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Guest Blogger

by Jack Underwood, co-founder and CEO of Circuit

Last-mile delivery is changing – the market projects growth of around £44bn by 2025, up from £23bn in 2018 and £29bn in 2020. As we see e-commerce accelerate, it is becoming an increasingly important part of the supply chain. However, problems plague it.

In 2021 38% of adults in the UK received the dreaded “sorry we missed you” card through their door – despite being home at the time. A hugely frustrating and costly issue for all, it highlights the lack of communication between retailers, couriers and customers. At the same time, we’re seeing customer expectations around delivery develop; our understanding of the service we can, and should, get is evolving. No longer does a three to five-day delivery window suffice. Instead, next day or even same-day delivery is becoming sought after. For retailers, this is a point of differentiation.

We’re also looking for a choice when it comes to receiving our deliveries. The world has spent 18 months in and out of lockdown. Now that it is opening back up again, so too is our desire and need for flexibility. last-mile delivery needs to develop in response both to the increased demand and changing customer demands. So, what can customers expect over the next five years?

The customer will choose delivery slots

We may start to see a more standardised process when it comes to delivery. Food deliveries in the UK are all based on a booking system. Customers can have their delivery at a convenient time, a time they have chosen. This leads to less missed deliveries and is more efficient for the drivers as they shouldn’t need to return to an address.

Royal Mail now offers a similar service for packages where you can choose a time that you will be available to sign for the delivery. This also helps set realistic targets for drivers – as a booking system would allow them adequate time to drop off each delivery.

A larger focus on sustainability

Environmentally aware consumers will see that the current delivery system is unsustainable. We expect that the 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. With this, the use of electric vehicles is already on the rise for package delivery. Still, it will soon become standard as consumers want to see courier companies taking responsibility for their emissions.

You’ll see only the best drivers

Driver analytics will allow couriers to expel those doing a poor job and hurting their brands. Quality will 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 transition from negative to positive. A search across social media platforms for the dialogue between customers and top UK courier companies reveals just how negative customer experience is.

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 most significant issues across most regions was late delivery, with other issues such as misplaced packages and deliveries to the wrong address also driving customer complaints. This highlights that the delivery system still has room for improvement and that couriers still need to address various 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.

Better communication for customers

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.

This is an area of last-mile delivery that could boost customer experience and driver efficiency if improved. If 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.

last-mile delivery is in high demand, and both technological innovation and customer expectation is inspiring change. While there is a long way to go to make the experience smooth and seamless, the pain points are known, and we are fixing the issues and create a better customer experience.

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