How Last-Mile Delivery Has Evolved in South Africa

Last-mile delivery involves transporting goods and services as they move from the distributor to the consumer. One of the characteristic features of last-mile delivery is the efficient delivery of goods in proper condition within the intended time. Customers’ demanding quick and timely delivery is likely why there has been growth in last-mile delivery. We will look at the evolution of last-mile delivery in South Africa.

Last-mile delivery benefits

Last-mile delivery is the final step of transportation to the final recipient. Last-mile delivery comes into play when a customer places an order, and the process implies the journey a product makes from the warehouse to the customer’s door. Last-mile services involve problems such as effective route management, real-time order tracking and fast delivery services. Some solutions address the challenges involved in last-mile delivery, and we will discuss some of the benefits that the solution provides.

Order tracking

Modern customers demand transparency as they can be impatient. Therefore, they will not be pleased when presented with static tracking numbers. Last mile solutions assist in providing quick and transparent delivery services. With real-time tracking features, customers can track their packages in real-time from their smartphones. They will know when their orders are out for delivery as they will receive a live tracking link through custom emails or text messages. These factors will contribute to a better customer experience by providing access to delivery ETAs and real-time visibility into orders.

Automated route planning

Manual route planning is linked with human errors, resulting in delays, improper time management, and increased fuel costs. Last-mile delivery software has routing algorithms that will predefine the most cost-effective routes as they scrutinise factors like weather conditions, sudden road closures, traffic congestion, delivery urgency and the number of deliveries on a single route. Automated route planning and optimisation lead to planning plenty of orders in highly efficient delivery routes with just a couple of clicks.

Data-driven decision making

To ensure that you are on the proper development path, you will need to collect and interpret large amounts of data. Last-mile solutions are often powered with business intelligence in supply chain management and machine learning algorithms, enabling business leaders to make informed decisions based on the data they receive. With the analytics dashboard, businesses can examine critical operational metrics and driver analytics like on-time performance, distance travelled, customer feedback scores and number of successful deliveries. This can all be used to discover vulnerabilities and opportunities in last-mile delivery processes.

Improved delivery productivity

It is easy to keep track of individual drivers when you are a small company; however, as the business scales, it can become more challenging. A last-mile delivery solution will enhance productivity by ensuring drivers follow scheduled routes. The solution will reduce unnecessary delays and send alerts in case of contingencies such as changes, last-minute orders or cancellations. Using auto-dispatching, managers can analyse planned routes, assign couriers to orders, and get client addresses in real-time. These will speed up the delivery turnaround time and lower overhead expenses.

The growth of last-mile delivery in South Africa

The rise in online and e-commerce sales in South Africa has increased the need for parcel delivery. This has contributed to the growth in the last-mile delivery market. Additionally, the omnichannel supply chains continue to boost businesses in the logistics and transportation sector which facilitates the development of the last-mile delivery market.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe impacted countries’ economies worldwide. Throughout this situation, all industries began offering the best possible assistance regarding security and quality. The last-mile delivery market became more successful due to increased demand for online shopping. The growing preference for online purchases and sales is creating new growth opportunities for those involved in the last-mile delivery market.

Contactless delivery, for example, was in effect even before the pandemic. However, only a handful of third-party service providers had the infrastructure required to use it. Before the pandemic, shopping online was a slow-growing trend in South Africa. Shopping online and having products delivered to customers’ homes or workplaces was mainly for the convenience of time-strapped individuals who did not have to try a product out before purchasing it. Now, online retail has attracted a broader demographic of consumers.

Click and collect is a system where consumers can shop online and go in-store and collect their purchases, limiting their exposure time in stores and shopping malls. This option has become more popular as many stores, like fast food outlets, now have designated ‘click and collect’ stations where consumers can access their food orders and limit their interaction with the staff.

In the future, drone deliveries might continue to assist in the growth of last-mile delivery in South Africa. With the fast growth of artificial intelligence (AI) technology, businesses can program drones to autonomously deliver and collect parcels from anywhere in the world and offer near pinpoint accuracy. Companies such as UPS, which has a strong footprint in South Africa, have also started embracing drone-based contactless delivery with the help of its growing fleet of autonomous Wingcopter parcel delivery drones.