Last-Mile Delivery 101: How a 3PL Works With Last-Mile Carriers for Best-in-Class Fulfillment (2023)

Last-Mile Delivery 101: How a 3PL Works With Last-Mile Carriers for Best-in-Class Fulfillment (1)

By Shannon Callarman July 20, 2020

Last-Mile Delivery 101: How a 3PL Works With Last-Mile Carriers for Best-in-Class Fulfillment (2)

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Last-mile logistics has always been a hot topic in the world of fulfillment. Today’s customer expectations demand fast and accurate shipping no matter where they shop online. And now, due to COVID-19, ecommerce sales continue to accelerate. This means new challenges for retailers and shippers to deliver a positive last-mile delivery experience for online shoppers.

Same-day delivery and last-mile logistics in North America is estimated to reach up to $50.95 billion in market size by 2022. And from delivery time to customer communication and ecommerce order tracking, expectations are only getting higher.

Last-Mile Delivery 101: How a 3PL Works With Last-Mile Carriers for Best-in-Class Fulfillment (3)

93% of customers expect visibility into the order process, from in-transit status to arrival date, while 47% of consumers will not order again from a direct-to-consumer brand that lacks order tracking visibility.

As technology advances and even more customers’ preferences shift in this direction, the last leg of delivery is one of the most challenging and important parts of supply chain management.

What is last-mile delivery?

Last-mile delivery is a logistics term used to describe the transportation of a package from a fulfillment center to the package’s final destination. The goal of a last mile carrier is to deliver the item as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. Most last mile carriers have a fleet of vehicles that actually deliver the product(s) to the customer.

(Video) Webinar: Optimizing the Last Mile Delivery Experience to Drive Customer Retention Recording

An example of a last-mile carrier is Amazon, who has increased their last-mile efforts in order to increase delivery speed and in turn, customer satisfaction.

Importance of last-mile delivery

Efficient and cost-effective last-mile delivery is important for maintaining customer loyalty and customer satisfaction. If your customers are not receiving their products fast enough, it’s easy for them to look for your products elsewhere with better delivery options.

Thanks to Amazon, the rise of two-day shipping has become the new norm, and marketing fast or free shipping is now a common customer-centric marketing strategy for ecommerce businesses.

Challenges of last-mile delivery

To enable a positive last-mile delivery experience, ecommerce businesses must overcome a few challenges, such as order fulfillment, shipping costs, and order tracking.

To compete with large retailers and marketplaces like Amazon, DTC brands must invest in the technology, infrastructure, and manpower to fulfill and ship orders quickly while also keeping overall logistics costs low, so it doesn’t cut into gross profit margins.

Last-mile delivery costs

28% of an online brand’s bottom line comes from last-mile delivery costs. Most of the time, it gets passed on to the customer, but not always. In 2018, a study revealed that businesses spent approximately $10 per order on last-mile delivery alone.

Another study stated that businesses can potentially experience profit declines by as much as 26% over a three-year period if last-mile delivery is not optimized.

That’s not to say that offering a great shipping policy (free, fast, or both!) that doesn’t cut into profits isn’t possible. Many brands have turned to a tech-enabled third-party logistics (3PL) company to help reduce costs by tapping into the technology and infrastructure needed to optimize the last-mile delivery phase.

What is a last-mile carrier?

The last-mile delivery process involves delivering a package from the nearest shipping hub to its final destination as cost-effectively and quickly as possible. Last mile-carriers are the actual shipping companies that transport packages, for example, FedEx, UPS, USPS, and other regional carriers. However, some carriers like UPS and FedEx have utilized USPS for last-mile delivery of parcels for some services like FedEx SmartPost and UPS SurePost to save money.

Last-mile carrier tracking

Finally, when it comes to last-mile delivery, communication is vital. A ProShip study found that 97% of customers expect the ability to monitor their orders throughout every step of the shipping process. ShipBob offers real-time order tracking from the dashboard. This also keeps customers up-to-date if unpreventable delivery exceptions occur.

Receive a ship date based on estimated arrival, and access shipment tracking information in real-time. You can even easily pass these details along to your customers.

Top last-mile carrier providers

Here is an overview of some of the major last-mile carrier providers that ecommerce brands and consumers rely on to get packages to destinations quickly and safely, though there are many smaller local or regional carriers that do the same.


FedEx is a multinational corporation that has offered delivery services since 1971. The company specializes in delivering time-sensitive packages and is committed to providing customers with the best door-to-door delivery experience.

(Video) IDM (Interactive Delivery Management) - the secret sauce for first-class last mile delivery

At the beginning of 2020, FedEx announced that it was taking steps to increase efficiency and lower the costs of last-mile residential deliveries as ecommerce sales continue to grow.


UPS is a top delivery service for ecommerce businesses. In recent years, the company has optimized its services further and introduced UPS Express Critical to meet growing consumer demands. UPS provides real-time shipment tracking (from pickup to delivery) and optimized routes to ensure timely delivery and control costs, plus other key features and benefits.

They have even introduced services like UPS My Choice and UPS Access Points to add further convenience to the last-mile delivery experience.


USPS continues to be a preferred option for last-mile delivery services. Although mail volumes have declined, USPS continues to see a surge in package deliveries. USPS also works with other major carriers like FedEx and UPS to support last-mile deliveries, which has helped support the fast growth of ecommerce.

USPS has also introduced new technology, such as the Informed Deliver program, which offers a daily update on what packages a customer will receive that day.

How are carriers solving for last-mile delivery?

In the United States, 90% of last-mile delivery growth is driven by ecommerce. So solving for last-mile delivery issues is a high priority for both shipping carriers and fulfilment companies. Carriers like FedEx and UPS face challenges with inefficient routes and missed deliveries. Oftentimes, the carriers overcome these difficulties by using USPS to complete the last leg of delivery.

UPS and FedEx will often transport orders hundreds or even thousands of miles before passing the package on to USPS to complete the final mile of delivery. USPS runs local routes every day, meaning they already deliver to the end customer through residential routes and don’t have to go out of their way to do so.

However, UPS and FedEx are working to catch up to USPS by exploring cheaper and more efficient delivery processes and methods.

Last-mile delivery amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

The alarming onset of the global Coronavirus pandemic caused many countries to undergo lockdown, with physical stores closing their doors. Thus, the demand for home deliveries and ecommerce increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even Amazon couldn’t keep up with the demand. Although they reported $75.5 billion in 2020 first quarter sales (up by 26% from last year), they saw a drop in profits due to the inability to meet last-mile delivery expectations.

To keep up with demand and offer more ‘contactless delivery’ options for safety purposes, new technology has been introduced to automate last-mile delivery methods. For example, Jingdong logistics in Beijing, China, launched autonomous drones and shuttles to deliver commercial and pharmaceutical products to customers quarantined in urban areas.

In early 2019, FedEx introduced a prototype of the same-day delivery bot, Roxo. FedEx is now hoping to commercialize Roxo within the next 18 to 36 months.

How last-mile delivery helps with 2-day shipping

With the rise of fast, free delivery and expectation of two-day shipping, the last-mile plays a major role in getting orders to customers on time.

(Video) Ecommerce Fulfillment, Online Fulfillment & Distribution 101

Another piece that directly impacts the ability to deliver quickly and affordably is fulfillment location. To use ground shipping to reduce shipping costs and transit times (as opposed to more expensive air shipping), orders must be able to ship from a location closest to the end destination.
As ecommerce businesses grow and their order volume picks up, they will typically ship from additional fulfillment centers across diverse regions to more efficiently reach customers, while depending on last-mile delivery to get them there on time.

How 3PLs like ShipBob help with last-mile delivery

Working with ShipBob lets you leverage both the inherent last-mile strengths of USPS, innovations from UPS and FedEx, and additional support from regional carriers we partner with. Before shipping every order, we get quotes from all of the major carriers. Then we use the best value carrier and pass the savings on to you. This way, you and your customers benefit from fast and affordable delivery.

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We can also analyze customer data to optimize where your orders ship from. With the distributed inventory model, inventory is strategically split across different fulfillment centers of your choice and then sent from the warehouse that is located closest to the customer. When your orders travel less distance, you save both money and time in transit.

With last-mile logistics, fast ecommerce shipping is key. The less distance between the warehousingfacility and the customer, the better. ShipBob continues to add more locations to its US network, including international fulfillment locations across the globe.

Last-mile delivery FAQs

Last-mile delivery can be confusing at times. Here are some of the most common questions regarding last-mile delivery.

What does accepted by last-mile mean?

When tracking a delivery or shipment, “accepted by last-mile carrier” means that your package or shipment has been received by the third-party responsible for the final delivery.

How much does the last-mile cost?

The last-mile of your package’s journey can cost up to around 25% of your shipping costs. This can be a very lopsided amount if your package has gone 500 miles, only to have less than 1% of the journey be 25% of the cost.

What is the ‘last-mile challenge?’

Cutting costs and improving efficiency on last-mile delivery is what is commonly referred to as the ‘last-mile challenge.’

What is first-mile delivery?

The first-mile is the step in the ecommerce logistics and shipping process where packages are handed from a retailer, wholesaler, supplier, or fulfillment center to a shipping carrier.

How can I improve my last-mile delivery?

You can improve your last-mile delivery speed and lower costs by utilizing more warehouses, being closer to customers, and offering tracking for you and your customer. This can all be done by partnering with a 3PL, like ShipBob.

(Video) Last Mile Delivery Evolution

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How do I optimize my last mile delivery? ›

Steps to Transform Last Mile Delivery Operations
  1. Put an audacious plan in place. ...
  2. Technology makes a significant difference. ...
  3. Use analytics to gain deep operational and customer insights. ...
  4. Get the right metrics in place. ...
  5. Standardize and automate. ...
  6. Enable the driver. ...
  7. Manage the customer. ...
  8. Steer customers to optimal delivery times.

What is the final mile carrier? ›

What is a last mile carrier? A last mile carrier is a logistics provider that is responsible for the final stage of delivery to consumers. They often come in the form of a fleet with vehicles which are used by a retailer to provide last mile delivery services to its customers.

What are the advantages of last mile delivery? ›

By optimizing routes, scaling per day deliveries, boosting fleet productivity and increasing customer loyalty, last mile delivery software significantly reduces fuel consumption, shrink fleet management expenses and ensure customer retention.

What are KPI in last mile delivery? ›

The cost that a company has to bear in executing an order per mile, per vehicle, is a KPI that needs to be calculated daily. To do so, the total number of shipments sent via a given route at a specific time and a certain price, have to be averaged.

How does final mile delivery work? ›

The last-mile delivery process involves delivering a package from the nearest shipping hub to its final destination as cost-effectively and quickly as possible. Last mile-carriers are the actual shipping companies that transport packages, for example, FedEx, UPS, USPS, and other regional carriers.

How long does last mile carrier take? ›

How long does a last mile carrier take? Usually, it takes between 8-10 business days with economy class service, 4-6 days with basic service, and 2 days with expedited service. In most situations, the time-consuming part of the process is the final mile (a.k.a. last mile), i.e. the delivery to the customer's residence.

Can you track last mile carrier? ›

Last mile carrier tracking shows the status and often location of a package from the moment the shipping information is sent to the carrier. Some carriers provide updates as a package moves from one sortation center to the next, and some show the real-time location of the package on a map when it's out for delivery.

What is 3PL last mile delivery? ›

A third-party logistics provider, also known as a 3PL, is a vendor that fulfills orders for ecommerce companies. The 3PL often stores the products in a warehouse that serves a specific region of customers. When orders are placed, the 3PL is responsible for final transportation and fulfilling last mile delivery.

What is an example of a last mile problem? ›

In supply chain management, the last mile describes the difficult last part in the transportation of people and packages from hubs to their final destinations. Some of the problems of last-mile delivery include minimizing cost, ensuring transparency, increasing efficiency, and improving infrastructure.

What are the 4 main KPIs? ›

Anyway, the four KPIs that always come out of these workshops are:
  • Customer Satisfaction,
  • Internal Process Quality,
  • Employee Satisfaction, and.
  • Financial Performance Index.
25 Sept 2013

Why is it called last mile delivery? ›

What is last mile delivery? In a product's journey from warehouse shelf, to the back of a truck, to a customer doorstep, the “last mile” of delivery is the final step of the process — the point at which the package finally arrives at the buyer's door.

How long does it take to ship 1000 miles? ›

How long it takes to ship a car
Total milesPick-up estimateTransport estimate
<500 miles≈5 days≈2 days
500–1,000 miles5 days≈4 days
1,000–1,500 miles≈5 days≈6 days
1,500–2,000 miles≈5 days≈8 days
2 more rows
24 Feb 2022

When should I use last mile delivery? ›

Any business that needs to deliver its products to the end consumer uses last mile delivery. Industries who commonly utilize last mile delivery include retail, logistics and 3PL companies, food and grocery industries, and post and parcel companies.

How long does it take carriers to deliver? ›

Carriers travel about 300-500 miles per day. So, for about 1000 miles that can be 2-3 days on the road. Weather and road conditions can affect travel time.

Is last mile delivery part of supply chain? ›

Last mile in supply chain management and transportation planning is the last leg of a journey comprising the movement of people and goods from a transportation hub to a final destination.

What industry is last mile delivery? ›

Last mile delivery aims to deliver items to customers as quickly as possible while minimizing company costs. Last mile delivery accounts for more than 50% of the total shipping cost. It is mostly used in food, e-commerce, retail, or pharmaceutical industries.

What is 3PL fulfillment? ›

3PL (third-party logistics) fulfillment refers to outsourcing the retail order fulfillment process to a team of experts. This includes receiving orders, picking and packing, inventory management, shipping, and warehousing.

Is 3PL the same as fulfillment? ›

Although 3PL has some overlaps with full-service fulfillment center's services, most 3PL companies focus on basic functions of logistics(pick and pack, warehousing, distribution, etc.) when full-service fulfillment centers provide more comprehensive services.

How does 3PL shipping work? ›

A 3PL is a company that provides outsourced logistics solutions to clients for some or all of their shipment needs. Third-party logistics companies provide a wide range of services including transportation, warehousing, packing, inventory forecasting, order fulfillment, and freight forwarding.

Why is last mile delivery inefficient? ›

Since last-mile delivery involves shipping packages to various addresses, the delivery drivers will need to stop at multiple drop-off points. As a result, this condition will require drivers to drive at slower speeds and result in more gas per mile consumption.

What is the first last mile problem? ›

‌What is the First Mile/Last Mile Problem? One of the most pressing challenges facing public transportation today is the “First and Last Mile Problem”, which is the distance a commuter needs to travel from a transit stop to their destination, or vice versa.

› blog › what-is-last-mile-delivery ›

What is Last Mile Delivery? › blog › what-is-last-mile-delivery › blog › what-is-last-mile-delivery
Last mile delivery refers to the final step of the delivery process when a parcel is moved from a transportation hub to its final destination, typically a resid...
Businesses are racing to develop new technologies and experimental supply chain models to increase parcel volume, expedite deliveries, and delight customers. Bu...
Last mile delivery has become a popular area of interest for retailers due to the growing demand for fully integrated omnichannel retailing.

How do you optimize a delivery route? ›

8 tips to improve your delivery routes
  1. Take a critical look at your data. ...
  2. Account for stops in your travel time calculations. ...
  3. Think about how you want to organize your routes. ...
  4. Use the right mode of transportation for the area. ...
  5. Consider the heart of your route. ...
  6. Input your specific processes in your software.

How do you optimize delivery process? ›

What is the Meaning of Delivery Optimisation?
  1. Using analytics to understand the customers.
  2. Terms of route planning.
  3. Controlling the delivery costs.
  4. Delivery agents.
  5. Leveraging the latest technological systems.
  6. Automating repetitive tasks (like fleet scheduling) to speed up the processes.
2 Jun 2022

How can I improve my delivery accuracy? ›

How Can I Improve My Shipping Accuracy?
  1. Communicate with suppliers and schedule predictable receiving appointments.
  2. Have separate staff members double check all labels and product tags.
  3. Don't rely on a single product count, use at least two.
2 May 2022

How do you optimize door dash? ›

  1. Maximize your tax write-offs.
  2. Find the best times to dash.
  3. Book your dashes in advance.
  4. Don't waste time hovering around a single hotspot.
  5. Stop worrying about your acceptance rate.
  6. Know which deliveries to avoid.
  7. Don't be afraid to cancel accepted orders (sometimes)
  8. Restart the DoorDash app regularly.

What are the most important factors when choosing a delivery? ›

Speed. The first and perhaps the most important factor to consider is the speed of delivery. For most businesses, the time the shipment will be fulfilled is critical. So, aside from considering the average speed, you should also look into the range of speeds the courier can deliver at.

What are 5 major benefits of Optimising transportation route scheduling? ›

Here's a quick rundown of what you can do with the best route optimizer:
  • Boost productivity. Your fleet will be more productive if you plan your routes efficiently. ...
  • Reduce transportation costs. ...
  • Improve driver satisfaction. ...
  • Reduce the risk of accidents. ...
  • Enhance customer satisfaction.
14 Mar 2022

How route is determined in delivery? ›

Route determination is done based on the target country and transportation zone along with the shipping point. If you have the same shipping points for two deliveries to the same country and same transportation zone, then the same route determination is applied to both.

What makes a good delivery service? ›

Quality products, friendly service, and clear communication are crucial components of establishing your credibility in the industry. Maintaining that reputation requires trouble-free delivery, warehousing, distribution, and logistics.

How can I improve my delivery excellence? ›

Here are ways your organization can ensure IT delivery excellence.
9 Oct 2017

What is quality delivery process? ›

The quality delivery process

Total quality is an approach which looks critically at the products and services an organization produces in relation to the processes it takes to create them and the people who do the work to ensure that what is delivered (outputs) fully satisfies agreed customer require- ments.

How do you evaluate delivery performance? ›

7 Key Metrics in Delivery Logistics to Measure for Success
  1. Number of Deliveries. The number of completed deliveries of your products or services. ...
  2. On-Time Delivery. ...
  3. Order Accuracy. ...
  4. Transit Time to Distance. ...
  5. Vehicle Capacity vs. ...
  6. Average Time Per Delivery. ...
  7. Average Cost of Delivery.
20 Apr 2020

How can I overcome delay in delivery? ›

Shipping delays part two: Tips for handling late deliveries
  1. Manage delivery expectations.
  2. Provide ongoing shipping updates.
  3. Communicate with your customer promptly.
  4. Offer a solution.
  5. Offer real-time shipment tracking capabilities.
  6. Top tips for on-time delivery.
23 Aug 2022

How do I get a higher paying DoorDash order? ›

A: Dashers must have a customer rating of at least 4.5 and an acceptance rate of 50% or higher to unlock priority access to high paying orders. Dashers who have an acceptance rate of 70% or higher will receive even more priority for high paying orders.

What are hidden tips on DoorDash? ›

We all know doordash likes to hide tips above $4 on doordash, but this is only the case for those orders under 4 miles. Here is a little guide called the three fitty rule. 1: orders under 4 miles have a threshold or base pay of $2-2.50 + up to $4 max tip shown so $6-6.50 in order for it to have a hidden tip.

What hours is DoorDash most busy? ›

Peak times: Lunch and dinner

Peak times tend to align with meal times, so lunch (11:00 AM to 2:00 PM) and dinner (4:30 PM to 8:00 PM) are often the busiest times to dash -- which should mean more money! To snag a spot during the lunch or dinner rush, you can schedule a dash up to 5 days in advance.

› news › 8-tips-to-improve-your... ›

Want to start optimizing your delivery routes today? Route optimization specialist Johan Ruijten gives 8 smart tips. This allows you to learn and optimize your ...
Time To Read: 4 minutes. Take control of your day with a smarter, more dependable route plan. Learn how you can leverage route optimization software to enable m...


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