Attending Home Delivery World (HDW) last week gave us the golden opportunity to gain insight on the challenges and trends wending their way through the entire last mile industry.
We say golden, because as a Gold sponsor, the OneRail team took pride in our participation over the course of the two-day retail tradeshow, manning Booth 507 and watching our CEO & Founder Bill Catania emcee the Parcel Track, as well as speak on a panel of heavy hitters talking carrier engagement.
It was thrilling to actually get to talk face to face with colleagues from national brands and fellow startups alike, and hear their forecasts for the year ahead.
We’ve compiled a shortlist of the following four golden supply chain takeaways from the show:
A Sustainable Supply Chain
Sustainability has been a hot topic for years, but now with climate change more apparent, the industry is talking supply chain sustainability more than ever. HDW was held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia just as Hurricane Ida was battering the East Coast, so concern for courier safety and worry over on-time deliveries were top of mind for everyone attending the show.
Needless to say, sustainability was as well.
Many companies are voicing their desires for sustainable practices, especially within their delivery processes. As e-commerce continues to grow, companies are seeking sustainable delivery methods to mitigate the environmental effects of their business, and exploring what consumers are willing to do to support companies who offer these solutions.
Common sustainability-related questions overheard at HDW:
- “Are customers willing to pay more for sustainable delivery options?”
- “Are customers willing to wait longer for their packages to arrive?”
- “Do customers care about packaging, and are they even noticing when packing materials are labeled recyclable?”
Certainly, cost might give some companies pause when considering whether to adopt sustainable practices, but eco-friendly supply chains are attractive to both consumers and investors.
Studies have shown that consumers are more than willing to pay extra for sustainable delivery options. And the long-term advantages to going green include significant cost savings, not to mention the boost in both social perception from a corporate responsibility standpoint and in company valuation.
Central to the OneRail mission is that by implementing a multimodal delivery fulfillment platform rather than managing multiple couriers manually, companies optimize their supply chain into a lean, green ROI machine.
That’s because you’re saving on the manual labor of calling couriers to negotiate rates and set up deliveries; you’re ensuring that details don’t fall through the cracks; you’re tapping into a nationwide courier network to find the best, lowest-priced courier available; and you’re ensuring on-time delivery via a team of logistics experts monitoring weather and traffic delays that can impact ETAs.
As companies continue to find ways to incorporate sustainable practices, look to your own customers’ behaviors for insight on their willingness to contribute to eco-friendly solutions. Send out a quick survey by text or email, include a Yes/No sustainability question as an in-app delivery follow-up or make a couple calls.
You may be surprised to what lengths your customers are willing to go in order to help our planet.
The Growing Need for Strategic Partnerships
Given current industry issues, the most innovative companies are looking for different ways to move their products through the entire network. To survive, let alone thrive, during these uncertain times, companies simply need to think strategically — about everything.
Where a strategic relationship or two may have sufficed before, diversification of shipping and delivery methods will give certain companies a leg up on their competition. Without a doubt, collaboration and partnerships can provide the ability to scale at a faster pace.
Drivers for our OneRail Logistics Partner Network, for example, have access to built-in resources through our partnerships.
OneRail’s partnerships with Penske and Merchants Fleet provide access to needed equipment to logistics partners, making it easier to increase their fleet capacity. Our partnership with Merchants Fleet also provides multiple funding options and support services for logistics partners, such as rentals, rent-to-lease, vehicle purchasing and own-to-lease.
By partnering with such companies, drivers within the OneRail network have the ability to not only grow their own business, but also have more than a fighting chance to meet the current high demand across final mile delivery.
The Most Dreaded Word in Shipping: Returns
Returns — arguably one of the biggest pain points in last mile delivery — is such a hot topic right now that it was its own topic on HDW’s Parcel Track. In that session, we swear we saw some people shudder at the mere mention of that dreadful word. True story.
The convenience of e-commerce goes far beyond the beauty of receiving an item at your front door. Consumers are purchasing items at an indulgent rate — often with the intention to return any unwanted items.
Come again? Buying something they fully intend to return? Yes. Interestingly enough, this is a purchase habit commonly seen in the retail industry. A customer will purchase three different sizes to find the best fit and return the unwanted items.
While this shift in purchase behavior is incredibly convenient for the consumer, it certainly creates ripple-effect challenges for retailers, and it’s not going away anytime soon.
The influx in returns has created physical limitations in retail locations, often resulting in the wrong item in the wrong location. The industry term for when deliveries do not go according to plan is exception.
And when delivery exceptions happen, customers are not only inconvenienced, they are frustrated to the point of perhaps never doing business with that retailer again. This is the Danger Zone of last mile delivery. It also happens to be the place where OneRail thrives.
Exceptions management is a built-in feature on the OneRail platform. We call it Exceptions Assist™ — a 24/7 team of skilled logistics managers who watch over every vehicle and route to get ahead of delivery exceptions before they become an issue. It truly is a game-changer, because while other solutions track deliveries, we can change delivery outcomes in real time.
Of course, consumers who buy with the intent to return their items is not something that can be prevented by a logistics platform — only ideas like more accurate size charts and a good amount of product photos displayed prior to purchase can help retailers in that regard.
Considering that this consumer behavior is not forecasted to diminish in the short term, it’s high time that every retailer consider this question posed during a panel at HDW: “What methods should retailers incorporate to support their customers?
The Need for Courier Capacity
It is without a doubt that capacity was a hot topic at Home Delivery World. Capacity issues are being felt throughout the entire supply chain — an unfortunate ripple effect of the pandemic, as it seems that worker shortages are affecting every industry.
Through many conversations at our booth, we discovered that many courier companies are struggling to find drivers to complete deliveries.
Capacity problems have even hit major high-volume retailers. Last year, UPS limited the volume of shipments it would make for Gap and Nike, in the face of capacity limits. That trend will continue — and only get worse.
Retailers wishing to provide fast and free delivery are feeling the pinch. They can’t grow if they can’t get their products out the door and on a customer’s doorsteps, quickly and cheaply.
Now that we know that retailers can no longer trust their survival to large delivery service providers who are tapped out, and who erratically raise prices as demand spikes, they must find new courier solutions to mitigate expenses and avoid shipping delays.
Many are responding by diversifying their delivery partners, often looking to unconventional solutions like Postmates, DoorDash and regional carriers to deliver their products.
With a national network of 8.2 million drivers, OneRail is more than a SaaS last mile delivery solution — we’re also a CaaS solution, or what we call Capacity as a Service. That’s because whether you’re in need of an entire fleet or you’re just looking to add some capacity to your existing fleet, you can tap into our trusted couriers (with coverage across 200 major U.S. cities) to suit your delivery flow.
It’s this kind of elastic capacity that gives you a competitive advantage during these difficult times when the supply chain is stretched beyond normal limits. Top technology, a connected network of drivers and a logistics team that manages the customer experience on your behalf — we provide all that in a single pane of glass.
Our capacity for learning, on the other hand, is insatiable, and these lessons from HDW are invaluable as we plan for the year ahead. We’re looking forward to attending more tradeshows in 2022 and finding out how best we can stay on top of industry trends and best serve our customers.