What is Last Mile Logistics?

Allison Champion
4 min read
January 31, 2020
Modified: March 20, 2023

Picture this scenario – you’re shopping the online store of your favorite retailer when you see a shiny new product that you just have to have. You buy it without a moment’s hesitation and you even fork over the extra cash for same day delivery.

That evening, you sit in your home checking the retail app on your phone over and over again wondering how the something could STILL be “out for delivery” when you ordered it hours ago and the store is only a few miles away?

What is the Last Mile Logistics in Retail?

If that scenario sounds familiar, then you are no stranger to the challenges of last mile logistics. In fact, it’s more likely that you own an online store and you desperately want to avoid subjecting your customers to the above mentioned scenario.

Well you’re in luck. This article contains everything you need to know about last mile logistics, including how you can minimize last mile logistics costs and improve last mile delivery. Let’s start with a definition.

Last Mile Delivery (n.) – the movement of consumer goods from the final transportation hub to the final delivery destination.

  1. The “last mile” refers to the short geographical distance between the final delivery hub and the final destination, which is typically a small business, a store front or a personal residence.
  2. The focus of last mile logistics is to deliver goods to the customer as fast as possible.
  3. The key challenge of last mile logistics is finding a cost-effective and efficient way to deliver goods to the customer as fast as possible.

Why is Last-Mile Delivery Important?

Regardless of the type of package, the length of its journey, or the number of stops it makes on it’s way to the customers door, the last-mile is the most important because it is the mile in which customer expectations are met or broken.

Unfortunately, last-mile delivery mishaps are commonplace and nothing ruins the customer experience like package delivery gone wrong. As you probably know, any delivery inconvenience can cause a visceral emotional reaction in the customer that can evolve into a bad review in no time at all.

How Does Last Mile Delivery Work?

On the product journey from store shelf to customer, the “last mile” is the final step in the process, wherein the package is physically delivered to the final customer. In a perfect world, a customer purchases an item online and the order is filled at the distribution center nearest to their home.

Once filled, the order is loaded on a box truck, which transports the package from the distribution center to the customer’s doorstep. In theory, it’s a simple process. As the final leg of a shipment, the last mile is very likely to include traffic and dozens of residential deliveries with low drop-sizes.

Unlike people, who can cross town on public transportation, a package can’t get on the subway to move five blocks – it has to sit in traffic congestion and wait its turn as all the other packages on the route are delivered.

Unfortunately, last mile delivery becomes even more challenging in rural areas, where home deliveries can be more than five to ten miles apart, with only one or two packages delivered at a time. Therein lies the heart to the last delivery problem.

What is The Last Mile Delivery Problem?

To put it simply, the last mile delivery problem is – What is the best way to transport products from the final distribution hub to the customer? In other words, What is the cheapest, most expedient (fastest) way to get a package from your warehouse it your customer, regardless of where they live.

How To Solve the Last Mile Delivery Problem?

Last mile delivery is not a complicated problem, but it is a problem. However, in logistics, as in life, the best way to solve problems is to follow the path of least resistance. You want customer orders to flow across the last mile like a log floats downstream. The best way to do that is to hire a 3PL that is an expert in last mile delivery.

How Can I Improve My Last Mile Delivery?

By reading this article and educating yourself on the last mile problem you’ve already taken the first step to improve your last mile delivery. The second step is to read 5 Ways to Improve Last-Mile Delivery. The final step is to outsource last mile delivery to Flowspace.

Unless you’re a big box retailers like Walmart or Amazon, your business likely does not have the millions of dollars it costs to invest in last mile innovations like delivery lockers, drones and driverless trucks. With warehouses in every consumer market in the country, Flowspace is the only third-party logistics provider (3PL) with the network, the capacity and the expertise to help you conquer the last mile. Request information if you’re interested in improving your last mile logistics!

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Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.

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