Last Mile Trends: Forecasting Supply Chain Resilience in 2020

Already, 2020 has been a big year for retail disruption as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to unravel the supply chain — particularly for complex last mile logistics. As consumers quarantine themselves and stores shutter, supply chain leaders are front and center in confronting the compounding impacts of driver shortages, warehouse outbreaks, and spiking online orders. 

With so much uncertainty, what should retailers focus on this year? Here are three things we’re thinking about:

Enable Fulfillment Flexibility By Rethinking Store Space During Reduced Foot Traffic

While physical stores are closed, brands can use their logistics networks and distribution centers to their advantage, connecting infrastructure to efficiently consolidate loads. We’ll see more retailers leverage distribution centers to provide more efficient services for customers and turn unused back-of-store space into automated, hyperlocal mini-fulfillment centers, following Target’s lead.

Some retailers have even pivoted to use ‘dark stores’ as localized fulfillment locations for spiking eCommerce demand. Store-to-store shipping and ship-from-store home delivery will help stores maximize their potential and get items to shoppers quickly.  

Uncover Last Mile Network Bottlenecks With Real-Time Supply Chain Data And AI

While there’s a lot of macroeconomic uncertainty in the months ahead, retailers can find certainty in their own real-time data. We know that 73% of shoppers won’t return after a poor delivery experience, so it’s critical for retailers to stay nimble and understand what is going on at all times with their shipments — before customers call in wondering where their orders are. 

As shortages reverberate through the supply chain, last mile network bottlenecks and delays are inevitable. However, with visibility into real-time data and the power to understand insights with AI, brands can make quick decisions and pivot when network bottlenecks occur. This will allow supply chain leaders to maneuver between channels and silos, understanding impacts to end-to-end forecasting, fulfillment options and more. 

Communicate With Transparency To Retain Customers

Once brands can connect their data sets together and uncover last mile bottlenecks, they can understand which customers are impacted by delays and communicate updates. Shoppers expect communication during the delivery process, with more than 93% saying they want a proactive alert via email or text message if a shipment is delayed.

If possible, segment messages to fit customer expectations and value — this is where connecting disparate data is key. Even if you don’t have a formal loyalty program, your organization likely has CRM data that can identify the 10% of your customers who make up an outsized portion of your revenue (and will remember how you respond to them in times of crisis).

Resilient Supply Chains Are Strong Supply Chains

If we’ve learned anything this year, it’s the importance of resiliency in the supply chain. There’s a lot of speculation about what will happen in the upcoming months, but it will be critical for retailers to have last mile, real-time data and insights to decipher signals from the noise. Those who can efficiently see and understand what is happening in their network can quickly pivot, keep their goods moving through the supply chain, and keep customers happy.

Are you wondering how you can get more visibility into your last mile operations during this unprecedented time? Check out some of our available resources on the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Our Parcel Pulse Network Dashboard pulls together our data of over 3 billion shipping events to help retailers identify where eCommerce fulfillment disruptions are happening.
  • As COVID19 impacts ripple across the supply chain, what should retailers do to keep customers happy? Stay up to date with trends and best practices in our blog, Managing Coronavirus: How Can Retailers Mitigate Supply Chain Shock?
  • This article was originally written for a Retail TouchPoints survey: ‘While Retailers Ramp Up Delivery/Pickup Options, Physical Stores May Be Key To Optimizing The Last Mile.’ Download the full report here.
Kirsten Newbold-Knipp Portrait
About the Author

Kirsten Newbold-Knipp

As Convey’s Chief Growth Officer, Kirsten focuses on marketing strategy and emboldening her team to drive results. Passionate about building successful teams from the ground-up, she has worked at companies ranging from the Ritz Carlton and Intel to Hubspot and Gartner. Kirsten is an animal lover, a wine enthusiast, and a polyglot. In her spare time, she volunteers as a Marketing Advisor to Austin Pets Alive, mentors students at MIT Sloan, and co-owns two companies. Kirsten Newbold-Knipp on LinkedIn