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7 Best Practices for Last Mile Delivery Optimization

For a lot of businesses, step one is to figure out that your last mile delivery process isn’t working the way you want it to. Step two is to find a way to optimize it. Step one can be a challenge in and of itself—especially when it comes to getting buy-in from the entire organization that something needs to be done. But step two is where the rubber meets the road.

Delivery Optimization

Simply put, it can be daunting to try and address the inefficiencies in your delivery operations. Even once you’ve diagnosed an issue, there’s rarely a singular way to solve a given issue. But there is a bright side: last mile delivery technology has continued to evolve, even in the past few years, and it now offers more opportunities than ever for optimization across the board. 

When you can put the right strategy in place, with the right tools to execute it, you can reduce last mile delivery costs, improve customer satisfaction, and set yourself up for continued delivery success. In this post, we’ll cover some of the key tactics and best practices for making that happen.  

Last Mile Delivery Optimization Best Practices

When it comes to improving your last mile delivery processes, there are a handful of best practices that you can roll out. Here are few that might make an impact:

1. Set the Right Goal—and Stick to It

Like we said up top, figuring out that there’s a problem is step one. We might call successfully diagnosing the problem step one-a. Often, when costs are high and customer satisfaction isn’t where you want it to be, it can look like everything is going wrong and there’s no one area you can focus on. It’s important to move past that and set a measurable goal that you can work towards. 

Depending on your operation, this might be any of a few different things:

  • Reducing unplanned returns
  • Increasing on-time deliveries or on-time-in-full deliveries
  • Decreasing cancellations
  • Completing more stops per day

Set the right objective, then create a plan that directly targets that objective. 

2. Communicate Early and Often

Okay, let’s say you’re marching towards something like “decreasing cancellations” or “cutting down on unplanned returns.” One of the most effective ways to move the needle in these areas is improving your customer communication practices. Specifically, it’s helpful to find a way to automatically confirm delivery slots with customers before their orders are routed—and even again before the orders are picked and loaded onto trucks. 

This helps build a better brand experience, but it also helps reduce costs by turning up potential issues far enough advance that you can actually mitigate them.  

3. Leverage Real-Time Visibility to Manage by Exception

When you don’t know what’s happening with your deliveries in real time, spotting exceptions is like finding a needle in a haystack. When everything else is going right, you can home in on the deliveries that aren’t. This puts you in a position to manage by exception and work on mitigating any issues that crop up on the day of delivery. 

The best practice here is to find a way to achieve true last mile visibility. This means finding a way to ensure that you information you need is available to you when you need it—which is a matter of ensuring that you’re getting regular, real-time updates from drivers in the field (ideally via their mobile devices) and that that information is displayed in a way that’s easy to find and digest for customer service team members, managers, and others. 

bmd case study

4. Speed up Your Route Optimization

If you’re looking to get more out of your delivery capacity, reduce your delivery lead times, or stay more responsive to changing market conditions, speeding up your route optimization can actually have a huge impact. 

This happens on two levels:

  • Speeding up the process of daily routing—simply routing the day’s stops more quickly—enables you to move back your delivery cutoff times. In this way, you can capture orders that you might otherwise have missed out on. 
  • Creating strategic route plans more quickly helps you break out of the cycle of continually adapting outdated routes because creating new ones is too consuming—this puts you in a position to ensure profitable routes even as your customer mix changes.

If you’re routing manually, you can make this happen by digitizing the process. Or, if you’re already using route optimization software, you may be able to speed up routing by upgrading to cloud-based route optimization technology.  

5. Decrease Unplanned Returns

If you don’t struggle with returns taking up space on your trucks and potentially sustaining damage or contributing to wastage, feel free to skip this best practice. On the other hand, if this is an issue for your business, you can take definite steps to decrease the number of unplanned returns. 

Mostly, this comes down to customer communications. Use email and text messages to confirm with customers early and often—for consumer deliveries, that might mean sending messages at the point of purchase, a few days before the delivery is scheduled, the night before the delivery, and the morning of. Obviously, this can be incredibly time consuming at scale, so it’s important to find a way to send out messages in bulk—including in one-off circumstances, i.e. if you need to do mass rescheduling because of a snowstorm or similar. 

6. Ensure Connectivity Across Roles and Functions

Delivery is just one part of your overall customer service process. Yes, delivery drivers and technicians are the face of your brand on the day of delivery—but customers may also interface with customer support staff, salespeople, and even merchandisers. Each of these functions needs insight into what’s happening across the delivery process in order to provide great customer service across the board. 

To make this happen, you need visibility. In fact, you need precisely the kind of visibility we talked about above—the right data at the right time in the right place, so no one has to hunt for it. But it can also be helpful to find technology that actually offers separate mobile apps for field personnel who aren’t drivers. 

7. Choose Your Technology Partners Wisely 

We’ve tried to offer practical, technology-agnostic best practices in this article—and you can implement any of the best practices above without a specific piece of last mile delivery software. But how effective these best practices are will absolutely vary depending on the software partners you choose for your logistics technology. 

Simply put, you want to find a solution provider who’s on the same page as your business—someone who understands your goals and has built their technology around your challenges. If you’re trying to prioritize visibility and connectivity, your solution provider should do the same. If your goal is to enable smarter, faster processes, you should partner with software providers who prioritize that in their products. 

Last mile delivery optimization can be a challenging process—but for many businesses, the potential for ROI is huge. Not only can you reduce costs by enacting some of the best practices we laid out above, you can also improve the level of service you offer to your customers. At the end of the day, that can have an even bigger impact on your business. 

DispatchTrack offers the most powerful end-to-end suite of tools for last mile logistics operators. Dispatchers, drivers, customers and clients can access our app on any device to schedule, track, modify and verify your deliveries.

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