The COVID-19 pandemic has required many organizations to rewire their supply chains at short notice — and an overwhelming majority of businesses have no intention of returning to the status quo. As e-commerce booms like we’ve never seen before, so will growth in the final-mile sector. Here’s what we can expect.
Last-mile delivery will become increasingly demanding over the next few years. Delivery services are all the rage, with companies like UberEats changing the way people get restaurant food or groceries. During the pandemic, some of the biggest businesses struggled to meet demand as customers turned to online shopping in lockdown. Consumers have now formed new habits and are expected to shop more online than in store even as life gets back to normal.
As well as the increase across the sector, customer expectations remain high. The modern customer is unforgiving, and it just takes one bad delivery to damage a brand’s reputation, especially with social media and online reviews at their fingertips. Customers want to get deliveries on their terms. This goes beyond the checkout as well, with customers wanting to change delivery location and time up to the last minute. When it comes to returns, customer expectations are just as high, expecting the same amount of ease, speed and choice.
With such demand and expectation over the final mile, it's essential for businesses to work with the experts. Working with a final-mile partner, keeps the customers' needs at the centre of delivery and returns and ensures it’s up to the task ahead.
Customers know what they want, and for many customers it's getting their products as soon as possible. Same-day delivery is expected to reach a 25% market share by 2025. Customers also don’t mind spending more to get it, meaning e-commerce businesses have the opportunity to make profit for speedier deliveries.
However, it’s not just same day delivery that continues to rise. In general, customers want the final mile to fit around their lives — that means offering different options including choice of specific days, click and collect and parcel lockers. Partnering with final-mile businesses who offer a range of services will ensure customers can pick and choose based on their needs.
Another key trend in the final mile is technology which allows real time visibility and transparency over the final mile. Technology enables businesses to fully track the parcel journey, enabling them to optimize routes based on disruptions or traffic. It also means that they can automatically update customers on the parcel’s arrival time. Customers now expect this level of transparency, wanting regular updates and insight on any delays. It also benefits your business to do this, cutting down on the number of calls into customer services trying to track a parcel.
A robust tracking platform means that businesses can take the detailed data and analyze it in order to improve the delivery process in future. By ensuring they have the right technology partners to do this, e-commerce businesses can optimize their delivery as well as ensure a great customer experience. After all, a failed delivery is not when a parcel doesn’t turn up — it’s when it doesn’t come according to the customer expectations. Customers can tolerate a late delivery, but only if they are notified about it in advance.
If the pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s the need of absolute agility. We are still dealing with an environment that is unpredictable, with further supply-chain disruption expected over both Brexit and the ongoing pandemic. Businesses must be able to quickly scale up or down, turn different services on and off, and be able to adapt to change. Nothing will remain static and expect things to shift almost on a daily basis. That means agile operations and quick decision making will be essential to the survival of e-commerce businesses.
As consumer behavior shifts, foot traffic will continue to fall and retailers may look to turn their stores into fulfillment hubs. By transforming them into mini distribution services, businesses can pair them with last-mile delivery services to create faster shipping. Amazon and Apple are two retailers who are looking to take over vacant spaces for this purpose. Although businesses were already considering these options before the pandemic, the rate of e-commerce growth has accelerated this.
Businesses must work with multiple carriers in order to give customers the level of services they expect. However, for e-commerce businesses this can lead to a bigger carbon footprint as they commission more lorry’s on the roads. With customers and businesses becoming more aware of the impact of their decisions on the environment, a final-mile solution that involves more and more different carriers will become unsustainable.
By partnering with one multi carrier partner, businesses can still get the services and coverage they need to succeed, whilst keeping additional vehicles off the road. With one pickup rather than multiple pickups, businesses can consolidate their parcel volumes, and deliver parcels in a more environmentally conscious way.
With all the challenges that lay ahead for businesses, partnering with final-mile experts is essential to survive. Offering the same level of services, agility, transparency and meeting demand without a partner would require a huge amount of investment in skills and tools, which takes time and money and adds further strain on a sector which is already under pressure. This applies to the full final-mile experience, not just delivery, with the reverse logistics of returns requiring the same amount of care and attention.
Finding a final-mile partner is the obvious route for a fast, low-cost, low-risk solution which enables logistics businesses to focus on what they do best further up the supply chain and their final-mile partner focuses on what they do best — ensuring a customer centric delivery experience, and the latest technology to meet the future head on.
Bobbie Ttooulis is executive director of Global Freight Solutions, a U.K.-based multi-carrier shipping and e-commerce delivery company.