If COVID-19 has any lasting change on business, it likely will be the spotlight it has shined on the crucial importance and complexity of last-mile delivery for businesses and consumers alike.

Last-mile deliveries surged during the earliest days of the pandemic and continue as retail businesses and restaurants have had to shift to a home-delivery model.

It's likely, at least for the near future, that last-mile delivery will continue to dominate the way goods reach the hands of Americans.

Connectivity Is Key

With upwards of 100 stops a day, drivers who provide last-mile deliveries must adapt to an ever-changing work pattern.

Crucial to the success of these deliveries is having reliable connectivity to the shipper or distributor and the customer. Whether it’s a major package distribution company or a local restaurant, efficient routing is the only way deliveries will arrive on time based on customer expectations and satisfaction. Updates, delivery changes, and rerouting because of traffic delays or construction are only possible with advanced routing software that provides near- or real-time updates.

Communicating accurate estimated time of arrival to customers along with proof of delivery through text or e-mail alerts provide the tracking transparency that guarantees customer satisfaction. That is only possible with today’s modern wireless infrastructure.

Telematics or built-in GPS capabilities are the only ways fleets can leverage that infrastructure to meet last-mile delivery demands.

Changing Operations

Today’s pandemic-related surge in last-mile delivery accelerates a trend that had already started with online commerce displacing traditional brick and mortar stores. It’s estimated that by April 2021 that 50% of all mall department stores will be closed, further shifting the commerce model online.

These centralized distribution centers — some undoubtedly located in vacated malls — will dominate commercial real estate, changing fleet last-mile delivery operations to more local, consumer, or small business deliveries.

This will give rise to smaller delivery vehicles making more stops, meaning that connectivity — whatever form it takes — will need to be a foremost priority for fleets and their companies.

Whatever the context, connectivity boils down to having a reliable, transparent, fast means of communication.

Looking Ahead

As ecommerce and subsequent last-mile deliveries continue to become entrenched in the way Americans live and do business, technology will evolve to meet the demand.

We’re already seeing glimpses of it. Experiments with autonomous delivery trucks, robots, and drones are just some of the ways last-mile delivery giants are looking to make last-mile delivery more efficient and profitable.

But no matter how these systems change or evolve, they will be underpinned by the need for a strong communications infrastructure to connect every participant in the last-mile transaction.