The residential final mile landscape is shifting violently in recent years, sparked by certain online retail market leaders such as Amazon aggressively pushing delivery providers to offer a more comprehensive tracking and around-the-clock delivery and notification service. From the United States Postal Service moving from planned shut down of Saturday service, to becoming a key Amazon.com final mile carrier including Saturday and Sunday delivery, to the promise of drone delivery, last mile delivery companies are increasingly asked to accelerate delivery while investing heavily in the latest technologies to improve visibility for partners and end customers.
Crowd-Sourced Final Mile Delivery
It was not very long ago we had but a handful of choices for our final mile delivery to residential addresses. In the last 5 years the number of potential carriers has grown exponentially, with billions of dollars flowing into the space by venture capitalists, looking for the next big opportunity for crowd-sourced services. New start-ups and expanding tech companies such as ride-sharing giant Uber have created small parcel delivery in dedicated pockets provided by independent drivers and bicycle riders. Really, anyone with some availability and transportation can sign up and begin earning money between running personal errands or during lunch break or before or after their regular job.
Explosion of Technology in Last Mile
Everyone from behemoth legacy carriers to small affiliate and regional providers have adopted technology and mobile connectivity in order to provide real-time updates on parcel whereabouts and estimated delivery times. Some software is so sophisticated, package tracking may be performed in near real-time, dropping a pin on a map and an astonishingly accurate delivery time estimate, accounting for interim deliveries.
Hyper-local Local Delivery Hubs
Growing Ecommerce businesses are beginning to find it more advantageous to have multiple mid-sized warehouses strategically placed in cities with last mile carriers either in-sourced or a local vendor rather than sprawling facilities serving several states at a time. The local effort drives delivery times down while managing costs, as spaces may be leased rather that purchased and built in the traditional large-hub model.
Robots, Drones, and Self-Driving Cars
While we may be a few years off from ubiquitous service, certain retailers are experimenting with automated delivery in certain test markets, leaving regulators scrambling to catch up with market demands. This vision of an automated fleet may be concerning to some, both from a safety and job standpoint, but for the near future, it will be limited to businesses with deep pockets for hyper-local delivery, and in most instances, requires an operator to oversee the transit and delivery, meaning a possible transition from driver to remote pilot.
From every angle, final mile delivery has and will continue to evolve, as consumer demand of immediate service continues to grow, and venture capitalists continue to invest in final mile innovation.