Research shows that online shopping has increased considerably over the last 18 months. According to Statista, in February 2021, 75% of people were shopping online more than in March 2020 pre-pandemic. Demand has risen and so have consumers’ expectations of their delivery experience. To compete in the online space, we’ve seen many retailers start to offer next-day or even same-day delivery. Customers do not see the old 3-5 working day timeframe as quick enough.

However, it’s not just about speed. Customers also expect clear and timely communication – they want to know what time and date they’ll get their package exactly and have a choice in this. This year alone, 38% of adults in the UK received the dreaded “sorry we missed you” card through their door – despite being home at the time. The rise in orders, the decline in drivers, unrealistic delivery targets, and the shorter delivery timeframe has led to a huge strain on the whole delivery system.

E-commerce continues to rise and grow with new technology making it even faster and more convenient. Yet, one part of the retail journey, last-mile delivery, is still plagued with customer experience issues. Improvement is needed. So, what’s next for last-mile delivery?

Improved communication with customers

The illustration shows a man carrying a package out of a delivery truck.

Currently, every courier operates differently. Sometimes you’ll receive a text to let you know your delivery is coming. Other times you may get an email, phone call, or not hear anything about your delivery until it’s at your door. Some couriers may operate through an app that lets you track how close your driver is.

There’s no consistency with how we receive our updates. If improved, however, this is an area of last-mile delivery that could boost customer experience and driver efficiency. In case customers knew how and where to reach them, their driver could leave the package in an agreed location with neighbours or ask for a rescheduled delivery without the wasted time of courier drivers.

The booking delivery system

We may also start to see a more standardised process when it comes to delivery. Food deliveries in the UK are all based on a booking system. This leads to less missed deliveries and is more efficient for the drivers as they don’t have to plan around making a return journey.

Royal Mail now offers a similar service for packages. You can choose a time that you will be available to sign for a delivery or rebook a missed one when you know you’ll be home. This helps set realistic targets for drivers – as a booking system would allow them adequate time to drop off each delivery. With each customer knowing their timeslot, they’ll be prepared to receive their package.

The use of analytics

Applying analytics can help delivery companies to determine bad and good performers. A proper analysis might indicate that some couriers need additional training or support to do their best job. It also enables quality to become just as important as quantity, leaving horror stories of packages thrown over the gate or left out in the rain as a memory. This will allow recipient perception of the delivery industry to shift from severely negative to positive.

The power of social media

An illustration shows a phone app used for online shopping and delivery tracking.

We recently carried out insightful research, monitoring over 8,000 tweets from customers toward courier services from DHL to Hermes. We found that 83% of all tweets to the UK’s top courier companies are negative. One of the greatest reasons for complaints across most regions was late delivery, with other counting misplaced packages and wrong-address deliveries.

This highlights that the delivery system still has room for improvement and needs to address many areas. By monitoring how each driver is working and delivering, retailers and couriers will pinpoint these issues and mitigate the consequences more quickly and efficiently.  

Sustainable future

Environmentally aware consumers see that the current delivery system is unsustainable. The expected number of packages we’re likely to order will treble by 2030. This means triple the number of deliveries and triple the amount of pollution. Still, we can already see examples of more sustainable delivery methods.

Our takeaway food deliveries rarely get to us by car. Bikes and electric scooters have proven to be the fastest and most efficient way of navigating larger cities. The use of electric vehicles is already on the rise for package delivery, and it will soon become standard as consumers want to see courier companies taking responsibility for their emissions.

Gone will be the days of missed delivery cards and looking for parcels in ‘safe places’. Delivery is broken, but we can put the tools and processes in place to support this continued growth in e-commerce. With technological innovation and improved communications, we can make delivery a positive and smooth experience.

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