Shipment visibility isn’t merely a buzzword in the logistics and transportation world. In fact, it’s a necessity for ensuring efficient logistics management, especially in last mile operations. After all, consumers' expectations have changed significantly in recent years, and customers across B2B and B2C now expect the ability to view the status of their packages anytime and anywhere.
Operational efficiency in the final mile shows a company's commitment to providing excellent delivery services to customers. Ensuring timely and reliable deliveries helps companies meet increasing consumer demands and gain more loyal patrons—both of which are key to success in such a competitive field. Last mile logistics may be complex and expensive. But companies can ensure last mile optimization through real-time visibility.
Understanding Real-Time Visibility
Real-time visibility is about your ability to trace and track orders and shipments in real-time. Full visibility means knowing the status of any given shipment at any given time, from the time it’s loaded into trucks all the way through the final delivery to the customer.
Real-time visibility is possible because of technological solutions that help you stay on top of each package in transit. Real-time visibility also helps fleet managers and dispatchers identify challenges in real time, enabling them to be more proactive about resolving potential disruptions.
How Can Visibility Impact Last Mile Challenges?
Last mile deliveries are always challenging for any business. Inefficiencies, lost packages, and delayed deliveries—all things that can be caused by a lack of real-time visibility—can hurt a brand's image.
The world of logistics is ruthless, and the absence of in-transit visibility can make businesses less competitive. But just what, exactly, are the challenges businesses face due to the lack of real-time visibility?
Limited transparency into carrier performance
Most online retailers don't own their final mile logistics—which is why so many retailers often depend on third-party logistics (3PLs) partners to deliver the orders. 3PLs, in turn, coordinate with a network of carriers to get their clients’ goods from the distribution to the final customer. Naturally, there can be a lot of complexity involved here, and it's not always easy to keep track of every aspect of your operations as the last mile unfolds. Unfortunately, if you can’t tell what a particular carrier is up to at any given moment, it quickly becomes impossible to manage this complexity.
Last mile delivery is a crucial aspect of modern business, and you can't afford to be constantly left guessing on the happenings at this critical stage of the order fulfillment process. The vast majority of shoppers are likely to blame the retailer for the poor delivery services they experienced—this means that stakes are high for 3PLs, but there are real opportunities for competitive differentiation for 3PLs that can seamlessly connect and provide visibility for carriers, clients, and end customers.
Lack of control over the delivery experience
Consumers place a high value on their delivery experience. An increasingly large percentage of them are unlikely to patronize companies that have provided them with a bad delivery experience in the past. Thus, inefficient last mile operations ultimately mean spending more on acquiring new customers.
Simply put, fleet managers who are unable to track packages, fleets, and drivers in real-time won't be able to identify problems on the road and take the necessary actions. This lack of visibility over last mile deliveries will result in higher operating costs and low customer satisfaction.
Disgruntled customers frequently take swipes at brands, leaving negative reviews on social media for everyone to see. They also discourage family and friends from transacting with the same brand. This can cause real revenue issues down the line.
How to Overcome Last Mile Challenges with the Help of Real-Time Visibility
Providing a great last mile delivery experience is key to keeping loyal customers and acquiring new ones. More so now than ever, since the delivery experience has become the new brand differentiator. This can be challenging, but visibility can play a large role in making deliveries transparent, reliable, and predictable. How? We’re glad you asked:
Get proactive with decision-making
Real-time tracking allows fleet managers and dispatchers the chance to solve problems related to deliveries without the customers knowing that an issue even transpired. The team—managers, dispatchers, drivers, and service technicians—can work together when an order might be delayed for unexpected reasons. The dispatcher can send another delivery team or a replacement through same-day deliveries so customers still get their orders in the promised delivery time window.
If unusual delivery events happen that would delay deliveries, then you can inform the customer ahead of time. You can also offer incentives such as discounts on the next orders so the customer still experiences great customer service despite the delay in the delivery of the order. If you don’t know that the delivery is going to be delayed, you simply can’t provide this kind of service.
Gain more control over the delivery experience
It's not only businesses themselves that need real-time visibility on packages. Customers also demand the ability to track their packages easily. Gone are the days when customers would be happy to receive a static order tracking number so they can call the service team to know the order status.
Providing customers the ability to gain real-time information on their orders with just a few clicks goes a long way in easing their anxiety. Businesses that offer customers real-time alerts on delivery exceptions can avoid missed or failed deliveries without losing the customers' confidence in the brand.
In the end, last mile deliveries may be complex and challenging, especially given its high costs, inherent inefficiencies, and tedious processes—but it remains a decisive part of the supply chain process. Just think about how poor delivery experiences can push customers to competitors.
Any business that wants to remain highly competitive in the cutthroat world or logistics must optimize its final mile delivery processes. By gaining real-time visibility on deliveries and drivers, you can position your business to do just that, thereby increasing customer satisfaction and, ultimately, profitability.