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Editorial: Why is the last mile rubbish?


One of my colleagues had a rubbish delivery this week, courtesy of Amazon. Only 24 hours earlier, a friend had Tweeted that rubbish deliveries were a direct reflection on retailers’ reputations.
What’s this all about?

Well, on both occasions they’d had parcels left in their rubbish bins. For anyone across the pond, I’m talking trash. Trash cans to be more precise.

MALIt’s a problem many of us have encountered. I know I have. A delivery from Next was once left in a bin and sat there for hours. Nice. Bad enough when it’s something for yourself, somehow much worse when it’s something you’ve bought as a gift for someone else.

My colleague, Chris Dawson who edits the excellent Tamebay, was especially aggrieved as he has a Pelipod on his driveway designed to act as the back-up delivery drop-off and avoid things being left in the bin. As writer Marie-Anne Leonard points out, it might be a carrier getting things wrong, but the buck doesn’t stop there; retailers who want to be known for great service can’t afford to be let down on the doorstep by carelessness.

Let me be clear about something before I go on – I’m not singling Amazon or Hermes out here, they just happen to be recent examples cited publicly by people I know. Few, if any, carriers are squeaky clean when it comes to not being let down by drivers’ cavalier behaviour some time or other.

I have a lot of sympathy for the drivers. Many are self-employed, getting paid a fixed price for each parcel they deliver. Having to go back to an address a second time is costly and onerous.

But the industry simply has to sort itself out and put an end to things like parcels being chucked over walls, dropped into bins, and in one infamous case, lobbed up onto the roof of a house. People aren’t always at home when deliveries are being made. Yet delivery companies persist in attempting to deliver to people’s homes without knowing if there’ll be anyone in, without having an acceptable Plan B that doesn’t involve cost. It’s been years since it became apparent that people weren’t always in. What’s changed? Lots has changed – there are alerts and notifications, apps, alternative delivery points, lockers, and as Chris Dawson’s can attest, there are boxes.

The last mile has to become more professional. Not less. It’s unacceptable that people’s parcels are being left in bins. I can’t imagine anyone disagreeing with me on that point, but if you want to I am positively itching to hear from you.

Elsewhere in eDelivery, maybe robots can help overcome human frailties when it comes to delivery. The panel of experts at last month’s Nordic Delivery Conference discussed this idea and asked how the best of technology and human capability can be combined.

For a lot of retailers though, coping with today’s technology is a big enough headache, never mind planning for a robot invasion. According to new research, two thirds of retailers feel their innovation is held back by legacy IT.

Technology could be one of those things that makes all the difference when it comes to coping with the end-of-year peak period. In a guest column, written by IMRG’s editor Andy Mulcahy, we hear his three predictions of things to watch out for this coming peak.

Regardless of robots or flakey IT, or even if something you ordered ended up in the bin, if you haven’t subscribed to eDelivery yet we’d love it if you did. You’ll get a weekly newsletter summarising the main stories we’ve covered, and we’ll keep you informed of other big announcements. You’ll find details on subscribing here. And if you’re not receiving a copy of the magazine you’ll find details on that too.

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