The last mile: a real challenge for green logistics!

The last mile: a real challenge for green logistics!

Julie Ribeiro

Julie Ribeiro

June 25, 2021

But the transport between the warehouse and the final customer is a delicate step that logisticians are constantly trying to improve. And for good reason – not only is it polluting, but it is also expensive. 

With the exponential development of e-commerce in France, i.e., 1 billion shipments in 2020, the negative effects of the "last mile" will only increase.However, rest assured: e-commerce is not necessarily more polluting than physical commerce (home/shop journey, store operating costs, etc.). Nevertheless, the pollution linked to the delivery does exist. 

So, is it possible to limit the negative effects of the last mile? If so, does it involve the selection of the carrier? To go even further, wouldn't it be appropriate to offer the customer delivery choices? Moreover, can we make consumers aware of this issue?

We decrypt the solutions in this article...

1. Why is it important to limit the effects of the last mile?

The last mile: a challenge for the environment

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Developing express delivery is a great opportunity for some e-retailers whose goal is to ensure perfect customer service. But there is a drawback. This type of service is carried out by plane, which is 125 times more polluting than the truck for the same distance

However, contrary to appearances, air logistics is not the only one to be wary of. In fact, urban logistics is a major ecological challenge. With the success of e-commerce and its corollary, home delivery contributes to urban traffic congestion (the famous traffic jams on the ring road!). Of course, this contributes to air pollution: it is the cause of 25% of greenhouse gas emissions

Even with this knowledge, customer satisfaction is so essential that express shipping is the only option for many e-tailers. The result? Trucks don't wait to be filled to leave, and they travel with few packages to be delivered. But driving almost empty is not ecological logistics.

By the way, why is the last mile so expensive? 

It is quite paradoxical that such a small distance represents more than 53% of the logistics costs. In reality, everything can be explained by the figures. 87.5% of French internet users buy online, and fast delivery has become a norm among consumers. Customers now instinctively expect to receive their package"within 48 hours."

E-merchants and logisticians do not have the time to share the transport. The orders being geographically varied, the parcel delivered to the customer leaves the wholesale transport system. We have to adapt and customize to deliver quickly.

At the end of the chain, the success of a delivery depends on the meeting between the delivery person and the final customer. However, there are some recurrent failures:

  • When the customer is not at home because he has not been informed of the time of delivery;
  • When the customer has not given the exact address to be delivered, and it is impossible to reach him.

As a result, the delivery person ends up with a package that he will have to deliver again. If you combine empty trucks and routing errors, you can understand the loss of revenue. The drivers lose time, which costs the logistician and the e-merchant money. 

In addition, longer than expected delivery times have a negative impact on customer satisfaction. 84% of shoppers say they are unlikely to buy from a company again after a bad delivery experience.

Finally, it's important to remember that delivery is not just about the urban environment. What happens when the package to be delivered is in rural areas?The unit cost of shipping simply explodes.

2. Can green logistics solve the last mile problem?

Choosing a carrier that pollutes less: logical and efficient 

It's no longer news: ecological values are sought after by the consumer. Some logistics companies have understood this, and ecology is an integral part of their value proposition. Today, we can observe the development of real "green logistics," which takes several forms. 

Reduce the CO2 emissions

First of all, you can look for a carrier that offset sits CO2 emissions. 

For example, Colissimo finances environmental projects that allow offsetting nearly 1.5 million tons of CO2 each year. 

Of course, this does not reduce pollution, but this system has the merit of trying to repair pollution that is inevitable due to our lifestyles.

The development of green transportation 

Then, you can consider looking at transporters, such as Chronopost, who have a fleet of ecological vehicles: 

Green utility vehicles are perfect for city delivery. No CO2 emissions, minimal fuel consumption, and, best of all, they make no noise;

Bicycles, if the size of the parcel lends itself to it, are a good option for short distances in the city and for avoiding traffic jams in town. 

The result is obvious time saving and extremely reduced pollution. In addition, the appearance of cargo bikes now makes it possible to deliver more packages.

Today, there are multiple solutions at the local level. It will be up to you to do some research according to your geographical situation. 

Technology for an optimized route

Finally, you can also choose a carrier such as DHL that uses route optimization.

Thanks to technology, you can better organize your logistics and calculate the best route based on traffic congestion, fuel consumption, the distance the package travels, the type of vehicles driven, or the way the delivery drivers drive. 

The goal? Consume less fuel to reduce pollution (and save money in the process).

Propose alternatives to fight against the last mile

As an e-commerce brand, you can directly fight against the perverse effects of the last mile. All you have to do is offer your customers several delivery options. 

As you now know, the empty trip of trucks is due to fast delivery. Overnight, it is impossible for logisticians to organize themselves. And yet, empty running, whether for parcels or trucks, is an ecological and economic plague. 

So what can you do?

  • Favor relay points. Thanks to this system, the carrier can combine several orders from the same area and avoid the inconveniences of the last mile: pollution is reduced, unit costs per parcel are lowered, and, above all, the deliveryman's return trips due to the customer's absence are avoided. The customer is free to pick up his parcel provided, of course, that he respects the timetable of the relay point (it is often local stores that take care of it).
  • Offer lockers. Less widespread than the relay points, the Chronopost pickup, for example, proposes lockers where the customers can recover their parcels without the constraint of a schedule. Here, the flexibility is complete, and this type of delivery is appreciated precisely for the freedom it offers to consumers. 

Consumers are now used to these types of delivery. It is, so to speak, part of the way of life. The system is now well established, and for a few euros less, the buyer will potentially agree to be active in receiving his package (he will sometimes prefer this option to home delivery).

Bigblue Tips
Elevate your customer experience with Bigblue's Pickup Point app for Shopify. When working with Bigblue, you can also integrate seamlessly with leading carriers like Mondial Relay, giving customers the option to choose a convenient pickup location at checkout. This translates to a smoother shopping journey and happier customers, ultimately increasing conversions.

3. What if green logistics also meant raising end-customer awareness?

The gentle sensitization of end customers on the evils of fast delivery.

Fighting against the effects of the last mile (and against pollution in general) is a collective issue. Many consumers are unaware of the harms of fast shipping.

The idea is not to make the customer feel guilty but rather to inform him about his ecological impact. They will, of course, remain free to take into account or not the alternative delivery methods that you propose.

Some e-merchants have undertaken work to include information about the ecological cost in the purchase or delivery process.

Paygreen offers a positive impact payment system.  

It is simply a matter of engaging customers without disrupting your sales tunnel, thanks to a simple possibility for them to compensate their order by paying a few cents for an ecological program.

Ensure the traceability of the package: green logistics must be transparent

At each stage of delivery, you can also inform your customer of the status of his parcel in your tracking emails. 

This way, they will be aware of the different stages their order goes through (and the kilometers covered).

To go even further, at Bigblue, we offer you the possibility to create and personalize the emails that your customers will receive at the time of the preparation of the order, of its sending, as well as its arrival.  

Therefore, it is possible to integrate your branding elements and educate your customers on the subject of the last mile! 

The objective is to maintain a pleasant customer experience while demonstrating your commitment to greener logistics.

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