What is the ‘last mile’?

The last mile constitutes that bit of a parcel’s journey that gets it to the customer’s doorstep – or, more usually, gets it into the customer’s hand after a hurried signature on a handheld device. The massive upsurge and continual rise in e-commerce market purchases have meant an equal increase in demand for direct-to-customer deliveries. In addition, these same customers are becoming ever more accustomed to next-day, free-to-return deliveries of whatever they want whenever they order it. The pressure to make delivery and collection fast and convenient is huge – and much of the success of the entire process rests on the success of the ‘last mile’.

Unfortunately, the ‘last mile’ is where many journeys fumble, fail or infuriate which can be damaging to a company’s reputation and can even put potential customers off hitting the ‘buy’ button.

Why is the last mile so problematic?

The biggest problem in the last mile is inefficiency. Anyone who has had to spend a day waiting at home for a delivery that may arrive ‘sometime between 8am and 8pm’, or had to find a printer to print out a sticker to be attached to a parcel to be taken to a drop-off point to wait for a shopkeeper to find the handheld he needs in order to accept the parcel… will know full well that there are many small moments at myriad points along this leg of the journey that can lead to massive inefficiency. Inefficiency, in turn, leads to increase in costs. In fact, last mile delivery costs stand at 53% of the whole – often for a free, next day delivery service.

Examples of inefficiency drivers:

–       high incidence of delivery fails (recipient is not at home)

–       poor route planning due to multiple stops with low drop sizes

–       traffic delays in urban areas

What’s the solution?

Crowdsourcing models are offered as one solution – successfully used already for delivering people (Uber) and food (Deliveroo). Crowdsource technology allows all elements involved in a process – in this case from retailer, through courier, to customer – to stay in touch throughout. Anyone who has lost track of a parcel at the moment it becomes ‘trackable’ and then waited interminably for said parcel to arrive, unannounced, will relate to the appeal here. Another solution is increased automation – drones, delivery robots, and self-driving vehicles can take some of the human error and labour costs out of the equation. Leveraging mobile technology across all these solutions or indeed within the current delivery paradigm would go a long way to alleviate last mile issues too (we go into more detail on this topic here).

Whatever the solution proposition, it must be underpinned by smart software that offers clearer visibility of the parcel’s journey from A-Z and through each of the myriad checkpoints on the way, seamless. SmartConsign is the first true cloud SaaS solution. A carrier management system built from the ground up to create a technology-driven, dynamic operation management service. Customer satisfaction is the result of an efficient, affordable, convenient delivery and returns process and with a bespoke, agile management system we can ensure that you rank with the best.