5 Ways Digital Technologies Help Elevate Last-Mile Services

a van driving down a street

The pandemic in 2020 accelerated the need to serve customers digitally on their terms — requiring rapid enablement of digital capabilities and deeper virtual engagement with customers. But that doesn’t mean it’s all new.

A good example of the effects of this evolution is in last-mile delivery and retail’s white goods industry. Those in furniture, home improvement, fitness equipment, consumer electronics, appliances and the like have known the importance of home delivery services for years. And with the events of 2020 hastening the ongoing shift to online shopping by five years (per IBM), retailers must continue to step up these last-mile services.

So, how can they do so at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — amidst this era of digital transformation? Let’s discuss five key ways companies can delight their customers with their last-mile home delivery services.

1. Customer-Driven Delivery

Seventy-three percent of consumers prioritize receiving a delivery at a convenient time over receiving it quickly, according to Capgemini. Speed is obviously important as well (99% in that same research cited it as a priority), but the importance of convenience trumps speed.

With advanced digital technologies, retailers can now offer consumer-controlled delivery, where customers select a narrow (1-2 hour) time slot at the time of purchase that works best for them (versus the current practice of receiving a 4-8 hour window the day before delivery).

2. Dynamic Pricing

With digital tools, airlines can price trips by factoring in the specific days you’re traveling, seat availability, holidays and more. For retailers, digital technology can also be of great use, enabling companies to offer early and late slots to potential buyers, with real-time surge or discount pricing (like Uber) based on delivery capacity at that time.

This capability will be a primary differentiator in the years to come, Capgemini notes, as customers will gladly pay a premium for convenience … just as you might for a non-stop flight!

3. In-Transit Street-Level Visibility

The recent trend toward street-level visibility of home deliveries has become important — and has become increasingly achievable using leading digital technologies. Companies can make it easy for consumers to know exactly where their order is as the truck drives to their home.

Keeping them “in the know” can build much-needed trust, as 88% say the ability to track shipments in real-time is critically important.

4. Professional Service Delivery

In reality, only a small number of your employees, like store associates and drivers, physically interact with the consumer. They are a representation of your company and key influencers for your brand — positive or otherwise.

Seventy-five percent of consumers think the driver’s  professionalism is essential and directly reflects the quality of the retailer. Incredibly, 82 percent in Capgemini’s survey say they share positive last-mile experiences with friends and family. And with digital technologies enabling your team to cross-sell and up-sell in the consumers’ homes, “white glove” delivery associates carry a responsibility you cannot let slide.

5. Customer Experience

Each of these elements take part in boosting the most important area of all: customer experience. Happy customers lead to repeat customers, and repeat customers lead to money. The stats bear this out:

  • 86% of retail consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience
  • 74% of satisfied home delivery customers intend to increase purchase levels with their preferred retailer
  • Retained customers are worth as much as 25 times more than new customers

This means last-mile experience is not only necessary to keep up; it’s essential to getting ahead and staying ahead — and building loyal, lasting customers, no matter what global upheaval comes along next.  

Praful Karanth is an industry executive advisor for hardlines and supply chain at SAP.

More on Fulfillment