The phenomenon of the last mile is traditionally referred to as the IT sphere and is supposed to denote the distance between the user and the IT company. In the realm of e-commerce, however, the term acquires a new meaning, shaking the old one-off. According to the official definition provided by Minguela-Rata and Leeuw, the so-called “last mile” is “the last link in the supply chain to the consumer” (Minguela-Rata & Leeuw 2013, p. 104).
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At first, the link between the concept of the last mile and the phenomenon of e-commerce may seem rather vague. A closer look at the two concepts, however, will reveal that the last mile often conceals a variety of options for attracting more customers and turning the existing ones into more loyal and regular clients, as long as the number of online channels remains large (Lee & Whang 2001, p. 5).
It would be wrong to claim that the concept of the last mile is a recent invention. Quite on the contrary, the phenomenon has been known since the late 90s, when it was first coined. In her 1999 article, Semilof (1999) specifies that in urban areas, competitive IT local exchange carriers (CLEcs) started to provide services to large companies and SMEs, whereas only several years later, natural persons could gain access to the World Wide Web (Semilof 1999, p. 5.).
Much to the credit of modern companies, one must admit that impressive efforts have been made to bridge the gap between the end customer and the service providers (Lee & Whang 2001, p. 5). Nevertheless, the issue concerning the inefficient use of the last mile persists; more to the point, the growth in the number of customers triggers major logistics-related issues for a range of services (Esper, Jense, Turnipseed & Burton 2003, p. 177).
Therefore, the key challenge for the present-day SMEs is not to be able to establish immediate contact with the customer with the help of modern technology (Ehmke & Mattfeld 2012, p. 624), but to carry out the operations related to logistics and, particularly, transportation, so that the customer could appreciate the speed and quality of the services (Kull, Boyer & Calantone 2007, p. 410). While information technologies do not help address the issue directly (Aized & Srai 2014, p. 1055), they open a plethora of opportunities for companies to cross the “last mile” and be able to reach the client or the target audience (Agatz, Fleischmann & van Nunen 2008, p. 332).
Consequently, the concept of the last mile for e-commerce can be viewed as the collection of methods for promoting the company’s products to the customer, as well as the methods of improving the relationships with the latter. Going the “last mile,” therefore, will presuppose not only the restructuring of the use of media but also the reconsideration of principles for basing the relationships with customers on for a range of modern companies. In many cases, the reestablishment of corporate ethics may be required.
Apart from impressive help, new media poses a range of challenges to companies and their leaders (Morganti & Fortin 2014, p. 1). Finding ways to overcome new barriers and use new chances is the most efficient solution. By making the “last mile” stronger, companies will be able to retrieve feedback from the target audience and increase the quality of their products.
Agatz, N A H, Fleischmann, M, & van Nunen, J A E E 2008, ‘E-fulfillment and multi-channel distribution – A review,’ European Journal of Operational Research, vol. 187, no. 2, pp. 339-356.
Aized, T & Srai, J S 2014, ‘Hierarchical modelling of Last Mile logistic distribution system,’ The International Journal of Advanced Manufacturing Technology, no. 70, pp. 1053-1063.
Ehmke, J F & Mattfeld, D C 2012, ‘Vehicle routing for attended home delivery in city logistics,’ Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, vol. 39, pp. 622-632.
Esper, T, Jense, T, Turnipseed, F L & Burton, S 2003, ‘The last mile: an examination of effects of online retail delivery strategies on consumers,’ Journal of Business Logistics, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 177–203.
Kull, T J, Boyer, K & Calantone, R 2007, ‘Last-mile supply chain efficiency: an analysis of learning curves in online ordering,’ International Journal of Operations &Production Management, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 409-434.
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Minguela-Rata, B & Leeuw, S 2013 ‘Managing the last mile of the supply chain for spare parts,’ Universia Business Review, no. 39, pp. 104–117.
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Morganti, E & Fortin, F 2014, ‘Final deliveries for online shopping: The deployment of pickup point networks in urban and suburban areas,’ Research in Transportation Business & Management, vol. 1, no. 2014, pp. 1–9.
Semilof, M 1999, ‘E-commerce faces last mile,’ Computer Reseller News, no. 874, pp. 5-6.