Reinventing Last-Mile Deliveries: How the Pandemic Has Changed the Rules Of the Game According to an Accenture analysis, by 2023, more than 50 per cent of all e-commerce purchases will be delivered from local inventory, highlighting the traction that hyperlocal last-mile deliveries have gained

By Saahil Goel

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When news of the COVID-19 outbreak surfaced late last year, little did we expect it to become one of the biggest global health crises in history after the Spanish Flu. Having disrupted almost every single aspect of our lives, the pandemic continues its onslaught across several countries in the world. For businesses across verticals, the impact of the pandemic has been catastrophic and as the economy gradually reopens, they have restarted operations and are getting back on their feet. For the country's e-commerce logistics sector, the scenario is not too different.

The Indian e-commerce logistics sector has not only witnessed remarkable growth since the onset of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic but has also evolved drastically to keep pace with the fast-changing world. While the onset of the pandemic resulted in multiple lockdowns and restrictions on movement, it also gave way to a dramatic increase in the demand for essential items such as food, groceries, and pharmaceuticals, and people turned to online shopping for doorstep delivery of products.

The e-commerce industry capitalized on this growing demand to expand their services and introduced several features such as same-day and next day deliveries amongst others. Particularly for brands that offered last-mile delivery services, the pandemic has caused several disruptions resulting in companies reinventing their working models to adapt to the "new normal'. Here's an overview of how COVID-19 has transformed last-mile deliveries.

The rise of hyperlocal delivery services

As consumer demand increased, so did the competition in the market amongst e-commerce sellers, paving the way for the rise of hyperlocal delivery services. What is hyperlocal delivery? Today, online shopping is more popular than ever, especially in metro cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai with the number of online shoppers in India projected to cross 220 million by 2025. Online retailers/e-commerce sellers are now delivering goods to more than 20,000 pin codes across the country, mainly with the help of third-party logistics providers/logistics aggregators. Simply put, hyperlocal delivery refers to a delivery model that caters to a smaller geographical area.

Third-party logistics providers have managed to widen their array of services to hyperlocal deliveries, warehousing and order fulfillment, and cost-effective packaging solutions. In addition to these, aggregators have also expanded their geographical footprint by catering to an ever-increasing number of pin codes to ensure that doorstep delivery becomes a pan-India prerequisite amidst the current crisis.

Contactless is the new way forward

Given the current scenario of the world, safety and hygiene have taken precedence for every business and individual. To ensure safe last-mile deliveries, players are leveraging cutting-edge technologies such as AI, ML, and Big Data to complete the deliveries safely and efficiently. Right from warehouse management, brands have begun to digitize almost every aspect of the operations including automated packaging solutions, contactless delivery methods such as OTP-based delivery, and automated payment gateways, to enhance safety.

The pandemic has indisputably changed the rules of the game when it comes to last-mile delivery businesses. Not just in metro cities, e-commerce logistics players are also ensuring last-mile deliveries in tier-II, tier-III cities that are witnessing greater penetration of logistical networks largely due to the pandemic-induced reverse migration.

The crisis has highlighted the need to build a frictionless post-order consumer experience like never before. To accomplish this, improvisation, and integration of tech-driven logistic solutions are necessary, and e-commerce logistics players are constantly evolving, thus streamlining the entire last-mile delivery process, making it safer, more convenient, and less time-consuming.

Saahil Goel

CEO and Co-Founder, Shiprocket

Saahil Goel is the CEO and co-founder of ShipRocket (BigFoot Retail Solutions Pvt. Ltd.)

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