Last-mile logistics: the new frontier for e-commerce innovation?
The pandemic has dramatically accelerated a number of changes which have already been underway in our society. These new trends are going to consolidate in our lives: we’re talking especially about consumer habits related to online purchases, i.e. e-commerce.
Often we don’t notice it, but these changes also involve the sectors that are upstream of the process, i.e. retail and logistics, as a whole of all local urban transport activities. “Last mile”, especially, is the route that brings goods from the sale point or production to the end consumer.
And it is precisely on this path that one of the most decisive games of the future of online sales will be played, influencing environmental and social aspects of an entire ecosystem.
From offline to online: e-commerce boom
The health emergency has marked an unprecedented boom in online commerce, pushing many retailers and wholesalers to equip themselves to sell their products on the complex and intricate world of the web. According to data from the B2C Ecommerce Observatory, 70% of sellers were not organized to sell online before the pandemic, and many small and medium-sized companies have entered this new world. The entire sector was worth €757 billion in Europe in 2020, i.e. +10% growth, compared to 2019. In the first four months of 2020, 1.3 million new users bought shoes, books, clothing and other products, directly and conveniently from their couch.
The numbers speak for themselves: today, the digital transition is no longer a choice, but a priority for all those who want to be competitive.
So, this all happened due to or thanks to lockdown? Of course, staying at home has certainly enhanced this new habit, but it is not a temporary phenomenon if we consider that in 2021 online purchases stood at a value of 39.4 billion euros in Italy (+21% compared to 2020). For many consumers, the comfort and convenience of ecommerce will not stop after Covid-19.
Source: Osservatorio Ecommerce B2C
… and the environmental toll
Sure, buying online is convenient, but there is an environmental toll that is often invisible.
Back in 2018, in Milena Gabanelli’s Data Room for Corriere the journalist put forward this question: “buying online is convenient but what is the environmental impact of trucks going back and forth to deliver a small package?” – and we add: with the likelihood of finding no one at home, so to re-ring the bell for more times on different days.
Traditional logistics planning seeks to shorten shipping and delivery times more and more: in the city of Milan alone in 2017, at least 23 thousand deliveries were recorded every day. In the meantime, road transport increases: the study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and McKinsey shed light on the amount of commercial vehicles in the world, estimating a 40% increase by 2050. Statistics by UNRAE posted a 6.6% growth in commercial vehicle registrations compared to 2019.
And 80% of commercial vehicles moving in the city are below Euro 5 class, generating (again according to Bloomberg and McKinsey study updated to 2013), 46% of total Nox (nitrogen oxides) emissions in the Union. Air pollution has become a global health emergency, and the WHO has estimated that 4.2 million deaths are caused by emissions from road vehicles.
From online to offline: the new frontier last-mile logistics
The time has come to trigger a paradigm shift in commercial transport, and locally investing in last-mile solutions.
Last-mile logistics shall begin to move along tracks that go hand in hand with the evolution of the urban and social fabric, and being beneficial to the quality of life in environmental terms.
But what are the solutions for planning last-mile logistics?
Well, certainly the first step is to revolutionize urban mobility sustainably, in favor of smart mobility. Zero-emission electric vehicles, electric e-cargo bikes for last-mile urban travel micromobility, cycling: all solutions and strategies that we will deepen in our next articles and that demand an integrated development at the level of infrastructure and urban synergies.
Source: Data Room Corriere TV
If e-commerce today wants to develop in a sustainable and ethical way, it will have to deal with a new interaction between online and physical channels. In fact, there is a growing awareness of the need to design a sales process that increasingly integrates the virtual world with the real world, that of last-mile logistics and commercial transport.