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4 Trends in Last-Mile Delivery That Can Help Drive Sales

It’s often said that the last step is the hardest to take. This is certainly a challenge faced by many eCommerce brands and retailers—how to get customer orders that last mile to their front doors.

This is known as last-mile delivery, or the final part of the eCommerce experience when orders are delivered to waiting customers. Brands and retailers who do it right are in a great position to make money: fast fulfillment, great service, and happy shoppers. Look no further than Amazon for an example of what excellent logistics can do for a company.

What is Last-Mile Delivery?

Last-mile delivery is the final stage of the buying process when orders are delivered to customers. It’s also one of the most tricky steps, as it often involves multiple logistics partners and physical transportation. A lot can go wrong here, including late delivery, damaged goods, and stolen packages. From a business-only perspective, last-mile delivery can be a challenge because of high costs, complicated processes, and unforeseen obstacles.

That means fulfillment done well is a cost-saving, money-making enterprise. So then, what are some trends in last-mile delivery that you could use? Let’s find out.

Last-mile delivery is the final stage of the buying process when orders are delivered to customers.

Smart Tracking Technology

From a shopper point-of-view, it’s fantastic to track your order from the point-of-sale all the way until delivery. For companies, offering any smart-tracking technology will be a big selling point for consumers. In the QSR space, Domino’s implemented it’s Pizza Tracker app so hungry customers could see the status of their orders, down to the individual stage—such as whether the pizza is in the oven or not.

Other companies use technology as well. For instance, nearly every company provides order tracking services for customers. Today, the more specific these tools are, the better. Customers are coming to expect near real-time updates on the statuses of their packages. Beyond this, logistics providers are also using technology to forecast the weather, plan for traffic, and find other ways to speed up last-mile delivery.

Same-Day Delivery

Another trend set by Amazon is becoming the new normal for online shoppers: same-day delivery. This puts pressure on other retailers to get their orders delivered before the end of the day.

First, it was Amazon’s two-day free shipping. Then, two days become one. Now, many shoppers have the option to get their eCommerce orders within hours, especially if they live in an urban area or near a fulfillment center. Another change putting pressure on last-mile delivery is brick-and-mortar retailers offering same-day delivery.

This is mandatory for restaurants, of course, but major retailers can also offer online orders and fast delivery from the nearest physical location. The popularity of Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) is also altering consumer expectations around how quickly they can get their products. Overall, last-mile delivery will become faster and faster.

Bike rider wearing Uber Eats backpack

Autonomous Delivery

On a related note, retailers are exploring more ways to include autonomous, or robotic, technologies into their fulfillment strategies. You might have heard the news about Amazon drones, which are unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry a package to its final destination. Variations of this include delivery drivers parking in one location and using a drone to complete that last mile, or drones leaving fulfillment centers and flying to customers’ homes.

Autonomous vehicles are also a hot topic, thanks in part to the Tesla Semi, a self-driving commercial truck. Investing in autonomous technology could be a solution for retailers to save money on last-mile delivery, but that reality is still a bit in the future.

Food Delivery Apps

Thanks to the popularity of ridesharing, food delivery apps are now a common solution for last-mile delivery in the QSR space. Consumers have the ability to choose between DoorDash, Postmates, Uber Eats, and many other competitors.

These apps work by connecting the buyer with willing drivers. Once an order is placed, the driver picks it up from the restaurant and delivers it. Payment is handled via the app. This can be valuable for companies, too, because it’s often cheaper than hiring full-time delivery drivers while the app handles the recruitment of the drivers, plus all the financial transactions.

Today’s shoppers expect and prefer a variety of ways to get the products they want.

More Options, Happier Customers

All in all, the biggest trend in last-mile delivery is options. Today’s shoppers expect and prefer a variety of ways to get the products they want. From same-day delivery to BOPIS, from a drone or a real human, it’s important to have a fulfillment strategy that addresses these expectations.

From a consumer-facing perspective, this is often a list of delivery options on the checkout page, such as same-day (for a fee) to 5-7 business days for free. Behind the scenes, retailers need to have the infrastructure in place to meet these promises and serve up an enjoyable, seamless customer experience every step of the way.

Matt Ellsworth

Matt is the Sr. Manager, Marketing & Demand at Wiser, the leading provider of actionable data for better decisions.

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