Why the last mile shouldn’t be your last priority


Why the last mile shouldn’t be your last priority

September 19, 2018


By Patrick McGuirk

As “anywhere, anytime delivery” becomes the new black, there’s an onus on retailers to ensure a frictionless experience across every touchpoint - from the very first mile to the very last one. 

Yet, the message I hear from retailers time and time again is this one: the last mile is priority, it’s just not the priority this quarter when it comes to improving customer experience. 

This is not surprising when you think about all the things today’s retailers are grappling with before they even get to the last mile. For instance, many have little idea how much stock they have or where it might be, while others are so worried about their high street business spiralling south that the opportunity to improve the last mile experience doesn’t make the transformation office project shortlist. 

When legacy retailer Toys R Us announced it was closing its doors many people, including one prominent UK CEO, asked why the children’s toy company hadn’t turned its stores into delivery warehouses and focused on ecommerce. What many failed to realise was that limited visibility over stock left the brand unable to improve its ecommerce offering and shift focus to improving their home delivery or click and collect offering. 

On the other hand, German supermarket chain Lidl just spent seven years and €500 million attempting SAP implementation, only to pull the plug. Another leading UK retailer told me that website issues in July was costing them £1 million per hour in revenue because the checkout function was failing on half of all transactions. 

Yet when it comes to the last mile, there are two things I’d urge all retailers to consider; first, the bar is often set so low that even the most incremental of improvements could have a remarkable impact on customer experience and company reputation - not to mention the bottom line; and second, raising that bar doesn’t have to be a sinkhole for time and money. 

How much is your last mile costing you? 

One of the UK’s largest online retailers estimates that a bad final mile experience results in a £112 cost for that lost customer. Couple that with the current customer mindset toward delivery - “don’t excite me, don’t be brilliant, just don’t get it wrong” - and there’s really only one way brands can go. Up. 

Better still, improving the last mile delivery experience doesn’t need to take seven years, millions of dollars and failed implementation. Thanks to technology, the timeframe we’re talking about is more like seven days - and a fraction of the cost of the customers brands stand to lose thanks to a bad last mile experience.

Partnerships between established brands and agile newcomers are cropping up all over the market, paving the way for a new competitive arena. And with so much innovation - think everything from environmentally sustainable delivery alternatives to customer-driven supply chain solutions - there’s opportunity for retailers to benefit from the last mile unlike ever before. 

So you know what needs to be done to solve every other mile in the customer journey, but what about the last? Maybe it’s time you found out.  

Want to join the last mile conversation? Become a member of The Last Mile Consortium Group on LinkedIn today.

Nicole Lyons