Consumer behavior has drastically changed in just the last few years. Consumers are using a more omnichannel approach to purchasing services and goods than ever before, with one survey on consumer behavior even revealing that only seven percent of shoppers were purely online while only 20 percent were in-store shoppers only. The rest said that they were leveraging multiple channels when shopping—which is a big part of why shoppers are demanding faster, more connected order fulfillment regardless of channel.
In today's market, the post-shopping experience is just as important as the initial part of the purchasing journey. For retailers, the post-purchase experience is the new battleground. Previously, many businesses simply relied on their third-party logistics (3PL) partners to ensure great last mile deliveries and hoped for the best. But as delivery expectations continue to evolve and consumers continue to put more emphasis on great delivery experiences, a lot of businesses are increasingly taking logistics processes into their own hands.
Of course, it's not easy to offer customers delivery services that reflect positively on your brand. Customers expect full delivery visibility throughout the entire process, they expect constant communication, and they expect every order to be on time and accurate.
All this is putting more pressure on businesses to improve their last mile delivery operations—which is exactly where the right logistics application can be a huge help.
The Road to More Efficient Last Mile Delivery Logistics
Many retailers and brands have prioritized the optimization of their last mile operations in the last few years. This isn't surprising, since the final mile is the least efficient aspect of the supply chain and accounts for 28 percent of the overall delivery costs.
However, retailers and other brands too often have a narrow vision when crafting their last mile delivery strategies. Even large enterprises wind up focusing solely on delivery route optimization, or solely on delivery tracking, or only on supply chain challenges further upstream. These tactics fail to account for last mile deliveries as a holistic process that centers around efficiently delighting customers.
That’s why the most successful transformations focus on leveraging digital technology to connect and uplift every aspect of the last mile delivery process. Typically, this means a thorough review of logistics software systems, tools, processes, and people for a more holistic approach.
Businesses should determine the existing gaps and areas of improvement in their supply chain processes and compare them with their goals. Improving other areas of operations in the value chain can help you craft holistic last mile strategies that will allow you to offer more flexible shipping and delivery options and cut down delivery lead times and costs.
The Role of Logistics Software Tools
Logistics software tools enable businesses to increase both visibility and flexibility on the supply chain processes. Robust tools also equip enterprises to offer customers more flexible delivery options in such a way as to improve brand loyalty and promote repeat business.
Logistics software also helps in cutting down order-to-delivery time, enhancing customer delivery experience, improving reliability, and boosting overall competitiveness. These kinds of tools help eliminate inefficiencies, which in turn decreases the cost of last mile delivery logistics.
Here's how logistics software tools can empower businesses to transform their supply chain and logistics processes:
Efficient Inventory Management
To fulfill orders fast, businesses must manage their inventories efficiently. Logistics tools can automate the inventory processes, which is crucial in eliminating costly human errors often associated with manual processes. These tools also enable seamless real-time information sharing on inventory balances, sales, and potential inventory. This way, enterprises can easily synchronize inventory-related data with the data from the e-commerce platform to avoid stockouts.
Too often, businesses fall into the trap of operating inventory management and delivery management in silos. To avoid this, you should make sure that your last mile software integrates closely with any WMS or other inventory management systems you may be using.
For many businesses, the ability to operate their logistics networks in a fairly traditional way should work just fine. For others, there may be room to experiment with decentralizing order fulfillment by moving away from large distribution centers and opening dark stores and mini-hubs to significantly speed up the order fulfillment processes.
Cloud-based logistics tools that can be integrated easily with your order management system and other enterprise software solutions should give you the flexibility to experiment with different distribution methods—or even run multiple methods in parallel. With the right tools, you can get the right goods to the right place at the right time in more flexible and efficient ways.
Order Timeliness and Accuracy
Logistics solutions can also be leveraged to improve order accuracy and timelines. After all, fast deliveries are only possible when enterprises focus on every step of the order fulfillment process.
Take the case of the dispatching process. Often, too many companies overlook the crucial role of efficient dispatching, leaving their dispatchers to manually match delivery tasks to drivers. Logistics tools automate dispatching so that the best suited drivers are assigned to the right jobs at the right time without any added human intervention. This way, companies can decrease delivery lead times.
Likewise, logistics solutions tools that come with real-time final mile tracking and integrated communication capabilities, have the power to offer to all delivery stakeholders more visibility on delivery orders. Dispatchers and customers alike can track where the packages and drivers are on the map—and dispatchers can proactively spot and manage potential late deliveries and other exceptions.
Here, customers can also be kept in the loop via automatic status updates sent via email and text. Automatic alerts along with real-time tracking can be incredibly useful in cutting down failed or missed deliveries.
Robust logistics tools run on machine learning and artificial intelligence so they can gather and record historical data, which they can then analyze and leverage for improved performance in the future. These tools can offer deep insights into each stage of the supply chain and logistics process, but especially things like estimating service times in last mile deliveries.
Advanced logistics solutions also come with analytic dashboards, monitoring key performance indicators, so businesses can easily identify areas for improvement in their supply chain.
Ensuring cost-effective and efficient last mile delivery operations require a holistic approach. Thus, businesses must take a closer look at their end-to-end supply chain and logistics processes to identify areas of improvement. That’s why robust logistics software tools are so crucial in improving the end-to-end processes to boost last mile delivery operations.