Bright Masih
Bright Masih 5 May 2017

Why marketers need to be aware of the last mile

Convenience is a valued currency to consumers, and delivery is an effective area in which to stand out from the competition by getting items to the customer quicker, cheaper, and more flexibly around their requirements.

Any retailer looking to deliver on growing customer expectations needs to evaluate their last mile capabilities to ensure they can compete in an increasingly saturated and evolving landscape. Convenience is a valued currency to consumers, and delivery is an effective area in which to stand out from the competition by getting items to the customer quicker, cheaper, and more flexibly around their requirements.

Due to the rapid evolution in shopping behaviour, and heightened demands of connected customers, delivery has had to play catch-up. According to the Barclay's’ ‘The Last Mile’ report, 2013 saw one billion deliveries from online orders, a figure which is expected to grow by 28.8 percent to 1.38 billion by 2018. Clothing and footwear sales will continue to generate the largest online volumes, growing by almost 50 percent between 2013 and 2018.

One route retailers should consider to enhance their last mile offering is constructing a strategic delivery alliance; a network of partnerships with smaller, tactical delivery companies, as well as the typical larger logistics organisations.

Many forward thinking retailers already recognise the need to work with localised delivery firms, and have started to implement partnerships with companies that share their vision of an exceptional delivery experience. By teaming up with local partners and sharing expertise, organisations that have invested in last mile relationships are now reaping the rewards of increased customer confidence, loyalty and satisfaction.

As connected consumers are often time pressured, simply providing status flags – much like Amazon’s ‘ordered’, ‘dispatched’ and ‘delivered’ – is no longer enough. Thanks to disruptors like Uber, which offers its customers real-time vehicle location tracking, shoppers now have exceptionally high expectations when it comes to delivery updates; they demand immediacy and want to be updated at each stage of the process. This is creating one of the most problematic last mile challenges for retailers: up-to-the-minute tracking and instant customer updates. Shoppers increasingly want to know exactly where their order is and when it will arrive. If it is likely to be delayed they want to know how long for, and why?

Technology investment will underpin success when it comes to ensuring consumer demands and expectations are met, especially concerning next day, same day and one-hour delivery promises. Selection and implementation of the right technology stack and expertise will ensure that the right local delivery partner and appropriate agents are assigned to nearby customer orders, allowing for quicker delivery to a place that suits the customer. Retailers can also leverage their partner's local knowledge to meet deadlines more effectively.

When it comes to including the customer in this dynamic delivery approach, a myriad of technology integrations will be needed to synchronise fulfilment with tailored delivery applications, which provide customers with a real-time feed on their order status. Each logistics partner will have different legacy technology infrastructures, which will need to be navigated, adapted and plumbed.

It is essential that retailers make a significant financial investment into mobile apps and especially user interface design in order to optimise the customers experience and simultaneously use the data to analyse customer behaviour trends. User interface design expertise is a rarity amongst in-house software development teams, so finding a software development agency with this capability is paramount. This partner must not only be able to provide software and design expertise, but also needs to have a deep understanding of shopper trends and behaviours to truly align delivery capabilities with consumer expectations.

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