Online and e-commerce sales have grown exponentially in the past three years. Accelerated by the global pandemic and the inability to shop in person, e-commerce has shifted consumers’ expectations for faster delivery and increased the need for efficient last mile delivery networks. Retailers, distributors and logistics providers have struggled to handle increasing volumes, leading to slower delivery times, more missed or late deliveries, and higher delivery costs. There is immense pressure on transportation and logistics teams to resolve these issues and find a balance between transportation costs and customer satisfaction.
Since the last mile accounts for 35% to 50% of total delivery costs across all modes of transportation, it is the logical first place for retailers and shippers to look for optimization opportunities. Advanced technologies that refine route planning, enhance last mile execution, improve operational efficiency, and deliver better customer experiences are critical for maintaining a competitive edge in the modern market. Last mile delivery software provides the functionality and features to improve last mile delivery processes and drive substantial value across the organization.
This article will explore last mile delivery software in great detail. We’ll discuss the rise of last mile delivery software companies, the challenges in last mile without appropriate software, and the features to look for in a last mile delivery software solution. Finally, we will present the specific benefits and features of a leading last mile delivery software platform and how they are helping modern shippers accelerate growth and manage costs in the competitive e-commerce market.
The Rise of Last Mile Delivery Software
The global e-commerce market has been on the rise for years, with COVID-related lockdowns causing the biggest shift yet. U.S. e-commerce sales hit $815 billion in 2020, a 43% increase over the previous year. While e-commerce growth has slowed as economies and storefronts reopened, it is still seeing consistent growth year over year and is slated to surpass $3 trillion by 2028.
This shift forced retailers of all sizes to embrace online sales to preserve revenue and market relevance. It also added a new layer of complexity to fulfillment, as shippers suddenly relied on last mile delivery providers to get their products into the hands of consumers. Last mile delivery demands quickly outpaced the capabilities of the existing parcel and courier providers, opening the door for new carriers, third-party logistics firms (3PLs) and crowdsourced gig economy delivery drivers to enter the last mile market.
Unfortunately, while delivery provider diversification alleviated the last mile capacity issue, it added a new layer of complication for retailers and shippers. Suddenly left to manage a vast number of providers across fragmented networks, it became increasingly difficult to monitor shipments and ensure timely service.
Last mile delivery software companies popped up to provide solutions for the complexity of last mile logistics. This software helps simplify the last mile by consolidating processes and carrier management into a single hub, automating manual tasks to free up time within the transportation department, and providing greater visibility over every shipment. The rise of last mile delivery software ensures seamless delivery and an improved customer experience.
Challenges without Last Mile Delivery Software
E-commerce demand is unlikely to subside in the coming years, so finding ways to manage last mile delivery is critical for retailers. Failing to utilize last mile delivery software may present significant challenges and unforeseen costs, including:
- Uncontrolled costs – Despite being the shortest leg of the delivery process, the last mile tends to be the most expensive, accounting for a quarter to over half of the total transportation costs. Monitoring and managing costs is substantially more difficult without dedicated last mile delivery software.
- Delivery delays – There is much that can go wrong in the last mile, from weather to traffic and road closures. Last mile delivery software provides visibility and critical updates to minimize the impact of disruption and late deliveries.
- Route planning – Last mile requires intricate route planning to ensure network optimization. Manually planning routes is inefficient and far less effective than software solutions.
- Customer expectations – With the boom of online shopping, modern customers expect a delivery tracking number at the time of purchase, the ability to check shipment status at the click of a button and real-time notifications at every step of the shipping journey. Providing these services is nearly impossible without advanced last mile delivery software.
The last mile is incredibly complex, so identifying ways to make the process easier and more accessible is crucial for retailers and businesses of all sizes. Last mile delivery management software can provide a pathway to simplified and optimized processes, but it’s important to know what to look for in a solution.
Features and Benefits to Look for in Last Mile Delivery Software
Choosing a last mile delivery software can be overwhelming, but knowing what to look for to get the most out of a solution can make the process easier. Here are several critical features and benefits to look for when looking into last mile delivery solutions.
Supports the Full Lifecycle of Last Mile Operations
Last mile delivery software should support the full last mile lifecycle and provide a path to better supply chain decisions and an optimized last mile network. This means no stone is left unturned and there are no surprises at the end of the day from missed deliveries and angry customers.
From order placement to proof of delivery, look for a last mile delivery software option that integrates every step of the way:
- Order Placed — Consumer makes purchase, and software is signaled to engage
- SLA Assigned — Desired ETA is set
- Rate Shopping — Software-based API instantly finds best-fit courier based on SLA
- Labels Printed — Shipping labels display customized white-label branding
- Courier Dispatched — Driver assigned, item out for delivery
- Route Optimization — Weather and traffic determine the fastest route
- Exceptions Management — Software identifies exceptions and alerts teams
- Customer Experience — POD captured, consumer rates their experience
Machine Learning + Humans for Optimal Outcomes
Last mile delivery can be complicated, due to the high volume of shipped parcels and packages and the unique variables across urban, rural and suburban geographic regions. These variables may include traffic congestion, route restrictions, population density, vehicle capacity, driver hours and customer preferences. Manual route planning is significantly time-consuming, resulting in inefficient use of staffing resources.
Last mile delivery software solutions should augment and automate planning processes, so logistics teams can focus their efforts on managing exceptions.
Last mile delivery management software can streamline last mile processes through machine learning algorithms that learn from data and improve over time. Machine learning helps optimize last mile delivery by predicting variables like traffic patterns, congestion levels and customer preferences, then routing vehicles accordingly to minimize miles and fuel consumption and maximize efficiency.
Machine learning can also monitor shipment tracking to identify potential delivery risks, alerting human counterparts to take action and manage exceptions as they arise. Integrating last mile delivery technology with an experienced logistics workforce delivers unparalleled last mile service and efficiency.
Last mile delivery software should easily integrate with other supply chain systems and third-party platforms to streamline data sharing and increase process efficiency. Integrations should rely on API to push and pull data between relevant parties, ensuring that everyone in the delivery chain — from distribution to end customer — is empowered with accurate, real-time shipment information and updates.
Integrations are critical for delivering real-time shipment visibility, but should also support pre-delivery and post-delivery functions.
The best last mile delivery software should also include integrations that support the full last mile lifecycle, including:
- Courier sourcing, onboarding and management
- Multimodal rate shopping across parcel, LTL and courier networks
- Delivery and dispatch automation
- Logistics exceptions management
- Customer experience management
Utilizes Predictive Data Analytics
Last mile delivery software should do more than simply collect and collate supply chain data. It should use that data to provide clarity and transparency to what is happening in the last leg of the delivery journey and identify inefficiencies. Data analytics is critical to continuous improvement and is used to form predictive models that drive future decision-making.
Predictive analytic capability is crucial in last mile delivery management software, as it allows shippers to move beyond the visibility of current problems and toward anticipation and mitigation of future issues.
With historical last mile data, companies can change delivery outcomes in real time, build a more resilient supply chain, and guide future courier selection and route planning.
Emphasis on Security
Whenever data is transmitted digitally, there is the possibility of interference or data breach due to malware or hacking. Last mile delivery software should offer enhanced security measures to ensure that valuable information about the organization and its customers is safe.
Carriers and shippers should leverage built-for-privacy last mile delivery platforms that meet sophisticated security requirements, such as:
- Cloud-based infrastructure
- Full encryption capabilities
- SOC 2 compliance
- ISO 27001 and NIST SP 800-53 standards
- CIS, CISA, DISA and COBITTM standards
Protecting private data from internal or external corruption also protects the company from lawsuits, financial loss, reputational harm, poor customer sentiment and brand erosion.
Realize the Benefits of Last Mile Delivery Software with OneRail
In today’s high-demand e-commerce market, seamless last mile delivery is essential to meeting consumer expectations, building brand loyalty and increasing revenue. Last mile delivery software can automate processes and centralize data to enable proactive exceptions management that helps retailers stay in control of their shipments. OneRail is the technology-first last mile delivery software platform that gives shippers the tools they need to optimize last mile operations. They deliver a multitude of specialized features that enhance last mile delivery:
Manual last mile logistics processes are inefficient, create intense labor pressure and cut into profits. Automating tedious tasks — like delivery order management, capacity procurement, route planning, and visibility and tracking — with last mile delivery software gives shippers more time to focus on managing real-time exceptions, limiting costly missed deliveries and improving the customer experience. OneRail automates order delivery to ensure critical details don’t fall through the cracks and eliminates the need for labor-intensive spreadsheets and data entry.
Complex supply chains require multiple modes of transportation to move goods efficiently, but managing multimodal networks can be challenging, particularly in the last mile. Last mile delivery management software that delivers one point of contact between courier, parcel, LTL and FTL providers simplifies last mile processes and ensures the best transportation solution for every shipment. OneRail’s cloud-based decision engine matches shipments to couriers based on a complex set of rules to guarantee that every delivery is optimized and cost-effective.
Automated Rate Shopping
Researching, negotiating and confirming rates with last mile carriers is a substantial burden for operations teams and can delay time-critical orders. OneRail takes the hassle out of rate shipping by tapping into its vast network of over 600 carriers and couriers and more than 10 million drivers to negotiate rates on the retailer’s behalf. OneRail’s automated rate shopping feature predicts market rates and ensures the best price at every service level to keep last mile delivery costs in check. In fact, this last mile delivery software function reduces delivery fulfillment costs by 40-70% and increases delivery speed by as much as 35%.
Real-time exceptions management is critical to last mile delivery, so next-business-day emails and chatbots don’t cut it. Technology can fill the gaps in last mile risk management with smart, real-time exception identification, but it takes a live human to escalate and solve issues immediately. OneRail’s Exceptions Assist™ is a dedicated 24/7 team of USA-based logistics experts who watch over every delivery to proactively identify and resolve problems before the customer even knows there is an issue.
Visibility is essential to logistics operations, particularly as consumer demand for real-time shipment updates increases. Shippers need an advanced platform for control-tower level visibility to keep customers happy and minimize late and missed deliveries. They need last mile delivery management software that provides more than just an order’s location — software with the real-time ability to change delivery outcomes. OneRail’s advanced platform delivers accurate tracking, proactive delivery risk alerts, and the OneRail Driver mobile app to communicate real-time status updates and rerouting information.
Better Customer Experience
Today’s customers expect fast, flawless delivery — last mile delivery management software helps provide the real-time tracking and visibility to support that. OneRail’s platform delivers critical tracking updates and exception alerts, allowing shippers to mitigate risks in real time. OneRail also keeps shippers in direct contact with customers throughout the last mile journey, eliminating the need for confusing third-party messages and building trust every step of the way.
Last mile delivery software should provide reliable data that drives revenue, increases efficiencies and informs decision-making. OneRail integrates with Microsoft Power BI to give shippers access to meaningful data on each delivery, predicting outcomes and forecasting future delivery needs and network coverage. OneRail makes network optimization easy with customized reporting at a glance.
Now more than ever, retailers and shippers need a reliable partner to help them implement a technology-driven approach that streamlines last mile deliveries. OneRail’s last mile delivery and fulfillment network is proven to be 99% on-time and reliable so that brands can exceed expectations, increasing customer loyalty and repeat sales. Request a demo today to see how OneRail can simplify your last mile deliveries.