A last-mile carrier could be a third-party logistics (3PL) or a fourth-party logistics (4PL) firm. An e-commerce business may choose a 3PL provider if it prefers to keep oversight of the delivery process while outsourcing shipment, logistics, and transportation of the parcel to the carrier. The 3PL carrier will even take care of packaging to ensure the good condition of the items when delivered to the end customers.
On the other hand, a 4PL provider takes care even of the logistics management along with control in the supply chain. The entire logistics operations are outsourced to the last-mile carrier. Thus, the 4PL firm assumes the overall responsibility of delivering the goods from the moment Step 1 of the process begins, until the shipment is delivered to the customer’s address.
These last-mile carriers are important for the Singaporean e-commerce market as it continues to expand with the volume of customers estimated to reach 4.1 million by 2025. By the end of 2022, it is projected to reach a value of S$9.9 million (US$7.3 million). Thus, there are more than enough service providers, making it a challenge to find and choose the best last-mile carrier to take care of the goods shipped by e-commerce companies to end-users in and out of the country.
Here is a quick checklist of the features an e-commerce business should look for in a last-mile carrier:
Features for Last Mile Carrier
According to a study covering Asia-Pacific (including Singapore) by non-profit business school INSEAD, about 80% of online shoppers prefer their ./ordered goods to be delivered on the same day. About 61% want their orders delivered in an hour to 3 hours. The same study found that up to 49% of internet shoppers are more encouraged to check out ordered goods when a same-day delivery option is available.
As the competition among e-commerce platforms, online businesses, and last-mile carriers continue to intensify, one of the major considerations for shoppers is the speed of delivery.
The race to actual delivery of the goods to customers’ doorsteps begins the moment the order is checked out. Whether the e-commerce business is using 3PL or 4PL providers would not matter to consumers; all they care about is how fast their orders can reach their addresses.
Modern customers won’t just sit around to wait for the delivery of their parcels. It is a must these days for a reliable last-mile carrier to facilitate delivery tracking and tracing, so customers can constantly monitor the progress of the shipping process. A good delivery carrier frequently updates delivery statuses and immediately communicates any delay due to unforeseen occurrences.
It is best if the last-mile carrier has a well-designed app to make this easily accessible to customers. Tracking numbers or codes for packages are assigned and provided for faster tracking on the app.
Clearly stated terms and conditions
An ideal last-mile carrier operates even on weekends. The company’s policies should also state limits on sizes and weights of parcels and even identify items they don’t accept for shipping, so customers have a clear understanding of whether their transactions could go on, to begin with. There should be staff to answer queries about the terms and conditions of the delivery process. Rates should also be accurate and updated to avoid unnecessary surprises.
3PL and 4PL providers usually handle boxing and packaging of every parcel to make sure the item will reach the end customer in the best condition. The last-mile carrier assumes the responsibility for this—the e-commerce business usually doesn’t have to be involved unless there are packaging preferences. This is a way to ensure the items are highly valued along the process.
The cost of shipping will always matter to any customer. E-commerce businesses prioritize practical rates, as the costs could greatly affect their earnings. Some last-mile carriers implement higher rates than others; the premium will cover the quality of the overall delivery experience. A business can establish a long-term relationship with a carrier and eventually enjoy cost savings in the long run — and ensure a constant quality of delivery, which will reflect well on the customers.
Reliable customer service
The best last-mile carrier has the right channels for addressing customer issues at every step of the process. The frontline customer service must address issues like damaged or tampered parcels. Likewise, there should be an acceptable explanation (and action) for any delay and worse, if the item is not delivered at all. Accountability should always be demanded from a service provider, and this must be properly and politely addressed by customer service personnel.
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Marketing professional, PR practitioner, freelance writer