Businesses today are feeling the pinch as deliveries take an ever-growing chunk out of their operations budget. At the same time, it’s clear that the investment is necessary, with delivery experience playing a leading role in overall customer satisfaction. This tension between operational expenses and the need for flawless delivery experiences is driving brands and delivery providers towards route planner apps, routing solutions and other technologies that promise them more efficient delivery fulfillment.
At a glance, optimizing routes may seem like the perfect cost-effective solution to ensure on-time deliveries and satisfied customers. In part, it’s true: routing solutions can indeed help reduce overhead costs by limiting time spent on the road, and increase efficiency by enabling more drop-offs per run. In fact, the route planner app has been successful enough that a large industry has sprung up around different planning solutions.
Yet while every business that delivers needs a route planner, and everyone aims for more efficient delivery, is a routing app enough of an answer?
Perfecting planned delivery: is a route planner app enough?
Route planner apps are aimed at getting drivers from point A to point B (then to C, then D, etc., etc.) as quickly as possible. It’s easy to see that this would work best for established routes, much like milk routes or newspaper routes: a regular set of customers, with a static route that can be optimized once and saved for daily use. If a new customer is added occasionally, the additional addresses can easily be plugged into the route planner a day or two in advance, and a new route can be planned again.
This route planning is ideal for planned deliveries with orders that cut off a full day before delivery, giving teams time to plan routes. In these situations, a good route planner doesn’t even have to work quickly; even if it takes several hours to come up with optimized routes (and for larger fleets, it usually does), that leave plenty of time to distribute routes in time for next-day delivery.
But thanks to ecommerce, these principles no longer apply across the board. Many deliveries today do not follow established routes, or follow an on-demand model, making hours-long routing an impossibility. What about fast food deliveries, or grocery deliveries? What about emergency service deliveries?
Companies still want to optimize routes and keep delivery costs down, but things are becoming far more complicated.
More constraints, more complex route planning
Once, improving on-time delivery rates meant finding better streets and roads to take. But thanks to ecommerce and the subsequent boom in orders, dozens of new constraints have to be taken into consideration when planning a route, or analyzing its success rates.
Delivery Route Planning Constraints:
- Collection SLA (pickup time window)
- Customer SLA (delivery or service time window)
- Start and end location (distance)
- Inventory details (weight, volume, cost, quantity, services vs. goods)
- Time-on-site for pickups and drop-offs
- Cost structure (per drop, per km/mile, per shift, per day)
- Driver skillset
- Vehicle capabilities
- Resource availability
- Inventory-specific instructions
These are only some of the many variables involved, and give a good idea of how complex route planning can be.
These complications become compounded the larger an enterprise is; companies which deliver from hundreds of stores or warehouses often work with multiple fleets, and have multiple pickup locations on top of multiple drop-off locations.
All of these details about each delivery – the right driver, the right type of delivery transportation, the right fleet, picking up the right package from the right pickup point – must be a part of your routing solution, if you want to truly provide more efficient, customer-friendly deliveries.
Here are three important issues that typical route planners do not take into account.
The 3 delivery elements you won’t find in a route planner app
Many businesses forget that it takes two to optimize a route – the technology that plans it, and the driver who implements it. Even the most sophisticated routing technology is useless if your drivers don’t use it correctly.
Even the most sophisticated routing technology is useless if drivers don’t use it correctly.
Most apps don’t provide data on how drivers followed through with the optimized routes. Did they divert from the suggested route? How long did it take them to cover the distance between each pick up/drop off location?
Companies need to track routing implementation, in order to understand what works, and what doesn’t. More robust solutions with machine learning capabilities that track the accuracy of the optimized routing can inject that data back into the route planning solution, to increase the accuracy of future planned routes.
It’s not only about the route planning performance, though, but about the delivery performance as a whole.
Most enterprises want to know – but don’t have the data to know – the cost per delivery, the cost percent of on-time deliveries per driver, or store, or region. That’s why four in five retailers cite data or information issues as the primary cause of returns and visibility challenges.
Cost assessment, site performance, fleet performance, and other types of executive insight require a broader technology solution that incorporates, but is not limited to, route planning.
Are your customers happy with your deliveries? And if not, do you know why? Not every company can answer this question, despite its recognized importance for multiple operations across the business; according to an EFT and convey study, 71% of retailers agreed that improving access to clear consumer and carrier data for deliveries in-transit across consumer service, operations and logistics teams was crucial or very important.
It’s not only about understanding your customer, of course, but about optimizing delivery operations to increase your bottom margin. Customers who are happy with their delivery experience are more likely to become repeat customers. The opposite is also true; shoppers shoppers that are dissatisfied with their delivery experience will probably move on to another brand.
If consumer demand for better delivery experiences is what drives delivery optimization today, then having the tools to measure delivery’s impact on the customer experience is critical.
Route planner tools can help drivers reach the end-customer on time, but most often the driver belongs to an external fleet, and if the customer provides feedback on the delivery, chances are the company they ordered from will never receive it. With today’s multi-fleet, multi-drop, multi-model delivery operations, this is a real challenge for many businesses, and necessitates solutions that go beyond route planning.
No matter how good a route planner app is, it will not address all of the root causes of delivery inefficiency.Whether it’s about multiple delivery constraints or pressure to supply insight into delivery operations, enterprises with ecommerce deliveries need to look beyond route planning and take a more holistic approach to efficiency across the entire fulfillment flow.
Advanced delivery management solutions that incorporate route optimization can help businesses better adapt and react to the conditions that drivers experience in the field, as well as providing the data that’s critical for optimizing delivery efficiency in the face of numerous logistical challenges.