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Last-Mile Delivery

Last-Mile Delivery: What It Is and Why It’s So Important

Is there anything more thrilling than the last quarter of a football game? How about the series finale of your favorite TV show? If you can believe it, an eCommerce package follows a similar arc, where the final moments of its journey have the power to make all the difference. In the logistics biz, we call that “last-mile delivery,” and it can pretty much dictate the success of your online store.

That may sound a little intense, but it’s true! After all the hard work you put into running your business, you want to ensure that your customers have a great experience to show for it, with fast delivery times and rave-worthy service. Keep reading to learn all about the most crucial part of your shipping strategy and see how you can take your last-mile deliveries to the next level!

Defining Last-Mile Delivery

Last-mile delivery refers to the last leg of a package’s journey, from transportation hub to doorstep. Yup, it really is that simple! But, as with many things that seem simple, the bolts and cogs keeping them together are far from it. In fact, orchestrating effective last-mile deliveries requires some serious logistics skills. 

And yes, cartwheels are mandatory.

Why Last-Mile Delivery Is So Important

Aside from the obvious — which is that every package has a final destination it needs to get to — last-mile delivery nowadays is a reflection of the high customer expectations surrounding eCommerce shipping. We can trace many of these expectations back to Amazon, a company that has truly set the precedent for fast, free, and amazingly convenient shipping.

In a 2018 study, 61% of U.S. and 68% of Canadian shoppers said that free shipping was the driving force behind their purchasing decisions, and almost half said they would prioritize one online store over the other if they offered free, next-day delivery.

Clearly, those are big numbers, and as an eCommerce business owner, you know that customer satisfaction is the most vital metric for growing your company and boosting your social proof! In other words, you’d be remiss not to deliver on the delivery. 😉 

Common Challenges and the Last-Mile Problem

Do you know the saying “two heads are better than one”? That’s fair enough, but two heads also add an extra layer of complexity, and that’s not even counting the other body parts! If you were paying close attention, you may have noticed that a transportation hub and a doorstep are two separate entities, and that, for a package to get from point A to point B, another entity has to be involved. Can you guess what that could be?

If you guessed shipping carrier, you would be correct! So now we have: the transportation hub, which is often an order fulfillment center or 3PL; the shipping carrier, who does the intermediary heavy lifting and delivers packages; and the doorstep standing in for your customer. Talk about a full house!

With so many moving parts, we come face to face with the last-mile problem, which is not really one problem, but rather a series of interconnected hijinks that exist in a very delicate ecosystem. The challenges of last-mile deliveries include…

  • Mislabeled or mis-scanned packages
  • Poor communication between 3PL and shipping carrier
  • Outdated technology
  • Lack of visibility and tracking updates for customers
  • Unsatisfactory delivery service
  • Poor route planning in urban areas
  • Prohibitive last-mile delivery costs
  • Bad weather, traffic, and other delays

While some of these roadblocks are indeed unavoidable, having a solid handle on your shipping strategy goes a long way in preventing the preventable.

Planning for Successful Last-Mile Delivery with a 3PL

We’ve defined the last-mile delivery process, we’ve talked about its benefits, and we’ve discussed its challenges. But what kind of blog would this be if we didn’t offer up some solutions for leveling up your last-mile logistics?

When it comes down to it, the best and easiest way to secure smooth and efficient last-mile deliveries is by partnering with a 3PL! Joining forces with a logistics provider is the next step for any eCommerce business that wants to scale and preserve their customer base at the same time Here’s why:

  • Lower Total Cost – By using their immense volumes, 3PLs can negotiate rates with shipping carriers and pass those savings directly to you.
  • Multiple Warehouses – Through a 3PL’s multi-warehouse offering, you can split your inventory across several regions so that eCommerce orders reach customers faster and cheaper.
  • More Support – Between product development, marketing, and the millions of hats you wear as an entrepreneur, coordinating complicated logistics procedures is probably the last thing you want to do. With a 3PL, you won’t have to!
  • Branded Tracking – Some 3PLs have the software capabilities to offer customized tracking pages, which enable customers to get real-time updates on their orders while engaging with your brand in a fun and authentic way.

Starting Your Own Journey

If you’re committed to taking your eCommerce company to new heights, optimizing the final-mile delivery experience will get you far. And if you need some help along the way, ShipMonk is here for all of your order fulfillment needs. Contact us today for a demo of our proprietary 3PL eCommerce fulfillment platform and get a head start on stressing less and growing more.

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