4 Last-mile Trends for 2024 and Beyond - Industry Expert Predictions

December 27, 2023

New Year, new predictions. 

In December, we sent a survey to industry experts to help identify trends that will emerge or continue to shape last-mile delivery in 2024 and the future. 

Here are their answers:

Climate-neutral goals continue to impact the last mile

As the EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050, countries and local governments are imposing stricter regulations on delivery vehicles and larger last-mile carriers to create more space for mobility without emissions. The surveyed experts believe these practices will intensify in the new year as more local regulations emerge, ultimately transforming last-mile delivery. 

The Clean Cities Campaign predicts that by 2025, there will be 507 low-emission zones (LEZs) in Europe due to new national laws coming into force in France, Spain, and Poland. Until then, more and more parcel delivery companies will have to adapt their fleet and explore alternative delivery methods to comply with the new conditions. 

Additionally, many cities plan to introduce more zero-emission zones and schemes regulating only certain classes of vehicles. An interesting example is the Dutch government, which intends to establish zero-emission delivery zones in 30 to 40 cities. 

Other recommended measures for cities are time access restrictions, parking regulations, and taxing the use of public space, which was applied in Barcelona last year.

However, the future doesn’t have to be so grim and restrictive. If urban consolidation centers are included in land-use planning, deliveries within the city could become easier and more cost-efficient. 

Out-of-home delivery still popular, with the need to become more sustainable

Most respondents mentioned out-of-home (OOH) delivery as a trend that will carry over to 2024. 

Many factors support this prediction. Some companies are still struggling with labor shortages, a high turnover rate of drivers, and integrating subcontractors into their operations. Consolidating shipments and delivering them to a single location instead of multiple addresses would take a good chunk of the load off of them. 

Additionally, they’re faced with the regulations mentioned above. Introducing electric vehicles (EVs) and cargo bikes is a way companies can adapt to the new landscape. But parcel lockers and shops can also help as they cut unnecessary journeys and reduce traffic by guaranteeing successful first-attempt delivery.

However, industry experts are worried about the sustainability of parcel locker network infrastructure. They predict that in 2024, parcel delivery companies will focus more on strategic expansions for greater and faster infrastructure utilization

There is less and less space available due to high competition and emerging regulations, and parcel lockers are not cheap. Companies should make sure every new one adds value to their network and the environment rather than being a drain of resources. 

Innovations on the horizon

Some of the predictions go further than 2024. When asked what innovations, currently not widely discussed, have the potential to enhance last-mile deliveries, the industry experts answered: 

Dynamic routing based on consignee behavior patterns and preferences

There are a lot of fluctuations throughout the delivery day: last-minute jobs, cancellations, redirections, etc. On top of that, traffic and weather conditions can be unpredictable. 

Dynamic routing has been proclaimed as the answer to these unforeseen changes. Still, experts believe something missing in the equation could take deliveries to the next level- consignee behavior patterns and preferences.

This implies that if a consignee typically isn’t at home in the morning or favors deliveries at a later hour, the deliveries would be scheduled at the preferred time and near the end of the route to ensure successful first-time delivery.  Or it could help companies decide how many parcels to deliver, when, and to which lockers based on collections by consignees in real-time and other data.

As this is an emerging topic, more research must be done on including these factors while ensuring cheap and comfortable routes. 

Autonomous mobile parcel lockers

Finally, parcel lockers need to be even more autonomous and mobile. Industry experts envision a future where parcel lockers can move on their own, traveling from location to location while notifying consignees of available times for collecting parcels. Some state that they need to be fully autonomous, helping cut the costs of loading the lockers. 

The success of out-of-home delivery relies heavily on consignees' willingness to participate actively in the last mile. However, most of them only accept short walking distances to collect parcels. Autonomous-driving parcel lockers could be a good answer to the limited willingness to walk. 

This future trend depends on autonomous driving becoming fully market-ready and properly regulated in multiple countries. Until then, humans will have to reposition the lockers to achieve mobility. 

We thank everyone who participated and answered our survey. 

If you want to take part in forecasting future trends, feel free to get in touch with us.