The final stretch of a package's path to a consumer is undoubtedly the most important one. While each mile an item travels is necessary, it's the last mile that's the most important.
The last mile of delivery refers to the distance and mode of transportation from the closest distribution center to a consumer's home. More often than not, the people performing this leg of the journey aren't associated with the retailer at all; they're UPS, USPS, FedEx or local delivery drivers.
"When a damaged package arrives, the customer's loyalty to the retailer is challenged."
Although it's up to these drivers to ensure packages arrive undamaged, it's the retailer's reputation that's on the line. When a damaged package arrives, the customers' loyalty to the carrier isn't necessarily harmed, but their loyalty to the retailer is, Packaging World explained.
"The e-commerce retailer always takes the blame for a damaged package, at least from the customer's perspective," Kevon Hills, vice president of research at StellaService, explained to Packaging World. "But once a package leaves their warehouse, it's out of their control. So they can do most things right, or even everything right, and then there might be a UPS or FedEx driver who drops the package by mistake and damages it, and when the package is finally delivered to the shopper at home, the experience they have is not with UPS — it's with the retailer."
Though the conditions of a package's last mile of delivery are largely out of a retailer's control, there are several things companies can do to ensure this stage of a package's journey is a successful one.
Choose sturdy packaging – and test it
There are multiple levels of damage a product can sustain throughout its journey. The package can be damaged, but the item within can be completely fine. This isn't ideal, as the customer will have a negative impression of the box and have a moment of fear that his or her purchase has also been damaged. But it's better than having the actual product shattered or otherwise broken.
Delivery drivers are only human, and therefore are prone to mistakes as anyone else. Though the drivers should be doing their best to keep packages safe, an icy driveway or crooked sidewalk can easily result in a drop. By using sturdy packaging that can protect the item within, retailers can improve the probability that a mishap doesn't damage the object within, or better yet, their reputation.
According to a study from Barclays, about 30 percent of logistics firms said that poor packaging decisions has caused significant problems for them or their customers. Before committing to a packaging strategy, testing is crucial.
Don't just stick to the standard fall tests, as these are primarily created to determine how a package will survive a fall in a distribution or fulfillment center. Falls from a delivery driver's arms or onto a sidewalk have entirely different circumstances. Test packaging materials against all the possible mistakes that could be made along the way – a fall from the truck to the ground, from a person's arms to a sidewalk, or landing unevenly on a curb.
Choose the right box
As a packaging professional, you know that void fill is important. The more space an item has to roll around in, the higher the chances are that it'll crack along the way. But simply adding more void fill is only one solution to this problem, and it's not always the best option. Instead of relying on large amounts of void fill, give your packagers a wide range of boxing or bagging options. Another solution is cohesive packaging, which creates a barrier unique to the item using a rubber-based latex coat that adheres to itself but not the object it's packaging.
Packaging World noted one company, Brooks Brothers, has a selection of 25 different box sizes for its packers to choose from. One of these is specifically tailored to one order type: three dress shirts. Though it costs the company extra money to have all of these options on hand, Michael Moseman, director of the contact center for Brooks Brothers, says that it's well worth the cost.
"We're not as fiscally prudent by having those additional box types, but we feel that the trade-off is a much more impressive presentation for our customer," Moseman explained.
Having an appropriately sized box benefits the company in several ways. First, it keeps the items within from shifting during delivery. Second, it decreases the need to use extensive void fill. Finally, it creates a more visually appealing presentation for the customer. Inc. Magazine pointed out that attractive, high-quality and appropriately sized packaging can make a big difference in creating a positive impression for the customer.
Protecting your brand's reputation
The final stretch of a package's path to a consumer is undoubtedly the most important one. It's during this time that the package is most susceptible to damage, and it's the last mile that will affect the customer's impression of the company the most. But many retailers find challenges in making sure packages make it through this leg of their path without harm. By carefully choosing the right box or mailer, as well as the best packaging material, retailers can regain control over the last mile.
If you've experience difficulties protecting your packages during their deliveries to consumers, it's time to rethink your packaging strategy. Reach out to Pregis to learn about how you can adequately package your products so your package and your company's reputation remain intact throughout the delivery process.