Last-Mile Operations – Are You Ready to Handle Them During Sale Season?
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it. Many consumers, increasingly working from home and hesitant to deal with crowded public places, have shifted online for their shopping needs. Income cuts coupled with low optimism about the economy made consumers spend only on essentials during the initial days of the pandemic. However, the pattern might change during the upcoming sale season as things are slowly getting to normal and they would make the most of the non-essential offers.
As a retailer, one should expect the sale season to be a crazily busy period. Since the order quantities would be at an all-time high, the pressure to handle packaging, shipping, and deliveries of these enormous orders is going to be huge.
Having said that, last-mile operations are directly associated with the end consumers and affect them and hence should be dealt with the utmost attention. Even a small glitch could lead to a dissatisfied customer and a potential permanent loss.
From a broader perspective, factors affecting last-mile operations fall into one of the two categories as below:
- Customer’s choice: Factors like Product Demands and Customer Expectations are completely dependent on customer behavior and unique to each retailer and the pointers should come from past performance
- Company’s approach: Certain factors like Logistics and Warehouse Operations depend on the company’s infrastructure and its ability in adopting technology and the pointers should be taken from the other players within the industry
Now, we will talk in detail about the above-mentioned factors and the necessary solutions which can be implemented while planning for sale season:
Demand surges during this sale season are difficult to predict due to the possible stockpiling behavior and over-excitement of customers after a long gap.
Use historical data coupled with post-lockdown purchase history to identify products that were in high demand during the previous sale season and the post-pandemic period. Stock up on the required products based on these demand estimates.
Managing consumer expectations is a major challenge during peak delivery times. Ensure that customers are well-informed in advance about shipping timelines or long-term delays. Reward them for voluntarily choosing longer delivery dates and reduce the pressure on last-mile operations.
Implement contactless deliveries with the help of electronic proof of delivery (ePOD). It improves customer experience and streamlines last-mile operations both on and off the field.
Effective route planning and shipping are crucial during peak seasons to ensure customers receive orders in time. Use advanced route planning software that considers real-life limitations such as traffic congestion and zone-based navigation.
Use real-time fleet tracking software to keep a close eye on on-ground operations and avoid delays in deliveries. Use the same to allow customers to keep track of their orders. This ensures transparency all through last-mile operations.
Ensure that delivery agents organize the goods in trucks based on the optimized route to reduce the time spent at each stop and trace parcels in the delivery truck quickly.
Optimize the processing schedule to accommodate customers with multiple ordered items into multiple deliveries, striking a balance between customer satisfaction and operational costs.
Partner with third-party logistics (3PL) service providers in the regions where it is costly and time-consuming for in-house logistics. 3PL providers offer an extensive resource network providing significant advantages over in-house supply chains.
Warehouse activities could go haywire if not managed properly during this sale season. Manual sorting of delivery packages is both time-consuming and error-prone.
Schedule and prioritize deliveries based on factors like preferred delivery time of customers, vehicle type, shipment specifications (size, nature – fragile/ non-fragile) and allocate workforce only where overseeing is unavoidable. Deploying parcel sorting software will make this step very efficient.
Also, use historical data to identify clusters with high order traffic during the sale season. This information can be used in allocating sufficient resources and stocking up nearby warehouses with relevant products beforehand.
Irrespective of the nature or volume of your business, last-mile operations are an important step in the supply-chain and critical for survival in every industry. It presents a great opportunity to make services transparent, fast, and efficient. Therefore, to stand out as a brand and overcome the challenges of market competition, it is essential to focus on enhancing last-mile capabilities.