The eCommerce revolution has brought dramatic changes to the business world. Customers in both the business-to-business and business-to-customer arenas have a host of new expectations when it comes to what they can obtain online and how they can obtain it. Businesses that provide products have been forced to engage with a new universe of technology designed to meet the new demands of consumers. The changes, which continue to evolve, have affected all areas of business, from product development to marketing, to fulfillment, and beyond.
Product delivery in the last mile is an area that has been affected by e-commerce as dramatically as any in the business world. Statistics show that more than two-thirds of those in the US are now shopping online, prompting an ever-increasing need for efficient delivery systems. Effectively meeting those needs has meant embracing innovations that leverage both the latest technology and out-of-the-box thinking.
Rethinking Last-Mile Delivery
Last-mile delivery, which is sometimes referred to as final-mile delivery, is a critical and complicated component of delivery logistics. It is the phase in which the product travels from the nearest distribution center to the customer’s location. It is widely thought to be the costliest phase in the delivery journey for businesses.
E-commerce has inspired a new category of business that comes alongside online and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to function as a reliable last-mile delivery partner. These businesses serve as a dedicated and localized delivery network that increases the speed and efficiency of the last leg of a business’s delivery efforts. Ideally, these delivery businesses provide API-integration with a business’s existing website or app to automate the delivery process from the point of sale.
Leveraging AI for Route Optimization
The new breed of delivery partners takes logistics to the next level by leveraging AI and machine learning to ensure that delivery routes are optimized. Rather than sticking to static delivery routes that are based on outdated data, AI optimization allows for delivery routes to adjust to delivery loads, customer timelines, and traffic conditions in real-time to ensure efficiency and to decrease the price of delivery.
The concept of mobile warehouses is another innovation driven by the need for delivery efficiencies. In some cases, delivery businesses mobilize from local warehouses where they receive bulk shipments from the businesses they serve. In other cases, couriers meet trucks carrying bulk deliveries at a predetermined location to receive packages for the last leg of delivery.
Serving Communities with Carbon-Free Transportation
In addition to increasing delivery efficiencies, transitioning to a new paradigm for delivery also allows businesses to decrease their environmental impacts. As e-commerce has grown, so has the environmental impact associated with traditional last-mile delivery. When localized options are embraced for last-mile delivery, it allows for more environmentally friendly options to be employed, including the use of hybrid and electric delivery vehicles.
Leveraging Innovations for the Public Good
While the private sector has driven many of the innovations that are improving delivery logistics, a wide range of initiatives designed to serve the public are benefiting from the developments. For example, in late 2020, Stanford Medicine launched a program known as Community Alliance to Test Coronavirus at Home or CATCH. The program, among other things, sought to address inequities in Covid testing by researching Covid’s impact on underserved populations.
The CATCH study posed a significant logistical challenge in terms of distributing and collecting the test kits due to the number of participants included in the study, their geographic distribution, and the speed with which the kits needed to be retrieved. The delivery technology developed for e-commerce, which included customizable APIs, AI-empowered route optimization, and touchless delivery tracking and confirmation, ensured the success of the study.
The enhancements that technological innovations have brought to delivery logistics are proven and available. They await the widespread adoption by businesses and other organizations that are willing to play a part in improving communities, the environment, and their own profitability by embracing new methodologies.
The author, Anar Mammadov is the CEO of Senpex, a logistics company that provides on-demand pickup and delivery services for business including retail stores, grocery stores, restaurants, health companies, e-commerce shops, and marketplaces. Senpex is the company that was chosen by Stanford Medicine to empower the delivery logistics for its CATCH study.