Shifting last-mile deliveries amid Covid-19

by LYDIA NATHAN

A NEW form of last-mile delivery methods have become the cornerstone for e-commerce as the Covid-19 pandemic pushed companies to find more creative ways to move in a seamless, safe and convenient manner.

Pos Malaysia Bhd head of e-commerce unit Ejaz Kayum (picture) said the pandemic showed businesses the true meaning of resilience, which is best seen through adversity.

“Despite most of us being caught off guard at the beginning when the government announced the Movement Control Order, it was the start of the New Normal Era,” he told the The Malaysian Reserve in an email interview recently.

He said while companies began implementing a work from home policy, some realised they did not possess the right business tools to move forward.

“So, came the softwares of Zoom, WebEx and Microsoft Teams. Closer to home, contactless deliveries made a grand appearance, where door-to-door with proof of delivery was no longer the norm,” Ejaz said.

According to Ejaz, the new method involved placing parcels and packages at the doorstep and notifying the recipients via text messaging or a phone call.

“Somewhere along the line, businesses began using social media to inform people to provide addresses that were reachable, in this case — it was mostly homes.

“This was because previously, a large number of online shoppers preferred to receive parcels at the office. As a result of this, last-mile statistics showed a steady increase in first delivery success numbers, true to the adage that every cloud has a silver lining,” he said.

He said Pos Malaysia also took necessary precautionary measures for counter services and personnel.

“Staff was safeguarded through compulsory usage of face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers, along with the practice of social distancing of at least one metre, seat distancing and body temperature screenings across all post offices and outlets,” he said.

In terms of perspective, Ejaz said spending habits drastically changed, with a sizeable number of people ordering everything from daily necessities to bulk items online.

“Marketplaces turned into grocery stores overnight because of the huge demand. It was smaller before, owing to the lack of urgency for businesses to go digital, but the outbreak separated the big boys from the rest,” he said.

He said from a transaction outlook, the domestic market is projected to make a recovery first.

“We expect the domestic market to bounce back first, followed by the cross-border market. This means there’s an opportunity for companies with strong local markets to have a faster recovery,” Ejaz added.

He said now is the time for business fundamentals to be better observed as many companies previously found themselves with enough cashflow to last a month or two.

“Luckily, the Malaysian government stepped in with stimulus packages schemes to combat the economic impact,” he said.

Cross-border Shipments

Ejaz said one of the major concerns that people had after the pandemic hit globally, was that the virus could live on packages coming from abroad.

He said although it appeared that the virus can remain viable on surfaces of different materials, healthcare experts said the risk is very low.

“The virus apparently can survive on cardboard for up to 24 hours, but the risk of it spreading from packages shipped over a number of days at normal temperatures are very low. Its survival rate is low,” Ejaz said.

He said one of Pos Malaysia’s major e-commerce clients disinfects its transit warehouse in China daily and diligently monitors the health of its employees.

“Also, all parcels from China are uniformly disinfected by the airlines and only released after customs inspection and quarantine.

“The standard practice for staff includes undergoing daily temperature checks and a stringent sanitisation process before handling packages,” he added.

2020 New Trends

According to Ejaz, some of the main trends this year include the uptake of social commerce with cashless payments.

He said many people have turned to platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and even WhatsApp to place orders and directly bank the funds in, with no contact whatsoever.

“Many providers are also offering digital solutions for free, all for the sake of increasing the online shop population, thus jump-starting the economy again.

“This is important to ensure that businesses continue to thrive and improvise according to new consumer habits,” he said.

Ejaz also said there has been an increase in people opting for quicker deliveries, with many not minding the extra cost included, and requesting same-day delivery services.

“Some of the strategies that need to be implemented are to include the customers’ expectation in deliveries, with increased transparency into delivery windows and realtime updates when possible.

“Transportation and logistics also can be optimised to quicken deliveries and cut costs at the same time while using data and indicators to continuously improve services,” he said.