Mobile and Continuous Optimization are Transforming Home Delivery

As I’ve written many times before, there’s a lot of buzz today around home delivery, with many retailers looking at last-mile logistics as a competitive differentiator. But what does the typical home delivery user experience and technology landscape look like today?

I asked Andrew Roszko, Senior Vice President at Descartes, that question a few weeks ago when he was my guest on Talking Logistics and here’s what he said:

It’s actually changed somewhat substantially over the last 3 to 4 years, thanks in large part to our friend Steve Jobs and our friends at Google and the mobile revolution.

What is rapidly becoming the industry standard and typical for today, from a user experience and technology standpoint, and from a consumer standpoint, is I’m buying an appliance online, or I’m in a store with a salesperson, and I’ll generally have a sense of inventory, I’ll generally have a sense of “Today is Tuesday, hey, I think I can get it to you on Friday”…and in the [transportation operations of the retailer], pretty standard today is [that on] Thursday afternoon at noon, they’ll have some level of routing software to load up all the orders, [they’ll] build the routes for the following day, [and they’ll] curse the salespeople while they’re doing it for selling too much because they don’t have enough vehicles to fulfill it all.

Mobility has [also] become fairly prevalent, I would say in a somewhat limited way. Typically today, a driver will have a smartphone, download a route manifest, do turn-by-turn directions, but most commonly they’d still have paperwork [to complete]. The driver will have the device as a tool to help him, but to close the actual financial transaction, there’s a signature on a piece of paper that [he needs to] carry back.

Routing software for home delivery has been around for a long time, but the big enhancement has been around the mobile experience, getting a better understanding of whether a vehicle is ahead of schedule, behind schedule, being proactive with customers based on GPS [tracking] in the field, these types of things. And I think that’s the typical interaction that we’re seeing today. Not everybody is there today, but I would say that’s fairly industry standard today.

During our conversation, Andrew shared some additional insights about the impact mobile technologies are having, and about another important technology trend that is transforming the home delivery experience: continuous optimization.

The home delivery/last mile problem has become a very hot topic the last several years, thanks in large part to Amazon, and this has driven a lot of technology innovation from software vendors to think about the problem differently, and the result has been this idea of continuous optimization, of real-time optimization, where essentially the optimization is running continuously from the point of sale onward…Real-time optimization is very, very diffrrerent from the old world of batch optimization, and today we’re in the early-adopter [phase], but it’s definitely going to become the defacto standard.

Watch the short clip below where Andrew shares more thoughts on continuous optimization:

Simply put, the routing and scheduling optimization process has to begin (and be integrated with) the point of sale process if you want maximize the profitability of your home delivery operations and enhance the end-customer experience too.

I encourage you to watch the rest of my conversation with Andrew for additional insights on this timely and important topic (you can also check out my recent episode on fleet management technologies). Then post a comment and share your perspective!

Note: Descartes is a Talking Logistics sponsor.