Why Indian E-Pharma Companies Need Automation and Digitalization in the Last Mile

The e-pharmacy market is expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2025 with a CAGR of 43.1%. -India’s eHealth Market Opportunity Report, 2021

A decade back, if we had to buy medicines, we would reach out to our neighborhood pharmacy stores. But today, we order our preferred drugs within a few clicks. The growth of the e-commerce pharmacy or e-pharma, has made the doorstep deliveries of medicines possible. 

E-commerce pharmacy in India is a booming industry. Names like Tata 1mg, Netmeds, Pharmeasy, Medlife are becoming popular in urban areas, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All companies in the e-pharma industry sell the same medicines or medical equipment. As they all sell homogeneous products, the e-pharma market remains highly competitive. The prime differentiator in this market is the customer experience that companies offer. The last-mile delivery is the most critical component to make a lasting or delightful customer experience. 

Unlike other countries, last-mile deliveries in India are highly complicated and expensive. As a decision-maker or an operations manager from an e-pharma business, you will be well-aware of this reality. As the demand for medicines surges steadily online, this is the right time to strengthen your last mile by adopting digitalization and automation to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

3 Reasons Indian e-pharma companies need digitalization and automation for last-mile deliveries

E-pharma employees went digitilization for last mile

India’s e-health market is projected to reach $10.6 billion by 2025 from $2.0 billion in 2020. – India’s eHealth Market Opportunity Report, 2021

Healthcare and hygiene concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, improvements in digital infrastructure, government support, and increased investor interest in e-health have caused a sudden growth of the e-pharma market in India. The e-health sector comprising e-pharma, telemedicine, and online fitness has been experiencing a boom. 

When customers order medicines online, all they want from it are affordability, seamlessness, safety, and speed in deliveries. Fulfilling these customer wants are easier said than done, given a slew of complexities e-pharma players face in the last-mile delivery, including: 

  • Unavailability of experienced delivery personnel 
  • Difficulty in fulfilling on-time delivery requests 
  • Lack of a solid logistical coordination
  • Difficulty to manage returns seamlessly and effectively 
  • Inability to manage varied delivery preferences (catering to sudden on-demand delivery requests)
  • Failure to balance fleet performance with volatile demand
  • Lack of last-mile visibility for their customers 
  • Difficulty in managing traffic restrictions and roadblocks  
  • Using siloed data and islands of technology 

As an e-pharma company, you can strive hard to develop a go-to-market strategy that increases your sales performance and wins customers. But all that hard work often does not translate into intended results when you fail to plan your last-mile deliveries. Improper planning leads to considerable gaps in fulfilling customers’ same day delivery expectations, which can result in the fall of your business revenues. 

Last-mile delivery is a time-consuming and expensive process with a lower profit margin. Even the tiniest bit of these complexities or inefficiencies can drive up your costs. The best way to prevent last-mile problems eating up your revenues is by adopting digitalization for your prescription deliveries

Find out the top 3 reasons Indian e-pharma companies need digitalization and automation in their last mile.  

Enable end-to-end visibility for the last-mile 

In a place, where drug stores majorly operate through brick-and-mortar models, it is a herculean task for an e-pharma company to coordinate last-mile logistics. Many pharmacies do not have the technology to trace and track the medicines they sell. Without end-to-end visibility, it becomes way more difficult to handle your prescription deliveries when there are fluctuations in delivery demand. 

Automating and digitalizing last mile creates a higher level of transparency in pharmacy delivery services with your delivery personnel, managers, and customers. When there are unanticipated or potential delays, it helps you to notify customers with an exact Estimated Time of Arrival(ETA) for the upcoming deliveries and assign your deliveries based on it. Its historical data insights on various delivery metrics help you evaluate the performance of delivery partners and rectify the inefficiencies that crop up.  

Improve flexibility of pharma deliveries 

UN’s World Urbanization Prospects statistics say that 68% of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050. India is no exception to this trend of rapid urbanization. The same report also projected that India will add 404 million urban dwellers between 2014 and 2050.

The increase in urban population and the growing number of smartphone users, and increased data consumption are driving up delivery volumes. On top of that, customers want e-pharma businesses to serve their diverse doorstep delivery preferences. But enabling the required flexibility comes with huge delivery costs for your last mile. 

By adopting digitalization and automation, you can let your customers reschedule their medicine deliveries within a few taps of their phones. These technologies automate order schedules based on customers’ delivery preferences after factoring in your business, resources, and cost constraints. It helps your logistics and pharmacy partners handle returns and cancellations effectively without driving up operational costs.  

Maximize on-time delivery rates  

Customers will continue to buy medicines from you based on how quickly you fulfill their delivery promises. Consistently delivering orders on time creates a sense of trust among customers, and it depends on how effectively you plan your pharmacy home delivery schedules. There are a vast number of delivery constraints that make it challenging to plan optimal delivery schedules for your final mile. Here are a few of them: 

  • Shortage of delivery personnel
  • Delivery windows
  • Increasing traffic restrictions
  • Roadblocks 
  • Capacity limitations
  • Cost to serve
  • Vehicle availability
  • Empty miles

These delivery constraints can ramp up your costs. By adopting digitalization and automation, you can generate optimal routes based on real-world delivery constraints, historical data, and current geographical data. These optimal routes assist fleet drivers in delivering products to a maximum number of customer destinations in a given time. Its accurate geocoding capabilities help delivery personnel reach specified customer destinations, thereby ensuring higher First Attempt Delivery Rates (FADR) while keeping costs in check.

Conclusion 

Gartner research shows that through 2024, 50% of supply chain organizations will invest in applications that support artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics capabilities. – Future of supply chain technology, Feb 2021.

Whether it is minimizing the workload of existing employees’ or reducing errors in order management, digitalization and automation is the way forward. As inefficiencies cripple your efforts in the last mile and eat up your operational costs, it is high time to transform your last mile by digitalizing and automating them. The quicker you do, the better the likelihood of your last-mile delivery plans turning more profitable. 

Locus’ order management solution digitalizes and automates your last mile based on your business goals and customer requirements. It provides real-time visibility of your varied on-ground operations — whether a customer books appointments for on-demand diagnostics, places orders for same day prescription deliveries, or reschedules them. Its machine learning algorithms help you optimize order scheduling and delivery assignments in a way that maximizes on-time delivery rates without burdening your workforce.  

Want to digitalize and automate your last-mile delivery? Reach out to Locus for a demo today!

References

  1. Assets.ey
  2. Population.un
  3. Statista
  4. Frost
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