Solving This Peak Holiday Season in the Last Mile

This peak holiday season will be unlike any before, and brands must adapt accordingly. These unusual circumstances need to be met with creative solutions to ensure customer experiences do not skip a beat.

Among the many issues plaguing retailers this peak holiday season is the conundrum of last-mile delivery. With expected carrier delays due to increased ecommerce volume and surging transportation costs, retail brands must find a strategy to remedy this problem.

Aside from ordering an item online, delivery is the only other direct touchpoint a consumer will have with your brand. Variables such as carrier delays or transportation costs will be associated with your company if they negatively impact shoppers this holiday season. In this article, I will walk through a few ways to avoid this scenario by looking at alternative last-mile delivery options that will keep both consumers and brands happy.

Shortened Supply Chain: Pop-Ups or Micro Fulfillment

By reducing transit time for goods as much as possible, brands can remove much of the uncertainty involved in last mile delivery. This helps to solve two big problems many brands are facing this peak holiday season: Shipping delays and increased transportation costs.

With expected ecommerce volume at three times normal capacity, carriers are expected to experience delays in delivery times. Additionally, many are adding holiday surcharges based on distance, volume and proximity to the holidays.

To avoid these negative scenarios, retail brands should embrace alternative options like micro-fulfillment. This shortens the supply chain by dispersing product across various micro or pop-up distribution centers. Thus, transportation distances and shipping costs are decreased. Brands can leverage their existing infrastructure in new ways while delivering an optimal fulfillment experience for the holidays. This is crucial as over 700 million holiday packages are at risk of not arriving on time, according to Salesforce.

A New Application for the Gig Economy

Another solution this holiday season is tapping into the gig economy. Ridesharing platforms like Uber and Lyft, as well as food delivery apps DoorDash and Postmates, have risen as viable solutions to the last-mile delivery dilemma.

Many of these platforms already have a robust food delivery complement, so applying the same strategy to ecommerce fulfillment is a natural progression based on current market demands. This is a trend to watch as this holiday season will serve as a great litmus test for the role of the gig economy in last-mile delivery moving forward.

Shoppers should not be surprised if their packages are dropped off by a ridesharing platform as opposed to the typical carrier truck. The gig economy offers a more agile delivery solution and helps to localize the supply chain even further. 

Expanding BOPIS and Curbside Capabilities

For shoppers who are disappointed in recent brick-and-mortar retail closings, the next best thing is a great experience with Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS). Shoring up curbside pickup should be a key priority for brands this peak holiday season and into 2021.

This option is safe for consumers and eliminates issues with transportation delays and surcharges. However, omnichannel brands must streamline their supply chains to make expanding curbside a viable plan. This includes ensuring products are dispersed proportionately across geographies and offering inventory transparency to shoppers across sales channels. This creates an urgency to buy and also lets consumers know when they can pick up items at various locations nearest to them.

As we dive further into the 2020 holidays, retailers will be constantly faced with new challenges. By tapping into alternative fulfillment options, you can offset some of these variables and in turn deliver great experiences for shoppers. Especially this year, the success of your last-mile delivery is critical to winning during peak holiday season, so you can’t afford to leave anything to chance.

Mike Willoughby is CEO of PFSweb

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