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Last Mile Tracking: How Does It Help Carriers and Consumers?

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  • Post last modified:August 24, 2022
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Summary 

Last mile delivery logistics is the most important part of the supply chain. It is also the most expensive, challenging, subject to myriad ever-changing variables, and the part that touches your end customers. 

Therefore, unless your systems are able to optimize and track it for maximum efficiency, you would fall short of customer expectations.

What is last-mile carrier tracking?

Providing real-time updates about the progress of an order is referred to as “last-mile tracking.” It provides control, visibility, and transparency to the customers, as well as the delivery teams that are out executing the orders. Expressed differently, it can be said that it provides “actionable visibility” in the due course of order placement and execution.

The definition of real-time tracking and order visibility has changed considerably in recent years. It is no longer just the ETA but a series of live updates sent to the customer via pop-ups, SMS notifications (etc.) to keep him apprised of his parcel’s movement as it goes through the zones. For this, last mile tracking makes extensive use of data analytics, ML, and AI tools to improve, achieve, and maintain a high level of efficiency and transparency across the entire supply chain.

What is the objective of last-mile tracking?

Last-mile tracking aims to maintain comprehensive, end-to-end visibility and transparency of the movement of raw materials, stock, and finished goods as they move across the supply chain till they reach their end destination.

Why is last-mile tracking important for businesses as well as consumers? 

Let’s look at the top four reasons: 

1) Improved transparency through effective communication: by using clear, precise, and timely communication, your last-mile deliveries can become a great tool for your customers and for your own teams. This also inculcates confidence within your consumers about your being a trustworthy delivery partner. 

2) Prevention of failed deliveries: Failed deliveries have disastrous consequences! Not only do they increase your operational costs—and, thereby, reduce profit—but they also result in dissatisfied customers who will likely never return to your company again. This tarnishes a company’s reputation, which, is potentially harmful to the very existence of a business. 

Last-mile tracking makes the delivery logistics flexible, visible and easily managed. This reduces failed (or, delayed) deliveries, thereby successfully managing a leading pain point of delivery operations.

3) Accurate ETAs:  By extension of the above, today’s consumers want to be given an accurate ETA for their parcels. Not only that, they demand they be kept in the loop as their package moves through the delivery network. Additionally, they demand flexibility should they need to make changes to the delivery details (address, delivery windows) or if you are experiencing delays at your end. Without modern dispatch software that can track parcel movement through the entire supply-chain network – especially across the last mile – it would become impossible to manage customer expectations. 

4) Creating positive Customer Experience: Unless your order-fulfillment process creates a positive customer experience that results in repeat orders, your business will not grow or develop brand equity. Since last-mile delivery is not only the most expensive, the most challenging, and importantly, the part that ‘touches’ your end-customer, you must plan and monitor it for optimization. Without it, you are slated for failure.

Case Study: Using last-mile tracking to enhance customer visibility

Situation: Sports.com is a recently launched website that sells a wide variety of sporting goods and products. They offer a wide variety of sports and athleisure products for audiences across various price points. 

Thus far, they have done a great job of identifying the correct product mix. Their products are of good quality, offer enough variety, and are priced conveniently for the value-buyer as well as premium consumers. 

As a result, their business has grown rapidly in recent times, both in terms of order value and margins. 

Problem: However, the company has been witnessing an increasing problem with regards to their order-fulfillment. And, as their business has grown, so have the problems associated with their deliveries. The number of returned orders (due to late deliveries, incorrect orders, or damaged orders) has been growing rapidly. 

The company has just completed reviewing its performance over a special two-day promotion a few weeks ago. That’s when they realized that although their top line met their projected expectations, the performance was marred due to the high number of failed deliveries. 

Of particular embarrassment was a case where a local sportsman ordered a special sports kit for his son’s first day at football practice – but, not only was the parcel not delivered within the promised two days but no updates were given from Sports.com about the delay. He could not get any response about it from the company when he enquired about it on his own. A special meeting has been convened to discuss this problem.

Action:  After discussing the situation, the Management realized that their order-fulfillment partner i.e. the 3PL, was unable to keep up with their rapid growth. This was because they weren’t using the latest technology-led systems that were now available in the market. 

As a result, they could not provide real-time tracking to their customers or give updates on any delays (or, changes) in delivery schedules. Upon further investigation, Sports.com also realized that a high percentage of their order returns were from angry customers who repeatedly said they “could not track their orders once they had been placed” or “had no visibility about their order once they had placed it”.

As a result, Sports.com called in urgent proposals from a slew of new 3PLs and carefully selected a new partner. They made sure to analyze the last-mile capabilities of these 3PLs, especially their capabilities around last-mile order tracking, visibility, and transparency provided to the customers once the order had been placed, once it was “out for delivery,” and, right through to the point it was delivered at their customer’s doorstep.

Result: Within a few weeks of the new 3PL assuming order-fulfillment activities, Sports.com found a significant improvement in this matter. While reverse logistics is an inevitable part of all e-commerce businesses, the trick is to minimize it to the extent that it doesn’t hamper company profitability and performance.

With their modern, automated dispatch system like GPS-enabled last-mile software with advanced data analytics and real-time two-way communication with customers and on-ground delivery teams, they were successfully able to:

  • Keep customers informed in real-time about the progress of their packages right from the time that the order was placed.
  • Take requests from customers with regards to changed delivery addresses, rescheduled delivery windows (etc.).
  • Manage their internal resources (e.g. delivery teams, fleet vehicles, driver availability) with efficiency so that such changes can be executed with the resources that they require.

The quarterly review revealed that after making these changes, Sports.com saw a significant reduction in its earlier problems with delivery logistics, especially for customers that had been unhappy with last-mile tracking and visibility of their orders. 

Conclusion: As is evident, firms must use modern-day tools like last mile delivery software to track their last-mile logistics so that both customers and logistics teams can work in sync.

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