A customer-centric maelstrom of last-mile innovation

A customer-centric maelstrom of last-mile innovation

It’s all about the customer. The last-mile ends in her hands but the new power to which she’s been entitled, by new media and technologies, reaches far upriver, all along the supply chain.

Countless studies and articles, in the last year, have told us that the online shopper wants five things: control, choice, visibility, rapidity and to save money, the last in open contrast with the preceding four.

Rapidity and good value seem to be concentrated at Amazon: it’s difficult to beat something like Prime Now: 1-hour delivery at €6.90 or 2-hour windows for free (plus a yearly subscription at Prime, still at €19.99 in Italy).

Control, choice and visibility stand as the true battlegrounds for last-mile startups and traditional couriers wanting to play the e-commerce game.

Chosen-day and chosen-hour will soon be the new same-day, with added control by the end-user up to the reschedule-at-the-last-minute point (something at Milkman we already do through our mobile app).

Visibility plays on different layers, and it’s something Amazon still doesn’t do well (it might be the reason behind their efforts to build a stronger in-house delivery network): knowing that the parcel is coming today (that’s what happens with basic Prime) is of little or no use. Customers want to follow it minute by minute and already feel entitled to know when it will arrive inside a one-hour window (at Milkman we progressively narrow the ETA to a 30 minutes range).

Control means also the possibility to click and collect in-store or in a locker and demand a totally frictionless checkout. Checkout is so important that Amazon is ready to open a physical store in which you grab things and get out without ever touching a wallet or stand in a line. An announcement made two days after the giant revealed a new mobile app feature nicknamed X-Ray Vision that lets you scan the barcode of a parcel and know what’s inside. Not counting the Dash Buttons that recently arrived in Italy.

The echo of these new features is changing every aspect of the wider sector, from manufacturing (soon to become more and more on-demand) to warehousing (with stores increasingly becoming dislocated warehouses) to the science of returns or last minute sales.

All these efforts are made to bring the customers front and centre. Do you want to know how important a smooth shopping and delivery experience is for the average citizen? A study, conducted by Censuswide on behalf of eBay-owned Shutl, showed that 9% of UK’s respondents have pretended to be sick in order to wait in for a 2015 Christmas delivery, compared to 5% last year. 18% are prepared to leave a window or door unlocked and 36% are prepared to risk giving someone they don’t know well the keys to their house in order to avoid missing a delivery.

The numbers speak for themselves.

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Last mile represents the final step of the delivery process. This is commonly considered the most complex and costly part of the supply chain. Implementing a robust last-mile delivery strategy is essential for all couriers and logistics operators.

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