As explained by Gary Frantz of Transport Topics, products requiring in-home installation or setup form one of the fastest growing sales’ areas in e-commerce. Appliances, electronics and even home repairs are combined with the online shopping experience, so it is not enough to get a shipment to its destination. Shippers must recognize the need to go further, including the installation or setup of a product, as well as maintaining visibility and control over the shipment throughout transit. Traditionally (well not for that long) the fastest growing area we are referencing is known as the last mile. However, the days of last mile service are changing into the last yard, and both shippers and carriers need to understand why it’s happening, what it is, and the critical steps to making the most of the last yard.
Challenges in LTL and Last Mile
There are many challenges in LTL and last mile. Customers are starting to expect more service, not just the product. Consider these leading challenges in LTL and last mile:
- Poor IT capability and vendor service.
- Limited visibility into shipment location.
- Ineffective or inefficient last mile processes.
- “Passing the buck” to other carriers, like USPS.
- Heightened customer expectations.
- Installation and set up in the home.
With simple, drop-off delivery, the carrier has no real way to know if the customer was happy or satisfied. Moreover, the complexity of some products, like electronics or appliances, should be installed professionally. Unfortunately, failure to recognize this need will result in customers getting upset and customer losses. However, the solution to these problems is to address them by going beyond the drop-off nature of the last mile to include LTL and last yard.
The Top Logistics Trends that Will Impact Logistics Management in 2018
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What Exactly Is Last Yard & How Does It Solve Challenges in the Last Mile?
The majority of executives among shippers (72 percent) and among 3PLs (71 percent) recognize the need for capable services in the last yard, reports Pierbridge. However, the concept is relatively new. The last yard was described for the first time in the 2019 22nd Annual Third-Party Logistics Study, but its origin dates back much further. When Amazon first announced the creation of Amazon Key, a service allowing carriers to enter a home and leave packages inside, the idea of providing service all the way up to and beyond the door rose.
Amazon Key has also evolved to include delivery in Prime members’ vehicles too. Providing extra-layered service beyond dropping off a package at the doorstep or transferring it to USPS for the last mile is set to become a new standard in the last mile space.
Shippers’ Key Considerations to Take in LTL and Last Yard
Some of the top considerations shippers need to review in selecting LTL, and last yard service providers include:
- Superior customer service. Carriers should have the experience and ability to handle customer service needs, including the IT needs of shippers using carrier systems.
- Ability to handle e-commerce shipping needs. Applicability in e-commerce is an essential success, so any partnership with a carrier or 3PL must include an option for e-commerce shipping integration.
- Flexibility in LTL routes to deliver the last yard. LTL route flexibility will be the simplest way to handle big-ticket items in the last yard. In this respect, the last yard may become synonymous with white glove service for big-ticket installations and complicated deliveries.
- Real-time visibility and enhanced freight-rating accuracy. Visibility and freight-rating accuracy are two other factors that must go into any decision about using LTL carriers and last mile. More importantly, the last yard requires customers’ trust, so visibility through both technology and accountable practices is essential.
- Use of technology. Speaking of technology, as few as 30 percent of LTL carriers have digitized the entire shipping management process, says Rip Watson via Transport Topics. The last yard will require streamlined processes, and that statistic needs to rise to at least 70 percent to be effective.
- Ethical and sustainable treatment of workers. This includes drivers, installers and even outsourced service technicians that work to bring the product to a home and complete setup. As a result, shippers need to consider working with reputable and trained carriers that have the resources available to ensure proper treatment.
These considerations reflect the push toward the better use of carrier resources to manage freight spend.
What’s Next in LTL Freight Spend Management?
Deciding how to combine LTL and last yard will only be part of the battle. Shippers will need to take extra steps to ensure that LTL rates are competitive and leveraging all shipping resources to provide the best rate possible. The use of LTL and intermodal shipping will also become more critical as LTL enters the next level of activity in the capacity crunch. Up next, we’ll dive deeper into the LTL and intermodal shipping conversation and what your organization needs to know to proactively manage freight spend and avoid costly decisions.