From in-store picking to last-mile delivery: our journey

Six years ago, most retailers were still picking online orders using paper pick lists. E-commerce was not what it is today: next-day delivery somewhere between 09:00 and 18:00 was totally fine for consumers. Today, things are different.
Anna Tsaturyan

Anna Tsaturyan

July 30, 2020

When we order something today, we want it to get delivered as soon as possible and be kept in the loop of every step in the delivery process.

In 2014, we thought things could be done differently, by using technology to make the whole delivery process more agile and customer-centric. So, we started by building 3 modules to enable efficient picking, labeling, and order management, improving the entire operation of getting products out of stores and into the hands of customers. Retailers were now able to accurately and efficiently pick online orders from their stores, effectively turning them into mini-fulfillment centers.

Our software enabled them to drastically cut down time spent on picking orders. Because of this, they could offer new services. This is how we ended up powering the first same-day delivery grocery service in The Netherlands.

After we'd proven that technology represented a fundamental part in making e-commerce succeed, our software started to attract great interest from major retailers and logistics companies. Those years coincided with the growth in online retail, turning our attention to the final part of the product journey: the last-mile. As our clients were struggling to keep pace with the demands for ever-faster delivery and more visibility, we had to think of a way to solve the last-mile delivery problem.

This final step in the delivery process is no simple feat. Most of the complications, frustrations, and costs are incurred in this final step. Customers expect a quick shipment - without any delay, but are not willing to pay more for this increased speed.

We had to think of a way to make the whole delivery process as efficient as possible, as well as keeping the customers in the loop when things don't go as planned. Working closely with the drivers who were already delivering orders without the use of any software, and the store managers, we understood that the two most important points were:

  1. Planning the routes: with the growing volume and stricter time-windows, drivers were no longer able to plan the sequence of stops themselves.

  2. Keeping the customer informed: customers were getting used to tracking the exact location of their pizza on a map when ordering from Domino's, so why not the same with groceries? Also, they wanted to keep updated in case anything didn't go as planned.

With that in mind, we built a route-optimization engine and mobile driver application to help the drivers first. Shortly after that, we launched a dashboard for the in-store managers, with modules that enabled them to inform the end-customers in real-time.

After rolling this out for grocery retailers, things evolved quickly. Though we initially focused only on (food)-retailers, we quickly discovered that what we built could actually be used by any company that delivers goods. Fast-forward to today, not only food retailers, but also major shipping couriers such as DHL Parcel (Netherlands) are using our software to efficiently plan all their routes.

Our journey helped us understand the constraints that single or small operators deal with since we started in the same way. Having to balance cost against what can be achieved is a constant. That is part of the reason we launched Routetitan, to enable everyone in business, large and small, to efficiently handle the delivery of goods. Our plans are flexible and affordable to facilitate better deliveries for all operators. In the end, customers demand and expect the same whether you're a DHL or a single driver. Even though our team facilitates 10 to 15 million deliveries a month, we still have our finger on the pulse of the small business environment.

Do you need advice or want to talk through the best option for your business? Please get in touch, we'd love to hear about your business.

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