Why Enterprises Must Prioritize an End-to-End View of Last-Mile Operations to Remain Competitive
Amidst a massive surge in online purchases and heightened consumer expectations, last-mile logistics operations have been thrust into the spotlight for company executives like never before. Organizations across the world have finally taken note of just how critical this function is in enabling enterprise-wide success and – on the flip side – how detrimental it can be to bottom line results if mishandled.
In an ever-evolving and hyper-competitive e-commerce landscape, Last-Mile – the last leg of fulfillment to reach a customer’s doorstep – has also become the face of the modern customer experience and a way for retail brands and the CEP and 3PL providers delivering their packages to differentiate themselves from competition, delight customers, and keep them coming back for more. As one of the most complex pieces of the overall logistics puzzle, it’s become another facet that executives are doubling down on to ensure seamless, highly efficient delivery experiences.
But while many are integrating and adopting technology that streamlines last-mile execution, not all have leveraged a 360-degree, comprehensive view of exactly where their company’s weaknesses or opportunities lie. In fact, most are adapting almost blindly in a guessing-game of where to prioritize their resources to bolster their strategies and drive ROI. It’s putting businesses at greater risks none can afford today.
In order to minimize this friction, companies should take more critical and holistic stock of their current last-mile ecosystem, including several key pillars that enable tangible success today and in the future:
Undoubtedly the trickiest and most costly portion of the delivery journey, the last-mile has the power to transform logistics operations and improve repeat business rates. Thus, taking a critical look at how this function is running and the major challenges companies continue to face in their delivery processes is key.
For instance, asking questions like: how confident are we in our ability to handle spikes in demand? Are we constantly combating unpredictability in the Last-Mile that we can’t adapt to? Are we looking to provide speedier deliveries than we’re currently able to handle?
Companies today that aren’t consistently using optimized or automated delivery route planning strategically are likely to answer yes to the above. They’re often at a severe disadvantage than counterparts that are. And the reality is that any attempt at manual efforts today will be wrought with unnecessary hurdles, human error, and risk, especially in the face of high volumes during the peak seasons. Utilizing dispatch management software, for instance, can help automate every stage of fulfillment with secure applications and seamless integrations. This also allows the applications to communicate with each other and use the same data so that systems are in-sync even (and especially) when real-world constraints throw a wrench into original plans.
In order to maintain that competitive advantage and keep final-mile logistics running efficiently and effectively, industry players need to take full advantage of the technology at their fingertips, including advanced analytics, machine learning, AI, and more, or they’ll lose out.
Exceptional customer experiences
Because Last-Mile fulfillment deals with customers directly, it’s vital in shaping their view of the entire purchasing experience. For many, it dictates whether they’ll purchase from a brand again.
It’s incredibly important to evaluate whether customers are actually satisfied with the updates they receive on their order status and the timeliness of their deliveries. If the feedback is consistently negative, and a company identifies major gaps in this area, it’s only a matter of time before it catches up with them.
An efficient last-mile system can help manage, track, and schedule deliveries, and emerging tech like AI and ML can anticipate needs and constantly adapt to changing environments in real-time. Additionally, implementing a customized slot-based delivery system into current operations and displaying multiple delivery slots will lead to a more convenient delivery experience for customers and more directly satisfy their desires. By prioritizing real-time tracking and a high level of transparency, businesses can drive greater value and less friction for customers.
An empowered workforce
As labor issues continue to plague the logistics sector, organizations must understand that drivers are at an all-time premium and will have no issue jumping ship to work with an enterprise where they feel set up for success and long-term growth. And while customer experiences are high-priority, without engaged, productive, and capable talent to make those deliveries – the customer experience aspect will undoubtedly suffer.
Companies should constantly assess the health and wellness of their drivers to ensure continuity. How important is it for your drivers to sustain optimal levels of productivity?
Do they have all of the tools they need to succeed on routes and have greater predictability in their day-to-day execution? Is there a feedback loop in place for open, candid communication that ensures their voices are heard if they’re unsatisfied or need more?
At the end of the day, most drivers just want to feel like they can do their best work under what has become incredibly stressful conditions. Without taking account of the onboarding processes in place, the resources and solutions that eliminate resented unknowns, and the incentives from employers to do a job well-done, last-mile operations will struggle to excel.
Upholding sustainable promises
A recent report from MIT indicates that 23% of brands face pressure from investors to improve their end-to-end supply chain sustainability. Not only are brands facing pressure from investors, customers are also seeking out companies committed to sustainable business practices and the environment. This function is no longer a “nice-to-have” today; it’s business-critical to remain competitive and profitable.
Enterprises must therefore prioritize sustainability across the entire fulfillment chain. From a technology standpoint, this includes factoring in carbon emissions when planning daily routes and using the right tools to optimize those routes and reduce the number of miles driven, ensure optimal load capacity, and minimize reattempts or failed deliveries that contribute significantly to carbon emissions.
From an operational standpoint, companies should also consider utilizing micro-fulfillment centers and bring them closer to consumers, as well as parcel lockers that reduce carbon emissions. They should also invest in EVs, and other tactics that save on greenhouse gas emissions and reduce a businesses’ overall carbon footprint.
Above all, sustainability should be a top strategic pillar for every organization today and be seen as a win-win-win for organizations, customers, and the general public.
Harnessing the power of advanced analytics
With the help of advanced analytics and deep intelligence, brands, retailers, CEPs, and 3PLs have the opportunity to leverage these technologies to become more efficient and make better informed decisions across the board. AI and ML have the power to transform final mile operations and give leaders that coveted 360-degree, end-to-end view of their logistics practices.
Prioritizing such visibility can streamline Last-Mile operations, increase customer satisfaction, contribute to sustainability efforts, and allow leaders to make better decisions for the long term health of their business by leveraging large volumes of on-ground data.
Achieving this sort of visibility however, particularly in the Last-Mile operations, is undoubtedly no easy feat. Nonetheless, it has the power to revolutionize all facets of a business, giving an upper hand to those who take this challenge, helping them to achieve a competitive edge, become profitable, and enable delightful consumer experiences at scale.
Nishith is the CEO and founder of Locus and drives business strategy and innovation at the company. He is responsible for business expansion across geographies and heads operations globally. Prior to founding Locus, he worked with Amazon, building algorithms to counter credit card fraud. He also co-founded PinChat, a location-based conversation platform.
Nishith holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and a Master’s in Economics from BITS Pilani. He is a published author in the field of experimental physics and has patents in Machine Learning.
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