparency and visibility.
Scott Cornwell is vice president of finance and technology at Spend Management Experts.
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