The last mile – notoriously the most difficult part of an order’s journey – is being transformed by the wave of e-commerce shopping in the last year. Even shoppers that used online channels for less than 25% of their purchases prior to the pandemic are increasing their number of online purchases by 343%, according to a survey by Accenture.

“E-commerce is not slowing down,” said Sean Whitehouse, Managing Director of Strategy & Consulting, Supply Chain & Operations, Retail Lead at Accenture in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We’ve talked about this for a while now and it was accelerated by COVID. As we get back to more traditional work settings, where that order is delivered may change from home to work and other places, it might become more flexible as we start traveling and moving, but they’re still going to want delivery.”

Retailers will feel the most pressure of increased e-commerce volumes during the holiday season when orders will likely exceed capacity and maintaining accurate delivery windows will become even more essential. Additionally, consumers are becoming more conscious of the environmental impacts of their purchases, presenting an opportunity for suppliers to appeal to their values. In a new study, Accenture found that the use of local fulfillment centers could lower last-mile emissions between 17 and 26% through 2025. These are just a few reasons why now is the time for retailers to strategize and adapt their last-mile customer service and experiences for the short- and long-term future of e-commerce. Leveraging a courier solution like the one Roadie provides is just one way that suppliers can lighten their load.

What are some last-mile delivery challenges?

If you’re facing shrinking acceptable order windows, increased order volumes, or labor shortages, you’re not alone. Luckily, these last-mile challenges can be resolved with the right strategy. In our last-mile guide, you’ll learn about:

  • Shipping cost and delivery time best practices
  • How to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize delivery routes
  • How to create an efficient delivery network to stretch your resources

How do I fix my last-mile delivery problems?

Building a last-mile ecosystem that meets consumers’ demands and improves the bottom line comes down to four key imperatives:

1. Meet new last-mile expectations

Elevated e-commerce levels combined with a tight labor market can make it difficult to adhere to delivery windows, so retailers must develop accurate, transparent operations that can manage spikes in demand.

2. Optimize the entire delivery ecosystem

Retailers’ last mile operations span suppliers, warehouses, third-party partners and internal capabilities. Maintaining fast, efficient deliveries means finding the right balance to utilize all these options in tandem.

3. Build delivery density to fuel efficiency

Retailers have more granular insight into demand than ever before, which gives them the opportunity to dig into neighborhood-level data, shrink delivery windows and create more efficient routes.

4. Use AI and ML to their full potential

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are becoming an everyday part of retail operations, and their last mile applications are essential to bringing the entire operation together and ensuring it runs smoothly.