5 Last-Mile Delivery Trends to Look for in 2018

Last-mile delivery is incredibly popular with consumers — who doesn’t love the ability to have just about anything delivered directly to your front door? But for those in the supply chain, it’s incredibly inefficient and much more expensive than the alternative, especially when you start to consider the distance between residential homes in rural areas.

So, what new trends in last-mile delivery can we look forward to in 2018 to reduce costs and improve efficiency? Here are five.

1.    Utilizing New Technologies

Self-driving cars are already making their way into the mainstream market for commuting purposes, but they may also change the face of last-mile deliveries. Self-driving delivery cars, robotic deliveries and even drones could be used to make these residential deliveries possible.

Everyone knows UPS has been testing delivery drones, but in addition to needing work, these drones are currently limited by FAA regulations that prevent them from being used out of sight of the operator. Nonetheless, their small size gives them the ability to travel to places where people can’t.  Since drones can be used to reduce overhead & increase the speed of delivery, it’s only a matter of time before businesses overcome these potential problems.

Self-driving cars will likely be the first of these advances to be implemented. Marble and Yelp Eat24 started a robotic food delivery program in San Francisco, but they're not entirely autonomous as of yet —  a human still accompanies the cars in case they encounter a problem. In spite of this need, they could be used for everything from food and pharmacy delivery to parcels, in the long run. 

This move toward autonomous delivery could improve the efficiency of last-mile deliveries by eliminating the need for humans. These services could also deliver for 24 hours a day without the need for breaks or vacation.

2.    Instant Gratification

Most people expect to wait a few days when they order something online, but that time has been getting dramatically shorter in recent years. Amazon has 58 hubs — and probably more by now if we're being honest — scattered across the country near major urban centers for people who can't wait for their online order. These hubs for Amazon Prime members allow the selling giant to offer same day delivery, sometimes within a couple of hours of order placement.

Amazon is currently the only major company offering this kind of same-day delivery. For others, two-day delivery is standard, but smaller sites may take even longer. This gives Amazon an advantage when it comes to those last-mile deliveries — the inherent cost and inefficiency of these shipments is offset by the sheer number of people who just can't live without instant gratification.

3.    Evolving Postal Services

In 2014, Amazon started working with the USPS to offer Sunday parcel delivery for its customers. It began in big cities like New York and Las Angeles, and over the last four years has rolled out to cover the majority of the country.

Delivering through the USPS is more cost effective for most companies — FedEx and UPS may be able to go directly to a residential address, it’s an additional stop for them, whereas the postal service is heading there anyway.

The USPS might need to take a lesson from other country’s mail services — the New Zealand Post delivers food, too! They started delivering KFC to bolster their flagging income early in 2017.

4.    Incorporating the Gig Economy

Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and Fiverr are all part of what has been dubbed the ‘gig economy’ — sites that allow users to earn money while essentially working for themselves. This gig economy is moving into the last-mile delivery industry, as well, allowing companies to offer swift delivery without actually having to hire or maintain a delivery fleet.

UberRUSH is a subsidiary of the rideshare app Uber that allows drivers to deliver parcels for a variety of different companies. Amazon has their own internal crowd-sourced delivery program too, Amazon Flex, which will enable drivers to deliver packages for the online giant using their own vehicles. Some more populated areas even allow delivery workers to carry packages on bicycles instead of cars.

5.    Golf Carts: They’re Not Just for Golfing Anymore

During the last few years, you’ve probably seen UPS-branded golf carts scurrying around neighborhoods in Kentucky, Florida, California, Minnesota, Georgia or Michigan during the holiday seasons. This is UPS’s answer to busy holiday season deliveries — instead of consolidating all the packages into a single truck, the shipments can be broken down by neighborhood and delivered from a golf cart.

The carts can only operate on roads where the posted speed limit is 35 mph or less — so only in residential neighborhoods — but it can help to break down the nearly insurmountable holiday delivery season into smaller, more manageable chunks.

This idea isn’t universally loved, but it does offer a unique look at ways to potentially improve the efficiency of last-mile deliveries.

Last-mile deliveries aren’t the most efficient way to run a business, but they aren’t going away anytime soon. These trends will hopefully make it more efficient and cost-effective to offer instant gratification for consumers, while still maintaining a functioning business.

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