Deliveries form a major part of any retail business, which makes embracing delivery routing systems more critical than ever for logistics stakeholders in retail and many other industries. Customer experience is directly tied to delivery experience, and slow or inaccurate deliveries can cause customers to turn to competitors that offer them speedier and more transparent fulfillment.
Of course, the importance of delivery in customer experience isn’t a new concept. But the challenge of ensuring seamless delivery route optimization via conventional methods is made much more significant by growing order volumes, shrinking driver labor pools, and ratcheting customer expectations. It can be an incredibly daunting process—unless you’re assisted by sophisticated software.
If you plan to use delivery routing and scheduling software to optimize your deliveries and reduce costs and improve customer satisfaction, the following points should help you make an informed decision. First, let's take a look at route optimization to get a better understanding of how it impacts modern delivery operations.
The Basics of Route Optimization
As the name implies, route optimization is a process where logistics or delivery stakeholders find the most optimal routes for getting the right goods to the right customer at the right time. Basically, it means finding the most efficient and cost-effective paths drivers should take from point A to point B, taking into account factors such as driver speed, traffic congestion, road and weather conditions, one-ways, and more. At the same time, route optimization helps you maximize your capacity utilization by decreasing the time that each delivery takes. Indeed, route optimization is crucial when it comes to reducing delivery turnaround times.
At the same time, modern route optimization needs to account for how well your plans work for your customers. This means working with customer time window requests/self-scheduling, and it means estimating accurate ETAs for all stops in order to reduce late deliveries.
Challenges Associated with Planning Delivery Routes Conventionally
Variations in service time, potential traffic delays, and differences in driver speed and skill are just a few variables that should be taken into account when finding the quickest, safest, and most fuel-efficient routes. But planning routes based on these factors can be challenging without the aid of route planning software.
Old fashioned route planning using pen and paper cannot meet these challenges because humans don’t have the same computing abilities as a modern delivery routing system. Simply put, there’s no way to run through all the possible permutations of sequences to see which is the best one. These are some of the challenges associated with traditional route planning:
- A lot of manual intervention is required, increasing time and labor costs
- Delivery planning becomes more challenging and time consuming as businesses scale
- ETAs are difficult to estimate with any accuracy
- Plans are inflexible and difficult to adjust once they’ve been generated
- Additional factors (like time window restrictions) increase complexity exponentially
- The ability to analyze data is limited
In contrast, an intelligent delivery routing system should take into account a host of variables in determining the most efficient and cost-effective routes for your delivery teams—and it should do it all automatically, in a matter of seconds.
How a Delivery Routing System Helps Transform Last Mile Delivery
Your delivery teams can save time—and your back-office staff can work more quickly and effectively—through smart automation and artificial intelligence-backed routing and scheduling software. When your commercial truck routing software has the ability to route thousands of stops efficiently in seconds, you’re in a position to carry out more deliveries with greater confidence that each and every run will be successful.
This can pave the way for great delivery experiences, in which you back up your consistent on-time delivery by notifying customers at each step of the delivery process through texts and emails. You can also leverage the software to update ETAs in real time, ensuring that your customers know exactly when the truck is due to arrive.
Here are just a few of the transformative benefits you can get from the right delivery routing system:
Automated route planning
The shortest routes and sequences for all of a given day’s stops might not always be obvious to the naked eye. But with powerful machine learning algorithms, modern delivery routing software can dynamically recommend the most efficient delivery routes, thereby saving your fleet both time and money. What’s more is it can do it all with minimal human intervention.
Your deliveries shouldn't be hampered by the unexpected. Your delivery route planning solution should take into account customer preferences, resource capacity, and weather and traffic conditions to determine the most efficient routes so drivers can complete delivery tasks more cost-effectively. From there, your routing tool should be able to take in real-time information about what’s happening out in the field and turn them into accurate ETA updates. When something’s not going according to plan, you should have the ability to quickly update your route without losing efficiency.
Smarter driver management
Smart software automates the allocation of delivery tasks to drivers to eliminate human error, increase efficiency, and relieve your last-mile logistics partners of burdensome tasks. But only if there’s a clear bridge between delivery planning and delivery execution.
Deliveries are more productive, traceable, and manageable with a mobile app that connects drivers with dispatchers and managers and provides real-time insights into every single delivery. When you’re able to see what the driver is doing, you can make sure that those highly-efficient route plans are actually being carried out according to plan. If they’re not, you can spot it quickly and figure out how best to resolve the situation.
Electronic proof of delivery
File this one away under “route execution” as well. Modern software also enables delivery teams to gather electronic proof of delivery through an image, a signature, all with a timestamp and geostamp. In this way, you can document deliveries in such a way as to make sure that you and your drivers get paid faster and have easier access to past delivery data.
At the end of the day, delivery turnaround times are made shorter and the number of miles per delivery is reduced with the right technology. A robust routing system for delivery also offers seamless communication, real-time final mile tracking, and automatic updates to both drivers and customers. All these help in giving customers a great experience—and making operations more profitable.