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Optimize First-mile Sorting for an Improved Customer Experience

E-commerce logistics refers to the processes used to store and move goods for an online marketplace or marketplaces. E-commerce logistics begins with the flow of products from the manufacturer and continues until it reaches the end client. This includes inventory management as well as the selection, packaging, and shipping of online purchases. When people buy online rather than in person, the promised speed at which consumers get their orders may determine whether they choose to do business with your online firm or one of your competitors.

Given the continual pace of the e-commerce industry’s growth and the COVID-19 impact on the whole e-commerce supply chain, it has become more challenging to manage the logistics of delivering orders to customers. Many fast-growing online shops struggle to balance satisfying consumers’ delivery expectations and growing their businesses. A quick and satisfactory shipping experience contributes to a high customer retention rate.

But what if we can improve last-mile delivery earlier in the supply chain for e-commerce? It turns out that since it directly impacts the shipping experience, improving the first-mile delivery stage will result in significant downstream benefits.

Let’s learn everything there is to know about first-mile sorting center!

What is a First-mile Sorting Center?

A firstmile sorting center can be a warehouse, distribution, or fulfillment center. It is where produced items are delivered and typically kept until a buyer purchases them. The first-mile of the journey, when shippers return fresh items to the first-mile sorting center, is known as first-mile delivery. And it is a crucial step in the supply chain and the order fulfillment process.

First-mile delivery is defined differently depending on whether it’s for a shop or an e-commerce company. In the retail industry, it often refers to the route taken by items as they move from the manufacturing facility to the retailer’s distribution center. It refers to the stage in the e-commerce process when the items leave the seller and travel to the warehouse or fulfillment facility.

The Importance of First-mile Sorting and Delivery

Recent years have seen tremendous development in e-commerce, and there is also fierce rivalry. More than ever, companies must take every possible step to guarantee consumer pleasure. It is their responsibility as a retailer to ensure this initial stage of product distribution occurs without a hitch.

Online sellers need to evaluate first-mile delivery procedures carefully. The first step in the fulfillment process has the most significant impact on the following steps. An inefficient first-mile delivery or first-mile sorting center can negatively affect the fulfillment process, customer satisfaction, and financial health.

Users could discover that businesses cannot meet client demand if they do not efficiently deliver the products to the warehouse or fulfillment center. On the other side, purchasing too much of a specific product might cost a company extra money for shipping and storage.

How Does a First-mile Sorting Center Work?

A first-mile sorting center is crucial in connecting the product source (fulfillment center) to the carrier station. Typically, all the items bought at a fulfillment center undergo a series of sorting processes before moving on to the final station. 

The following are some of the techniques that take place in the sorting facility:

  • Sorting the items – 

Shippers do most of the sorting this way, which is why they place things in the sorting facility or center.. They transport all products or commodities to the sorting facility, which is available to each courier service. For instance, Canada’s Vancouver is home to a sorting center for DHL. 

The mailing address of every item in the sorting facility establishes the destination.

Once everything is in place, they might send the things from the sorting center to their numerous destinations.

  • Labeling the items – 

Even if sellers or dealers label their products before shipping them to the sorting system, the commodities have all pertinent information in the sorting system. It is, therefore, possible to have two labels on one package. The vendor labels one, while the courier who delivers the items does the other.

  • Sorted and dispatched – 

Once the shippers sort and organize all the products by their shipping addresses or destinations, they ship them from the sorting facility.

Dispatch signifies that the shipper is sending something from the sorting facility to its next location, whether linehaul or long haul, but linehaul is more common.

As a result, they will now transport these commodities via long-haul lines to their final destinations or countries.

Sorting Center Processes and Procedures

A sorting center frequently handles the logistics and fulfillment procedures necessary to deliver a seller’s product to its clients. Following the completion of a client order, the shipper keeps the stock at the fulfillment facility for a few days or weeks. They remove it from the shelf following a purchase, packaged, and ready for delivery. The fulfillment center processes the order when a consumer purchases from an online retailer.

The basic operations in a first-mile sorting center include –

  1. Receiving – Receiving clerks examine incoming items to ensure they match the purchase request and that transportation does not cause harm to anything.
  2. The task of scanning arriving merchandise for inventory tracking may also fall on reception staff.
  3. Storage – Workers at the sorting center maintain track of the inventory to ensure that goods are safe during their whole stay there. They should also monitor food and other temperature-sensitive objects to ensure they don’t spoil and throw them away if they do. The workers should ensure that the most well-liked or often bought things in the sorting facility are the simplest to obtain. 
  1. Picking, Packing, and Labeling  – Workers box and label the customer’s orders for shipping or delivery by packers.
  2. Returns management – If a consumer wishes to return something, they may do it here, and the sorting center will handle it and place it back on the shelf for sale.
  3. Auditing – The workers perform sorting center audits to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of the distribution center procedures. Management teams can better comprehend their team’s performance with the use of auditing.

First-mile Vs. Last Mile Delivery

First-mile delivery

First-mile delivery refers to moving items from a warehouse or retailer’s location to the next hub, where the workers will send the items to another location. However, the first-mile might imply different things to different firms, but it always refers to the initial leg of a product’s trip in the supply chain process of the business. First-mile delivery is the movement of goods from a production to a warehouse or distribution center, according to a manufacturer. 

In the case of retailers,  the middle-mile phase follows the first-mile delivery, during which goods are collected from the distribution center and delivered to the various shop locations.  Sometimes, the shops may request that first-mile delivery be done directly to the retail site rather than taking the middle mile step.

First-mile delivery is when things are removed from the store and handed to the courier, who then transports them to the customer’s home, according to the e-commerce industry. Transferring an item from the seller’s warehouse to the terminal system illustrates this. As the product is already in the company’s supply chain, the first-mile in this context refers to the first stage inside the delivery service order fulfillment process.

Last-mile delivery

Given that it is the final stage of the supply chain, last-mile delivery is also known as final-mile delivery. It describes the route taken from a retail establishment or a shipping facility to the home of the final consumer. As the last opportunity for direct client contact, last-mile delivery is a crucial component of the delivery process.

To meet rising customer demand, effective last-mile delivery is required. Let’s say there are problems with the delivery, such as missed deliveries, delays, or broken goods. In that case, there is no way for the company to address these problems before the customer experiences the effects. There are a number of stops in last-mile delivery that can result in human errors, which leads to more failed deliveries, returns, and refunds. Last-mile delivery is considered an expensive part of the entire delivery process.

First-mile Vs Last Mile: What’s the Difference?

First-mile delivery, as previously established, refers to the route products travel to go from the seller or producer to the warehouse. Customers are, therefore, far more familiar with the last-mile of delivery—the route that things take from the warehouse to the customer’s door.

Compared to last-mile delivery, first-mile delivery receives far less attention and effort. Since applications and tracking numbers provide clients with a wealth of information about the whereabouts of their orders during processing and sending, this is especially true in the modern e-commerce environment.

Being less well-known has the unpleasant side effect that first-mile delivery is often far less efficient than last-mile delivery. Once a customer places an order, they closely monitor it and are less likely to consider the path the item has gone before their purchase.

However, first-mile delivery is too important to overlook for companies who want to optimize every link in their supply chain. Furthermore, an inefficient first-mile might harm the customers’ experiences, even though they might not be aware of this. 

Optimizing the First-mile Experience

In order for a distribution center to be efficient and profitable, its processes need to be optimized. Reduce wasted spending, move products through the supply chain faster, and reduce wasted expenditures to improve customer experience.

In order to increase the company’s first-mile efficiency, a company can take a number of steps once they realize first-mile delivery and sorting are important.

Understand your supply chain

Analyzing the first-mile delivery procedure and identifying areas for improvement is an excellent place to start. The best approach is to take a comprehensive approach, beginning with the first-mile delivery stage and concluding with the last-mile delivery stage. A business will be able to pinpoint the major gaps and weak points once they’ve mapped out the complete supply chain, and it will astonish them to learn just how much can be relieved by focusing on the first-mile.

Track inventories

A company may ensure that its first-mile operation is utilizing the capacity to its fullest through thorough inventory tracking. The workers transport the proper number of commodities to the first-mile sorting center, and refill the stocks at the appropriate intervals, thanks to accurate inventory tracking.

Embrace technology

Automate most of the first-mile process with inventory and warehouse management software to reduce human error. A business may decide on how to increase operational efficiency by using good technology to gather essential data and offer it to you in an easily understandable way.


The wisest course of action is frequently to leave the first-mile delivery and sorting in the hands of professionals. The outsourced partner is supported by specialized technology and industry knowledge, saving time and money and enabling a business to focus on expanding its business.

What Are the Costs Associated With First-mile Sorting Centers?

Costs associated with first-mile sorting centers include:

  • Labor and energy costs associated with running the center
  • Storage costs
  • Picking and packing
  • Center-to-center shipping


Since supply chain logistics are intricate and dynamic, it’s critical to frequently review and tweak the warehousing procedures. Seasonal demand may necessitate rearranging the products. They could need further training whenever they introduce new safety guidelines or promote their employees. The ideal pairing for last-mile logistics is streamlined warehouse operations. Together, they support the bottom line while assisting businesses in providing a superior client experience.


Why first-mile delivery is important for e-commerce?

First-mile delivery significantly influences the whole delivery and supply chain because it is the first step in the order fulfillment process. First-mile delivery is crucial because it helps maintain the supply chain and inventory organization, gives precise information about the item for subsequent delivery operations, and ensures proper package.

Can you outsource first-mile delivery?

Leaving the first-mile delivery and sorting to experts is usually the best action. A firm may focus on growing its business by using the outsourced partner’s time and money-saving technologies and industry expertise.

What does arriving at the first-mile sorting center mean?

A warehouse, distribution center, or fulfillment center is a first-mile sorting center. It is the location where the shippers deliver and keep produced items until a buyer purchases them.

Where do packages go after the sorting center?

All local mail, including letters, flats, packages, and so on, is processed at the sorting facility. From there, it is delivered locally by being routed to the appropriate sorting facility. When a package arrives, it implies that the sorting center has it, which will be sorted there before being dispatched farther along the route known as processing centers.

What is the basic difference between the first-mile and last-mile delivery?

Briefly put, first-mile service is at the beginning of the supply chain’s delivery segment, and last-mile distribution is at the conclusion. first-mile operations use a courier to transport the goods from the maker to a carrier. When the shipper delivers the order, last-mile operations come to an end.

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