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The Best Route Planner App for Last Mile Logistics 

It’s a cliche at this point to say that the last mile of the supply chain is often the most expensive—but it’s true. Studies show that it can account for about 40-50% of total logistics costs, and anecdotally we’re pretty sure that it accounts for more than half the total frustration, lost sleep, and pulled out hair in the supply chain.

route planner appA lot of that frustration comes down to route planning. Many businesses that roll out static route plans that form the basis for recurring weekly deliveries are only able to reroute once or twice a year because the process is so involved. Even businesses that route dynamically may not have the capabilities they need to meet their customers’ needs easily. They might have early order cutoffs that make it impossible to get certain orders to the customers at the time they want. 

Sometimes that kind of delay is an inconvenience, sometimes it’s a dealbreaker. The upshot is that routing plays a huge role in your average delivery business’ ability to keep customers happy and manage costs. 

That’s why it’s so important to find the best multi stop route planner app for your business and its last mile needs.  

Who Needs a Route Planner App?

Before we get into the features and capabilities that differentiate the best route planning and optimization technology options for the rest of the pack, let’s talk a little bit about who needs route optimization and what challenges they should be targeting with it.

  • Food/beverage distributors: Businesses that have recurring deliveries each week need a way to balance those deliveries with new orders and changing volumes. That means that your route planner app needs to do more than just spit out the shortest distances—it needs to combine static and dynamic route optimization so you can plan and adjust routes that work in the big picture and in the daily execution. 
  • Big and bulky retailers: When you’re delivering something that requires installation or service—or even just something that’s too big to fit in a mailbox or be left on a doorstep, your routing needs become more complex. You need to hit tight delivery time windows and may even want to let customers choose their own timeslots. Likewise, you might need to schedule installations or other services at the same time that require more skilled drivers or technicians. All of this adds complexity, which makes it hard to route by hand or with Google Maps. 
  • Field service companies: Here, your delivery drivers and technicians might also be sellers, which means you need to find ways to balance revenue potential across routes. Even if that’s not a factor, you need to be able to account for driver/technician skill levels and assign the right equipment to the right jobs.

This is hardly an exhaustive list, but it should give you some idea of the level of complexity that can go into route optimization. If you’re grappling with these challenges, the odds are that you need a sophisticated route planner app that can handle a wide variety of different use cases. 

The bad news there is that many of the lightweight or even free route route planner options available on the market aren’t going to cut it—but the good news is that route optimization technology has evolved in recent years, and your routing options are better than ever. 

What to Look for in a Multi Stop Route Planner

Every delivery business is different, and everyone’s going to approach their last mile logistics process with a different mindset and a different set of existing teams and processes. That means there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to routing. 

At the same time, there are a handful of capabilities that you should look for in your routing solution pretty much across the board:

  • Scalability: You need technology that makes it easy to scale your delivery routes up or down as needed depending on order volumes and other factors—which pretty much means leveraging technology in the cloud rather than on-premise. 
  • Speed: This is closely related to the above. You don’t want your solution to slow down to a crawl when you ask it to route multiple stops or work around too many parameters.
  • Flexibility: You don’t want to have to completely rework the output of your routing solution every time you run it because it can’t handle all of your parameters. Instead, you need a solution that handles all of your routing use cases—while also giving you the flexibility to make adjustments by hand if needed.
  • Cost visibility: To make data-driven decisions about how best to serve your customers, you’ll want to be able to predict delivery costs at the planning stage and see how different route changes impact delivery costs. Your route optimization solution should be able to offer that in real time as you’re making adjustments. 
  • Integration: This is a broad category—and with good reason. Your route planning should integrate seamlessly with your route execution. Likewise, it should be integrated with other last mile functions and workflows to ensure efficiency and visibility across roles and processes. Routing is intimately connected with the rest of the last mile logistics process, and your technology needs to reflect that by housing route optimization under the same roof as other functions like delivery visibility and customer experience. 

How Route Optimization Impacts Last Mile Logistics

If that sounds like a tall order, well, it is. But the benefits you get from leveraging the best route planner app can have a significant impact on your last mile operations. 

Here are a few ways the right routing technology can help:

Reduced costs

It’s no secret that finding the shortest path between two points cuts down on fuel costs and driver hours. But that’s not the only way that smarter routing can save you money: It can reduce the number of failed deliveries by ensuring on-time performance and accurate ETAs. It can reduce the number of hours routing specialists spend putting the fastest routes together in the first place. And it enables you to choose the most cost-effective ways of serving your customers by looking at holistic cost-to-serve.

Improved customer experience

Pretty much all of the methods of reducing costs that we mentioned above can also be applied—often simultaneously—to improving the delivery experience that you offer your customers. The ability to deliver on time is huge regardless of what industry you’re in—and AI-powered route optimization with highly accurate ETAs can make that happen consistently. Likewise, when you have the flexibility to adjust your routes quickly and easily, you can respond more quickly to customer requests. This might include last-minute order changes, or simply last-minute orders. When you can route them for the next day or even the same day without breaking a sweat, you can build brand loyalty and ensure happy customers. 

Future proofing

Delivery businesses have to deal with a constantly-changing marketplace, and that can be hard to do when your processes are slow or inflexible. With a SaaS-based route planner that has the kind of capabilities we’ve been discussing above, you can set yourself to evolve with the marketplace, a changing technology landscape, and changing business needs. You can update your routes as needed, you can ensure that you’re always running the most up-to-date routing software so you can avoid compatibility issues, and you can gain new capabilities over time to stay competitive. 

Route optimization can be challenging for delivery businesses. But the best route planner app can make a huge difference in terms of just how challenging it is—with significant knock-on effects across the entire last mile process. 

DispatchTrack offers the most powerful end-to-end suite of tools for last mile logistics operators. Dispatchers, drivers, customers and clients can access our app on any device to schedule, track, modify and verify your deliveries.

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