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Data & Technology

Last Mile Carrier Tracking: How It Works and 5 Ways to Make Yours Better

Data & Technology
July 29, 2021
10 min read
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Today’s shoppers have high expectations for last mile carrier tracking for online orders. Learn how you can improve your brand’s delivery tracking to meet consumer expectations.

What Is Last Mile Carrier Tracking?

Last mile carrier tracking is the information provided to the end customer that shows the status and often location of the package from the moment the shipping information is sent to the carrier. Today’s consumers have high expectations for the level of detail and the real-time accuracy of tracking information.

What is a Last Mile Carrier?

Last mile (or final mile) logistics refers to a package’s final trip in the logistics process: from the fulfillment center to the consumer’s doorstep or mailbox, usually by way of a postal carrier like UPS. Last mile carriers can also be regional couriers, or in the case of Amazon fulfillment, are directly connected to the fulfillment center fulfilling the order.

Last mile carriers like UPS go to great lengths to find the most efficient route from the fulfillment center to their final destination to both lower costs for shippers and decrease their carbon footprint. Merchants can ensure that they are getting the most efficient final mile delivery by adopting a distributed fulfillment network in order to store their inventory as close as possible to their end customers. By adopting a distributed fulfillment network, merchants can offer their customers 1 to 2-day ground shipping . This helps them meet growing customer expectations for 2-day delivery and save money on final mile delivery by eliminating costly long-zone shipments and next-day air.

The Importance of Last Mile Carrier Tracking

As shopping increasingly moves online, the delivery experience has become paramount for creating lifetime customers. This includes receiving order tracking credentials seconds after purchase, looking up shipment status on any device anytime, and receiving real-time shipping updates at all stops along the package’s journey – even the last mile. 

Children’s furniture and toy manufacturer, ECR4Kids learned first-hand that expectations for last mile carrier tracking could inundate their customer support team with consumer interactions without a scalable technology solution.

Watch ECR4Kids’ full story here.

The global COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an ecommerce shift that already was underway long before Amazon first introduced free 2-day shipping in 2005. Last year, consumers spent $792 billion online, accounting for 14% of total retail sales, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. This was a 32% increase from 2019, when exommerce already accounted for 11% of all retail sales.  

A smartphone in every pocket has created a new B2E ecosystem – business-to-everyone, everything and everywhere. Central to B2E is a customer-centric model that puts client experience above all else. This includes providing a fast, inexpensive, and personalized eCommerce experience from purchase to delivery

Today’s always-connected online shoppers have high expectations for delivery tracking. 93% of consumers reported tracking their package at some point during the delivery process, and a staggering 40% admitted to checking their tracking status at least once a day until the package was delivered.

As a result, sellers’ shipping strategy must include user friendly, transparent purchase tracking systems from order fulfillment through the last mile – the final leg of the journey when a package moves from a transportation hub to the destination. 

Put another way, consider how revolutionary Domino’s Pizza Tracker was when it debuted back in 2008 and how quickly it became a standard, expected part of the customer experience. 

For the first time, patrons could follow the progress of their order online from the time they clicked “Place Order” or called in an order until the pizza arrived at their door. Pizza Tracker also gave customers the ability to provide feedback directly to the store making and delivering their pizza, improving customer loyalty. 

The same obsession with superb pizza delivery service applies to personalizing the final mile of package delivery.

While the final mile is the quickest and shortest leg of the entire logistics process, it can be extremely inefficient and difficult to track. Increasingly, the home stretch involves independent contractors and multiple stops with low drop sizes, especially in rural areas where delivery points are many miles apart. Even in cities, the benefit of closer proximity is negated by delays due to heavy traffic congestion.

Consequently, final mile logistics is expensive, frequently reaching more than 50% of the total cost of shipping after adding up warehousing, fleet, route optimization, labor, and other associated costs, according to Business Insider

With customer lifetime value (CLV) on the line, how can SMBs meet customers’ expectations for tracking purchases through the last mile without raising prices, straining internal resources, or experimenting with risky new technologies and supply chain models?

Here are five last mile carrier tracking technologies merchants should have in place to provide an exceptional delivery experience from beginning to end: 

1. Real-Time Transit Information 

Customers expect real-time information about their order, including driver location, expected time of arrival (ETA), and real-time alerts about delays. Last mile tracking software should incorporate this intel and more into a user-friendly map interface. 

2. Text alerts 

Email is not enough today. Customers want to opt-in to receiving real-time SMS delivery notifications on their mobile phone. A text alert should be sent for at least the following events: when the order has been processed, the package has shipped, when the last mile driver is in route, the shipment’s ETA, and unexpected delays

3. Courier Communication

This is win-win for customers and the courier. Customers can call or text the delivery driver to overcome final mile logistical challenges, such as gate codes and parking. Also, the driver can ensure recipients will be available at the time and place of transfer. 

4. Proof of Delivery (POD)

Utilizing a mobile app, last mile carrier drivers can easily gather Proof of Delivery (POD) documents and other conformation that the recipient received their order as promised by the sender. POD includes signatures, barcodes, photos, package location, and other notes. This reduces fraudulent loss claims, while ensuring customers can locate their deliveries faster. 

As instances of porch piracy continue to rise, last mile carriers should take every precaution to protect packages until they are actually in the customers’ hands. Walmart and Amazon have begun to roll out garage delivery options, and according to a recent consumer survey by Ware2Go, 44% of consumers plan to take advantage of the service. In order to compete across all channels, merchants should consider either room of choice or full-service white glove delivery for large or high-value purchases.

In cases where white glove delivery is not an option, Proof of Delivery notifications can serve as a final barrier to protect against porch pirates. Merchants should encourage customers to set delivery preferences with the last mile carrier, indicating the safest location for package drop-off. Proof of Delivery should include a photo of the package in the customer’s preferred drop-off location to give the customer complete peace of mind.

5. Experience Rating 

Seconds after delivery, final mile tracking software should prompt customers to rate their experience. This feedback is invaluable to carriers and empowers buyers, cementing their brand loyalty and fueling repeat purchases. Feedback from customers about last mile carriers should be taken seriously. Most consumers indicate that if an issues resolved quickly and favorably, they are more likely to make a repeat purchase from the brand. As Customer Acquisition Costs continue to rise, the investment in ensuring a seamless experience for first-time buyers is well worth the cost if it drives up Customer Lifetime Value.

The Importance of Last Mile Tracking for Customers

Today’s consumers are accustomed to tracking everything that shows up on their doorstep, from their restaurant take-out (via Uber Eats, Grubhub, or similar apps) to groceries (through Instacart, Shipt, or similar services). In order to compete in today’s digital-first economy, businesses of all sizes need to be prepared to give consumers regular, real-time updates about the status and location of their order.

Last Mile Carrier Tracking for SMB’s

Last mile carrier tracking is essential for providing an exceptional customer experience. However, handling this in-house can be daunting for fast growing businesses and newcomers lacking the existing infrastructure of their larger, more established rivals.

Third-party logistics companies (3PLs) can carry the load but are often risky, constricting, and expensive, as sellers like LS2, the second largest motorcycle helmet manufacturer in the world, have experienced. 

For this reason, it often makes more sense for SMBs to outsource all pick, pack, and shipping services to a tech-centric, on-demand fourth party logistics fulfillment company (4PL) that provides inventory management services, a nationwide warehousing network, and guaranteed 2-day delivery. 

UPS created Ware2Go specifically to address this need. 

As experienced by CoolersByU, a provider of ready-to-paint coolers and kits, and others, the bulk of outsourced logistics solutions are targeted towards large enterprises. On the contrary, Ware2Go helps SMBs across a broad range of industries in all growth phases offer affordable, 1-2-day delivery service. 

To learn more about how Ware2Go can help you implement a fully integrated platform that meets customer expectations, please reach out to one of our eCommerce shipping experts.  

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