Today’s online shoppers have increasingly high expectations for last mile delivery tracking, so providing simple shipment visibility is no longer enough. This article discusses the importance of last mile tracking and how it helps retailers manage exceptions, meet strategic goals, and improve the customer experience. Additionally, it presents practical tips for implementing last mile tracking with advanced technology and system integrations.
What Is Last Mile Tracking?
Last mile tracking refers to tracking the location of a package across the final stages of fulfillment — from the moment it is tendered to a carrier or leaves a distribution center to the moment it arrives at the customer’s door. Last mile tracking utilizes various technologies to provide milestone status updates as a shipment moves through the delivery process, or show the physical location of a load in real time once it is out for delivery. Accurate, real-time last mile tracking is becoming increasingly important for shippers and consumers alike.
Why Is Last Mile Delivery Tracking Increasingly Important?
Technological advances and access to real-time updates have expanded consumer expectations for delivery visibility, particularly with the exponential growth of e-commerce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the boom of online retail giants like Amazon, modern customers expect a last mile 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.
To maintain a competitive advantage, smaller independent retailers must consider these evolving consumer expectations and devise shipping strategies that include transparent purchase tracking systems from order fulfillment through the last mile. Last mile delivery tracking presents a number of challenges, but it provides extensive benefits to shippers and the customer experience as well.
Challenges in Last Mile Delivery Tracking
Last mile tracking is undoubtedly crucial to a retailer’s success, but implementing a tracking solution can be fraught with challenges, including:
Last mile delivery accounts for a staggering 53% of overall shipping costs, so having accurate last mile tracking and visibility is critical for controlling budgets. Underdeveloped, ineffective tracking software solutions can exacerbate delivery issues and ultimately increase costs to remedy problems. Therefore, choosing an appropriate and trusted last mile tracking software program is critical to managing delivery costs and improving efficiencies.
Delays and Delivery Failures
Outdated last mile shipping tracking solutions fail to recognize and report delays in advance, leading to unexpected delivery failures and growing customer dissatisfaction. Last mile tracking should incorporate modern technology to provide real-time updates and delay notifications, so shippers can proactively manage exceptions as they occur.
Traditional static route planning and manual shipment tracking models cannot meet increasing last mile delivery expectations. Utilizing advanced last mile shipping tracking technology not only identifies threats to delivery schedules, but dynamically reroutes drivers in real-time when issues arise to minimize delays and improve on-time delivery metrics.
Last mile delivery networks are highly fragmented. Couriers and last mile carriers are often small companies or independent contractors who lack standardized visibility features and are difficult to onboard, track and manage — making it challenging to build efficient, optimized networks. Last mile tracking technology can help ease the issues of fragmented courier systems, while uncovering the benefits of a wider carrier network.
Benefits of Real-Time Last Mile Delivery Tracking
Real-time last mile tracking is essential for today’s customers and delivers several crucial benefits for shippers.
Eases Customer Anxiety and Decreases Customer Support Issues
Delivery anxiety occurs when customers feel they are not receiving updates or cannot find an order status when they need it. This is particularly relevant when the order is time-sensitive — consider required items for a major event, vacation, birthday gift or even a life-saving procedure. Not only does delivery anxiety create a poor customer experience, but it also tends to strain customer support teams as they field inbound calls and update requests. Last mile delivery tracking solves these issues by ensuring status updates are automated and available in real time.
Improves Brand Perception
When a shopper places an online order, they expect a full-service experience from the retailer. Regardless of the carrier or courier entrusted with a package, the customer relies on the retail company to provide updates and manage deliveries — so any fulfillment issues will reflect poorly on the retailer. Last mile shipping tracking confirms consumer perception that a shipper is dedicated to meeting delivery promises and addressing issues on the customer’s behalf.
Identifies Opportunities for Improvement and Cost Savings
Last mile carrier tracking provides visibility on a shipment level but, over time, also delivers valuable data on carrier performance and cost-effectiveness. This information can help shippers take control of their delivery network by addressing issues with underperforming carriers and identifying cost savings. These improvements result in better delivery outcomes, lower shipping costs, and a better overall customer experience.
Helps to Manage Exceptions Proactively
When unforeseen weather, traffic, or driver shortages threaten a delivery schedule, real-time last mile tracking can help shippers get ahead of the problem before it impacts the customer. When shippers know about an issue, they can work to quickly mitigate and manage it by notifying customers, rerouting drivers, or issuing a new order to fulfill on-time guarantees. Last mile delivery tracking allows shippers to be proactive rather than reactive when problems threaten the customer experience.
The Evolution of Real-Time Last Mile Delivery Tracking
Shippers can keep customers informed, happy, and loyal with real-time visibility into deliveries. Lack of visibility into last mile delivery makes it nearly impossible to manage and minimize exceptions before they affect customers. And that struggle is critical, as many customers will abandon a brand after just one bad experience.
Real-time last mile delivery tracking allows shippers to see the information that matters and take action immediately to avoid delays. Real-time tracking provides the opportunity to manage exceptions proactively. Instead of reacting to an issue, shippers can change delivery outcomes in real time, often before a customer even knows the delivery schedule was compromised.
In addition to real-time tracking information, online retailers should have these last mile delivery technologies in place to ensure the best customer experience:
Customers expect real-time alerts for major shipment milestones, so retailers should offer SMS notifications in addition to email updates. Ideally, text alerts get sent when an order is:
- Out for delivery
- At the delivery address
Last Mile Courier Communication
Giving customers the ability to communicate directly with the last mile delivery driver is critical for navigating real-time logistical issues like gate codes or parking. Couriers and customers can call or text to resolve problems quickly, eliminating the step of calling a customer service line for remediation and saving valuable time, effort and costs.
Instant Proof of Delivery (POD)
Last mile courier tracking should include real-time Proof of Delivery (POD) documentation to confirm that an order was delivered as promised. POD documents include photos, signatures, package location and courier notes. This ensures that both the shipper and the customer have accurate information regarding the delivery and reduces costly fraudulent loss claims.
Last mile delivery programs should automate customer survey collection, prompting customers to rate their delivery experience immediately. This process empowers buyers and reinforces the perception that the retailer values their patronage, while providing valuable feedback on courier performance. It also alerts shippers to issues and allows them to move quickly for a resolution to preserve customer satisfaction.
How Can Retailers Implement Real-Time Tracking for the Last Mile?
Rolling out new programs and processes for last mile tracking can take time and effort. It is important to maintain uninterrupted supply chain workflows and enhance efficiency to increase buy-in from internal stakeholders every step of the way. The following steps can make sure real-time tracking implementation is successful:
1) Define and Design
Last mile delivery tracking systems should be designed with a retailer’s specific needs in mind – taking into account the shipper’s unique challenges and exceptions. The first step in implementation is choosing a last mile tracking platform that can design a customizable workflow based on a deep understanding of a retailer’s operations.
2) Seamless Integrations
Last mile shipping tracking relies on information from numerous internal and external sources, so a new tracking system must integrate easily with existing platforms. Integration should include OMS, WMS, TMS, POS, ERP and e-commerce systems to centralize real-time tracking data into a single source of truth.
3) Personalized Customer Experience
Customers demand order visibility, so shippers need to deliver real-time tracking updates that make sense. A last mile tracking solution should provide an intuitive, customer-centric platform to keep retailers in direct contact during every step of the last mile journey.
Improve Customer Experience with OneRail’s Last Mile Delivery Tracking
With so much on the line, meeting customer expectations for last mile delivery tracking is critical for online retailers’ long-term success. OneRail provides the last mile visibility shippers need to proactively manage exceptions and minimize disruptions, as well as the real-time shipping updates customers have come to expect. Schedule a demo with OneRail today, and see how their customizable, integrated platform delivers the last mile tracking solutions your customers need.