Running the Last Mile Race

Retailers have an opportunity to expand sales by tackling last-mile fulfillment.

November 11, 2020

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Convenience stores have always been quick to adapt, especially during the pandemic, adding drive-thrus, curbside pickup, delivery and mobile ordering. “Right now, 57% of retailers are using last-mile fulfillment in some form,” said Patrick Loftus, NACS survey research manager. Loftus recently conducted NACS research on last-mile fulfillment in the convenience store and fuel retailing industry, which is available for download for free here.

“Roughly three-quarters of respondents in our survey were North America-based, and their last-mile adoption dropped to 47%,” he said on this week’s episode of Convenience Matters, “Winning the Last Mile.”

“Despite some hesitancy in North American operators in adopting last-mile services, 68% did respond that they started offering these services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Loftus said.

But not all operators are interested in last-mile fulfillment. “Around one-fifth of operators mentioned that they have no plans right now to adopt any last-mile services in the next year,” he said. Barriers to those operators moving into last-mile services include cost, staffing, order fulfillment and technology constraints. “Apps, order-taking and payment processing are some of their biggest challenges,” he said.

In Europe and Australia, convenience stores have higher levels of last-mile services with more than 80% of those retailers offering those options. Some survey respondents in Europe and Australia were larger players in those regions, “so were a little bit more likely to have the resources to adopt last-mile services,” Loftus said. “Last-mile delivery in Europe is a little bit [easier] because of the closer locations—you can even bike to some last-mile, off-site deliveries, which in North America, is a bit more difficult.”

The NACS survey measured eight different types of delivery, such as curbside pickup and third-party locker pickup. “There are a lot of different options out there, such as mobile order for in-store pickup, which really is the most frequent right now with about 65% of retailers offering that,” he said.

Listen to the podcast for more on last-mile fulfillment, and don’t forget to download the free NACS research. Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 200 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at Episodes have been downloaded more than 130,000 times by listeners around the world.

The NACS Crack the Code Experience, which runs through December 4, offers a deep dive look into incorporating last-mile operations. Don’t miss the education session “From Last Mile to Cashless: Trends Accelerated by COVID-19” for more information regarding this trend and how it can grow your consumer base. Register now and get access to these sessions, along with 50+ education sessions, virtual showrooms and online networking within the convenience and fuel retailing industries.