Technology is advancing so quickly that our language to describe and explain it accurately is struggling to keep pace. As an example, with the myriad changes in the logistics industry, we're still only using one term—last mile tracking—to represent two entirely different processes.
In this post, we’ll discuss the two distinct things that we talk about when we talk about last mile carrier tracking: tracking deliveries internally to ensure that everything is running smoothly, and tracking deliveries as a customer who wants insight into how their order is being fulfilled. Both are of paramount importance to successful deliveries in the modern era of volatile demand and supply chain disruption—but each one has its distinct implications and challenges.
Last Mile Carrier Tracking, from the Customer's Perspective
Never before have consumers been so empowered with readily available information to aid them in their buying decisions and find the lowest prices and most convenient shipping possibilities—and it's increasingly the same with deliveries. Companies need to provide a stellar delivery experience that will resonate with customers and keep them coming back.
Lyft, DoorDash, and Uber changed the entire game, and consumer expectations will never be the same. They now expect clear communication and real-time information funneled to them about their orders. Typically, they want live order tracking updates, delivered via a truck icon on a map, showing them exactly where the driver is with a delivery ETA updated in real time. They also want to be able to communicate with their fulfillment service providers and have the opportunity to rate their experience. And these expectations aren't exclusive to eCommerce and brick-and-mortar retail buyers—everyone from end consumers to other businesses is going to have expectations that are similar.
Real-time delivery tracking for customers provides the ultimate delivery visibility, plus a sense of control they've come to expect. Just about any operation that ventures out to customer homes or delivery sites can reap the rewards of giving recipients last mile tracking in this way.
How do you do it? For starters, a few core requirements for empowering customers to track their goods across the last mile:
- SMS and email notification the morning of delivery (and even the day before)
- Capability to easily communicate with the driver
- Tracking functionality for real-time ETAs via a dedicated customer portal
- Opportunity to rate the delivery and follow up if needed.
As technology keeps innovating around connectivity with customers, logistics management, and the dispatch and delivery process, more and more businesses across various segments will need to follow suit.
Tracking the Last Mile Internally
The other side of the last mile carrier tracking coin is this: tracking internally. In this rapidly evolving technology landscape, it takes more than improving customer-facing tools and services to stay competitive. Organizations need to take inventory of their inner operations so they can ensure they'll have no blind spots in their supply chain, and that's very important during the last mile phase.
The most important catalyst for lasting success, according to professional logistics operators, is visibility. Internal tracking and last mile visibility are critical components of building a supply chain that is customer-focused.
Visibility into last mile operations requires a wide range of technological and methodological modifications to your supply chain:
- Order tracking after goods are loaded on your trucks
- A digital dashboard with real-time tracking of deliveries and service units
- Chain of custody and proof of delivery tools (ideally integrated via mobile app)
- A way to measure and understand customer satisfaction
We're talking about more than just having excellent visibility: last mile carrier tracking improves operational speed and increases profitability by reducing inefficiencies.
Case in point: geo-fencing can track when a service unit or driver arrives at a pre-set distance from where they last delivered. From there, machine learning, in tandem with accurate tracking, could allow managers to test theories about delivery routes and protocols and learn how to get more out of their routing and capacity. Ultimately, by gaining a full view of the last mile in this way, you can level up the service customers receive.
FAQ: Last Mile Carriers
What does last mile mean in shipping?
The last mile is the process of getting goods from a warehouse or distribution center to the final delivery site. For B2C deliveries, this is usually the customer’s home. In B2B, it might be a restaurant, office, or construction site. In either case, the delivery organization or carrier has to deal with the fundamental inefficiencies of making a large number of drop offs.
How long does a last mile carrier take?
Usually, it takes between 8-10 business days with economy class service, 4-6 days with basic service, and 2 days with expedited service. In most situations, the time-consuming part of the process is the final mile (a.k.a. last mile), i.e. the delivery to the customer's residence.
How does last mile delivery work?
Put plainly, last mile delivery is the transport of goods from a hub or transportation warehouse to its last destination, which in most cases is a consumer's private residence. The main objective of last mile delivery is to get items to the customer as quickly as possible while mitigating costs incurred to the business.
How much does last mile delivery cost?
Shipping on the last mile can take up to 41 percent of a shipment's total costs. e.g., if your cost of shipping is $500, approximately $205—over a third—of the cost would be taken up by the last mile.
Last Mile Tracking vs. End-to-end Delivery Arrangement
To clarify, both customer-centric tracking and internal tracking require more than just having visibility into the last mile. The larger goal is constructing a highly-functional delivery system that is optimized at every phase, resulting in an increase in exceptional customer deliveries. Modernizing and bringing intelligence to your workflows across the entire supply chain is key part of improving deliveries.
In practice, that means working hard to ensure strong data integration and connectivity throughout your supply chain. Your centralized delivery management dashboard needs to be fed with live data from out in the field (something that can typically be accomplished with a robust driver mobile app), but it also needs up-to-date order and customer data from other touchpoints in your technology ecosystem.
By the same token, you need a connected process for communicating with customers in order to direct them towards your tracking capabilities in the first place. Luckily, all of this is possible with the right delivery management software—it’s just a matter of finding a provider that actually prioritizes this kind of visibility and connectivity.
The end result? Greater transparency into your last mile and more opportunities to proactively optimize deliveries.