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70% of consumers cite the convenience of delivery as a major driver when making purchases online, and recent Descartes' research reveals that 48% of customers are unwilling to make another purchase from businesses that deliver their items late.
There is undoubtedly a growing demand for effective and precise final-mile logistics, but driver shortages and the continued increase in online shopping are posing serious problems for the retail industry.
The UK has long been plagued with the well-known issue of a delivery driver shortage, while Brexit may have made matters worse, the covid pandemic exacerbated the issue by causing the loss of around a year's worth of driver tests and training, just as online retail sales skyrocketed.
According to the Logistics Skills Report from 2019, before COVID-19, the number of drivers was already declining at a pace of 16,000 per year, and this rate is still far from being replaced quickly enough. Recent World Economic Forum research claimed that the surge in last mile deliveries would continue after the pandemic ended.
In the meantime, consumer demand has not decreased despite people being able to visit physical shops again (ONS data shows that internet sale as a percentage of total retail was for Oct '22 +7% more than Oct 2019 pre covid). How can retailers and delivery companies make home delivery sustainable for the business and the environment?
A successful company depends on delivering a favourable customer experience, and for online shoppers, a reliable delivery service is essential for their satisfaction and part of that customer experience journey. Consumer expectations are constantly growing and changing, younger customers place a higher importance on sustainability, but they want their items delivered at a time and location that works for them. If logistics operations want to develop and remain competitive, they must satisfy all of these demands cost effectively.
Although some may view this as a tough task, there are ways to accomplish these two goals at once. To overcome driver shortages, logistics must be as effective and streamlined as possible to prevent active drivers from being burned out. If delivery routes run efficiently and are seen to be achievable not only does this help drive sustainability but also the retention of drivers.
How then can this be accomplished in reality?
Transform sustainability from a challenge into an opportunity.
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Road transport operators can deliver more items in fewer miles by implementing advanced route optimisation and delivery scheduling software. The best time-saving routes for drivers will be used, and they can be diverted to avoid unexpected traffic problems. Electric vehicles can also be supported with the addition of range details and the availability of battery charging stations. Descartes' route optimsiation software can easily integrate various types of vehicles, including e-scooters and bicycles, easily supporting a company's road to net zero.
Retailers and transport companies should make sure that the online process is clear and easy for the end consumer. To increase first-time delivery rates and reduce needless return trips, it is important to inform customers of the progress of their deliveries and any delays. Descartes' research discovered that 65% of customers preferred multiple delivery options, and more than 50% sought real-time order tracking and visibility.
Customers can be provided with a variety of appointment alternatives at the point of sale that can be realised with the delivery resources available, and incentives can be offered to encourage the selection of a delivery slot that is closer to one currently scheduled, enabling planners to maximise delivery density, reduce costs and C02 emissions. This is only possible with a route optimisation solution that offers continuous real-time optimisation of deliveries. Consumers can be provided with the opportunity to choose an "eco-friendly" delivery method that consumes less CO2 by combining orders, which is advantageous for fleets and customers alike and can be expected to boost overall customer satisfaction.
Descartes' route optimisation software helps in the battle against climate change and has saved over 552,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions while reducing fuel usage of their clients by 5% to 25%. Adopting fleet optimisation solutions will mean that vehicles operate to their full capacity and that businesses who employ these solutions will further increase their operational sustainability.
Analysis of traffic data is necessary in order to adjust delivery schedules. The ability to significantly boost a fleet's delivery capacity and guarantee customer satisfaction by taking into consideration the varying traffic speeds at various times of the day and profiles for each type of vehicle, such as bicycles, adds to this potential and unlocks further benefits.
In order to further promote sustainability, telematics data can be utilised to provide fuel efficiency reports and assist in changing drivers' bad driving behaviours, lowering engine idling, revving, and speeding as well as enabling a comparison of the fuel consumption for the various drivers and vehicles. This information will assist in pinpointing areas for improvement when teaching drivers to drive more effectively, as well as aid to save expenses associated with vehicle maintenance and service.
By introducing operational improvements and lowering fuel use, organisations can further prove that they are doing all possible to move toward a net-zero objective that is also requested by customers and required by the government.
Logistics companies should concentrate on retaining drivers and lowering driver turnover while the UK has a driver shortage problem. Commercial driving can be stressful, and poorly planned routes may leave drivers unable to complete deliveries. For drivers to feel more confident that they can complete their day's work without having to make changes mid-route, (e.g. going over the speed limit, violating drivers’ hours regulations, failing to meet obligations for timed deliveries), optimised routing software that evaluates a wide range of factors, including drivers' hours compliance, must be used. Fleet managers will benefit from being able to keep their current driver pool and employ more drivers rather than finding replacements.
Humans are not as good at recognising patterns as artificial intelligence and machine learning and may not spot that an experienced driver is 10% more productive than a new driver. If this can be recognised, then route plans can be modified and personalised in a way that enables drivers to finish their delivery round while also enhancing their productivity and minimising stress levels.
Driver productivity will rise by utilising the modern route optimisation and delivery scheduling software and by automating route planning prossess. For large organisations, this might be the equivalent of not having to hire dozens of new drivers. Using route optimisation software Descartes' clients have boosted their delivery capacity by up to 35% and decreased operational expenses.
These green business solutions may help organisations that want to adopt more sustainable business practises, as well as long-term benefits that are in line with consumer preferences and governmental objectives and requirements.
Because 35% of customers said they would rather shop elsewhere than wait for a long delivery time, businesses need to implement systems that assist with streamlining deliveries, making them more efficient and protecting their drivers while maintaining their brand and customer base.
To optimise your fleet today, get in touch with one of our experts.