Research Insight: Is Your Last Mile Technology Fit for Purpose?

| Post, Parcel & Express

Last mile delivery barcode scanning on smartphone

The last mile is evolving at pace with logistics businesses facing a post-pandemic digital reality check.

Massive e-commerce growth, unforeseen peaks, and relentless pressure to deliver ever faster and with more flexibility are forcing companies to rethink how to sustain customer satisfaction and long-term profitability.

Drivers and their devices make or break the last mile

Technology is becoming the hero of the hour as couriers race to win the last mile.

But the big question is, which technology can unlock the greatest efficiencies to help post, parcel, and third-party logistics businesses meet growing demand with operational excellence? And which best supports the vital role drivers play – from loading vans to contactless proof of delivery.

In 2021, Scandit collaborated with VDC Research to explore post-pandemic challenges and technology trends with executives from over 118 enterprises, including national postal carriers and seven of the largest couriers in the world. It covered 23 countries across North America and Europe.

The findings are published in two reports:

Part 1Is Your Last Mile Technology Fit for Purpose? Industry Challenges & Device Choice.

Part 2Is Your Last Mile Technology Fit for Purpose? Technology Strategy, Investment & Innovation.

Here we highlight the five most significant findings these two research reports uncovered.

1. Smartphones are displacing hardware scanners as the last mile device of choice

Globally, smartphones are becoming the technology of choice in last mile delivery.

What’s more, 49% of those using hardware scanners are open to switching their devices to smartphones, so users will likely increase.

Smartphones consolidate several last mile delivery tasks into a single device, which can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership. For example, drivers can scan, navigate, communicate, and take photos for delivery proof. They also offer delivery companies a cost-effective alternative to hardware scanners, providing a more future-proof platform that can scale and evolve with business needs.

2. The ability to add new features is driving smartphone adoption

Having the flexibility to add new and advanced features bolsters the usefulness of what is already a highly functional device with broad capabilities.

Unlike typical hardware scanners, smartphones equipped with scanning apps can scan any type of barcoded and non-barcoded labels. They can also deploy innovative data capture capabilities to transform traditional processes.

For example, you can add advanced functionality to Scandit’s barcode scanner SDK like MatrixScan AR, which enables drivers to quickly scan multiple barcodes at once to identify a parcel from many. Or add ID scanning, which captures identity details from documents like passports and driver’s licenses using a combination of OCR and barcode scanning.

3. Driver shortages, inefficiencies and costs fuel last mile challenges

In North America, 37.8% said that their biggest challenge was a shortage of qualified drivers.

This was not as important in Europe, where the biggest concern – identified by 55.4% of respondents – was to eliminate process inefficiency, followed by lowering costs (reported by 50% of respondents).

Deploying smartphones for last mile delivery is an easy way to address the challenge of driver shortages. They are ubiquitous, so companies can leverage the gig economy by allowing part-time and ad hoc workers to use their smartphones under a bring your own device (BYOD) model. They can also leverage advanced functionality on smartphone apps such as Augmented Reality (AR) to boost employee performance (and ultimately satisfaction) by giving drivers AR visual guidance on last mile tasks.

For example, UK-based delivery business Yodel transformed their last mile performance and boosted productivity by replacing scanners with a Scandit-enabled barcode scanning app downloaded and used by 7,000 delivery drivers on their personal smartphones.

Equally, smartphones can help companies to scale up at speed to meet increased or fluctuating demand while minimizing inefficiencies and reducing the total cost of ownership.

4. Bring your own device (BYOD) is delivering results

Adopting a BYOD strategy for delivery drivers is a powerful solution for increasing employee satisfaction. By simply adding a scanning-enabled mobile app to their own device, workers have a familiar user experience that facilitates essential last mile delivery tasks.

And, with the addition of an Augmented Reality overlay, drivers get clear visual guidance directly displayed on their device screens to help with sorting and loading the van more efficiently. As a result, even inexperienced drivers can achieve greater productivity.

The adoption of BYOD varies across regions and largely depends on whether smartphones are used.

The proliferation of smartphones and the opportunity they present to tap into the gig economy will likely drive an increased adoption rate as the technology continues to prove its worth.

5. Augmented reality is increasingly important

Across the globe, 76.3% of enterprises view augmented reality (AR) as an important last mile technology.

Employing AR on smartphones has enormous potential to tackle last mile delivery challenges. It is a technological innovation that not only delivers a better experience for the customer but also increases operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Using Scandit’s smart data capture, including AR overlays on smartphones, streamlines last mile tasks such as loading delivery vans and sorting, searching, and identifying packages. Compared to dedicated scanners, it facilitates quick and accurate customer deliveries, with a lower total cost of ownership when used on BYOD.

Pat Nolan, Senior Research Analyst at VDC Research who conducted part of the survey, indicates the importance of AR as a last mile delivery technology:

Download the report series

How does your last mile delivery operation compare to others? Benchmark your own business and get more technology insights by reading the full findings in our two published reports:

Part 1Is Your Last Mile Technology Fit for Purpose? Industry Challenges & Device Choice.

Part 2Is Your Last Mile Technology Fit for Purpose? Technology Strategy, Investment & Innovation.

If you’d like to discuss how Scandit smart data capture on mobile devices can help your last mile business, please get in touch.