It was inevitable that the outbreak of COVID-19 would cause tectonic changes to last-mile delivery.
As COVID-19 continues, and people and businesses remain in quarantine, last-mile delivery continues to adapt to its new landscape and overcome the unexpected challenges brought on by the virus.
Throughout the outbreak, people and businesses have been put under lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus using social distancing.
While they remain in quarantine, a lot of them rely on direct delivery even though many have never used it before. This sudden spike in new customers has increased demand and placed a lot of strain on delivery services across the world.
And as the pandemic persists, last-mile delivery continues to adapt and change its landscape to overcome the unexpected challenges brought on by the coronavirus.
In response to the pandemic, governments around the world have passed restrictive measures to raise social distancing.
Although every country is handling the situation differently, all of them are urging their citizens to stay at home in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.
Confined to their homes, people now rely almost entirely on home delivery. What was once a convenience has become a necessary way to purchase and receive goods.
The quarantine has affected businesses, too.
Under the current circumstances, many companies either operate in a limited capacity or have halted their operations altogether.
Those businesses that remain open have had to adapt to how they sell their end product, be it goods or services, as well as how they receive supplies. In both cases, they depend exclusively on a delivery system.
The sudden surge of new customers means the demand for delivery services has skyrocketed overnight.
For companies that have provided a delivery service in the past, it is a great opportunity to advance in the market and bolster their bottom line. For others, it means catching up with the changing landscape and offering home delivery to their customers.
As a result, the demand for delivery services is higher now more than ever, and at every level.
High demand requires an equally high capacity from the supply of delivery services. Otherwise, it comes under a lot of stress to meet it.
In 2019, online sales accounted for just 10% of all retail sales in the United States according to the U.S. Census Bureau. For many other countries, that percentage is certainly even lower.
Now imagine, if that remaining 90 % of in-store purchases also had to be completed online, and then delivered to their drop-off locations.
The problem wouldn’t be with long-distance shipments moved across the global transportation network and dropped off at a single location. The problem would arise during the last mile of the delivery when each one has to reach the doorstep of the customer.
While it isn’t exactly the scenario currently unfolding, that’s what delivery services are potentially facing around the world due to the spike in demand for home delivery caused by COVID-19.
When there is so much pressure put on packing, shipping, and delivery workers, companies need to remember that their safety and the safety of their customers must come first.
With that in mind, companies that offer a delivery service need to follow and comply with the safety guidelines issued by the World Health Organization, as well as their respective national health agencies.
It is essential to inform customers about the new procedures and make them aware of the safety measures they need to take during this time.
What’s even more important during the current COVID-19 outbreak is to limit contact between people, and using delivery logistics software can be very helpful with that.
Advanced platforms have a system of notifications that can automatically alert customers when their package is near. It gives them enough time to plan how they want to pick up the delivery or provide details where they want the courier to leave the parcel before it arrives.
During these trying times, large numbers of deliveries, and new safety measures can push your service capabilities to its limits. But even now, it is vital to maintain a high level of service quality.
Hopefully, this situation won’t last too long. When things return to normal, most of your new customers will want to continue using your services. And if you provide a memorable experience to them, it raises the chances of doing exactly that.
Many customers are still new to the concept of online shopping and home delivery, especially when it comes to items that they usually buy at brick-and-mortar shops such as food and drink.
That means they still may be in between brands. The delivery service you offer might be exactly the difference that tips the scale in your favor.
Making sure your business continues to make deliveries quickly, accurately, on time, and without damage can all raise the value of your service in your customers' eyes.
But seeing how these new circumstances dictate how you operate the delivery service, it might also help to look at ways to optimize it for extra efficiency.
The way you used to manage and operate last-mile delivery before the COVID-19 outbreak may have been sufficient at the time, but the different landscape (and the challenges that arrive with it) requires inventiveness.
As social distancing raises demands, putting more pressure on your delivery service, running operations more efficiently is the key to maximize the number of deliveries you can take on.
The key is automation.
Companies that were using fleet management, tracking, and route optimization software before the pandemic had started are handling the current delivery demand much easier.
The use of software allows them to be much more agile when it comes to how they schedule, plan, and execute deliveries. It goes without saying how important that is now when orders are arriving round the clock, while resources are spread thinly.
Having a central hub that can receive orders, send them out, and track them in the field also helps in case a driver unexpectedly gets infected and starts showing symptoms during drop-off.
In case that happens, a driver can simply contact the operations manager to get to the nearest hospital for treatment, while the manager can react immediately and re-route other vehicles in the fleet to pick up and drop off the remaining deliveries.
So much depends on delivery right now. The role it plays in the lives of your customers can’t be underestimated. It is proving to be a vital tool in the fight against COVID-19.
But the effects cut both ways. As such, the consequences of the pandemic have reshaped the landscape of last-mile delivery.
It has taken a global pandemic to completely turn people’s perception of delivery, from the convenience of a few to a potentially new way of doing things. But it has also revealed major weaknesses in the current system.
By raising demand, the coronavirus has exposed the limits of existing capacities, underlined the need to automate and optimize, and highlighted even more than before the importance of service quality.
For companies that meet these challenges head-on and successfully overcome them, the possibilities are endless. And when the quarantine is lifted, their future looks bright.