Google Maps tries to eliminate retail’s last mile headaches

Discussion
Source: Google Cloud
Mar 21, 2022

Google last week introduced two Google Maps-infused tools to optimize last mile delivery from order to doorstep.

The first, Last Mile Fleet Solution, builds on Google’s on-demand Rides & Deliveries mobility solution. Powered by insights from Google Maps, the solution simplifies address entry to improve address accuracy, shipment tracking and up-to-date arrival times. Turn-by-turn navigation integrates into a driver’s existing workflows. A full-day view of tasks with improved routing and traffic data allows drivers to adjust their routes as needed.

“Last Mile Fleet Solution enables you to visualize your fleet in real time, including shipment status and route progress, helping you keep fleet performance at its peak,” wrote Shalin Mantri, group product manager, Google Maps Platform, in a blog entry. “Real-time and predictive traffic is used to provide full-day ETAs, offering early signals into potential issues. You can also generate insights into your fleet to better optimize performance.”

The second solution, Cloud Fleet Routing API, focuses on solving “simple route planning requests in near-real-time” and scaling workloads, including overcoming constraints such as time windows, package weights and vehicle capacities. Integrated with Google Maps routes data, the solution can also help carriers meet sustainability targets by reducing distance traveled, number of delivery vans and CO2 output from computing.

In introducing the products, Google pointed to Pitney Bowes’ data predicting that e-commerce shipments are on track to double by 2026 and McKinsey’s findings that 90 percent of U.S. consumers expect free two-to-three-day shipping.  It also pointed to a Capgemini study finding last mile delivery to make up more than half of total shipping costs. The findings were based on data before the pandemic accelerated e-commerce.

According to Pitney Bowes, USPS remains the dominant U.S. parcel shipper, accounting for 38 percent of  volume in 2020, followed by UPS (24 percent), Amazon (21 percent), and  FedEx (16 percent). Google’s solution may eventually be embraced by smaller third-party curriers looking to capitalize on e-commerce’s overflowing workload or other retailers looking for cost savings and more control of last mile delivery.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What will be the primary challenges retailers face building their own last mile delivery networks? What do you think of the potential of Google’s mapping, routing and analytics capabilities to help retailers and other fleet operators optimize last mile delivery?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The idea of a Google-powered last mile mapping and routing system is not just brilliant, it was inevitable."
"Soon it will become a standard, just like Google Maps has!"
"I still believe that what we are seeing in last-mile logistics is a fight against physics, requiring new thinking about how to solve this problem."

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10 Comments on "Google Maps tries to eliminate retail’s last mile headaches"


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Dion Kenney
BrainTrust
4 months 24 days ago

The idea of a Google-powered last mile mapping and routing system is not just brilliant, it was inevitable. The big challenge that retailers will face, as the delivery aspect is resolved, will be how to manage real-time inventory. This will be an issue both for managing consumer expectations and monitoring retailers’ asset management. It is solvable, but not there yet.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

In big cities, high traffic volumes and high-rise buildings continue to be a challenge. In less populated suburbs efficiency will continue to be a challenge. It appears that these are better left to third parties that make a business out of understanding how to maximize efficiency and reduce time spent.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
4 months 24 days ago

Q-commerce is only getting started and will have a massive impact on retail in the coming years. Having a store is going to be the largest challenge as there are many independent delivery services like Instacart, Uber, etc. Another challenge will be the impact to in-store shopping for the brick-and-mortar customer while stores are flooded with pickers. Lastly, inventory accuracy and order tracking. Google’s mapping is going to improve efficiency and speed which will in-turn improve customer satisfaction.

David Spear
BrainTrust

For smaller retailers who may not have the resources to build their own network, Google’s new tools offer an interesting solution. I do agree with Dion Kenney’s comment about the challenge of managing real-time inventory. This is difficult for any retailer, large or small. With respect to sustainability, I do like Google’s ability to translate effort into sustainability metrics that can help a company understand the pros/cons of carbon emission. This has big upside.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

The potential for smaller suppliers is great. I imagine the big guys already have this capability. I know Amazon sends updates, on a map, showing how many stops there are before your place. I imagine this service is an outgrowth of last-mile optimization for the delivery itself.

I cannot comprehend why a retailer who doesn’t now have their own optimization system would try to design one, when Google makes it already viable. Let the experts do what they do best!

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust
There are solutions on the market that offer these services for retailers and logistics companies. Google is a bit late to the party actually. Urban environments require consideration of a lot of variables when calculating routes, if they want to optimize resources and time. Traffic, left turns (no left turns if possible), truck weight limits, proximity to other deliveries, proximity to fulfillment centers. Add in driver variables, like language or expertise with types of product, customer notification, etc. My point is retailers are going to need a robust geospatial solution to do this. In my work I’ve seen a number of retailers who try to do this on their own, or who think that by extending their existing store van service they can support this. Prior to COVID-19, the expense was a significant barrier to adoption. Now many retailers are absorbing the expense and margins are suffering in digital businesses, because these services became table stakes. Another concern is to make sure the data they’re sharing about their customers and what they buy remains private… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

If those retailers are trying to reach my address, Google Maps is the primary challenge. It doesn’t recognize that my loft exists and so sends everyone to a nonexistent address one town over. I’ll be able to answer this question better when Google can find places that do exist and stops delivering to addresses that don’t. Once Google gets its house in order, maybe it can find mine and the others it must also be missing. Until then — good luck.

Shawn Harris
BrainTrust
Shawn Harris
Board Advisor, Light Line Delivery
4 months 24 days ago

Robust routing solutions have been around for a long time, I’m not sure what magic Google is offering here. I still believe that what we are seeing in last-mile logistics is a fight against physics, requiring new thinking about how to solve this problem.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

This is a future-bound improvement to last-mile solutions that will only become more in-demand as we continue to grow our omnichannel and online delivery presence. Soon it will become a standard, just like Google Maps has!

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

Google sits on a treasure trove of geospatial data that it’s looking to monetize. That makes sense, but the solution is highly limited by the use case. For the first of the two solutions, simpler address entry sounds appealing with the downstream benefits, but unless you’re only delivering a handful of packages, such benefits are illusory.

The second solution, Cloud Fleet Routing API, competes with existing and more complete routing solutions. Google is right to explore ways of leveraging its core strengths, but these solutions are not innovative or represent breakthrough experiences. Route optimization of a delivery van also requires optimized loading, which means coordinated shipping dock activities. Any dynamic re-routing by the driver will be offset by a hunt and peck method to locate the right package.

The bottom line is that Google is on the right track, but it’s entering a crowded race where keys to success go beyond its massive geospatial data. For now, let’s temper our enthusiasm.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The idea of a Google-powered last mile mapping and routing system is not just brilliant, it was inevitable."
"Soon it will become a standard, just like Google Maps has!"
"I still believe that what we are seeing in last-mile logistics is a fight against physics, requiring new thinking about how to solve this problem."

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