The need for more efficient delivery at scale is driving carriers and businesses with delivery drivers to reevaluate their existing route planner app and turn to technologies that promise more efficient delivery fulfillment.
The average delivery driver can make dozens of stops a day. For post and parcel, that number goes up to the hundreds. There are trillions of different ways to sequence these stops — and that’s not factoring in variables like traffic patterns, custom delivery times and inventory requirements.
With consumer eCommerce habits showing no signs of slowing down, managing smooth delivery operations stands to grow even more complex and costly.
Industry-wide, last-mile delivery now contributes to at least 41 percent of supply chain expenses. Inefficiencies don’t just keep these costs sky-high – they compromise a business’s ability to scale.
Today’s route planner apps help to fill these gaps. These routing apps empower carriers and retailers with delivery drivers to go the extra mile — boosting customer satisfaction, scalability and profit margins alike.
What are delivery route planner apps?
A route planner app is a software application that digitizes itineraries. At its core, the objective of a route planner is to find the quickest way to get drivers from point A to point B.
Google Maps is an example of a route planner at its most basic. Whether you’re running errands, touring a new city or want to get around a construction zone on the way to work, the Google maps app sources the most efficient path you can take while listing several relevant options. You get turn-by-turn directions and routes that aim to minimize your time spent on the road.
This route planner functionality benefits everyday drivers, but becomes pivotal for delivery drivers. Route planning helps businesses lower shipping costs like fuel consumption, increase capacity and meet their customers’ expectations for on-time deliveries.
And while a basic route planner like Google Maps is handy for speeding up morning commutes, it is not a delivery route planner app. The average route planner app in the app store simply does not meet the needs of today’s delivery driver, courier or the delivery industry as a whole.
Delivery route planning constraints
In the past, simple A to B to C route planning — whether manual or automated — sufficiently accommodated delivery demands. Businesses generally cut orders off a full day before inventory shipped, giving teams ample time to plan and tweak the best delivery route. Alternatively businesses used milk routes with set routes that never changed.
eCommerce changed all that. Today’s delivery ecosystem is far more complex, thanks to factors like on-demand delivery models and wide-ranging product requirements. Delivery businesses need to adapt to today’s challenges to stay competitive — because according to experts, our accelerating digital economy is a trend that’s here to stay.
Consumers are turning up the pressure
The volume and variety of online orders aren’t the only things on the rise. Customers expect more from the delivery service itself today, and the list of expectations keeps growing.
For example, it was once common to wait 7 to 10 business days for a package, but 43 percent of people now choose next-day delivery. They also expect it to be free — 73 percent say that they’ve abandoned their shopping cart when encountering a delivery fee.
Customers also have little tolerance for any hiccups and delays. According to one report, 98 percent of people say that reliable delivery is a key part of their brand loyalty.
A route optimization app isn’t about increasing savings or driver retention alone; it’s about promising a delivery experience that builds brand loyalty.
Route planning features: more pieces in the delivery routing puzzle
The effects of today’s eCommerce demand trickle down into all aspects of the delivery lifecycle. When routing shipments to a destination, simply finding the best road to take is no longer enough.
Businesses today need to grapple with a range of logistical challenges and constraints.
The list of possible route planning constraints is long, and can include:
- 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 skill set
- Vehicle capabilities
- Resource availability
- Inventory-specific instructions
These complications become compounded the larger an enterprise is. Companies that deliver from hundreds of stores or warehouses often work with multiple fleets, managing multiple pickup locations on top of multiple stops.
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, and delivering it to the right stop — must be a part of any route planning software you use, if you want to truly provide more efficient, customer-friendly deliveries.
How to optimize multi stop deliveries
With delivery volumes on the upswing and logistics increasingly complex, throwing more trucks and drivers at the problem is a natural impulse. It’s not a sustainable solution, however.
Escalating fleet costs can quickly drain profits from an expanding business — while reducing your control over meeting customer expectations. This makes it difficult or altogether unfeasible to scale operations.
The key lies in making delivery routing smarter, not broader, by planning more delivery routes with multiple stops. The right delivery route planner app is an important step in a multi stop route strategy.
Here’s how intelligent route planners can help you plan better routes with multiple stops:
Design inventory-specific routes
To increase multi stop route efficiency, businesses can organize delivery routes based on types of parcels, requirements and restrictions. This means categorizing orders given considerations like:
- Freight weight and limitations like bridge capacities and truck size
- How products are affected by time spent in transit, like groceries or other time-sensitive items
- Products that customers can reject or return on delivery
- Items with special requirements like age restrictions
- Recurring or subscription-based orders
If you compare different categories – for example couriers, and carriers performing oversized deliveries – it’s clear that their delivery teams will have different needs. Anticipating the best potential routes for certain categories helps construct a reliable route management framework. Route planning software then optimizes this structure hour-by-hour. It takes the outline you develop and makes the right tweaks within the day’s context, reflecting variables like traffic patterns, fleet availability, priorities and restrictions.
Improve drop density based on customer addresses
Planning delivery routes based on batches of customer addresses adds an extra layer to route optimization. This strategy considers your inventory-specific routes and leverages the logic of basic route mapping software — covering the most locations and number of stops in the shortest amount of time.
This approach prioritizes drop density with respect to a business’s custom considerations. The route planning software crunches all the respective data together, engineering routes that meet delivery requirements while reducing drive time to a minimum.
Avoid left-hand turns
Basic route planning is intuitive by design — it identifies the best path based on the least total distance. While this approach is great for trips across town, it can actually chip away at cost-effectiveness over time.
Research shows that avoiding left-hand turns (or right-hand turns for regions that drive on the left side of the road) saves fuel, limits delays, and reduces the risk of accidents by up to 60 percent. This tactic can save delivery businesses significant time and money — and executing it doesn’t mean restricting left-hand turns altogether.
Quality routing apps can make the right distinction. They optimize routes to ensure drivers avoid the costly turn where possible but permit it when sensible, like in a residential area with light traffic.
Track driver activity
Even the best route planner won’t be effective if it’s not implemented properly. To keep efficiency high and costs low, businesses need a route optimization web app with driver tracking in order to see the location of drivers and understand their activity along the route.
Route optimization with driver tracking helps businesses take this human element into account — and then monitor operational adherence. The app forms multi stop routes that factor in drivers break times, skill sets and regulatory requirements. Real-time GPS tracking then works to prevent activity that compromises productivity, like unauthorized detours and idling at stops.
Continually analyze route data
Because the variables that can affect route efficiency are constantly in flux, multi stop route optimization is not a static process; . Gaining an in-depth understanding of your business’s delivery metrics and key performance indicators helps ensure your delivery route planner meets demands and challenges as they evolve and change. This ongoing analysis can also reveal gaps in operations — and optimization opportunities.
Does your delivery business need a delivery route planner app?
Optimized route planners empower businesses to scale deliveries, save costs and offer customers the options and high-level service they expect. They also provide a powerful tool for drivers that can increase retention. It’s a crucial logistical tool for any operation that manages multiple drivers or fleets, or that has a multi-stop use case.
With built-in flexibility, smart delivery route planners also cater to businesses’ individual needs. they integrate right into your workflow to overcome challenges today’s delivery businesses face, like:
- Managing both eCommerce and in-store orders
- Offering multiple delivery models and premium services
- Considering operational requirements like cut-off times and driver schedules
- Combining automated routing and manual dispatching
- Accommodating time-sensitive items like food, pharmaceuticals, and on demand delivery orders
- Adhering to regulatory restrictions
Route optimization software doesn’t just reduce logistical headaches for drivers around routes. It can maximize the potential of each driver, increasing drop density while limiting costs like fuel and extra vehicle support. These results empower businesses to continually scale up operations cost-effectively without adding to administrative burdens and organizational bloat. And as speed and efficiency improves, so do customer and shipper satisfaction.
However, it’s important to note that only a few apps address all of these challenges. When choosing a route planner app for deliveries, look for one that is built with delivery drivers and their needs in mind, that addresses your most pressing delivery challenges, and can work with the routing constraints that make sense for your delivery or logistics operations.
What is the best route planner app?
It’s not just about finding the fastest routes for your delivery teams. In order to be effective, route optimization software needs to be flexible enough to accommodate your business’s individual needs — from workflow processes to organizational rules, delivery teams and customer variables. It should also encourage growth by responding quickly to any changes as your business evolves.
These outcomes require an app that goes beyond basic route mapping or route planning features. The best delivery optimization apps support every step of the delivery lifecycle — offering a comprehensive, tailored business solution.
The most supportive framework includes features such as:
Flexible fleet management
Great route optimization software offers complete control over fleet management processes. It isolates ideal shipping routes and then enables users to plan, dispatch and analyze deliveries from a 360-degree view.
This capability allows you to manage individual drivers and third-party fleets alike, accounting for factors like scheduling, availability, capacity planning, regulations and costs. It also helps identify which shipping methods, sequencing and vehicles are most suitable for each order based on factors like cold chain requirements, heavy or oversized items or unloading considerations.
Any route planner software you use should amplify your business’s processes — not complicate them. Your route planning app should be easy to implement into your current workflow, including stress-free onboarding for current drivers and contractor partners.
While this makes for a smooth transition to smarter routing, it also promotes scaled growth. A simple but powerful route optimization interface accommodates quick expansion to new terrains, like adding new fleets, regions and premium services.
Real-time driver tracking
It’s not just about structuring and planning optimized delivery routes. ALL relevant stakeholders – the delivery team, dispatchers – managers, and others – need to be able to monitor your delivery framework in action.
Real-time driver tracking provides up-to-date, accurate information about the locations of drivers and assets and helps ensure compliance to route strategies. This visibility also closes gaps that compromise operations. Dispatchers can make on-the-fly tweaks to routes, fleet managers have instant access to vehicle availability, and customers can set accurate expectations for package delivery.
Robust data reporting on routes
Today’s routing technologies also collect valuable data that speaks to the efficiency of your business’s operations. Make sure that the platform you choose allows real-time access to data, including:
- Driver data like driving distance, route compliance, break times and loading/unloading times.
- Performance data like on-time percentages, cost per delivery, and variations between drivers and regions.
- Customer data like satisfaction levels, demand for different delivery timeframes or models and cases of rejected or damaged items.
Understanding these variables helps inform further route optimization, improve on time delivery rates and reduce failures.
Smart route planning and route management
Platforms with built-in machine learning offer the most sustainable solution to total delivery management. Historical data informs increasingly optimized routes that cater directly to your business’s needs and priorities. It allows variables like fleet speed, driver time on-site and vehicle unloading time to become more defined — improving overall accuracy and more effective routing choices.
Proof of delivery
Drivers, especially experienced ones, are a commodity for carriers and delivery providers. With driver retention a major pain point, a smart business will look for a driver app that makes their drivers’ work easier, and which includes functionalities for improving driver performance. These multifunctional applications can help drivers manage the entire delivery flow, from mobile order management to digital proof of delivery.
The best route planner app will include a proof of delivery interface, where drivers can collect an electronic signature from the consignee and automatically include it in the chain of custody. It should be available on iOS and Android for ease of use, as well.
24/7 live support
Route optimization platforms help you anticipate challenges and plan for the unexpected to achieve optimal fleet efficiency. But whether you’re in a pinch or looking to scale operations, your system should have your back at any time.
Creating an efficiency, speedy route at scale with automated route management
Moving forward, last mile delivery will play an oversized role in ecommerce sales. Creating a speedy route and automating multi stop route planning will be critical for boosting operational efficiency, retaining drivers, and delivering great experiences that create brand trust.