With such significant improvements and expansions, it is imperative that logistics equally plays a critical role in e-commerce retailing. I mean, we can hardly ignore how pivotal our vast and efficient logistical networks have been, particularly in supporting e-commerce. We have witnessed the progressive growth in logistical infrastructure, an advancement that has highly been linked and considered dependent on the growth of the e-commerce industry. Besides, businesses are now managing to meet a number of their logistical objectives including consumer or business delivery necessities.
Nevertheless, consumer demands, specifically wants and needs linked to service delivery, have slowly changed and consequently turned to be quite stringent if not demanding. In particular, e-commerce companies have found themselves addressing the “last mile” and “final mile” call, a concept that refers to the last stage of the delivery process, one that extends delivery to a customer-specified destination. Unfortunately, last-mile logistics are often too expensive for e-commerce businesses, which consequently makes order fulfillment through this process the most costly part of the supply chain. However, last-mile/final-mile logistics are hardly ignorable understanding that consumers will always form an impression about your brand largely based on the experiences they encounter.
To better reinforce our understandability on the last-mile/final-mile logistics concept, it is important to briefly evaluate the main players involved in the game. A typical last-mile logistics process largely includes three significant players namely: a) the customers, b) the merchants and c) the last-mile delivery providers. The listed entities hold their own respective responsibilities, needs and as well a few challenges.
Customers, on the one hand, represent a group of individuals with complex needs and wants. Of particular importance is that customers have continuously placed high value on specific delivery aspects such as flexibility, cost, speed and security, subsequently creating more demanding services from businesses. For example, having the room to select a number of destination points as well as the choice to specify drop-off hours (flexibility) consequently presents what clients consider as good consumer experience and ultimately what an e-commerce business needs to thrive. Talking of cost, a recent survey by Deloitte highlighted that consumers prefer or value free shipping and possibly expedited shipping. And yet with such demands coupled with increased competition, e-businesses still need to employ superlative customer services including offering doorstep deliveries to enjoy a piece of the marketshare.
Merchants, on the other hand, are often faced with dilemmas related to shipping rates and dimensional weight fees. Small e-commerce businesses tend to stress over shipping rates and related costs largely because they lack the high shipping volumes that large e-commerce businesses enjoy. In addition, these businesses hardly possess a large network of distribution centers, a factor too that builds concern and places them at a disadvantage unlike their larger business counterparts. Many retailers thus find themselves seeking better and more innovative delivery solutions.
Lastly, we have last-mile/final-mile delivery service providers, a group of agents that are often tasked with meeting the needs and demands of the prior two entities. Particular emphasis within this space is the domination of third party logistics (3PLs) firms, businesses that have increasingly participated in the last-mile/final-mile delivery services. 3PLs have acknowledged and appreciated the use of technology, more so utilizing specialized software, state-of-the-art mobile computers as well as web portals that have equally helped improve or ensure the smooth flow of information along the routing process. Hardly negligible too is the fact that technology has successfully facilitated the efficient management of various delivery engagements including peak times and costs, benefits that have consequently been trickled down to e-commerce businesses.
Altogether, the last-mile/final-mile approach an evolution of what could be considered a business shift to which only the quick to adapt survive.