What is Last Mile Delivery?

JANIO

When Kathy looked up the status of her new dress’s delivery, she grew excited. The message she read: ‘Being delivered’. In just a few more days’ time, her dress would finally arrive at her home in Jakarta. What this means is that her dress has entered the last mile delivery leg of its delivery process. But then again, there’s one small question:

What does last mile delivery actually mean?

Last mile delivery is the final leg of the parcel’s delivery journey, usually from the distribution warehouse to the customer’s chosen address. This leg is crucial as it builds up to the point that matters most to any e-commerce customer: actually receiving the goods.

If you’ve offered parcel tracking with your online delivery, customers similar to Kathy will know which stage of the delivery their parcel is at. This builds anticipation for when the parcel finally arrives. It represents a chance for your brand or e-commerce store to leave a lasting impression as it’s one of the few touch points where the customer interacts with your product and service staff.

If you’re able to craft a seamless and memorable experience every time a customer receives and opens their parcel, it can strengthen your store’s brand image. However, nothing is more annoying to consumers than receiving a late, damaged or missing parcel. If the product arrives late or damaged, things could get challenging for your brand image quite quickly.

Getting last mile delivery right in a region like Southeast Asia may not be easy, but its benefits to your brand are definitely worth the effort. Before we get to some of the tips on last mile delivery though, it’s good to know what kind of challenges face last mile delivery in this region.

What makes Last mile delivery so difficult?

Last mile delivery, particularly in Southeast Asia, can be very complex. Southeast Asia is home to a diverse set of countries with a diverse set of geographical complexity and varying levels of logistical infrastructure like road and highway connections.

In Indonesia, a country consisting of over 17,500 islands, delivering a parcel from the distribution warehouse in Jakarta to one of the more remote islands would require firstly an aeroplane, then a speedboat. Planning and preparing for these logistical processes are necessary to ensure timely parcel delivery. As for infrastructural support, countries differ in capacity to support the physical flow of e-commerce logistics.

In Vietnam’s bustling cities such as Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, there is underdeveloped infrastructure which results in regular traffic jams. Understanding the local mode of delivery is also essential, as it is virtually impossible to reach the narrow alleys to deliver your parcel without using motorcycles.

In Bangkok, Thailand, traffic jams can seriously delay schedules. It poses a tough problem for delivery partners as the delay would result in them missing the delivery time slot, leading to a decrease in brand perception. Bad traffic that isn’t accounted for could lead to potentially missed delivery windows where either the carrier or the customer isn’t around at the allotted time.

However, different markets have different expectations when it comes to delivery speed. People in some countries really want fast deliveries while others are more willing to wait. The vital thing to note here is to carefully manage your customers’ expectations. Depending on the products you are selling and if they require international delivery, people might be willing to wait for 2 weeks. But if the delivery takes any longer, that’s when blood pressures will rise.

But now that we know all of this, what can be done to create a great last mile delivery experience?

Last Mile Delivery Best Practices for New E-commerce Merchants:

The challenges for last mile delivery may seem overwhelming and daunting. Nonetheless, the opportunity to ship to a thriving e-commerce market is too good to pass up! There are quite a number of suggestions to help you out which have been divided into 3 categories: convenience, transparency and costs.

If you’re a new e-commerce merchant, it’s likely you’ll need a partner to help you with your deliveries. This is especially true when it comes to cross-border deliveries. Covering convenience, transparency and keeping costs low then depends on choosing the right set of shipping partners in Southeast Asia. This part will act as a short guide on how you can choose the right partner. If you’d like to find out more, you can get the full breakdown here.

Convenience:

Your coverage of your target Southeast Asian country depends on the capabilities of your shipping partner. You’ll want to work with logistics service providers who have strong networks of logistics partners within your target country. This way, they would likely have a higher capacity for deliveries if they have many logistics partners on their network, and would also have the combined coverage provided by every partner they are currently working with.

You should also look out for shipping partners with expert local knowledge and a strong local presence. These partners would know best how to efficiently deliver your parcels to even the most remote locations in the country.

These days, customers may not necessarily have the time to be at home to receive delivered parcels. They might have busy schedules that see them working late most nights. To cater to this, you can consider having alternative delivery options such as delivering to parcel lockers or providing ‘click and collect’ services if you have a local store nearby. Providing a delivery window of your customer’s choosing can also help to increase the chances of your parcel getting delivered accurately on the first try.

Transparency:

In this day and age, people expect to be stay updated and informed as much as possible. This holds true when it comes to their parcel deliveries too. If it’s going to be late or if anything happened to the delivery, customers expect to be informed.

To provide them with clear communications and maybe even peace of mind, it’s good to provide a parcel tracking service with your deliveries. You can offer this if the shipping partner you’re working with provides accurate tracking capabilities to their logistics services. When checking out, your customers will receive a tracking code or number which they can use on either your or your shipping partner’s website to track the status and location of their parcel during its journey.

Coming back to setting the right expectations, you can work with your shipping partners to develop a delivery system that reflects reasonable delivery timings depending on where your customers are staying. Getting a reasonable time frame should allow your shipping partner to get the parcel to your customers without delays most of the time.

However, in the case that delays do happen, it’s good to have a plan on how to communicate these delays to your customers.

Costs and Delivery Experience:

While shipping isn’t free, many e-commerce stores are using low-cost shipping or ‘free shipping’ as a way to gain more sales at checkout. Even though it’s tempting, it’s good to know the expectations of your customers when choosing whether to prioritise quality shipping (fast, insured, reliable) over cheaper shipping which tends to be slower.

When it comes to speed, higher quality shipping means your parcel will have a higher priority shipping, which gets your parcel delivered sooner. Cheaper options like mail delivery will take longer as their shipping priority is lower. If you’d like to know more about other factors, here’s a deeper comparison of private courier vs postal service.

Your delivery experience can be topped off with a great unboxing experience. This is a period where you can inject more of your store’s personality when it comes to how the products are arranged, the look and feel of the parcel when it arrives and more. This has become quite a phenomenon with some Youtube videos dedicated to unboxing stuff. Here’s a great guide from Shopify on creating great branded packaging.

There are still other ways to delight your customers with a great shipping experience while managing your levels of convenience, trust and cost-levels. This list of steps to boost your last mile experience isn’t exhaustive but following them could be a good starting point to growing your e-commerce store particularly in a market like Southeast Asia’s.

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