Who will own the last mile in the future?

The term “The last mile” describes the movement of people or goods from a transportation hub to a final destination in the home.

Some weeks back I ordered a HydroFlask (water bottle – can be recommended!) online from a German sports equipment company. Placing the order went really well – great user journey including a promise of delivery within 2-4 days.

However, then it went really, really wrong! The link sent to me for tracking the package showed no movement – ‘On the way’ was the status day after day. After 5 days without delivery or any kind of status, I tried to get in touch with customer service on phone and mail. Nobody answered the phone but I got one mail response saying that the goods was stuck at the warehouse and that it would be sent to me as soon as possible! Wow! After a heavy search on their webpage, I actually found a chat function, but I was rejected twice – simply cut off while writing! 11 days after ordering (9 working days) I suddenly and without any notice received my package. It had been put in the bicycle shed behind our house and I found it by chance. In the mailbox, I found a small lap of paper from UPS – without details like date, supplier, etc. According to tracking the package is still ‘On the way’ – 1½ week after delivery!

So – why is it essential for the companies to control the last mile? Because the last mile is THE most important part of the customer journey. This is where the expectant happiness is at its highest! The climax, one could argue. The last mile of the customer journey simply overshadows the overall process.

Recently, I discussed the challenge with some of my colleagues (Mikael Ekstrand, Johan Löfmark and Tommi Mäkinen), who are working on improving the last mile customer experience in the Nordics. Why is it such a big challenge for the company to control the last mile? How can the company improve the last mile user experience? How do they take control? How can they become more relevant? How can they personalize the last mile? How can they be increasingly flexible (based on customer needs) in regard to the delivery of goods? Moreover, we discussed – who will own the last mile in the future? The company where the customers buy their goods – or the delivery company? Who will put the final significant signature on the overall customer experience?

What did I learn from this discussion? Well, making the last (green) mile as joyful as possible is the responsibility of the company selling the goods and not the customer. Deal with it!

Second, one of the main challenges for the companies is, not surprisingly, to collect and share relevant and up-to-date data with the customer. Which is often caused by poor systems integration. It can be dealt with – if the companies acknowledge the lack of correlation between data – and, of course, are willing to invest what it takes to make the music play.

Third, there seems to be a trend making the last mile more complex and costly than it actually needs to be. Focusing on tracking the car instead of the single goods has shown to increase efficiency and keep the costs down.

Finally, since most customers are away from home when the delivery arrives, unattended delivery on inflexible times of the day has become a significant issue. Drones will, no doubt, be part of a more customer-centric way of delivery, as well as predictive delivery hubs, where goods are stored in the neighborhood, just waiting the for the customer to place their (usual) order.

Truly exciting!