The ‘last mile’ delivery market

The ‘last mile’ delivery market in France is forecast to expand at a CAGR2018-2025 of 9%, presenting attractive growth opportunities for specialist domestic providers and also large foreign actors who have begun to enter the market. 

What is last mile?

The last leg of the outbound logistics process, which involves the movement of goods from a fulfilment centre (where goods are received, packaged and shipped) to the final destination – usually the consumer’s doorstep.

Last mile is one of the highest growth sectors in the Transport & Logistics (T&L) industry, however the final leg of delivery is also challenging, and can comprise up to 28% of a product’s total transportation cost. Therefore, strategies are focused mainly on efficiency gains. Improvements in the customer offer (ie. convenience & speed) are also key. For the first time, T&L is on the front line of the shopping experience, and a golden opportunity for retailers to leave a positive final impression – something last mile providers need to be capable of delivering.

To deliver, providers are using smarter digital tools such as real-time GPS tracking and AI to improve route planning, and offering value-added services such as more accurate & flexible delivery times.

Growth drivers:

  • Growth in e-commerce sales (including growth in disposal income of millennials)
  • Demand for faster & more convenient delivery services
  • Urbanization: every week until 2050, one million people will be added to the world’s cities
  • Growing food distribution industry: requires highly efficient and effective last mile offerings. For example the leading online supermarket in Europe, Ocado (UK), is experiencing strong growth and expanding its unique offering beyond the UK market. It recently formed a key strategic partnerships with the Canadian grocer Sobeys, Sweden’s supermarket leader ICA, and the French supermarket giant Groupe Casino. All partnerships are designed to beef-up the traditional food retailers’ T&L capabilities and digital know-how, and will include state-of-the-art automated (robotic) warehouses.

Opportunities & challenges:

  1. Visibility: There’s an increased focus on visibility in the last mile delivery process. Consumers want real-time information, to know where their parcel is, and when exactly it will be delivered. Digital technology can be used to achieve this.
  2. Sustainability: Regulations on emissions within urban areas will ramp up in the future, meaning environmentally friendly delivery will be at an advantage. Electric vehicles and bicycles (which have the added benefit of beating traffic) are already being utilized by several niche players in the European market.  
  3. Congestion: The growing number of vehicles in urban areas implies increased congestion, while delayed deliveries have a detrimental impact on customer satisfaction. Innovative logistical solutions are crucial to tackle this last mile problem.
  4. ‘Robotization’: the delivery of parcels by robots and/or flying drones is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Several companies (including Amazon) are already trialling these new technologies.
  5. City warehouses (distribution centres): To meet growing customer demands for faster delivery (eg. strong growth in same-day-delivery), last mile providers need more city warehouses to provide faster access to product. Amazon is currently the frontrunner, and therefore a massive disruptor to traditional T&L providers. To increase efficiencies further, providers are also using “cross-docking” warehouses, designed to accommodate the unloading, sorting and reloading of products received from different suppliers. Cross-docking greatly reduces the number of inefficient journeys within congested city centres.

Note: Traditional retailers are responding to the challenges posed by last mile by offering ‘click-and-drive’ services, which allow customers to buy online and collect the goods at convenient locations. French hypermarket retailers introduced click-and-drive as early as 2004; and the model continues to expand rapidly. The supermarket chain Leclerc has been a market leader; its click-and-drive service successfully capitalizes on the proximity of its 500+ stores across France with the convenience of online purchases.

Case Study:

The giant US player XPO (rev: $15.4 billion) recently introduced its last mile delivery services to the European market by opening 8 last mile facilities/hubs (across the Netherlands, France, Spain, UK and Ireland). The company expects to manage 750,000+ deliveries in 2018, and believes the expansion is timely as the European last mile logistics market is widely fragmented and comprised of mostly small-scale regional players.

« Our last mile expansion to Europe is being driven by customer demand, primarily related to e-commerce. Consumers are buying more large items online, including furniture and appliances. These are home deliveries that often require white glove services, such as assembly, installation and testing. We’ll leverage our proprietary technology and successful business model that have made us a last mile leader in North America. » says Troy Cooper, COO, XPO Logistics

Kilian de Gourcuff
Kilian de Gourcuff
Associé
France