Analysts’ favorite word to describe today’s retail marketplace is “uncertain.” Consumers are sending out increasingly mixed signals when it comes to purchase intent and confidence. At the same time, retailers are still recovering from the bullwhip effect of too little and then far too much inventory that piled up during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while key transportation segments like ocean freight have largely recovered from pandemic-inspired delays, supply chain planning remains a challenge

To cope, many retailers are delaying orders for the peak holiday season as long as possible. This means rethinking a lot of supply chain decisions, all the way from initial ocean transport to last-mile delivery of ecommerce orders to consumers. However, crowdsourced delivery is emerging as an important new strategy for ensuring higher service levels for customers ordering online. 

Wait and see for holiday orders

While retailers typically begin ordering inventory for peak season in June or July, many have booked later sailings this year to accommodate their ongoing efforts to right-size existing inventories. As a result, forecasts for the 2023 peak season are murky, making it difficult to guarantee capacity to the national and regional parcel carriers that fulfillment houses usually employ to make the bulk of their last-mile deliveries. Without those systems to rely on, retailers are seeking out alternatives — and discovering crowdsourced delivery. 

Analysts, including Deloitte, are endorsing this new approach, urging retailers to diversify beyond traditional delivery networks to ensure they can fulfill orders as ecommerce volumes continue to increase. According to Shippo’s 2023 The State of Shipping report, 30% of e-commerce shippers still use a single carrier for delivery. That puts the success of last-mile delivery at risk. Thus, as the peak holiday season approaches, it’s critical to get alternate last-mile plans in place. 

Expanding delivery with crowdsourcing

Crowdsourced delivery enables retailers to leverage a fast, affordable same- or next-day local delivery option that easily scales to meet their needs. Retailers can leverage crowdsourced last-mile delivery whenever and wherever they need it to meet surges in demand, making it easier to meet consumers’ fast delivery expectations during the upcoming peak season and future holiday peaks to come. 

Direct-from-warehouse delivery is a key part of seamlessly integrating crowdsourced delivery into a peak season last-mile delivery plan. Retailers leveraging the all-in-one Roadie Direct™ warehouse delivery solution can scale deliveries up or down with demand in real time. Batched orders and optimized routes help streamline the delivery process and enable service to a radius as large as 100 miles around each fulfillment location with same- or next-day service.

Global digital sports platform Fanatics, for example, uses Roadie to fulfill customers’ orders for its industry-leading licensed sports merchandise assortment for local next-day delivery in a growing list of cities across the U.S. Roadie drivers pick up goods directly from Fanatics distribution centers and deliver them to customer’s homes, ensuring a faster, more streamlined and most cost-effective delivery experience. 

The benefits of direct-from-warehouse

Leveraging the crowdsourced delivery channel to move orders directly from distribution centers or fulfillment centers to consumers’ doorsteps is helping retailers meet growing consumer expectations for same- or next-day delivery, especially in peak seasons. 

In busy times, carrier delivery schedules get bogged down, cut-off times may be shorter, and surcharges for things such as oversized items can skyrocket. Combining Roadie Direct™ and RoadieXL™ means fast, hassle-free and affordable deliveries for even oversized items — all without the dim-weight charges, packaging requirements and other special handling requirements of a traditional carrier.

Roadie Direct™ enables retailers to side-step those peak season limitations to keep e-commerce orders moving by putting all those factors under the retailer’s control. The retailer decides when orders should go out and what order cut-offs work for their operations. All Roadie solutions also provide order tracking, alerts and proof of delivery to keep both retailers and customers informed every step of the way.

Roadie Direct™ also includes valuable tools to streamline the warehouse-to-consumer delivery channel, including batched orders and optimized routes:

  • Batched orders: Roadie’s order pre-sort feature uses advanced routing and clustering algorithms to group a set of orders together to ensure a fast and fuel-efficient sequence of customer deliveries. Each driver typically receives about 30 orders, but this can vary widely based on shipment characteristics. Batching not only speeds deliveries but lowers overall delivery costs. 
  • Streamlined sortation: Roadie’s SmartSort™ app, included with Roadie Direct™, enables a retailer’s employees to quickly sort the orders into bins according to the route. This data is delivered right to their mobile devices, so warehouse associates can simply scan the barcode on each item to determine where it belongs.

Innovative solutions to peak season challenges

Peak selling seasons magnify the challenges of today’s more complex, uncertain retail marketplaces. Retailers looking to hedge their inventory bets by putting off the finalization of holiday merchandise orders must address the follow-on effects this delay will have on the supply chain. Trouble securing last-mile delivery is one of these impacts. 

It’s not just about logistics; customer experience is also at stake. To consistently meet the delivery speed demands of consumer analysts, Gartner is urging retailers to “increase delivery capacity utilizing crowdsourcing by reviewing opportunities where failure points exist in direct-to-consumer (D2C) last-mile networks.”

Roadie Direct™ fills this gap, covering more than 29,000 zip codes with a network of 200,000 drivers. This means retailers can easily scale their peak season last-mile deliveries as real demand dictates, reaching 97% of U.S. households with faster, streamlined warehouse-to-consumer delivery.