E-commerce has opened avenues for previously unheard of transactions. An average consumer can now purchase almost anything online without ever having to set foot in a store. While this level of access has been liberating for customers, it’s proved challenging for companies and their carriers.
Last-mile delivery is an essential offering that can make or break the customer experience. The latest shipping tech solutions can assist companies to not only determine the most efficient and cost-effective delivery options, but to also track orders in real-time and immediately identify and remedy any problems that may arise. This is invaluable in an economy where the speed, price and quality of a company’s last-mile delivery offering can strongly influence consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Let’s take James for example, who ordered a new swimming pool heater.
Instead of having to buy through an authorized distributor, James orders the heater via his preferred website, AcmePoolHeaters.com. During checkout, he receives a range of delivery options at various prices.
An e-commerce-enabled order management system (OMS) connects to Acme’s warehouse management system (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to confirm inventory. Once availability is confirmed, the system allows James to place the item in his shopping cart and proceed to checkout. Before he can make his payment, Acme’s transport management system (TMS) checks the stored attributes of the product to see what shipping options are available. After determining that the item weighs more than 150 pounds and is a single piece, the system decides it needs to be shipped via less than truckload (LTL) and presents multiple options to James based on Acme’s negotiated rates and accessorials. Once James has made his shipping decision, the system takes his payment and sends his order to the WMS for fulfilment.
James then receives a purchase confirmation email letting him know he’ll receive a tracking number within 48 hours, and that he should expect direct communication from the freight carrier. The carrier’s online portal will keep James engaged throughout the delivery process.
When James’ order is ready to go, Acme’s WMS sends a pickup request to the applicable LTL carrier, complete with a system-generated Bill of Lading and James’s contact information. The carrier schedules a truck to pick up James’ order, which triggers the tracking email sent to James.
Next, James is notified via another email that his item has arrived at a local distribution center, and can now schedule his delivery window. He picks a time that works and opts into SMS alerts for extra communication. He receives a reminder message 24 hours before delivery and is given the option to reschedule if needed.
When the item arrives at the distribution center and is scanned into the carrier’s system, it triggers the email to James asking him to select his delivery window. Once he has, the delivery is placed on the last-mile team’s schedule. The carrier might outsource last-mile delivery to small local operators or may stay within their own network. Either way, the carrier’s software is used to coordinate deliveries.
On the day of delivery, James can be confident his product will arrive. He uses the carrier’s online portal to track the status.
The carrier’s system prompts the delivery team to text or call James when the GPS estimates they are 30 minutes away. Upon completion, their company-issued tablet allows them to electronically present the delivery receipt, preventing lost paperwork and allowing for immediate feedback on issues like damage or missing parts.
James is pleased with the ease and efficiency of the delivery. He signs the electronic receipt and is told he’ll receive a copy via email.
Once the system recognizes that the delivery receipt has been signed, it triggers a post-delivery customer experience survey.
James receives the survey via email and completes it within a few minutes.
AcmePoolHeaters.com has immediate access to James’ feedback, which allows them to continue engagement with their customer and monitor the quality and consistency of their partner carrier.
This is what’s called “The Amazon Experience,” which online buyers now expect from every e-retailer, distributor or direct selling manufacturer. Amazon is in a unique position to provide that experience because they control so many facets of the supply chain. Reproducing it is a challenge for some businesses, but it’s something that can be achieved with the right technology, processes and carriers. The technology and partnerships in your last-mile delivery are critical to ensuring customer satisfaction and controls.
This Darwinesque survival-of-the-fittest battle in today’s supply chain landscape will continue to grow. Carriers are increasingly prepared to handle these loads, and technology is easily accessible to provide the experience that consumers demand.
The future is bright in last-mile delivery because the focus is on keeping the customer happy, and happy customers buy again.