How To Improve Your Last Mile Delivery Tracking

March 1, 2021
A young man holding a cup looks at an open laptop screen. His expression is happy and excited.

Has this ever happened to you?

Orders come in, and your team fulfills them quickly. You pack up those orders, in record time, and send your delivery driver out into the world.

Then.. silence. You’re completely in the dark about where everything is because you don’t have a good last mile delivery tracking system in place.

Usually, what comes next is a combination of the following: 

  1. You are uncertain about where your drivers are and how they are doing
  2. You end up facing unhappy customers because drivers don’t arrive at the correct time
  3. You’re unable to answer customer inquiries when a delivery is late

Thanks to industry giants like Amazon, expectations for fast, accurate, and trackable deliveries have become the norm. Customers expect to have visibility of their orders an/or clear communication about their orders when they opt for home delivery.

A national consumer study from ShipStation saw that 87% of consumers expect proactive communications from the retailer if their delivery is negatively affected. So it is essential for small businesses to have a better understanding of how to track deliveries in the last mile to make this possible.

In this article, we will talk about the different types of last mile delivery tracking and the components found within a great tracking system. Let’s get started.

What is last mile tracking?

The time between when a product leaves a depot or warehouse and when it arrives at the customer’s doorstep is called last mile delivery. Planning last mile delivery logistics can be complex and costly, and it’s not a problem exclusive to large organizations. All local deliveries are technically “last mile deliveries”. 

So small businesses are often stuck with the same enterprise-level challenge to tackle. One of the solutions to that problem is to have tracking and visibility of your products and assets.

Last mile delivery tracking for local business

After you’ve planned your routes, it is important for you to have visibility of your vehicles. This helps you see how far along your drivers are with their routes in case you ever have to answer customer inquiries about ETAs, and it gives you a birds’ eye view of all your delivery vehicles, so you're never in the dark.

Here are some of the most essential components of last mile delivery tracking for local businesses:

GPS tracking of vehicles

Having an understanding of where your drivers are, in real-time, helps you track deliveries and progress. Typically, this comes in the form of a driver being able to send updates back to the dispatcher every time a stop is marked completed or skipped. When you don’t have this functionality, it can be frustrating:

Kevin Kronrad, VP, All Star Specialties Ice Cream Corp., used to hand his drivers a stack of delivery orders and let them decide where to go and when. He had no visibility where his drivers had gone and when they’d be back. One of his route planning tips for small businesses was to start using a dedicated mobile app.

A dedicated mobile driver’s app is useful for dispatchers and drivers, alike. They help dispatchers track drivers in real-time, without losing sight of their vehicles. This is particularly important for ensuring your drivers follow the routes assigned to them, which were optimized for cost and/or time. For drivers, live tracking is often complimented with additional functionality such as driver notes that have important details about delivery specifications, that can ultimately boost efficiency.

GPS tracking of vehicles

Photo capture and signature capture

Proof of delivery in the form of photo capture or signature capture can go a long way in giving your business peace of mind. When your drivers have the ability to capture this information, and send it back to the dispatcher, there are tangible bits of information to prove that deliveries have been moving forward as planned. This is useful for both businesses and customers, should there ever be a dispute.

At Routific, the workflow looks like this:

  • When your driver taps 'Arrived' for each stop, they will have the option to take a photo and/or collect a signature:
  • Tapping 'Add photo' will allow you to access your mobile phone's camera or select a saved photo from the mobile phone. 
  • Tapping 'Add signature' opens up a screen that allows customers to sign directly on the phone with their finger tip.
  • Both the photos and the signatures will then be sent to the dispatcher, where you can view them and have a record for proof of delivery.
  • This proof of delivery is also captured in a delivery tracking link for the customer. They can see information about when their package was delivered, as well as the photo that your driver has snapped.

Last mile delivery tracking for your customers

Once an order has been placed for home delivery, one of the main concerns for a customer is when they can expect to receive their order. Having tools that track last mile delivery is important to communicate important information to your customers, helping to give them a 5-star deliver`````y experience.

Here are some of the components you would need:

Customer notifications

Customer Notifications is a feature that allows you to automatically notify your customers about the status of their delivery, either by email or by SMS (text message).

This automation is particularly useful for consumers who have a busy schedule and need to know when to expect a delivery. Customer notifications help to provide time windows that a customer can expect to receive a delivery — helping them plan out their days appropriately. 

As you know, delays happen all the time. Another useful thing about customer notifications is that they can proactively inform all of your customers about new delivery ETAs if any of those delays occur.

Customer notifications

Allow customers to track delivery status on a map

Sometimes, your customers want to know exactly when to expect a delivery right down to the minute. Customer notifications for deliveries are great, but they are triggered at certain milestones, like when a route has been dispatched or a nearby stop is completed — leaving room for some ambiguity when it comes to an exact delivery time. 

That’s why having the ability to track delivery status on a map is so useful to customers. Similar to ordering food for delivery, delivery tracking links help your customer see where their delivery driver is on a map, in real time.

Here’s an example of the experience a customer has when clicking Routific’s delivery tracking link:

When your customers click the tracking link, they'll be taken to a webpage that looks similar to Routific's traditional Customer Notifications. The biggest differences between Customer Notifications and the tracking link are: 

  • They can see the driver approaching their location once the driver is 15mins away
  • They can can see proof-of-delivery if your driver uploads a photo to the Driver App
Allow customers to track delivery status on a map

Does my business need last mile delivery tracking?

Having tools to track deliveries in the last mile is essential to giving visibility to both your customers and the people managing your deliveries. 

For customers, tools that enable delivery tracking help to establish ongoing communication. They know when and where things will be delivered. And, more importantly, they can be more understanding of delays when these have been clearly communicated to them.

For businesses, last mile delivery tracking gives you more clarity when it comes to knowing where your vehicles are and how many deliveries your team has left for the day, in addition to helping you operate more efficiently. 

So, if you’ve ever been stressed out about the lack of visibility when orders are out for delivery, it might be time to look at a tool that helps you with last-mile delivery tracking. 

With built-in tools that track deliveries throughout the last mile, for both customers and businesses, Routific is a great option to level up your last mile delivery tracking. 

And good news for you, you can try Routific free for 7 days.

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The easiest-to-use route optimization platform for growing delivery businesses.

Portrait of Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes
Pam Sykes has a PhD in History and a background in Journalism. She is the Lead Content Strategist at Routific with a focus on delivery management, delivery experience, route planning, and the last-mile industry in general. She has a passion to help delivery businesses scale with her craft of storytelling.

Frequently Asked Questions

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