Last Mile Shipping Success Requires a Holistic Approach

Crowdsourcing apps, same day delivery, and ecommerce trends continue to impact last mile delivery expectations. With this ever-changing landscape, cost-effective management of the last mile has become a challenge that needs a broader view.

Last-mile delivery services for residential shipments were formerly categorized as specialized handling services due to their infrequent occurrence and the need for distinct provisions to transport goods to a customer's residence. However, the landscape has changed significantly. Presently, last-mile home deliveries have become exceedingly commonplace, as evidenced by the accumulation of parcels on doorsteps throughout the nation. p

A great example of this change is the way Americans shop for furniture. Not long ago, people would take a Saturday afternoon to visit a furniture showroom, sit on several couches, fill out an order form, write a check, and wait six to twelve weeks for the sofa to be shipped to the store. Then they would need to set up a time for the sofa to be delivered, take the day off work, and wait at home for the delivery company for a considerable fee. Or they could pick up the sofa from the store with their own vehicle, one borrowed from a friend, or rented for the occasion.

Now, people can pull up the same furniture store’s website on their phone, select the sofa they want, put in their credit card information, and have it delivered and assembled in-home.

Market reports that online furniture stores are becoming the fastest-growing channel at a compound annual growth rate of 16.6%. Two-day shipping standards for packages is impacting consumer expectations of large format deliveries. While this speed is typically too fast for non-conveyable items like furniture, many companies online retail stores are offering other benefits for consumers such as free delivery, installation, and even same-day pick up.

Changing proximity

Retailers need more than just capacity to respond to this growth; they will need precision capacity. The desire for faster last mile delivery has driven delivery networks to become more localized. The average length of haul is declining with the shift toward ecommerce. A recent study from The American Transportation Research Institute showed that many companies are trying to move fulfillment closer to their customers.

Navigating today’s final mile of the supply chain ecosystem takes a holistic approach that brings together people, process and technology. This continued evolution will need innovative thinking and integration across the first, middle, and final miles of the supply chain.

New supply chain strategies

To meet these needs, supply chain strategies need to focus on “right-size” fulfillment footprints. This strategy can efficiently bring large format goods to residents the way they want and when they want.

Shippers also want the ability to deliver supply chain solutions that have fewer touchpoints to minimize product damage and maximize consumer satisfaction for their brands.

In the world of large format items, such as furniture or appliances, deliveries are not as simple as your average two-day online book order. For these investment purchases, consumers expect a high level of service including room of choice placement and assembly.

To achieve this shippers must rely on a broad network of reliable, high-quality home delivery carriers to represent their brands. The challenge is no one carrier has nationwide coverage under an individual banner. Effective communication through a single point of connection is crucial to consistently deliver quality service expectations.

Managing delivery exceptions for excellent customer experience

In light of the nature of oversized merchandise, there may be instances where exceptions arise during the delivery process. A sofa might lack a cushion, a television package could sustain a significant puncture, or a customer might experience regret after an industrial-sized treadmill arrives in their living room. Each of these scenarios has the potential to result in the rejection of the delivery.

So, how can you ensure that consumers receive prompt resolutions when issues arise during the delivery process? Your chosen last-mile provider should possess the ability to effectively handle delivery exceptions and promptly translate them into actionable solutions on the spot. .

Establishing robust systems and mechanisms is crucial to enable home delivery drivers to capture accurate details of any incidents, assess the condition of the product, and make appropriate decisions regarding its disposition. This not only enhances the overall customer experience but also contributes to the profitability of the shippers. .

Let's delve deeper into the treadmill example. Suppose a customer starts having doubts about their decision to purchase the large treadmill and decides to refuse the delivery upon its arrival. At C.H. Robinson, we have implemented a comprehensive framework comprising skilled personnel, streamlined processes, and advanced technology solutions. This empowers the home delivery carrier to efficiently communicate the refusal, enabling the shipper to employ effective "save the sale" strategies. .

The shipper might offer the consumer a discount or other incentives to reduce the chance that the treadmill will be returned. In case the consumer still refuses the item, the carrier can do a return on investment analysis then and there so the shipper can determine next steps for the product to mitigate financial loss and maintain customer loyalty for future purchases.

The return experience can make or break a consumer’s loyalty, with 92% of consumers saying they will buy something again if returns are easy. An established exceptions and returns process allows shippers to be responsive to consumer needs. They can set expectations about when a return will be picked up, give visibility into the return process, and most importantly, provide insight into when consumer will receive credit for a return.

An end to end approach

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. They should be a single point of connection to a broad range of carriers. This helps carriers optimize fulfillment processes while ensuring shippers meet the growing need for fast last mile home delivery — and does it in a cost effective way.

At C.H. Robinson we leverage our technology platform, Navisphere®, for the collection and analysis of real time delivery data. We provide insights that helps aggregate volume in the first and middle miles. From there, we can design seamless multi-leg modeling and deliver end to end visibility ensuring optimized cost and performance across the supply chain directly into the last mile.

The processes we have in place to manage delivery exceptions and returns allows us to make disposition decisions as close to the consumer as possible. C.H. Robinson’s disposition process captures the reason and detail on why a delivery was refused so we can use that trend data in the future. We then share that data back with the shipper so they can make improvements to their delivery processes. This creates a seamless experience for the consumer.

Along with data collected in Navisphere, our supply chain experts take a customer-centric approach to the last mile of delivery. They dive deep to understand the unique needs of our customers, leverage the right carriers for those needs, and can quickly provide solutions for unplanned challenges throughout delivery.

Consumers have more freedom than ever around when and where they shop. They also have more control over when products get delivered and expect to be given visibility to the product’s journey to their homes. Our full suite of logistics services and technology solutions allow us to provide integrated, end to end solutions that will help retailers build visibility and cost efficiency into this new consumer-driven landscape.

Learn more about C.H. Robinson’s integrated solutions across the first, middle, and final miles.

Linus Kalenze
Vice President | LTL
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