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Viewpoint: The importance of a holistic approach to last-mile delivery

This commentary was written by Arshaad Mirza, co-founder of Delivery Solutions. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Modern Shipper or its affiliates.

The retail landscape is rapidly changing due to the consumer’s desire for speed and instant gratification. More specifically, last-mile delivery has evolved as a result of the paradigm shift caused by food delivery and Amazon Prime, which heightened people’s perception of delivery. For example, a person can get their meal ordered and delivered to them within 45 minutes. Similarly, most purchases on Amazon are delivered the same or next day. Customers, unsurprisingly, reacted favorably to this level of instant gratification and want it applied to all sectors of retail delivery for the brands they interact with. This need for an optimized last-mile delivery model is now consumer-driven and has transcended into every touchpoint for retailers.

Experts predict that retailers will invest in and implement inventory optimization platforms and last-mile orchestration to meet this demand while still dealing with the challenges of the ongoing supply chain crisis and product production delays.  However, most companies begin their journey by taking a monocular approach to this orchestration, focusing solely on a single provider resulting in a small subset of the last-mile fulfillment (pickup, delivery, ship from store, parcel lockers, etc.) spectrum. This leads to disconnects in retail operations and the inability to provide customers with a wide range of fulfillment choices and post-purchase options across a retailer’s entire product aisle. 

A holistic approach to last-mile delivery is essential because it focuses on customer experience at its core while streamlining and bringing efficiency to the whole process to balance the unit economics of the distribution channel. This holistic orchestrated delivery approach provides retailers with optics on every aspect of their digital interaction with consumers, such as inventory, last-mile fulfillment, post-purchase experience, etc., enabling exceptional data-driven customer service. Below are three reasons why this approach is necessary for last-mile delivery. 

Machine learning capabilities: Retailers are turning to companies such as Delivery Solutions that can provide a robust single API and dashboard for last-mile delivery orchestration with “self-healing” capabilities that bring reliability to last-mile performance across its SaaS platform. The comprehensive strategy to orchestrated delivery is based on service capability, quality, rate shopping, etc. among numerous delivery providers to get the best matched delivery option for each transaction. For example, once a retail partner selects the criteria and services that fit their business requirements on the dashboard, the delivery orchestration takes place behind the scenes seamlessly to present appropriate options to the front-end customer. Self-healing, a crucial machine learning component, eliminates the need for merchants to manually cancel, reconstruct, and notify the delivery provider of modifications or fulfillment issues. The platform can provide the ideal end result for both the provider and the consumer in order to fulfill the promise of same-day delivery while predicting any difficulties and pivoting automatically to avoid delays. Using this strategy is especially critical for preventing losses and unforeseen risks to distribution and supply chain channels, as it allows the business to stay focused on the customer.

Multi-vendor strategy: Companies like Delivery Solutions partner with multiple delivery providers, including Instacart, Uber, Lyft, Bungii, Shipt, UPS, and FedEx. This takes away the hassle of singular integrations, contracts with each partner, and operating in silos. Retailers are not limited to one vendor for fulfillment, allowing them more flexibility and service coverage when fulfilling and orchestrating orders coupled with keeping costs down through rate shopping. Overall, this multi-partner strategy makes it so that it doesn’t affect the retailers to switch partners mid-cycle. Imagine one delivery service cannot accommodate a pick-up or experiences surge or unforeseen downtime. In that case, it’s easy to select another delivery partner so that nothing disrupts the customer’s same-day delivery.

Post-purchase customer communication: While last-mile delivery is the main focus, retailers should also consider customer satisfaction after a package has reached its destination. A holistic approach to last-mile delivery allows retailers to monitor the post-purchase experience as well. This technology manages intelligent communication with regards to the transaction in process as well as notifying customers of the latest and greatest from brands and promotions that they may be interested in. Retailers, in turn, can leverage these consumer experience data points to continuously evolve orchestration algorithms driving excellent customer outcomes.

A more holistic approach to last-mile delivery integrates and standardizes fulfillment operations under one platform, creating a seamless process for both the retailer and customer. From browsing to purchasing and post-purchase, experience-driven holistic orchestration aims to bring the customer back for more.

About the author

As a co-founder at Delivery Solutions, Arshaad Mirza reimagined the e-commerce space, modernizing shipping with third-party orchestration and same-day delivery to best serve both retailers and customers. As an end-to-end service, Delivery Solutions streamlines the shipping process while providing an invaluable opportunity for retailers to extend their brand into areas they might not have otherwise had access to. He believes that every interaction a customer has with a retailer should be through the sacred lens of that retailer’s brand. Mirza spends his days making that a possibility for incredible retailers who hope to enhance their online shopping and shipping experiences for customers.

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