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6 Minute Read

Can You Perfect Delivery Experience with the Right Last Mile Logistics Technology?

Delivery is a part of life—more so now than at any other point in recent memory. For most people, the processes that make effective, on-time deliveries possible more or less fade into the background. But for anyone involved in the logistics process it’s a different story entirely. image (43)

From the varied teams that are actually doing the heavy lifting, last mile deliveries—whether we’re talking about a parcel being dropped off on the customer’s doorstep or a pallet of energy drinks that has to be dropped off a c-store before midnight—can be hard to get a handle on. When you look closely, you find that the last mile touches so many roles, functions, and processes up and down the supply chain that optimizing your last mile logistics begins to seem insurmountable. 

Luckily, we’re here to help. In this post, we’ll give an overview of the entire last mile journey, paying particular attention to the roles and functions that are touched by each stage. We’ll cover the way that different technologies can help with each stage of the process—and we’ll give some insights into the ways that the world of the last mile is evolving in 2024.

Let’s get started!

The Last Mile Logistics Journey from End to End

If you’re thinking of last mile delivery as something that starts when the delivery driver starts their route for the end and ends at the customer’s doorstep, then you may need to widen your definition. In point of fact, last mile logistics optimization starts before the first pallet has been loaded onto the truck and doesn’t finish until long after the order has been delivered and documented. 

  • Middle mile/shuttle routes: Depending on the type of business and the specifics of your transportation network, the first step in the process might actually be getting the right goods from the warehouse or distribution center to a hub or cross-dock. This may involve shuttle drivers and other personnel. 
  • Warehouse loading: Items have to be scanned onto the right trucks at the right times, either by drivers or warehouse staff, with thorough documentation. 
  • Routing and planning: This one also depends a lot on the industry—a furniture retailer might be creating dynamic delivery routes from scratch every day, while a food distributor or services company might be starting from a baseline plan. Here, routers and routing specialists need to create optimized delivery routes that ensure that the right goods get to the right place at the right time. 
  • Dispatching: Simply put, once routes have been created you need to dispatch the right drivers with the right skills and equipment to get the job done.  
  • Customer communication: This is something else that feels like second nature to recipients but can create real complexity for delivery businesses. Customers need to know when their orders are coming and what to expect when they arrive. Ideally, they’d have some degree of visibility into the delivery process as it’s unfolding. Doing this at scale can be a challenge.
  • Last mile delivery tracking: A crucial piece of the last mile puzzle is tracking the order from dock to destination. Dispatchers and managers need more than just GPS coordinates on a map for this—they need live status updates and other data to put those GPS coordinates in context. More than that, they need a way to track everything that’s happening across every delivery run from a single dashboard so they can spot and respond to exceptions quickly. 
  • Proof of delivery: Drivers are often the unsung heroes of the last mile journey—they’re the face of your brand in many situations—and one of the most crucial things they do is document the last mile deliveries from end to end. This comes to a head with the driver capturing proof of delivery, ideally via photos and digital signatures. 
  • Backhauls and returns: In cases where an item is damaged or simply doesn’t fit the customer’s needs, you might need to haul it back to the warehouse. Or you might be hauling away someone’s old fridge after delivering a new one. You might want to avoid driving back to the DC with an empty truck by making some pickups on your way. All of this has to be planned for, optimized, tracked, and documented. 
  • Post-delivery follow-up and reporting: After the delivery is completed, you might want to send post-delivery follow ups, surveys, or other communications to customers. 

With the whole journey in mind, you can start to see just how much falls under the last mile logistics umbrella. Why is this so important? Because it helps delivery businesses to better understand how they can tackle the challenges of last mile deliveries head on. 

How Technology Powers Successful Last Mile Delivery

Success here requires the right tools for the job. And when the job is complex, the tools often will be as well. In that case, the tools in question are SaaS logistics platforms designed to cover the last mile delivery journey from end to end. 

But how do these kinds of technology solutions empower businesses to improve their last mile performance, make their customers happier, and ultimately boost profitability?

Here are a few key ways:

  • Providing opportunities for optimization 
  • Connecting key teams and processes under one roof 
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Creating a single source of truth
  • Streamlining processes and improving efficiency
  • Improving integration between last mile logistics and other touchpoints (i.e. sales or first/middle mile logistics)
  • Ensuring data visibility in real time

To make all of this possible, it’s helpful for your solution to provide features and functionality covering each stage of the journey. This means seeking out a platform that includes:

  • route optimization and route planning
  • real-time delivery tracking
  • automated customer communications
  • real-time delivery visibility, reporting
  • sales integration
  • other integrations
  • Backhauls
  • shuttle routes
  • proof of delivery
  • driver management
  • reporting

This might sound like a lot, but once you get started optimizing last mile deliveries it’s easy to see how these all feed into each other. Your customer communications draw from the ETAs generated by your route optimization. Your proof of delivery feeds into your real-time delivery visibility, Robust reporting gives you a grand overview of the entire process from end to end. 

Last Mile Trends to Watch in 2024

The last mile logistics world is always evolving. The things that we talked about above are foundational, but the particulars can shift over time, especially as technology adapts to the changing needs of the marketplace. 

In 2024, we expect to see AI and machine learning have a bigger impact on the last mile than ever before. Many of the AI applications that you might see in the news can seem like curiosities at this point—but the use of AI in logistics can be much more targeted. More and more businesses will use their delivery data to generate predictive insights that can help them plan more effectively, and these emerging technologies will play a role there. 

By the same token, we’ll see even greater adoption of cloud-based platforms among mid-sized delivery businesses. Because these solutions don’t require huge internal efforts to maintain and operate, they effectively level the playing field—helping delivery organizations boost their capabilities regardless of size. As economic uncertainty continues to be a fact of life, this will go a long way towards helping businesses future-proof their last mile logistics and enable them to focus on what matters: getting the right goods to the right place at the right time. 

 

The more last mile logistics evolves, the more important it becomes to maintain that laser focus on great delivery outcomes. When you have a cloud solution that covers the entire journey from  beginning to end, that’s suddenly much easier to do in the long term and at scale. 


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