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Optimizing Your Last Mile for the Holidays

As we continue to progress into the holiday season, it's quite clear this year; holiday retail sales will differ from the past. Over the past few months, we have seen growth in online shopping in a way that the retail industry has never seen before. Reports from IBM discovered that the pandemic has accelerated growth in online shopping by five years or more.


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However, even as movements are still restricted, we can expect consumers to celebrate and purchase gifts. Thus, combining both facts shows that there will be tremendous growth in this year's holiday shopping trends. Still, it will be happening online instead of in malls. Experts are already predicting growth in e-commerce by over 40 percent, notwithstanding the already sharp rise over the last few months.


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Holiday Retail Growth Will Not Be Without Its Unique Challenges


Though it seems like good news that sales will be high this holiday, there are a few issues to resolve. According to, the expected growth in online sales shipping exceeds delivery capacity by 5% this upcoming season. Yet more consumers will continue to expect same-day deliveries or other ultra-fast delivery methods, thereby creating challenges for you. Without carefully avoiding deficiencies, higher demand impacts will cause late deliveries, severely damaging a company's reputation. Here's why - no holiday shopper wants Thanksgiving gifts, or celebratory items delivered the day after.


Therefore, to ensure that your brand emerges victorious at the end of the holiday, scaling and optimizing your fulfillment, especially last-mile delivery, is highly essential. With the right delivery systems and strategies, your brand can cut costs. It will also enable your brand to deliver a better customer experience to achieve sustainable growth and success. To help you make the right choices, you must take a few steps to gain an advantage in holiday retail this season.


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1. Create A Masterful Blend Of Fulfillment Options


A survey from Digital Media Solutions shows that 56% of consumers pick a brand because it offers in-store pickup. Yet, over 51% of shoppers will also want to buy things and send them to other locations. The latter statistics will be enormous trends as families are scattered geographically, owing to the pandemic's movement restrictions. Therefore, although it looks like an okay decision, offering one fulfillment channel may not cover demand during the holidays. Your customers demand a myriad of options, especially the latest such as BOPIS (Buy online, pick up in-store), curbside pickup, ship from store, same-day delivery, contactless, etc.

Nevertheless, we recommend creating a strategy that optimizes at least one fulfillment channel to prevent enormous costs. For instance, discounts can be attached to particular options such as curbside pickup. This will drive more consumers in that direction and reduce strain on other delivery options.


2. Leverage The Right Technological Solutions-By-System


It is vital to integrate the proper order management and transportation technologies to ensure higher fulfillment speed. Digitizing and automating solutions is no longer a choice but a necessity.

Technology will help your brand customize your delivery and fulfillment models while having real-time visibility on its impacts. It will equally help you forecast efficiency, prepare for whatever comes next, and further reduce supply chain costs.

Leveraging technologies with AI and ML capabilities can, for instance, forecast demand while predicting delivery times to meet your consumer's expectations adequately. Such tools are highly vital, especially as the holiday comes with a myriad of weather conditions that can impact shipping. Therefore, leveraging such tools can help your brand prepare for unexpected events.




3. Prepare for Exceeding Demands Over Delivery Capacity


To meet demand and maintain your reputation, you must improve your delivery capacity. This is vital, especially considering critical methods such as home delivery and same-day delivery, which pose unique challenges. A careful strategy should be implemented to use specific solutions that proactively combat overflow demand and boost efficiency. Some methods to consider include:

Provide avenues that promote order batching, which can drive more orders while reducing shipping and packaging costs.

  • Crowdsource or use third-party delivery companies like DeliverOL to offer leverage effective micro-fulfillment solutions. Such strategies can help your brand deliver locally and efficiently to boost satisfaction.
  • Consider customer ranking and order prioritization strategies to ensure that when meeting demands becomes an issue on occasions, you can prioritize top-tier customers.
  • Automation is no longer a choice. It is fast becoming the best way to ensure that you have an accurate understanding of your company's supply chain performance, especially last-mile delivery at all times. The best way to automate and gain the most benefit is by leveraging a centralized system that provides complete visibility over capacity, inventory, drivers, and fleets. That way, you can quickly make accurate decisions about delivery in real-time.

Consider outsourcing your delivery or overflow as needed. DeliverOL can help your brand implement custom delivery solutions that are tailored to your processes and needs appropriately.


4. Prepare For Rising Shipping Costs


Shipping demands are generally higher during the holiday season and is expected to get even higher this year. Therefore, as you make promotions and discounted offers, it is crucial to do this while noting the shipping constraints and costs you might incur. Consider beginning your promotions earlier. This will help your brand save on costs that may be applied later in the season.

Ensure your company integrates the right warehousing tools, as said earlier, to keep an eye on your delivery options in real-time. It is also vital to take great care of the products used for promotions. Ensure you are not discounting or making offers on products that might require independent shipping and inflate your costs. An excellent order management solution can also help you here by providing a clear view of your position per decisions made. It will also help manage the costs of transportation from distribution to micro-fulfillment centers.

There is also the issue of inventory. Ensure that you have stock in the right locations to effectively cut down your capacity to effectively fulfill your customers' orders and manage your shipping costs.

Again, Digital Media Solutions states that over 76% of retailers are currently storing inventory in local stores (micro-fulfillment) to fill online orders. Therefore, this is in-line with the microfulfillment trend and a worthy strategy that can help you further reduce shipping costs.




5. Remain Customer-Centric With A Focus On Brand Loyalty


According to the American Express and Forrester Survey, 57% of consumers say same-day delivery would make consumers more loyal to a retailer's brand. This alone will help certain brands precede others in the competition. However, it would help if you considered a lot more. The value you offer to your customers can significantly impact your growth long after the holiday season. Begin with a careful evaluation of all aspects of the customer's journey - from promotions, website UX/UI design to last-mile delivery. Every element, including the back-end logistics, must leave a lasting impression. Here are a few ways tips to fuel brand loyalty beyond delivery:

  • Consider real-time tracking, so your customers have complete knowledge of their order status. This establishes transparency in your operations while giving your customers adequate knowledge at all times.
  • Be upfront about what you can offer and avoid offering inventory that cannot be fulfilled efficiently during the holiday season.
  • We recommend offering efficient feedback channels, alongside post-order FAQs, to give your customers more knowledge to further imprint your brand in their hearts.

6. Be Mindful Of Your Returns Policy


According to the New York Times, 45 percent of Americans will return at least one gift. Therefore, your returns strategy will also influence overall sales. Consider adding free returns unless it isn't feasible. However, a study by Deloitte further shows that customers are highly concerned about your returns policy. Ensure you have a clear, transparent, and detailed return policy to ensure they don't have expectations you cannot deliver.

You can also consider returns in-store even if your customers order online to improve connections with your customers.


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Key Takeaways

Holiday online shopping is expected to be completely different from the past. By leveraging the right tools and implementing modern delivery solutions, your brand can gain the advantage while keeping an eye on shipping costs. However, your strategy should focus on the values and experiences you offer to your customers.


You must maintain focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences, regardless of the fulfillment strategy you put in place. This demands excellent forecasting off-course. The right tools and technique will help you reduce delivery costs and meet demands efficiently while leaving lasting impressions in your customers' hearts.


Holiday Retail Success

Holiday Retail Success

Guide to Optimizing Your Last Mile

Get the Guide

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