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What is Last Mile Carrier Tracking and How Does It Work?


Published on: May 4, 2022


For online shoppers, expectations have never been higher — especially when it comes to shipping and last mile tracking and delivery.

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the supply chain challenges it’s created, people have become more reliant than ever on e-commerce to navigate stockouts and stay-at-home orders. This means that seamless delivery experiences have taken on a new priority in the eyes of customers.

Expectations for “fast shipping” have only gotten faster, while white glove delivery experiences like scheduled delivery times and real-time order tracking are fast becoming the table stakes in e-commerce. So, how can brands navigate this ever-changing environment and meet sky-high customer expectations?

In this post, we’re going to explore the importance of last mile carrier tracking, and how businesses can implement it into their logistics supply chain.

What happens during the last mile delivery phase?

“Last mile” is a common term for the final stage of an online order’s journey to the end customer. Last mile delivery tracking is an associated service offered by businesses, 3PLs, and shippers to enable customers to check their parcel’s tracking status during transit.

Last mile tracking is all about enhancing supply chain visibility for the business and for its customers. When both have access to a consistent flow of real-time information about shipping and delivery, parties see a greater chance of on-time delivery and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

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The benefits of ecommerce last mile tracking

Implementing last mile carrier tracking can help a business unlock several benefits. Consider the following.

It helps to reassure customers and build trust

Delivery anxiety, where customers worry about the status of their online order, is a widespread problem in e-commerce. Delivery anxiety usually stems from a lack of consistent communication from the retailer post-purchase This causes customers to have doubts about the quality of the delivery process.

By investing in last mile delivery tracking and providing customers with regular notifications, brands can build confidence in their delivery capabilities. This means a better overall experience, and a higher likelihood of shoppers choosing to purchase from you again.

Improve brand experience and perception

If a parcel goes missing in transit or arrives late at its final destination, this isn’t going to reflect well on your brand. While retailers have little control once an order is in the hands of FedEx, USPS, or DHL this isn’t how the customer sees it. People tend to blame brands for order fulfillment issues — even if it’s not the retailer’s fault.

As such, if issues arise during the final mile of delivery, today’s customer expectations dictate that the retailer is responsible for putting it right.

By having robust shipment tracking information at your disposal, it’s possible for retailers to identify potential issues ahead of time and mitigate them before they escalate. This means an optimized delivery experience — and a happier customer.

Decreased customer support issues

Of all the customer inquiries that e-commerce support teams receive, “where is my order?” is easily the most common. The result is that customer care teams are swamped with requests to retrieve order or delivery status information, which takes time away from solving more complex problems.

Real-time package tracking software is the ultimate self-service tool to help customers take charge of their post-purchase experience. Being able to check the ETA of an order independently reduces the number of inquiries your support team receives, freeing up more bandwidth for other tasks.

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Reduce order fulfillment disputes and chargebacks

Although chargebacks are usually associated with e-commerce fraud, they also happen for genuine reasons. For example, if a customer places an order and receives no tracking number or estimated day of delivery, they’re well within their rights to pursue a chargeback.

Too many chargebacks can be damaging to a business’s relationship with their bank, so it’s in your best interests to keep chargebacks to a minimum by providing order tracking information, either via the shipping company or tracking technology embedded in your website.

How does last mile carrier tracking work?

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of last mile carrier tracking, let’s look at the elements involved in the process.

Offer real-time transit information

Today’s customers have high expectations for transparency during the delivery process. Studies show that 21% of shoppers wouldn’t buy from a brand that offered no or limited order tracking.

We’ve grown accustomed to mobile apps that track delivery routes in real-time, from grocery deliveries to restaurant orders. Not having access to this functionality can cause anxiety for consumers, especially if they’ve paid for expedited shipping.

Offering real-time delivery tracking gives your customers full visibility during the last mile of delivery, a period that can be prone to error thanks to a lack of delivery route optimization. By tracking packages from the moment they’re loaded onto delivery trucks, your business can look for ways to reduce efficiencies and lower delivery costs.

Give customers the ability to communicate with delivery personnel

Many brands end up being middlemen between delivery personnel and their end customers. There’s a far easier alternative: Allowing your customers to communicate with delivery personnel directly.

It’s important to remember that it’s your customers who hold critical delivery information, such as gate codes to gain access to a complex or a secure place to leave a parcel. By enabling them to give these instructions directly, it’s far less likely information will get lost in translation.

Provide email and SMS alerts

Even when an order and delivery tracking hub is available to them, shoppers will still appreciate it when you make the effort to update them at regular intervals, such as when their order has been shipped or is out for delivery. These proactive communications are a sign to customers that your brand is organized and has the delivery process well in hand.

Fashionette, for instance, proactively notifies customers about important updates to their orders using a branded email.

Although email is the most common channel for order updates, SMS is another great option that businesses should consider. Many brands worry that using SMS to communicate with customers can come across as spammy or intrusive, but surveys show that this isn’t the case; nearly half (48%) say that they like businesses to use SMS for tracking updates!

Provide proof of delivery

The delivery person arrives at the correct address, drops the parcel on the doorstep, and heads off. Another customer order successfully closed, right?

Not exactly. Believe it or not, the customer journey doesn’t end at the point of delivery; it ends at the moment the customer is aware that their order has arrived. This is why offering customers proof of delivery (POD) is vital to end the customer experience on a good note.

Thanks to the rise of porch pirates, customers want to retrieve their parcels quickly when they arrive, especially if they’re in an insecure location. Sending them a photo of the parcel on their porch — a practice pioneered by Amazon, is a great way to alert customers.

Why is last mile delivery difficult?

The last mile has become more complex and difficult over the last few years for a variety of reasons. Ecommerce retailers had to adjust rapidly as consumers took to online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic at never-before-seen rates. At the same time consumers expectations for Amazon-like delivery experiences grew. Consumers also want a more omnichannel experience these days with choices for buy online pick-up in store and curbside options. These make fulfillment a little more challenging from a retailer’s perspective.

While having their own in-house logistics infrastructure may be a possibility for the world’s biggest brands, most must rely on commercial carriers or third-party providers to get their products to consumers’ homes. That can lead to visibility issues and problems that are beyond the retailers’ control, but that still affect their customer satisfaction and can have an impact on revenue and profitability.

What is good last mile strategy?

A good last mile strategy will depend on the size of an ecommerce brand, how distributed their customers are, and what their customers expect for the timeliness of deliveries. The ultimate goal is to provide an effortless customer experience which takes coordination across retailers, carriers, shippers and third-party providers a like. It means sharing data through technology integrations so that each company can deliver on their promises. Post-purchase experience platforms are one way that retailers are looking to improve their last mile performance.

KPI importance in last mile

Looking at key metrics can help retailers better understand their last mile performance. Here is just a sample of KPIs that ecommerce logistics professionals look at:

  • Perfect Order Delivery Rate the number of orders that are delivered to the right place with a complete order that is damage free and has all the correct paperwork included. While it’s not common to reach perfection, it’s a good indicator to monitor overtime to understand the effectiveness of improvements or quickly identify any troubling trends.
  • Customer Order Cycle Time the measurement of time from the moment the order is placed until the item is delivered. That includes processing, packing and shipping. It can be further broken down to each of these phases to get a good feel for how much time each takes and where refinements can be made.
  • On Time Delivery the number of orders that arrive at the final destination at the right time. While late deliveries typically get more bad press, early deliveries can also cause customer frustration. If a customer is not home to receive a package and then has to reschedule a delivery or pick-up it up elsewhere, it can impact satisfaction and drive up customer service contacts.

How can retailers implement ecommerce last mile delivery tracking in their business?

Ensure your systems integrate seamlessly

Behind every front-facing online store is a patchwork of tools and platforms that connect together to turn orders into shipped packages.

From your e-commerce platform to your warehouse management system (WMS) and delivery service, smooth integrations are essential. If just one of your integrations goes awry, this could have knock-on effects.

For example, your e-commerce platform not integrating with your WMS could prevent new orders from coming through to your warehouse, resulting in a delay to fulfillment and shipping. This is particularly troublesome for customers who have paid for same-day delivery.

To avoid scenarios like this, make sure that your team can respond quickly to integration issues when they arise to prevent your operation from being affected.

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Choose the right Operations Experience Management platform

Coordinating a customer-centric last mile experience is a big task for any retailer, especially when they’re also responsible for managing a range of other touchpoints.

If merchants try to manage everything in-house, there’s a real risk that they will end up spreading themselves too thin.

This is why it’s a good idea to seek outside help by working with a third party logistics company or post-purchase management provider like parcelLab. Our experience in the logistics industry makes us the ideal partner in managing consumer expectations and creating the perfect last mile strategy for your business.

Proactively communicate with customers

Communication. Communication. Communication. It’s important to remember that what might seem overbearing to your business actually comes across as attentive to your customer. In the world of order tracking, there’s really no such thing as too many updates.

Take for instance, LIDL, which provides customers with automatic updates, such as delivery has been delayed.

Rather than waiting for your customer to come to you with queries about delivery speed or order status, your brand should be proactive in bringing this information to them, whether that’s in the form of a tracking hub on your website or SMS updates they can subscribe to.

Final words

Last mile delivery tracking is a critical element in the post-purchase experience that helps to alleviate delivery anxiety and prime customers for a smooth delivery experience. By creating a customer-centric communications strategy that prioritizes convenience and real-time updates, your brand can leave shoppers with a favorable impression that drives them to purchase from you again in the future.

Let parcelLab help you implement last mile delivery tracking through our robust Operations Experience Management platform.

Frequently Asked Questions

What technologies enable real-time last mile tracking?

Real-time last mile tracking is enabled by a suite of technologies that work together to provide accurate, up-to-the-minute information about the location and status of a delivery. These technologies include GPS for location tracking, mobile applications that allow delivery personnel to update the status of a package in real time, and RFID or barcodes for package identification and tracking. IoT (Internet of Things) devices also play a crucial role by enabling smart logistics, where sensors can monitor conditions and provide additional data points for tracking.

How do consumers prefer to receive delivery updates?

Consumer preferences for receiving delivery updates have evolved with the advancement in technology and the increase in online shopping. Most consumers prefer to receive updates through digital channels, such as email or text messages, as they provide convenient and immediate access to information. Mobile apps with push notifications are also popular, as they can offer real-time alerts and a platform for users to interact directly with the delivery service for any changes or preferences. Some consumers also appreciate the option to track their delivery on a live map, providing a visual and engaging way to see the progress of their package.

Are there differences in last mile tracking across countries?

The implementation of last mile tracking does indeed vary across countries, influenced by factors like infrastructure, technological adoption, and consumer expectations. In countries with advanced logistics and technology infrastructure, such as the United States, Japan, and many European countries, last mile tracking technologies are widely implemented and offer detailed tracking information. In contrast, in developing countries, the extent of real-time tracking might be limited due to challenges such as less reliable internet connectivity, logistical infrastructure, or the high cost of technology deployment.

What happens before the last mile delivery?

When you order goods online, your parcel shipment may start at the online retailer’s fulfilment centre, warehouse, retail store or with an external logistics provider. Logistics providers often have locations closer to your destination, making it easier for the online retailer to deliver orders within the expected time frame. The first mile refers to the time it takes for a package to be scanned by a logistics provider such as FedEx, UPS or DHL. Sometimes it takes several carriers to get your package to you, especially if your package crosses international borders. This time is known as the middle mile.

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