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7 Key Challenges Brands Must Overcome In Last Mile Deliveries

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You have a meeting at 3 PM and you ordered your food at 1:45 PM hoping it would arrive in the next 20 minutes. For some reason, your calculation went wrong and your food arrived at 2:45 PM, which doesn’t give you as much time you’d have liked to enjoy a hearty meal. It is our first instinct to go out and tweet about the crappy experience, (not to mention the crappy food). It is a double-edged sword for the brand because if the food also turned out to be bad, it would mean double trouble - what was delivered plus how it was delivered.

If the food was good, it was still trouble because you’d planned it with such robotic precision and the delivery goof-up led to have you gobble all of it up in an orifice-sized time window before your meeting. Let us flip the story a bit and what caused your delay. 

Let us face it! Your delivery guy does not take any special efforts to get your package delivered late. In fact, his deliverable is to deliver on time and there are repercussions for delays. However, what are the challenges when it comes to meet delivery timelines? Why is last mile delivery such a challenge for most brands while some brands ace it and set benchmarks for not just competing brands but change the expectations for entire humanity that all industries need to take notice and deliver similar if not better experience to their customers. 

Last Mile Delivery has become quite mainstream yet, the challenges still remain. A seamless last mile delivery experience is still easier said than done and there are some serious challenges that brands encounter time and again. While there are a lot of technology advancements in the logistics space, last mile challenges seem to evolve at a pace which is a tad bit faster compared to the way solutions evolve. 

Here are 7 key challenges in the context of last mile deliveries:

1. Cost - who bears the cost of free deliveries

While 86% customers are currently ready to pay for expedited deliveries, this trend will see a decline as same-day delivery is increasingly becoming the new normal. Same-day/expedited deliveries or normal deliveries, there are 2 parts to the problem. Expedited deliveries will soon become a basic expectation and brands need to figure out a cost-effective way to make this possibility a reality. The problem is with normal deliveries. Usually, normal deliveries do not attract a delivery fee and the customer does not bear the cost of shipping. This means that the brand needs to bear the cost and it can’t take too long to deliver these shipments as storing them would shoot up inventory storage/management costs. In either case, there is a cost involved and it is either borne by the vendor or the customer. To balance cost and not compromise on service quality is a challenge in itself.

2. Allocation & Address Issues 

In many cases, destination grouping/management is a serious issue. Many brands allocate jobs manually and that leaves ample scope for human error. Invariably, shipments get misalotted or missed out in a particular route. 

In addition, there is also the challenge of bad address quality, incorrect addresses, lack of proper signage. These are enough reasons to let the delivery professional go on a never-ending, tediously long and a complex maze.

3. Changing routes dynamically

When it comes to last-mile delivery, there is always a possibility of route changing based on conditions that prevail on that particular day on the ground. This could further complicate the scope of last mile delivery and timeline adherence for order fulfillment. Auto-routing technology has considerably evolved to help delivery companies solve this challenge and achieve efficiency thereby significantly save costs on fuel. However, the ones that are yet to adopt auto-routing solutions are still staring at this major operational issue.

4. Managing delivery density

There is capacity on one side and then there is capability on the other side. To achieve a fine balance between managing the number of deliveries in a day within a particular area is a common challenge you would find in the last mile delivery scenario. This boils down to the following 4 use cases. 

  • Low-Density Short Distances
  • Low-Density Long Distances 
  • High-Density Short Distances  
  • High-Density Long Distances 

This is not taking into account the size of shipments, which adds another variable to the mix as to what is the mode of delivery in each of these cases. Thus, the delivery density problem quadruples in magnitude with these permutations and combinations and variables in the picture.

5. Unpredictability in transit

Whether it is an act of God or act of man, if there is one thing you should predict, it is unpredictability. Especially when there is a shipment transit or a delivery in progress, the proverbial Murphy’s Law will point and laugh at you, merely seeking acknowledgement. This is beyond control and invariably happens 2/10 times. The least brands can do is to have a communications plan in place so that the delays are communicated to the respective stakeholders in a proactive manner. 

6. Availability of customer

Let us say that after crossing the seven mountains and seven seas, the delivery agent reaches the place of delivery. The last thing he wants to greet is a locked door or a guard who wouldn’t accept the package and get into all kinds of trouble. Customers are demanding and they generally feel entitled. After all your efforts, if the delivery timeline is missed due to unavailability of a customer, it would still lead to a less-than-delightful experience for the customer and thus mitigate the effect of all your effort in this direction. So, it is essential that you have necessary checks and balances in place to ensure seamless collaboration and communication channels between your agents and customers.

7. Meeting fulfillment timeline  

The biggest battle that brands face is adherence to timelines. If the timeline is missed, it could then prove very expensive for brands in both the short and long term. In the case of food deliveries, some companies cannot charge customers for the delivery if the guaranteed timeline is missed. Not just that, it also causes damage in terms of reputation for the brand. Hence, the process of delivery needs to be as robust as possible to help them fulfill orders in a timely manner. This calls for a lot of flexibility and agility in the context of delivery management as a process. There are platforms that can help in this direction solving this specific challenge which essentially manifests itself in several other forms as mentioned in this post. 

The Bottomline

These challenges need to be solved at the earliest because the delivery landscape is changing rapidly with advancements such as drone deliveries, delivery robots and driverless vehicles in the picture. These would become part of the mainstream in the blink of an eye and pose an entirely new set of challenges that will be several times more complex than the current ones. It is now the right time to look for technologically feasible, affordable solutions to the current challenges before this game becomes a catch-up games as these are core challenges affecting both operational efficiency and profitability. Talk to our experts if you are facing any of these challenges and we could help you transform your delivery logistics centre from being a cost centre to a profit centre.

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