Last mile shipping is changing as quickly as consumer expectations, and the cost of last mile deliveries has become an ongoing challenge for many. A holistic approach to supply chains is the best anecdote for the ever-changing landscape.
Just how much is changing? Consider a typical furniture shopping experience. Not long ago, the only way to buy a couch would be to visit a showroom, sit on several couches, fill out an order form, write a check, and wait six to twelve weeks for it to ship to the store. Then you would need to set up a time for the sofa to be delivered (at a considerable fee), take the day off work, and wait at home for the delivery company.
Now, all you need to do is visit the furniture store’s website from the comfort of your home—or anywhere if using your phone, select your sofa, provide your credit card information, and have it delivered and assembled in-home within days.
Two-day shipping expectations for packages have already begun changing consumer expectations for large format deliveries. MarketResearch.com reports that online furniture stores are becoming the fastest-growing channel at a compound annual growth rate of 16.6%. While two day is still typically too fast for non-conveyable items like furniture, many companies are offering other benefits for consumers such as free delivery, installation, and even same-day pick up. Accordingly, last mile shipping strategies are changing.
To be successful with last mile deliveries, retailers need effective inventory positioning and precision capacity. Consumer delivery speed requirements are driving rapid supply chain transformation towards localization – minimizing the average length of haul in the last mile space. A recent study from The American Transportation Research Institute showed that many companies are trying to move fulfillment closer to their customers.
Last mile shippers need a quality supply chain with few touchpoints to reduce damage to products and maximize consumer satisfaction.
One way to achieve this is to rely on a broad network of reliable, high-quality home delivery carriers to represent your brand and handle your products. Unfortunately, last mile carriers do not offer nationwide coverage under an individual banner. Effective shipment visibility and access to high-quality providers can be gained through a single third party logistics provider (3PL) integration vs. a myriad of individual provider connections.
Large format items require more complicated deliveries than more typical parcel deliveries. Consumers often expect a higher level of service and added options, including room of choice placement and assembly.
Given the nature of large format goods, exceptions do occur. A couch may be missing a cushion, a television box might have a large puncture, or the consumer might experience buyer’s remorse when an industrial sized treadmill arrives in their living room. All of these scenarios could lead to a refusal of that delivery.
The return experience can make or break a consumer’s loyalty. In fact, 92% of consumers say they will buy something again if returns are easy. It is important to have standard operating procedures in place so the driver can capture the details of what happened, evaluate the condition of the product, and make the correct decision. This not only improves the customer experience, it can increase your profitability.
An end-to-end approach
Consumers have more freedom than ever around when and where they shop. They also have high expectations for shipment tracking and are demanding more control over delivery dates and times.
Navigating today’s last mile of the supply chain ecosystem takes an approach that brings together people, process, and technology. This continued evolution will need innovative thinking and integration across the first, middle, and last miles of the supply chain.
It’s important for your last mile logistics provider to take a holistic approach and apply best practices in supply chain strategy including home delivery. Your last mile provider should be able to handle everything from shipment visibility for consumers to solving the challenges of delivery exceptions on the spot.
Source: Retail Dive. “Apply a broad view to create last mile shipping success“. (https://www.retaildive.com/spons/apply-a-broad-view-to-create-last-mile-shipping-success/559049/). Doug Haebig. July 22, 2019.