This holiday season, same-day deliveries are often the greenest option. Here’s why.

This post is part of our series on sustainability in last mile delivery.

With Singles’ Day behind us and Black Friday around the corner, retailers around the world are knee-deep into the holiday shopping rush. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Holiday Retail Survey, consumers will spend more than ever this year, and 59% of shoppers are showing a marked preference for online retailers. The biggest names in retail are banking on same-day delivery as ”a catalyst” that sways customers to buy through them, and hopefully remain loyal come January. But with environmentalism on everyone’s minds, and more awareness than ever about the ecological impact of consumer and business behavior, is there a place for fast, same-day deliveries this holiday season?

While it may seem counterintuitive, faster deliveries and environmental good behavior can go hand-in-hand. In fact, structuring your operations for local, same-day delivery can actually provide a host of benefits, from operational efficiency to increased profits.

To go Green this holiday season, deliver local

Delivering locally isn’t just about sustainability. It can be the most efficient way for some businesses to successfully pull off same-day deliveries.

With many online shoppers living in dense, congested cities, urban retailers are often shipping orders to multiple doorsteps in the same area. Instead of sending large trucks to so many addresses in the same area, many retailers can fulfill online orders from local stores in the customer’s area, often using lighter vehicles or even bicycles.

By batch delivering local inventory to all local customers, retailers increase both their delivery speed and convenience, while making their business more environmentally friendly in a concrete way. It also enables business to fulfill more orders with their existing resources.

See: 5 ways to make your last mile operations greener

Amazon fulfillment center: copying the 'deliver from store' model
Amazon uses fulfillment centers to mimic a resource that retailers already have: their local stores. Pictured: A fulfillment center in Las Vegas.

This connection between fast, local delivery, efficiency, and environmental sustainability is part of the reason why Amazon is investing in local fulfillment centers. Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos recently said that fast delivery “generate[s] the least carbon emissions because these products ship from fulfillment centers very close to the customer — it simply becomes impractical to use air or long ground routes.”

Delivering locally isn’t just about sustainability. It can be the most efficient way for some businesses to successfully pull off same-day deliveries.

How to achieve fast, green, and efficient delivery operations?

Today, retailers can utilize a variety of solutions to successfully provide fast, local delivery.

These measures include:

Batching

‘Batching’ is essential for on-demand food delivery, but it can be beneficial for any business looking to provide fast, local fulfillment. Batching allows businesses to group together orders going out to the same geographical area, into one delivery run.
Using a platform that automates order batching would make it even easier to implement, as store employees would not have to perform any additional work in order to implement this measure.

Same-day deliveries: batching orders for sustainabiiity

Returns and Reverse Logistics

40% of shoppers returned at least one gift they bought or received in 2018, according to this Survata survey. Implementing return services can significantly boost a brand’s green credibility while providing a much-needed and highly valued service to its customers.

Imagine a driver performing a delivery, then picking up a return item from a nearby customer’s home on the way. This step eliminates the need for customers to drive to the store just to return an item. The same applies for picking up items for recycling – for example, delivering electronic equipment and collecting the old items for recycling.

Take both return and reverse logistics to scale, and you are measurably reducing carbon emissions related to your products – not to mention providing a valuable additional service to customers.

Engaging the right type of provider for each delivery

When businesses deliver from a local store, they can also combat urban congestion and carbon emissions using alternative forms of transportation. Zero-emission forms of transportation like bikes (traditional or electric) significantly curb delivery-related emissions, especially for same-day deliveries. Bikes are often more practical and efficient in urban environments, as they are less prone to traffic delays, and avoid the hassle of finding parking.

Business can choose different delivery providers depending on the type of delivery, and it’s location. For example, bike deliveries work well in cities or closely populated suburbs, but not for more sprawling suburban or rural environments.
If you already work with multiple fleets, or providers that offer different modes of transport, you can benefit from dispatching tools that take a vehicle’s capabilities or characteristics into consideration.

It is important to ensure that your delivery platform technology allows you to integrate with multiple fleets and delivery providers, in order to reduce your carbon footprint whenever possible while getting the most out of each delivery run.

Tracking operations and benefiting from data

How can a business know if the measures it is taking to improve efficiencies and environmental footprint are actually working? With data.

Enabling visibility and tracking capabilities across the entire delivery operation is incredibly useful for understanding your processes and improving delivery speed and value. It’s also crucial for improving the accuracy of available delivery windows, optimizing the use of external fleets, and pinpointing inefficiencies that can be optimized.

Same-day deliveries: better for customers, better for the world

With this year’s holiday shopping season approaching, it’s a fair bet that retail and eCommerce leaders will be using fast delivery to win over shoppers. In this season of giving and joy, let’s remember that on-demand delivery is more than just a marketing tool or operational challenge. Done correctly, rapid delivery can also be a greener, more local alternative to the traditional long-distance delivery.

Local delivery is often less expensive, more convenient for customers, and better for the world. The only remaining question is if retailers have the delivery provider relationships, the technology and the operational agility to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Want to learn more about building efficient same-day delivery operations? Download our free report, Breaking the 24-hour delivery barrier

Michael Edwards

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