Whenever the ‘future of deliveries’ topic crops up, one of the first things that springs to mind is the swarm of Amazon drones piercing the skies as they deliver packages to the homes of their 200 million Prime subscribers.  

And while this may not be something we see quite come to fruition tomorrow, it’s certainly a very real possibility as we move towards the future, as big companies push technological innovation to help them provide a superior customer experience.

But we’re not all Amazon. And we don’t all have the capital that they do to be able to invest in this level of distribution network and infrastructure. 

So what can we do?

Well, the answer is simple. 

We can leverage the power of the technology at our disposal today, to meet the growing demands of consumers, improve our operational efficiency, and boost our customer’s experience. 

‘How do we do that?’, I hear you ask.

Well, let’s dive right in, and we’ll be doing so using some of the wisdom shared by Jonathan Jenssen (CEO) of Relay and Matthew Price (General Manager UK & Ireland) of Uber during the ‘Technology’s Future in the Final Mile’ discussion at The Delivery Conference 2023 event hosted by Metapack in February 2023. 


Using Technology to Meet Growing Customer Demands

Customer demands are an ever-changing landscape. 

As technology evolves and the shopping experience changes, the consumer demands change with it. 

We live in the age of on-demand, and that seems to have brought with it a growing level of impatience amongst the everyday consumer. 

People want their content, information and products, and they want them NOW.

45% of consumers say that in the last year, they’ve abandoned a basket because either the delivery times weren’t clear, or they couldn’t get the product fast enough.”

Matthew Price – Uber

As a result, we’ve seen retailers working hard to shorten delivery windows, from the old standard of 3-5 days, through to next-day delivery, and now in some instances, with products being delivered on the same day, and even within the hour of being ordered.

Ten years ago many retailers wouldn’t have even considered that there would be a need for next-day delivery, and neither would consumers.

Similarly to how Blockbuster didn’t think there would be a need for renting videos or providing an online streaming service. But that’s a whole different story.

As we all know, failing to deliver what the customer wants can be detrimental to business longevity. 

What do your customers want?

At the conference, Matthew Price of Uber stated that “70% of consumers say that they would order more from their favourite retailer if they offered same-day delivery. And 45% say that in the last year, they’ve abandoned a basket because either the delivery times weren’t clear, or they couldn’t get the product fast enough.”

Over recent years, both Uber Rides and Uber Eats have scaled dramatically to deliver taxis and takeaways to consumers in the on-demand, palm-of-the-hand fashion that they’ve become accustomed to. 

And now, Uber is leveraging the enormous network of Uber Eats couriers they’ve built up to offer same-day delivery solutions to restaurants, grocery stores, pet stores and retailers, using their white-labelled delivery solution, Uber Direct.

Uber Direct will provide a solution that helps many local businesses to be able to deliver goods to customers within a matter of hours, or even minutes, of the items being purchased online. 

And it just shows how Uber are aiming to deliver against the growing demands of not just their customers, but the customers of any number of businesses worldwide. 

One of the best ways to understand how to use technology to meet the growing demands of your own customers, is to understand exactly what it is your customer wants. 

And what’s the best way to do that? Talk to them. Ask for feedback. Put yourself in their shoes. If you were your own customer, what would you want? What are your expectations when you order from other retailers? What would your demands be?

Once you understand exactly what you’re dealing with, you can utilise both your existing and new technologies to either fine tune your existing processes, or completely revamp them from the ground up.


Boost Operational Efficiency Through the Clever Use of Technology

Boosting operational efficiency is something every business strives for and it goes hand in hand with reducing operational costs. 

In the age of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and analytical insights, technology has made this much more possible for delivery operations than it ever has been before. 

Now we’re not saying you need a top-tier tech infrastructure in order to boost your operational efficiency. 

But what you do need to do is know how to look in the right areas to gather the relevant data that will help make this possible, and then have the technology in place to help you implement it.  

Optimising the Last Mile

Jonathan Jenssen, CEO of Relay, pointed out that “60% of delivery costs are incurred during the last mile of the delivery”.

If you can become more efficient during that final mile, it enables you to spread these costs over a greater number of deliveries, allowing you to both boost operational efficiency, and reduce your costs, simply by improving a single part of your process.

Relay are looking at ways to not only make the last mile more efficient, but also the final ten metres of any given delivery, as a way of boosting operational efficiency. 

Jonathan raised some interesting questions to help you start thinking about the areas where you can make improvements for your own business:

  • Where do your drivers park to make their drops? (How close is the vehicle located to the actual delivery point?)
  • How can your drivers learn about a particular location from the experience of one of your other drivers?
  • Where is the best place to park to serve a particular set of streets?
  • How many packages is a driver able to get out a single stop? 
  • How many stops does it take to deliver six packages?

Jonathan concluded by stating “If you can drastically reduce those handover times [at the point of delivery], you can become more efficient”

Start Optimising: The questions to be asking of your business

Whilst these are great questions to ask, when trying to optimise the very last step of the delivery process, here’s a few questions we thought we’d add to the mix that you can consider when trying to optimise the ‘last mile’ of your delivery operation:

  • How can I plan my delivery routes more efficiently to reduce total mileage?
  • Is there a way to optimise my routes to make deliveries in the most efficient sequencer?
  • How can I capture detailed proof of delivery information quickly?
  • Is there a way to ensure I’m maximising the number of packages that goes out on each vehicle?
  • How can I see how long each of my delivery runs takes?

You may have guessed it already, but Stream can help you with all of these! Find out how here.

And we’ve even got an Analytics add-on to help you get even more insights out of your delivery operation.

How can Tech Help Ensure Successful Deliveries?

As consumers, we’ve all experienced the “we’ll be with you between 08:00am and 7:00pm” delivery notification, only for the driver to inevitably turn up at 08:30pm when everyone in the household has gone out for the evening. 

And of course this is just one of a wide variety of reasons why deliveries can occasionally fail.

However when deliveries do fail, it can be a costly event for retailers, and these costs certainly stack up.

What is the cost of failed deliveries?

Address verification platform, Loqate, suggests that the average annual cost of failed deliveries is £200,000 per retailer. 

Yep – Two. Hundred. Thousand. Pounds. Per Year.

When that sort of money is at stake, it makes complete sense to be questioning what you can do to ensure the number of successful deliveries is maximised. 

So how can you ensure your customers know exactly when to expect you, and what technology can you use to ensure successful delivery?

Real-time delivery tracking.

Real-time delivery tracking gives your customers up-to-date ETAs and a visual view of the driver’s location so they know exactly when and where they need to make themselves available. 

When they know exactly when to expect their delivery, it’s a win for everyone. 

  • For the customer:
    They can plan their day accordingly, be available to sign when the delivery driver arrives, and not have to worry about when the second attempt to deliver their goods will occur. 
  • For the retailer:
    They don’t have to incur redelivery costs, they don’t have to store the package at a depot while it’s planned onto a new run, and they don’t waste any time waiting around on doorsteps because the customer decided to pop into the shower or go to the shops. 

And this all ties into managing your customers’ expectations, making sure you keep them informed and updated about the status and location of their order, and giving them the information they need, when they need it.  

Email or SMS delivery notifications are also a great way to keep customers informed!

This in turn helps your business to reduce the number of failed deliveries it experiences, keeping customers happy and profit margins healthy. 

How can you start planning for the future of deliveries?

To summarise, we’ve highlighted above some key areas where your business can harness the power of technology to boost operational efficiency, reduce costs and deliver a superior customer experience. 

With those in mind, what steps can your business take to start planning for the future of deliveries?

Well first, learn from your customers. 

Understand what their demands are and look at ways that technology can help you meet them. And don’t forget to constantly review this, as it’s an ever changing landscape. 

Secondly, use technology to help you identify inefficiencies so you can work on these areas to become more efficient and reduce your operational costs. 

And finally, ensure that more deliveries are completed successfully, more often. 

Reduce the amount of time your business has to spend replanning and redelivering goods, and in turn, boost efficiency and reduce operational costs. 

See how our delivery management platform can help you become more efficient and reduce operational costs, using route planning, proof of delivery and real-time delivery tracking. Book a demo with our team today. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is real-time delivery tracking?

Real-time delivery tracking is the technology to give your customers the ability to see what the status or location of their order is at any given moment. It will provide a clear estimated time of arrival or delivery window/slot so that a customer can understand exactly when the delivery driver is likely to arrive.

What is the ‘last mile’ in deliveries?

While the ‘last mile’ doesn’t specifically relate to an imperial measurement when it comes to deliveries, what it does actually mean is the final leg of a journey for a package or parcel for delivery. This will often be considered as the stage where a package leaves a warehouse or depots and is then transported to it’s final destination, IE the customers doorstep.

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‘Technology’s future in the final mile’ segment at The Delivery Conference 2023, an event created and hosted by MetapackWatch on Demand >