Global and domestic supply chains have played a pivotal role in the growth of the Indian economy. A robust and modernised retail supply chain secures better market access for goods and services, and boosts consumption growth. It creates economies of scale by bringing down manufacturing costs.

In recent times, social distancing, hygiene, and safety norms in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic have highlighted the significant need and demand for last-mile logistics as well as the critical role that technology plays in seamless last-mile deliveries. As consumers tap e-tailing platforms for essential supplies, technology has emerged as a game-changer. It is now a crucial enabler of safe last-mile deliveries. With the economy around the supply chain passing through unprecedented stress, last-mile logistics providers will need to build a robust tech-enabled delivery framework.

E-commerce players and retailers will need to integrate new-age technological tools into their operational processes to drive speedy and efficient delivery. They can gain competitive edge in customer loyalty by imparting an elevated real-time last-mile experience through the life cycle of the order.

A large number of last-mile transactions are today carried out through the cash-on-delivery (COD) mode. In the light of Covid-19 containment protocols and hygiene norms, many e-tailers have switched from COD to alternative online payment methods. A key innovative payment mode entails a One Time Password (OTP) wherein a secured code is digitally sent for verification at the delivery stage, eliminating physical contact with the end consumer.

The deployment of user-friendly mobile delivery-tracking apps holds the potential to change the functional competency of the last-mile ecosystem. Such platforms enable end consumers to keep a track of their shipments in real time, from the time an order is placed to its delivery.

Apps help ensure a seamless workflow and manage business processes efficiently. Last-mile logistics companies can also use apps to gain actionable insights from customer feedback, which is crucial for enhanced service quality, faster resolution of customer queries and speedy expansion of the business.

Technologically advanced platforms play a cardinal role in facilitating smart route management for deliveries. By digitally-enabling the route optimization a faster turnaround time can be achieved. Last-mile players can also bring their operating cost down by saving on fuel.

It is also equally important to meet the ever-increasing demands and expectations of customers. They should be provided with simplified tools and user-friendly interfaces for placing orders online. Logistics companies should ensure that customers do not face technical glitches while transacting on digital platforms. Customer feedback should be taken into consideration to constantly improve the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) of digital tools and platforms.

Poor customer experience can lead to outright rejection of orders. Last-mile logistics operators should assure their customers of speedy delivery within a timeframe of, say, two to three days, or even one-day/ same-day deliveries where possible. The focus of last-mile logistics players should be not only on raising business volumes but also on attaining higher customer turnout through channels like smart devices, social media and virtual assistants.

It is high time that logistics players recalibrate their supply chain strategies with technology integration to enhance the consumer experience. This will enable them to further improve last-mile delivery. Considering the new normal business environment and the pace at which digitalisation is disrupting the industry, it is only a matter of time before tech integration becomes one of the major determinants of business success.

Views are personal. The author is deputy managing director, GATI-KWE.

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