Dolly approaches last-mile delivery through a consumer-centric logistics model

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Last-mile logistics is hard - so much so that even e-commerce giants like Amazon and Alibaba, with their billion dollar logistics machinery, find it hard to customize last-mile delivery to suit the growing needs of their consumers. Though common reasoning would suggest same-day deliveries to be the primary yardstick for judging delivery success, the popular opinion seems to differ in many counts.

FreightWaves recently ran an article that explained why consumers were more interested in last-mile visibility than same-day delivery. There are various reasons to it - addiction to getting real-time updates, convenience, or just the feeling of being in control of their delivery chain.

Dolly, a U.S. startup working on precision delivery is living up to the needs of its customers by delivering products within an exact timespan window and at the location of choice. “What is really interesting here is that we are not only trying to provide transportation in the form of pickup truck owners, but also the labor for lifting and loading, and putting things into the room of choice - anytime a customer needs it,” said Kristin Smith, COO at Dolly.

The USP of Dolly lies in its flexibility - it allows customers to list their needs and offers them the power to determine when their product needs to be loaded, transported, and delivered versus the traditional practice of the process being dictated towards them. Smith termed this as “consumer-centered logistics” - a model which works towards putting the end consumer in the limelight and at the center of its logistics equation.

One of the challenges that Dolly faces in the market is to dislodge the mindset of the incumbent last-mile logistics processes. “While people are not exactly excited about the status quo, the fact that we work differently is still a change to their paradigm. We need to take our services and assign great adaptor plugs to work with the retailers and other partners, while the paradigm is shifting a bit,” said Smith. “This has been a challenge because changing the mindset will take some time.”

Dolly also has to contend with the economies of scale. Since the company is still nascent and a relatively small logistics startup, partnering up with big-box retailers who have a nation-wide presence has been a problem. The startup is scaling up quickly to fix that, having added three more markets in 2018  and engaging customers in seven cities across the U.S. right now. Smith mentioned that the company envisions to add all near-major cities across the country to its portfolio by the end of 2019.

In the cities it now functions, the enthusiasm that Dolly gets from its current customers - be it the retailers or the individual customers - is heartening. Smith explained that from the scenario she witnesses, it is evident that people are frustrated with the limitations they face regarding last-mile delivery.

Smith explained that last-mile logistics is not just about making delivery on the same day, but to understand the inherent challenges that come with delivering large and bulky items. “It is very different from say, a small product that can be left on your doorstep as fast as possible. But sometimes you are at work, and you have to make room for something that is larger, and you may not want it in any same-day window,” she said. “You might want to dictate when it has to happen, for instance at 7 o’clock tonight or noon on Saturday. You might want to shop when you want, and once that is done, control the delivery at a more specific time rather than on the same day.”

With Dolly, a customer can choose a 30-minute window for delivery all through the year, between 8 AM and 9 PM local time. This provides flexibility to consumers as larger items would require more organization and might need them to be at home to receive the order. This feature also puts Dolly in a unique position to cater to businesses that hope to match the efficiency of logistics powerhouses like Amazon and Walmart.

“There are a lot of companies that don’t have the bandwidth to build their own logistics which support this type of delivery, but they also do not want to lose ground,” said Smith. “So we are an opportunity for those retailers who need a solution now to compete, by providing a great customer experience and by giving the customer a lot more choice - as to where they want to shop and how they want to control their shopping and delivery experiences.”

Dolly continues to iterate on ways to remove friction from the logistics process, and working on improving its ability to be an operational success, especially while dealing with delivering large items. “We are always looking to add to our portfolio of partners when we find a great fit with respect to retailers or other businesses to serve their customer, and want to work with the responsiveness and flexibility of our model,” said Smith. “There are a lot of opportunities for people who are in the large item logistics conundrum for us to be able to offer them more relief and services.”

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