Digital Final Mile Platforms - A Guide for eCommerce Retailers

01 July 2024
by Sam Cullen

Experts predict the global market for digital final-mile platforms will grow from $6.4 billion to $21.7 billion by 2031. That’s a compound annual growth rate of 14.5% over the next decade—a staggering amount.

But what’s behind the sudden growth in final-mile technology, and how do brands that adopt it stand to benefit?

In this article, we deliver the goods. We’ll discuss what a final mile platform is, why retailers are finding them indispensable and how you can use one to optimise your final-mile processes and delight your customers.

The pivotal role of last-mile delivery

Let’s set the scene. Order fulfilment — and final-mile delivery, in particular — is a priority for retailers.

Why? Because customer delivery expectations are sky-high, and they demand a fast and efficient service. Over half (57%) of consumers say they would shop elsewhere if they weren’t happy with the delivery experience.

That means you must deliver goods on time, via multiple delivery methods and with plenty of tracking options. Yes, providing accurate tracking is vital. Research by Verte finds 91% of consumers actively track packages, with 39% tracking them once per day and 19% tracking them multiple times per day.

Ultimately, delivery is the last experience customers will have with your brand. When 98% of respondents in a Digital Commerce 360 survey say delivery is one of the most important factors in brand loyalty, there’s every chance a repeat order hinges on your ability to deliver an exceptional final-mile experience.

The final mile challenges

Unfortunately, delivering that kind of experience is easier said than done. Despite the importance of final mile delivery to customers and retailers, several elements make the last mile of the delivery process tricky to navigate.

Time is a particularly thorny problem. The final mile may be the shortest part of a parcel’s journey, but it usually takes the most time. That’s because carriers deliver goods individually from a local depot to a customer’s door rather than transport them in bulk as they have been until this point. Delivery to customers’ homes is particularly time-consuming, hence the growing prevalence of parcel lockers and other drop-off locations that let carriers deliver dozens of items at once.

Cost is another issue. The last mile is the most expensive and complex part of the supply chain, accounting for 40% to 55% of total supply chain costs.

Retailers also need to manage the multitude of delivery options customers expect to choose from, including home delivery, in-store pickup, parcel lockers and other pick-up drop-off (PUDO) locations, as well as same-day, next-day and express delivery options. Typically, this requires brands to work with multiple carriers and navigate the logistical complexities of doing so.

Finally, retailers have to contend with failed deliveries — an enormous issue that can occur if customers aren’t at home to receive their goods or enter the wrong address information. A failed delivery can be incredibly costly (in excess of £10 each) owing to the additional resources it takes to redeliver the goods (a cost customers don’t cover) and the negative impact on customer satisfaction.

What is a final mile platform and how does it help?

A final mile delivery platform is a transport management platform that helps retailers manage and optimise this part of the shipping process while also letting customers track their orders.

At its heart, a final mile platform gives retailers and customers real-time 360° visibility into the delivery process. Everyone involved in the final mile can log in and see where a package is and when it’s due for delivery.

  • Final mile delivery platforms typically offer a host of other features to retailers and customers, including:
  • Order management capabilities that let retailers update deliveries and rectify incorrect shipping information.
  • Carrier management features that streamline a retailer’s relationship with different carriers.
  • Customers can change delivery details, including time, location and method.
  • Automated delivery updates that get sent to customers in their local language
  • Custom-branded portals

Some carriers may have their own final mile platform, but most are provided by third-party shipping providers like Pro Carrier that can expertly manage the relationship between retail stores, carriers and customers.

5 specific ways a final mile platform can optimise your delivery processes

As you can probably already guess, the features of a final mile delivery platform are specifically designed to improve the delivery process for both retailers and customers.

But let’s get specific.

Here are five ways you can use a final mile platform to overcome some of the distinct challenges of final mile delivery, optimise operations and improve the customer experience.

Reduce undeliverables

A final mile platform helps to reduce undeliverables in several ways. First, it allows retailers to log in and correct shipping details after customers have placed an order. This ensures parcels get delivered to the correct address at the first time of asking.

A final-mile platform can also increase the likelihood that customers will be there to receive their goods. Customer unavailability accounts for 28% of undeliverables, an issue that these platforms can avoid by letting customers track their orders and update the delivery day if they won’t be at home.

Eliminate WISMO calls

Where is my order (WISMO) calls are inbound customer service enquiries that happen when customers don’t have a way to track their orders. As many as one in five customer service queries can be WISMO-related, and these can eat up a huge amount of your customer service team’s time.

Thankfully, they can be all but eliminated with a digital final mile platform that provides a fully tracked service alongside local language alerts. Take the Pro Carrier customer portal, for instance. Our custom-branded solution lets customers monitor their orders proactively with a tracking number while also sending a minimum of six shipping updates at various points in the delivery journey.

Increase delivery options

When almost nine in ten customers say they may abandon their cart because of poor delivery options, it literally pays to be able to offer as many delivery methods as possible. Usually, this is only possible by working with multiple carriers, which can quickly become a logistical nightmare without a way to manage those relationships.

Enter a final mile platform that connects your store with multiple carriers and lets you pick and choose which companies to use for different delivery options. So one carrier can be used for customers who want express delivery and another carrier can be the default option for customers wanting to receive orders at a parcel locker.

Centralise and automate order management

Are inefficient warehousing and delivery processes slowing your retailer down? More than half of retailers surveyed in Bringg’s January 2022 survey said manual planning and dispatching is a significant problem.

Final mile delivery platforms reduce the amount of manual work your staff have to do if they come with pre-built integrations for eCommerce platforms, order management systems and shipping aggregators.

Rather than manually moving orders from your eCommerce platform to your fulfilment system and into your carrier’s platform, a final-mile delivery can automate the entire process, freeing up your team to focus on getting orders packed as quickly as possible.

Delivery analytics

It’s not enough to know where every parcel is, retailers also need a record of how long deliveries took, the percentage of deliveries made on time and which issues, if any, occurred.

A final mile delivery platform can track all these metrics and more, producing data insights down to each individual shipment that allow retailers to understand exactly how they can improve delivery processes moving forward.

Take Pro Carrier’s Horizon platform as an example. Our easy-to-use tool collects disparate data sources in one place, making it easy for you to identify patterns and forecast up to three months in advance.

Improve the last mile with Pro Carrier

Pro Carrier offers a complete final-mile solution — and one you can start using immediately. We offer native integrations with every major eCommerce platform, order management system, and shipping aggregator. Even if an integration doesn’t exist for your solution, we can automate processes using the Pro Carrier API.

Because we’re carrier agnostic, we have the ability to provide the most suitable and cost-effective delivery partner to fulfil your customers’ needs. And don’t worry, our digital final mile solution integrates with almost every eCommerce platform.

Find out more about delivering an exceptional final-mile service to your customers by speaking to an expert.

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