5 Last-Mile Delivery Trends to Watch Out for in 2021

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The year 2020 could have given any popular sci-fi movie a run for their money. Most of what was only mere imagination has now become a reality, thanks to this past year.

Remember those sci-fi movies where robots do all biddings for humans? One way it is almost coming true is through delivery drones and automatic cars.

For quite some time now, last-mile delivery giants such as DHL have been planning to carry out drone delivery services instead of using human drivers. In fact, they have already started experimenting with it in China since 2019.

Seeing how contactless delivery has become the new normal, thanks to Covid-19, drones, delivery robots, and autonomous vehicles can really prove to be effective delivery options.

So, can we expect drone deliveries and self-driving commercial vehicles to be more common in 2021? It is surely a very likely possibility.

Apart from drones, delivery robots, and self-driving vehicles working as last-mile delivery drivers, here are five more last-mile delivery trends to watch out for in 2021.


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Delivery at a Blazing Speed

The pandemic has made online shopping so popular that the eCommerce growth witnessed by the US in just 2020 was actually not expected until 2022.

Coupled with this unprecedented growth in online shopping, customers are becoming more demanding too, and, together, both of these would trouble you the most.

One of the customers’ demands that could be the biggest pain point in your business is faster delivery. Because more and more people are now shopping for even necessary household items online, they are looking for faster delivery at minimum or no extra charges.

Research shows that up to 80% of online shoppers want same-day delivery and 61% want their packages delivered even faster, within one to three hours of confirming the orders. In simple words, people are becoming more impatient with each passing day, especially when it comes to receiving their online shopping packages.

With this accelerating demand for faster, more efficient, yet cost-effective delivery, the onus is on last-mile delivery businesses like yours.

Hence, one of the most important trends in last-mile delivery for companies in 2021 would be to keep up with this demand. The only solution is automation and utilizing advanced technology solutions such as a route planner as much as possible.

A route planner app helps plan a route with multiple stops that are fuel-efficient and free from any constraints such as traffic congestions and weather conditions so that your drivers can make faster deliveries without any hassle.

Learn how to choose the best route planner app for your delivery drivers in 2021.

Transparent Order Tracking

How would you feel when after ordering something online you get a tracking number but there are no updates?

Wouldn’t it be frustrating if you don’t have even the slightest inkling of where your order might be located?

Your customers feel the same.

All that is set to change because one of the biggest last-mile delivery trends to watch out for in the last-mile delivery business in 2021 is the tracking and traceability of orders.

If you don’t keep your customers informed about their orders, and in real-time, you will lose your customers faster than you can say delivery!

Thanks to technology advancements, such as location intelligence (LI) and geofencing, it is entirely possible to update customers about their orders in real-time.

For example, Route4Me’s map route planner comes with a customer portal that allows your customers to track their package delivery status on their own.

Also, the Route4Me delivery driver app comes with a customer alerting and notification feature that helps you send email or SMS notifications with a tracking URL to your customers, so your customer can see where your driver is as the driver approaches.

More Warehouses and Final-Mile Delivery Options

Faster delivery, be it the same day or within a few hours, is only possible when you invest in more warehouse spaces closer to the customer location.

Not to mention the fact that the need for more warehouse spaces comes as an incentive with an increase in online sales.

Micro warehousing is one of the last-mile delivery trends to watch out for in 2021. It means arranging for temporary warehouses in locations that are closest to customers and nearer to cities is essential in such a scenario.

You need to focus on creating order-fulfillment centers in strategic locations where you can store and dump orders and then arrange for deliveries to make it faster as well as more efficient.

Another problem that would hopefully see a solution as the trend for final-mile delivery in 2021 is finding a space to park and deliver orders without getting a parking ticket in return. This problem is especially prevalent in highly congested areas such as commercial localities. It can be solved by utilizing fleet-management software to find the closest parking space by using real-time data updates.

In extremely urbanized locations, where the congestion can be exceptionally high, on-foot delivery can be an option. But this is only possible if the fulfillment center is located nearby such an area.

Focus on Drivers

While delivery robots and drones are one of the biggest 2021 last-mile delivery trends to watch out for, the human connection in the form of delivery drivers would stay in focus as well. In fact, it is being predicted that last-mile delivery drivers will also play the role of salespeople for their businesses.

How is it supposed to work?

The concept is just like Amazon showing you recommended products when you shop for a particular item. The products Amazon recommends are based on the search preferences that you enter.

Similarly, machine learning and artificial intelligence will help eCommerce merchants to understand what their customers might need based on what they have ordered. It would then be the responsibility of the last-mile delivery driver to upsell the items to the customers.

In such a case, the delivery drivers would need to have items similar to the items that customers ordered available in their delivery vehicles and also upsell those with excellent communication skills.

This might work for industries such as food, fashion, groceries, and other household items. But before this can be implemented, last-mile delivery businesses need to answer certain questions like the following:

  •         Who is to pay for the unsold items?
  •         What if the customer wants to return the items bought from the delivery driver?

Contactless Delivery

Finally, the most important last-mile delivery trend for 2021 would be contactless delivery. The fear of contracting Covid-19 has contributed to a marked increase in demand for contactless delivery fulfillment. And last-mile delivery businesses like yours need to keep up with this changing last-mile delivery trend.

By implementing technologies such as e-POD (electronic proof of delivery) and including curbside pickups as one of your delivery options, you can stay on top of this new last-mile delivery trend.

Learn 6 reasons why you should opt for electronic signature capturing. And read our Curbside Pickup Guide if you want to learn the nitty-gritty details about curbside pickup and how to make it happen.

Are You Ready to Embrace the Last-Mile Delivery Trends of 2021?

The future looks interesting, fascinating, yet challenging, and full of possibilities for every last-mile delivery company. By embracing smart technologies which are the highlights of last-mile delivery trends in 2021, you can maximize not only your profits but also positive customer experience as well.

The fact is that trends will come and go. What is important is to always stay on top of things and put yourself in the customer’s shoes to ensure their satisfaction. As a last-mile delivery business, keeping your customers happy is a life-long last-mile delivery trend, not just in 2021.


Want To See For Yourself How Route4Me Can Boost Your Profits?

Whether you want to slash the time it takes you to plan routes for your drivers, increase the number of stops they can make, or keep your customers satisfied knowing that your drivers show up on time… Route4Me helps you achieve that!

Start Free 7 Day Trial

About author: Rahul Dasgupta

Rahul Dasgupta is a content writer with over 20 years of work experience. He holds a master’s degree in computer science and has written thousands of blog posts on route planning and scheduling, making it easy for readers to learn about these complex topics. Rahul enjoys playing tennis in his spare time and loves cuddling with his pet labrador Shinu. Rahul is a big fan of Roger Federer, Messi, and Bill Gates - he admires their drive to be the best at what they do and their philanthropic efforts.


About Route4Me

Route4Me has over 40,000 customers globally. Route4Me's Android and iPhone mobile apps have been downloaded over 2 million times since 2009. Extremely easy-to-use, Route4Me's apps create optimized routes, synchronize routes to mobile devices, enable communication with drivers and customers, offer turn-by-turn directions, delivery confirmation, and more. Behind the scenes, Route4Me's operational optimization platform combines high-performance algorithms with data science, machine learning, and big data to plan, optimize, and analyze routes of almost any size in real-time.