Making a Living in the Final Mile

The “final mile” delivery dynamic, once mostly an afterthought for retailers, today has become a strategic and integral part of a company’s customer service and brand reputation.

 

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A growing number of carriers and logistics providers are stepping into the final-mile sector to help retailers meet these rising expectations.

One of the fastest growing areas for online sales has been in large products that require delivery and setup in the home.

The driver or delivery person must have “a level of presentability, customer service, product knowledge and communication skills, all oriented to the con­sumer,” he said, adding that these skills — including the ability to quickly and accurately assemble or install a product — are not necessarily inherent in the traditional truckload or less-than-truckload driver.

The rapid increase in online buying of large durable goods requiring last-mile delivery into the home is bringing new business opportunities for carriers. And thanks to e-commerce, it’s expected to continue to grow at a double-digit annual clip.

The challenge for trucking companies is how to address the market and develop the employee skills and management processes to be successful.

Strategies range from adapting current operations to service last-mile freight, launching new divisions, bolstering existing capabilities through acquisitions or buying current operators and then combining and building them into a national network through investments in facilities, technology and people.

In other cases, traditional LTL and parcel carriers are partnering with existing last-mile providers.

Unlike a traditional LTL network, which requires major investments in physical infrastructure and rolling stock, the hurdles to entry in the last-mile segment are not as overwhelming.

Thousands of agents, contractors and owner-operators with small fleets of commercial vans and straight trucks are operating in the market. Many of these operators contract directly with smaller retailers for local or regional deliveries or align themselves with national last-mile networks.

As e-commerce continues to represent an ever-growing percentage of a retailer’s sales, the choice of a last-mile delivery partner becomes even more of a strategic decision.

As one might expect, technology plays a crucial role in the last-mile space.

It’s a unique challenge. Technology platforms must pull in information about the consumer’s purchase from the retailer’s e-commerce transaction and warehousing systems, tie in the last-mile carrier’s dispatch and routing system, connect with drivers in the field, often over a smartphone or tablet, and provide across-the-board, real-time visibility.

Today’s consumers want to know at any minute where the truck is, and if it’s arriving on time. They also want an immediate feedback mechanism to rate the service or notify the retailer of problems, particularly with white-glove delivery, where the product is assembled or installed in the home.

To provide that level of visibility and service, e-tailers and last-mile delivery providers can turn to both established software vendors with years of industry experience and technology startups that are building apps from the ground up. Source * https://www.ttnews.com/articles/fleets-target-opportunities-growing-final-mile-sector