While last-mile delivery has always been an essential aspect of the product delivery process, it’s grown even more important in the wake of COVID-19. The last mile in a supply chain describes the final leg of the delivery journey, moving goods from their transportation hub to their final destination. Strategic organization of the last mile contributes to overall customer satisfaction and successful deliveries.
Last-mile delivery during COVID-19 became more complicated than it was in years past. Social distancing efforts and safety concerns caused delivery demands to skyrocket. Consumer behavioral changes resulting from the pandemic may be long-lasting, so businesses have to respond proactively.
Top 4 Challenges Caused by COVID-19
COVID-19 resulted in unique last-mile delivery challenges. Businesses have had to find ways to meet increased demands with long-term solutions. Additionally, the landscape is different than it was when last-mile deliveries first became popular. Companies that already had last-mile delivery services in place needed to focus on scaling up, while those without worked toward creating workable solutions.
Here are a few of the challenges facing last-mile deliveries due to COVID-19.
1. Safety Concerns
COVID-19 raised new safety concerns regarding dining, travel and leisure. For example, some consumers became wary about going to their local grocery store, so delivery services for groceries expanded. In addition, travel restrictions and essential-only travel mandates encouraged consumers to opt for delivery rather than product pickup.
At the same time, companies needed to prioritize employee safety and put measures in place to protect last-mile delivery personnel.
2. Shifts in Behaviors and Trends
Consumer behaviors and attitudes changed during COVID-19 due to safety precautions and fears. Shoppers became more likely to request product delivery within a reasonable driving distance, increasing last-mile deliveries numbers.
For example, many restaurant patrons are now more likely to order from home and in-person dining has been inconsistently available due to lockdowns in many locations throughout the country. Even with in-person dining permitted, restaurants had to prepare for increased delivery requests and to-go orders.
3. Customer Service
Maintaining high-quality customer service has been a challenge during the pandemic. Businesses have had to focus on providing timely and positive delivery experiences, including businesses that have never had to do so before. Even those with last-mile delivery familiarity needed to adjust to higher volumes while maintaining reputable customer service.
Meeting the demands of these changing consumer behaviors, safety concerns and customer service challenges contributed to a major logistical challenge. Such massive shifts in last-mile deliveries are a significant factor for supply chains — the final mile of the supply chain accounts for about 40% of total global logistic costs. A careful and critical approach to these changes is necessary for any business.
Last-mile delivery logistics solutions are vital to a business’s bottom line since the final leg is the most logistically challenging and expensive. For some companies, the concern is a new one.
4 Industries Seeing Shifts in the Last Mile
The most significant final mile delivery change after COVID-19 is the sheer number of industries affected. Some impacted industries have never had to consider the question of final-mile delivery before. Minimal delivery opportunities were available for these businesses in the past, so they’re approaching new territory.
1. Food Delivery
Since everyone needs access to food every day, the food delivery industry has seen some of the most dramatic shifts. While some restaurants have always offered delivery services, others have had to adjust. For many, a personnel shortage meant partnerships with third-party delivery services were necessary.
In addition to restaurant meals, consumers also need delivery for everyday grocery items. COVID-19 has kept many people homebound at some point during the pandemic. As of August 2019, only 52% of grocery stores in the U.S. offered home delivery or store pickup. By May of 2020, online grocery delivery web searches increased by 202%. During that time, grocery delivery and pickup sales grew from $1.2 billion to $7.2 billion.
Grocery delivery and store pickup have become staple offerings across the board. While the pandemic may temporarily shift some demands, stores that can offer delivery or pickup may still have a competitive advantage in the future.
2. Home Care
COVID-19 also increased the demand for in-home medical care. Hospitals, nursing homes and care facilities became overpopulated due to COVID-19 cases, and many remain overwhelmed beyond the height of the pandemic. Even if a lack of beds was not a concern, some individuals sought to avoid medical care facilities to protect themselves from potential exposure in a busy facility.
E-commerce for care, medicine and other medical necessities grew during the pandemic. Last-mile delivery opportunities for pharmacies and similar businesses have grown in scope and significance, and those able to adapt may be able to take advantage of a niche market in the future.
COVID-19 restricted the availability of many out-of-home entertainment options, such as movie theaters. With entertainment options limited, e-commerce for entertainment-related products has also grown. Consumers are now more likely to seek home delivery of entertainment products.
4. Household and Personal Care Items
The pandemic also saw a surge in deliveries of household essentials and personal care items — the kind of small, inexpensive products consumers used to pick up from local convenience and grocery stores.
Businesses have had to make careful choices regarding delivery expenses for such items. Since they’re inexpensive on their own, delivery fees are more noticeable. Companies have had to balance their goals to earn profits with their need to satisfy customers.
Structural Changes to Last Mile After COVID-19
COVID-19-driven changes in e-commerce and delivery have generated massive structural shifts in last-mile deliveries. Here are some of the ways last-mile delivery technology has changed:
- Increased demand: The increase in demand for delivered products has impacted countless businesses across various industries. Companies built for delivery service have had to meet the logistical challenge of swelling demand.
- Expanded demand variety: In addition, COVID-19 has led to a greater range of product types requiring delivery. Consumers are purchasing a wider array of products online, including small, inexpensive products available nearby.
- Emphasis on environmentalism: As you can imagine, a massive increase in product demand could have serious environmental consequences. As a result, numerous companies have committed to decreasing delivery-related carbon emissions. One way to do so is to use a bicycle delivery service for short-distance final-mile deliveries. Doing so can cut back on unnecessary emissions.
- Emphasis on logistics: The shifting consumer trends have caused businesses to put more emphasis on last-mile logistics. Reliance on third-party logistics or 3PL companies with first- to final-mile expertise has grown. These companies can help simplify deliveries with valuable insights and services.
Last Mile for Safely Transporting Vaccines
While last-mile delivery has grown more popular for things like sandwiches and bottles of soap, it has also served a more important purpose — last-mile delivery has become an essential aspect of secure vaccine transport. Equitable and timely accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines is a global concern. Vaccine transport presents a few unique challenges, such as:
- Cold storage: Vaccines require temperature-regulated storage. For instance, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine calls for ultra-cold storage. It must be so cold — minus 130 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit — that dry ice is necessary. The need for reliable cold storage complicates delivery efforts.
- Second doses: Patients who receive Pfizer or Moderna vaccines must get a second dose to strengthen their immunity. However, simultaneous delivery of both doses is not an option, as a three- to four-week interval must occur between doses. Ensuring everyone gets a second dose in the right time frame is another logistical challenge.
- Booster doses: Another issue is the need for booster doses after initial vaccinations. A booster dose should occur six months after the first two doses.
Future of Last Mile
Last-mile deliveries were subject to many changes in the wake of COVID-19. Some changes may persist in years to come. Adaptability and technological advances will be future priorities for any business offering last-mile deliveries. Maintaining the long-standing status quo will no longer be a viable option — instead, companies will have to develop innovative solutions to address last-mile delivery concerns.
Use Street Fleet for Your Last Mile Needs
COVID-19 has made last-mile deliveries more significant than ever before. Companies are facing new challenges and massive structural changes. How companies respond to these shifts could impact future success and growth. If you’re looking for a solution to address last-mile delivery needs, consider Street Fleet.
Street Fleet is a full-service delivery company with over 300 drivers and vehicles to meet your unique needs. We offer everything from dock trucks to bicycles, and we’re sure to have the most cost-effective and reliable solution for your delivery needs. Learn more about Street Fleet’s final-mile delivery capabilities when you contact us for additional information or create an account today.