What Does Last-Mile Delivery Mean and How It’s Used

last mile delivery

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Curious about last-mile delivery? You’ve come to the right place. This blog will break down its definition, highlight key characteristics, and explore its wide user base. Plus, we’ll touch on alternative delivery methods.

You’ll leave with a clear grasp of last-mile delivery services and how to use them for your business. Let’s dive right in!

Last-mile delivery meaning

Last-mile delivery is the final step in getting a product to a customer. It usually means moving your product from a distribution centre or warehouse to the customer’s selected location—their doorstep or a nearby store. 

This phase directly impacts customer satisfaction, so making this step smooth and convenient should be one of your top priorities.

Key characteristics of last-mile delivery

Reliable, fast, and cost-effective delivery means positive reviews, more repeat business, and, ultimately, more profits. Let’s look at the 5 core features of last-mile delivery and how you can optimise them, so you can make this final step a real strength for your business

Being close to the customer

It allows shorter, more efficient delivery times, improving customer satisfaction. And it lets you offer fast shipping options like same-day or next-day delivery, which are increasingly popular among shoppers.

According to a 2022 study, 41% of global consumers expect their orders within 24 hours.

Pro tip: Use local fulfillment centres for swift and seamless delivery.

Customer communication

Clear communication is crucial for the long-term success of your business because it: 

  • Builds trust
  • Reduces uncertainty
  • Provides transparency

Keeping customers informed about their order status and expected delivery time allows for better coordination and ensures a more positive overall experience.

Pro tip: Set up automated SMS or email notifications with accurate expected delivery time information to keep customers informed.

Tracking and visibility

You know why customer communication. What do your customers want to know the most? The whereabouts of their package!

A recent survey revealed that 90% of shoppers actively check their packages. 20% even check multiple times a day.

Pro tip: Incorporate a tracking system with GPS and order status updates for complete visibility.

Flexibility and adaptability

Your company’s flexibility and adaptability depend on how many delivery partners you have. The more you have, the more flexible and agile your business is. 

Let’s lay out 3 main benefits of a reliable and versatile delivery partner network:

  1. Diverse delivery options—offer multiple delivery choices to customers with different needs and preferences, including express, standard, or even on-demand options.
  2. Volume changes don’t disrupt your business—you’re able to handle sudden increases in order volume (during busy seasons or promotions) with ease.
  3. Access to international shipping—you can broaden your customer base and expand globally.

Pro tip: Implement a multi-carrier shipping approach or establish local partnerships to adapt to customer preferences.

Returns management

45% of online shoppers expect to be able to return a product within 30 days, and 40% say they’ll abandon their shopping cart if they can’t return an item

So, developing a clear, user-friendly returns and exchange policy is paramount. 

3 steps to make the returns process as smooth as possible:

  1. Offer pre-paid return labels
  2. Conduct thorough quality checks when you receive the product
  3. Process refunds or exchanges fast

Pro tip: Offer convenient return options, like drop-off points or pick-up services, to enhance customer satisfaction.

Who uses last-mile delivery services?

Last year, the global last-mile delivery market was worth $151.87B. To put it into perspective, that’s around the same as the GDPs of Iceland, Costa Rica, and Latvia combined.

And the second-biggest category of last-mile delivery services is e-commerce.

So, it’s safe to say that the last-mile delivery user base is huge. It’s often used by e-commerce store owners who want their products delivered faster and cheaper without sacrificing customer trust and satisfaction.

One of the best ways to optimise the delivery is using last-mile delivery software. Softwares like Swotzy allow you to get:

If you’re interested, you can sign up for free and try it out.

What other deliveries are there? 

Local courier services cater to localized delivery needs in a specific region or city. They often provide quick, on-demand, and same-day delivery options. 

Downside—they offer limited coverage and are often quite costly.

Third-party logistics (3PL) providers offer various logistics services, including warehousing, order fulfillment, and transportation.

Downside—requires thorough research and can become pricey.

Postal services are still widely used for sending small packages because they’re a reliable option for national and international shipping.

Downside—not as fast as other options and offers limited tracking and visibility.

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