shipment challenges
September 8, 2023

Navigating Peak Retail Seasons with Last Mile Delivery Services

Jim Waters

The retail calendar was once predictable. Seasonal peaks largely centered around holidays and market demands — like Christmas for general retail, summer for HVAC services, or spring for building supplies. 

But the retail landscape has evolved in recent years. Online shopping and global events have disrupted traditional buying patterns, creating new retail “holidays” like Amazon’s Prime Day and China’s Singles’ Day.

As peak seasons become more complex, and as consumer expectations for better communication and faster deliveries soar, effective last mile delivery is more important than ever. That’s where scalability becomes relevant. A scalable last mile delivery service can adapt to increased demand while ensuring efficiency and customer satisfaction.

This article dives deeper into the challenges of modern peak retail seasons and provides actionable insights for optimizing last mile delivery services at these critical times.

Understanding Peak Retail Seasons

Traditional peak events like Black Friday and Christmas have presented unique logistical challenges for decades. Today, there are more peak dates on the calendar, and retailers are facing unprecedented logistical issues that make high-volume periods more challenging than ever.

First, COVID-19 led to a spike in ecommerce demand, which clogged ports and made supply chain less reliable. While maritime shipping activity has stabilized to some degree, retailers are still trying to optimize their inventory and streamline their supply chains in a post-pandemic world.

Second, strikes and potential labor stoppages have stressed the supply chain in recent months, including a West Coast labor issue and a rail strike that was barely averted. Drought conditions in China, along the Mississippi River, and surrounding the Panama Canal have also slowed the free flow of trade. And, as hurricane season hits full swing in the Southeastern United States, one devastating storm could set back planning for peak season.

Finally, the holiday peak season has been expanding for years. A Facebook survey conducted in 2018 found that roughly 20% of buyers had started holiday shopping in October. Some consumers (37%) start shopping earlier to take advantage of promotions. And others start earlier to avoid empty shelves as many retailers stock less than in previous years.

Perfecting the last mile via scalable delivery services is the best path to overcoming these challenges while also meeting consumer expectations.

The Power of Scalability in Delivery Services

Scalability in the last mile refers to the system’s capacity to efficiently and effectively manage a growing workload. It’s a multi-faceted concept that goes beyond simply adding more trucks and drivers. The six key aspects of scalability in last mile delivery services are:

  1. Volume Adaptability: One of the hallmarks of a scalable delivery system is its ability to flex according to demand. A scalable system stays efficient, no matter the volume.
  2. Resource Flexibility: Scalability also implies the agility to quickly ramp up or down resources. This means adding more vehicles and drivers when the demand curve tilts upward — and pulling back when it wanes.
  3. Technological Scalability: Utilizing tools like route optimization software, automated sorting systems, and data analytics can boost your delivery system’s capacity.
  4. Cost Efficiency: As your operation scales, the cost per delivery should remain stable or even decrease, which offers more value.
  5. Operational Agility: A truly scalable delivery system can quickly pivot to new methods or services based on market shifts (like contactless deliveries in the wake of a pandemic).
  6. Integration Capabilities: A scalable system easily integrates with other operational tools like inventory management systems, e-commerce platforms, or CRM software.

In essence, a scalable delivery service equips businesses to accommodate growth and variations in demand without compromising service quality, efficiency, or cost-effectiveness.

Best Practices for Scalable Delivery During Peak Seasons

Follow these three best practices to achieve a level of scalability that supports your business through peak seasons while sidestepping modern logistical challenges and meeting customer expectations.

1. Leverage Technology and Data Analytics

Technology and data analytics serve as linchpins for optimizing last mile delivery service. Tools that aid in route optimization, real-time tracking, and predictive analytics can drastically improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. Data analytics also play a pivotal role in forecasting demand, allowing you to prepare for peak seasons adequately.

According to a survey, 7 in 10 executives expected supply chain disruptions to slow retailers’ growth in 2023. Choosing the right technologies and leveraging data analytics, particularly in the last mile, are good ways to overcome the odds and grow in a way that outpaces competitors.

2. Collaborate with Delivery Partners for Scalability

The power of scalability lies in both technology and strategic collaboration with dedicated delivery partners. Delivery partnerships can provide a wealth of shared resources and expertise. 

For example, a nationwide chain of auto service and supply stores had been relying solely on internal resources to pick up and deliver the parts and supplies needed to complete jobs. The result was high inefficiency and many hours wasted. That chain partnered with FRAYT to create a more scalable approach to fulfillment.

3. Manage Inventory and Logistics Efficiently

Effective inventory management is key during peak seasons. Accurate tracking and forecasting of inventory levels can save you from stockouts or overstocking. This is another area where technology can streamline warehouse operations.

Keeping your shelves stocked through peak season is particularly important, as research indicates that 45% of consumers started shopping earlier during the pandemic to avoid inventory shortages. One fast-casual restaurant chain started with working FRAYT to avoid inventory shortages during peak moments, streamline overall logistics, and create better customer experiences.

Navigate Peak Seasons With FRAYT

In today’s complex retail landscape, mastering the challenges of peak seasons is no small feat.

FRAYT offers you the technology and tools to make this journey both manageable and profitable. 

Whether you need same-day delivery services or the foresight provided by capacity planning tools, FRAYT is your partner for a seamless, scalable, and efficient last mile delivery service. We offer solutions tailored to fit your needs while helping you stay ahead of the curve.

Ready to simplify your delivery operations and delight your customers during the busiest seasons? Ship with us at FRAYT and elevate your last mile delivery services.

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