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What is a final mile carrier?

Published on: September 11, 2023

Updated: November 20, 2023

A final mile carrier (aka last mile carrier) is a specialized carrier whose role is transporting goods from a hub or warehouse right to the customer’s doorstep.

The “final mile” term implies this is the concluding stage of the delivery process, but it’s far from the simplest.

In fact, the last mile is considered the most complex and crucial phase of the post-purchase customer journey because it directly influences customer satisfaction and overall perception of the brand.

This stage encompasses not just the physical delivery of goods, but also real-time parcel monitoring, delivery updates, and managing customer expectations.

In today’s fast-paced, customer-centric ecommerce environment, an effective final mile carrier can be the difference between a one-time purchase and a loyal, repeat customer.

Why work with a last mile carrier?

order notification - why work with a last mile carrier

Working with last mile or final mile carriers can be a worthwhile investment that pays dividends in the form of higher efficiency, reduced ecommerce business expenses, and increased customer satisfaction. Consider the following.

  • Improved customer satisfaction. Final mile carriers often specialize in customer service during the delivery process. They can provide real-time tracking updates, flexible delivery options, and handle any delivery-related issues swiftly. In some cases, these carriers may also offer add-on offerings, such as white-glove service and installation, which is perfect for retailers that sell products like appliances or even luxury ecommerce brands that want to offer unparalleled customer service.
  • Faster and cost-effective delivery. Last mile carriers possess the expertise and resources to navigate complex delivery areas and manage varying package sizes and quantities, which can lead to more efficient and reliable deliveries.
  • Lowered costs. When you outsource to the right final mile partner, you could potentially reduce costs associated with maintaining a delivery fleet, including vehicle purchase or lease, maintenance, insurance, and driver employment costs.
  • Scalability. As a business grows and expands, a final mile carrier can adjust to increased delivery demand, helping the business to smoothly scale its operations. Similarly, if you need to downsize, you can easily adjust your contract with the final mile carrier to fit your current needs, as opposed to facing the logistical and financial challenges of downsizing your own in-house delivery fleet.
  • Greater focus on your core business. Working with a last mile carrier means you can focus on what you do best: developing products and serving your customers. Meanwhile, your final mile partner can handle the complex tasks of logistics and delivery.

How can merchants select the best final mile carrier?

chat bot that syncs with carrier delivery updates

Factors to consider in a final mile carrierDescription
Service areasEnsure they deliver to your customers' locations
Speed and reliabilityCheck the carrier’s delivery speed and on-time delivery rate
CostObtain a rate sheet from the carrier and compare costs with other providers
IntegrationsMake sure the carrier can connect to your current tech stack
Customer serviceEvaluate the level of customer support the carrier provides

There are numerous last mile carriers in the market, so choosing the right vendor can be a daunting process. That said, you can effectively narrow down your options by focusing on the following factors.

  • Service areas. The carrier must be able to reliably deliver to your customers’ locations. Check if they cover the geographical areas where your customers are located. If you ship internationally, see to it that your provider complies with the guidelines of entities like the International Trade Administration.
  • Speed and reliability. When it comes to last mile delivery—the faster, the better. Be sure to ask how quickly the carrier can deliver your goods. You should also verify the carrier’s on-time delivery rate to make sure they meet your standards.
  • Cost. Pricing structures can vary widely among carriers. Consider both the base rate and any potential extra charges like fuel surcharges or residential delivery fees.
  • Technology integrations. See to it that the carrier integrates with your order management systems, ecommerce marketing automation solution, and delivery notification software. A tight integration helps minimize manual work and enable you to automate things like parcel tracking automation, shipping notifications, and post-purchase communications.
  • Customer service. The carrier will be interacting directly with your customers, so their customer support offerings must be top-notch. Look at their communication channels, responsiveness, and their procedures for handling issues like missed or late deliveries.
  • Sustainability. It’s also helpful to check whether the last mile carrier employs green practices such as route optimization, use of electric vehicles, and eco-friendly packaging. The World Economic Forum forecasts emissions from delivery traffic will increase by 32% by 2030, which is why they’re recommending last mile interventions to help promote sustainability.

As such, choosing a carrier committed to sustainable practices can not only reduce your business’s environmental impact, but also align with the increasing need for eco-friendly business practices.

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