The push to e-commerce is astonishing, and demand for e-commerce within the U.S. increased 49% between March and April compared to the same period in 2019, found Adobe Analytics, reports Digital Commerce 360. Meanwhile, 90% of shoppers remain hesitant to shop in stores for the foreseeable future. As a result, last mile shipping saw a correlation in demand as more customers fought to order online and find their favored products. Unfortunately, the standards for freight management and superior last mile experiences have not changed; customers have grand expectations. And, shippers need to understand the driving force of higher customer expectations, why efficiency is the new standard, and how to “deliver” on those expectations.
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Driving Forces of Change in Customer Expectations
Changing consumer expectations are not new, but throughout the history of supply chain management, the changing expectations have turned traditional approaches to managing the final mile upside-down. Last mile shipping has always been known as the most expensive and least transparent leg of shipping, and as a result, companies have left it largely alone. Unfortunately, the demand for more at far more competitive prices has led to a need to rethink the final mile, increase transparency, and root out inefficiencies. Furthermore, the changes have pushed companies into corners—trying to find ways to differentiate their services and guarantee a positive customer experience. As reported by Supply Chain Game Changer:
“The growing expectation to get goods to the consumer as quickly as possible has, unsurprisingly, created quite a flurry in the world of last mile logistics. To address this problem, many startups and technology companies have been attempting to deliver “magic” solutions for retailers, logistics companies, and restaurants alike.”
So, what is the magic solution?
Efficient Last Mile Shipping Is the New Standard
Efficiency is the true supply chain magic. It enables organizations to learn from their mistakes, take proactive action to keep costs under control, better manage last mile transit, and create positive, transparent final mile experiences. But, how can organizations find efficiency? To answer that question, executives need to start thinking about the need for more visibility in last mile shipping. According to Accenture:
“Providing a differentiated delivery experience while remaining profitable is a significant challenge for retailers and delivery carriers. This is due to the high cost of transporting goods, continued margin pressure from intense competition and the need for increased visibility throughout their supply chains. Overcoming these challenges could be the difference between these businesses having a future or falling by the wayside.”
Ultimately, customers expect last mile shipping that is:
- Accurately addressed.
- Easily changed.
How to Meet Customer Demands
The path to meeting customers demands is simple; embrace the use of both technology and expert guidance—like that offered by Cerasis—to improve transparency, speed, cost control, and optimization of last mile shipping.
For example, increasing use of parcel shipping can dramatically increase efficiency in the last mile without necessarily increasing the burden of managing freight, notes McKinsey & Company. Meanwhile, drones could be used to help with rural areas with densities of less than 50,000 inhabitants and a blended drone and parcel delivery for use in urban areas with densities of more than 1 million inhabitants. Of course, drone delivery is not quite ready for nationwide deployment, but a few other opportunities to meet demands are readily available, including:
- Integrating the systems in your supply chain tech stack to avoid missed deliveries and maintain transparency.
- Using artificial intelligence to proactively manage shipments, create notifications, and act on incoming status inquiries.
- Taking advantage of manufacturer-provided shipping management by using drop-shipping to reduce carrying costs.
- Following through with customers until and after delivery—ensuring contents were accurate, undamaged, and as expected.
- Using a combination of multiple modes, i.e., consolidation of parcels into LTLs for longer distance hauls prior to deconsolidation at the regional or local level, to reduce total shipping cost and delivering on the promise of “free shipping.”
- Working with companies that have a proven history of designing and implementing strategic initiatives to secure and improve better shipping from origin through final delivery.
Enhance Last Mile Shipping Management With the Right Digital, Strategic Partner
Technology will always change, and consumers will ask for more from their shippers and carriers. Regardless, customers will see the shipper, not the carrier, as responsible for any delays or negative experiences. Therefore, all shippers need to start work on improving last mile shipping management to stay competitive, efficient, transparent, and whatever else customers decide in the months and years to come.