In one poll of 2,500 U.S. consumers, researchers discovered that the top two concerns regarding shipping are speed and cost.
It’s no secret that consumers want fast, affordable delivery. In this same poll, only 7.5 percent of shoppers reported that they didn’t factor shipping dates into their purchasing decisions. When speed and price are a factor for online retailers, last-mile solutions can be a game-changer.
Take for example the national pharmacy chain Rite Aid, which announced in 2021 a partnership with the last-mile logistics brand DoorDash. With this partnership, Rite Aid can now offer same-day delivery of over 24,000 non-prescription health and wellness products to their customers across 17 states and 2,100 locations.
This new endeavor means that the retail pharmacy can offer same-day delivery on products including health and beauty items like shampoo and makeup, non-perishable and perishable food items, over-the-counter medications, and household goods like cleaning sprays and paper towels.
Delivery in a few short hours is now a reality in the health and wellness sphere, which means last-mile logistics are more important than ever for online retailers and direct-to-consumer brands looking to stay competitive. Here’s what you need to know.
Last-Mile Logistics De-Mystified
Especially since the onset of the pandemic in 2020, more and more consumers are turning to eCommerce solutions for their health and wellness needs, including everything from at-home COVID-19 test kits to personalized vitamin subscriptions. As this has happened, online retailers must meet the growing expectation for speedy fulfillment and delivery to compete with massive names in eCommerce like Amazon and Walmart.
For eCommerce health and wellness brands, this means fine-tuning their operations throughout the supply chain. One of the biggest expenses retailers face? Same-day, final mile delivery.
Last-mile logistics refers to the final leg of a package’s journey. Orders are packed and shipped from the fulfillment center, where they are put on a truck to reach a customer’s doorstep. This “last-mile” of fulfillment is not only key to overall customer satisfaction, but it’s also the most expensive part of shipping—and also the portion of the process that takes the most time.
Think about the process of tracking an order: The longest part of any order’s journey from fulfillment center to a customer’s doorstep was most likely when the package’s status was “Out for Delivery.” This is because of factors that include multiple stops, low drop sizes, and other inefficiencies. This is especially true of rural areas where deliveries may each be a few miles apart. It’s no wonder that last-mile delivery accounts for 53 percent of the total cost of shipping.
The Current State of the Health and Wellness eCommerce Industry
In addition to the inherent challenges in the eCommerce retail industry at this moment—with issues like overloaded, maxed-out carriers and stunted supply chains—those in the health and wellness industry have additional considerations to keep in mind when it comes to fulfillment and last-mile solutions.
For starters, food and food-grade products must adhere to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for safe delivery. As shared in the article “FDA Considers ‘Last Mile’ Food Safety Concerns as Consumers Adopt eCommerce Delivery:”
“The acceleration of online shopping and new paths of purchase for consumers raises questions about who ‘owns’ the food in the last-mile, and whether they are currently covered by food safety regulations and requirements.”
Health and wellness brands (especially those for whom FDA regulations are a factor) should consult with their fulfillment provider to discover which carriers can adhere to these considerations during last-mile fulfillment when time, temperature, and other elements are of the utmost importance for product safety and customer satisfaction.
Also? Online health and wellness retailers should pay attention to the growing consumer demand for order tracking. In fact, 70 percent of consumers reported that online order tracking was one of their top three considerations when making a purchase decision; they want to know where their package is and when it will arrive. This kind of transparency is a critical component of building customer trust.
It’s also helpful for online retailers. Full visibility of shipping data helps hone your fulfillment operations, including your last-mile solutions to discover which carriers and which processes are the most efficient and cost-effective.
Real-time data transparency throughout the shipping process is becoming an essential component for survival for eCommerce brands. Anymore, consumers expect this kind of visibility, and retailers can gain a better understanding of their last-mile delivery performance, like when brands negotiate rates with last-mile partners for two-day delivery, but a package was delivered in three. This kind of data can help refine and improve a brand’s entire operation—but only for those who work with a 3PL partner who can help in this matter.
Last-Mile Solutions for the Health and Wellness Sector
When it comes to the health and wellness industry, it makes sense to do things like implement micro-fulfillment centers, localized fulfillment centers, and intelligent warehouse routing to store products and fulfill orders close to their end destinations and speed up last-mile logistics—but this only works if eCommerce brands have the right products in the right places. Health and wellness brands must think ahead and maintain a thorough grasp of consumer buying patterns to best understand where products should be located—and how much stock is necessary in each location.
When it comes to health and wellness products, online retailers need to deal with things like expiration dates and shelf life. Products can’t sit in a fulfillment center indefinitely; the data provided from tools such as intuitive inventory forecasting can help eCommerce brands better understand the projected quantities needed in each of their fulfillment centers to minimize wasted product and underutilized storage capacity.
To aid in last-mile solutions, speedy fulfillment, and faster delivery brands must invest in third party logistics (3PL ) partners that offer advanced warehouse and inventory management technologies, as well as intelligent routing and inventory forecasting to maximize the potential of their last-mile solutions.
Your Last-Mile Solution Partner
At OceanX, we understand that last-mile fulfillment isn’t a function of fulfillment, it’s a function of customer service. With access to real-time data for inventory forecasting and intelligent warehouse routing, shipping analytics and full visibility of orders in transit, route optimization software, multiple fulfillment center locations throughout North America, and an expansive carrier network, we make your last-mile challenge a thing of the past.
To learn more about how we can support your fulfillment processes from the first click to the last-mile, connect with our team today!