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  • Michael LeBlanc

Last Mile eCommerce Insights from the Surface Transportation Summit


I had the pleasure last week of hosting a panel of retail supply chain and logistics experts at the Surface Transportation Summit in Toronto. Big, big topic, not a ton of time (didn't for example even touch reverse logistics!) so here is how I structured the conversation:


QuestionsRetail Reset: - how is retail in Canada adapting to the changing dynamics of eCommerce /direct to customer?

  • Give us some sense of how retailers are adapting their supply chain and distribution networks to the increasing demands of eCommerce.  How is this impacting the retail stores?

  • Not so long ago, while still complex, retail was a lot about Buy, Move, Sell.  Gain maximum advantage by being the best at moving fairly large quantities of product across the water, to DC's, and then to stores.  How is the push for home delivery of individual units effecting the supply chain and how retailer move their products?

Changing Customer Demands

  • How is the shipping industry adapting to the more aggressive expectations from both customers and consumers for service delivery?

  • At the front end retailers are feeling pressure to delivery faster and continue to establish their delivery value equation.  What are you hearing from the front lines across the industry in terms of customer delivery expectations, and what /how are retailers doing to adapt their supply chain to (for example) explore store based process to bring the product closer to the doorstep. 

  • As retailers feel the pressure to deliver  - in some instances within hours, how can they adapt their distribution/supply chain to meet the challenge?  What best practices are you seeing that begin to enable movement of product to at least be in the range of quicker delivery to the doorstep?

AI/Systems:  How are new technologies impacting how retailers are thinking about last mile?

  • Let's talk a bit about the future, near and far, in terms of PMS and other enterprise systems like fleet management adapting with AI and other machine learning to drive practical effectiveness.   Are we going to see this in fleet management as we react to the changing patterns of customer demands - that the entire supply chain is anticipating demand to collapse delivery to the last mile?

Customer Expectations

  • What are retailers hearing from their customers about their expectations for delivery times and service?  We know in some select markets that same day or even one hour delivery is becoming more important, but stepping outside of the GTA are retailers thinking they need to build capacity to move product to react to this high standard?

  • Delivering product in hours, not days or weeks uniformly across the nation  - can it be done at scale?  What other options are Canadians asking for that build flexibility and customization into delivery?  In your experience, what changes need to happen downstream (i.e. from the retailer) if any and is the industry ready to react to increasing customer demands?

Cannabis: Not a major focus for the panel, but with the end of Prohibition right around the corner worth spending some time on, particularly the complexities associated with the supply chain, newness of the marketplace, seed to sale tracking and home delivery. 

  • What are some of the considerations on how product will move through the system through to complexities of delivery on the doorstep?

  • If you were advising online retailers and distributors, what advice would you give them around any complexities of shipping this new type of recreation product (some may already be shipping direct to consumer medial cannabis)?  What are the key elements to ensure and great experience on the doorstep?

  • The folks at Truck News did a nice follow-up article summarizing our conversation here: https://www.trucknews.com/transportation/trends-in-ecommerce-and-last-mile-delivery/1003088071/

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