Say goodbye to manually planning routes. Thanks to the ever-growing popularity of direct-to-door deliveries and advances in technology, there are now several courier software solutions that will do the heavy lifting for you. These route planning apps offer many useful features. They can automatically optimize your delivery routes, track your drivers in real-time, provide integrated delivery information, and much more. Route-planning apps assist with last-mile delivery, which involves delivery to the final destination – most often a private residence or business. The value of these apps cannot be understated. They assist in improving the efficiency of last-mile deliveries and can contribute to significant bottom-line savings on shipping costs.
The question is: which is the best courier route planning app for you? In this article, we hope to cover a list of questions that users have on this topic. We will discuss the importance of apps to your last-mile delivery and look at some of the key features a good software application will offer. We’ll also look at three of the top apps: Shiptrack, Onfleet, and Onaway, and discuss the pros and cons of each one. There’s no single app that’s a perfect fit for every business, but our guide will help you determine that one that’s best for your last-mile delivery needs.
Table of Contents
Overview and Basics
What are We Talking About?
Before we take a look at route planner apps, let’s look at what’s involved in the route planning process, why it’s essential, and what benefits these kinds of apps offers.
Route planning is part of the last-mile delivery stage, where packages are delivered to their final stops. It involves creating the optimal route for multiple deliveries along a specific course. For example, if you have 50 stops to make within a 10km radius of your local hub/warehouse, a plan would be provided to the delivery driver to ensure they follow the most efficient route.
Many business types use a routing/map app such as sales reps (Realtors or sales representatives), insurance agents, vehicle fleets, large couriers (FedEx, DHL, UPS), and hundreds or thousands of smaller companies.
Why is it Important to Plan Ahead?
A route planner app is essential to your business because it can impact your bottom line costs and customer satisfaction.
There is a lot of complexity, challenges, and problems in the field of delivery. Last-mile delivery can represent up to 53% of your total delivery/shipping costs – this is because it is an inherently inefficient process. There are, however, opportunities to enhance efficiencies, and route optimization of directions is a crucial way to increase efficiency. Route optimization can help reduce the time your driver is out doing deliveries. Efficiencies can also translate to everything related to costs: lower fuel costs and less wear-and-tear on the delivery vehicles. Over time, the cost savings will be significant.
Besides savings, route planning can also help enhance customer satisfaction. An optimized plan will enable the delivery driver to complete all of their deliveries on time and reduce the chance of errors arising during the delivery. Fewer errors and faster delivery equals happier customers!
Benefits of Using Route Planner Software
Historically, route planning has been done manually by a fleet manager. With the advent of Google Maps and Apple Maps, however, we see the development of many sophisticated software solutions. Here are just a few of the benefits of using a route planner app:
Optimizes and Automates Your Delivery Route
Manual excel spreadsheet uploading or pen and paper are both time-consuming and complicated. With so many variables to consider, it is nearly impossible for even a highly-trained fleet manager to plan routes that are optimized consistently. A sophisticated route planner app, on the other hand, is designed to account for a considerable number of variables and can always produce optimized routes. Reducing complexity makes life very simple for drivers. It’s also easy to update automated routes based on the latest information (e.g., real-time traffic reports).
Easy Access to All Delivery Details
Route planner apps can also provide delivery drivers with access to all the information they need about all the stops on their route. Delivery date/time, customer contact details, instructions for delivery location, sign-off instructions, and other key information can be stored, viewed, and updated through the app. While it may not seem especially significant, a lot of the inefficiencies in last-mile delivery arise as a result of unclear or missing information about each delivery and customer. For example, whether the parcel should go to the front or the back door, and where to place the parcel in case of bad weather.
More Deliveries in the Same Amount of Time
By optimizing routes and providing drivers with crucial information about their deliveries, you can plan for more deliveries per day than you were able to accomplish before switching to an optimization software. Quicker deliveries translate to more happy customers and more growth potential for your business.
An app can also help reduce errors by delivery drivers, who can scan the parcel with the app to ensure the delivery to the right customer and address.
Ultimately, the benefits of using a route optimization software versus manually organizing your routes come down to cost-savings and higher customer satisfaction. These benefits stem from the increased efficiencies and decreased errors that sophisticated software can provide.
Key Features to Consider
So what features should you look for when choosing a route planner app? It will depend on the user’s needs for each feature of course, but generally, we’d recommend you narrow your search to apps that provide these key features:
Unlimited Routes and Stops
The last thing you want to do is limit your business’s growth by opting for an app that limits the number of routes or stops. Sure, if you’re a small business or organization, it may not seem like a make-or-break consideration today, but what about six months or a year down the road. You want to start on the right foot by choosing an app that won’t restrict you to 50 stops or 20 routes – you get the idea. Also, keep in mind for dynamic changes and region settings.
Integrated Delivery Information
Make sure the app includes integration of key delivery information, such as customer contact information, delivery date/time, drop-off instructions, credit card payments, revenue and account management, sign-off instructions, etc. When it comes to delivery information, every business will have different needs. They may, for instance, want to track weight, size, pricing, mileage for each order for all delivery addresses. You may also want to know client availability as well as etas. It’s, therefore, essential to find an app that provides flexibility when it comes to the delivery details that drivers can access.
Real-time tracking will allow you to keep track of parcels that are out for delivery. It can also help you identify bottlenecks drivers may be encountering along their routes and issues with drivers that are taking unscheduled breaks, etc. This tracking can be set up on a dashboard on a website, or integrated with other web tools such as tasks
Apps with a ’round-trip’ option enable you to make the most of your routes by providing drivers with the ability to do deliveries or returns on their way back to the warehouse or depot within the delivery windows.
Many services like Google Maps will allow you to add stops, create routes, and get started. They do not include features that would enable optimized routes. Optimization is essential if you are doing one or more routes per day. These types of apps are essentially navigation apps.
Reports and Analytics
Make sure the route planning app you choose provides reports and analytics that will help you make informed decisions going forward—the more comprehensive the analytics and the more user-friendly, the better.
Keep in mind what devices and platforms you already have. For instance, do you use Android, iPhone, iPad? Depending on the phone or smartphone you use, you will need access to the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. On your computer, if you’re using a MacBook Pro or Microsoft computer, it will influence which productivity software to purchase.
Training and Customer Service
While not technically features of the app, training and customer service are important considerations when choosing which route planning software to choose. Ideally, given the round-the-clock nature of delivery service and time zone differences, you’ll want 24/7 live support included with your monthly plan. Comprehensive training is also vital to ensure a smooth and efficient transition to the new software by all that will be using the app. Many companies provide in-person training alongside live online training, webinars, and documents.
Fleet Management Capabilities
For some companies, once you have many vehicles and are running a professional operation, you run into another problem: fleet management. Some regular applications do offer multi-vehicle functionalities, however for some, and you may want to consider a specialized fleet management software.
You may also like to read:
What is Fleet Management?
A Review of the Top Three Courier Apps
Now that you know what features are essential in an app, so let’s take a look at three companies that are rising to the top with their innovative apps. We’ve identified these as the top three apps based on their reputation within the industry.
Before we dive in, we want to address a common question amongst small businesses searching for a simple solution to plan routes: Can’t I just use Google Maps to plan my delivery route?
It’s an entirely reasonable question to ask about such simple solutions. Google Maps are exceptionally good at finding the optimal route from Point A to Point B. Unfortunately, the more ‘stops’ along a route, the less efficient Google is at finding the optimal route for your trip. The algorithm simply doesn’t provide that capability or business use. So, if you’re just looking to create a delivery route for your church’s yearly turkey dinner take-out or the such, Google Maps is a great solution. If, however, you’re running a delivery business and planning daily or weekly deliveries with more than ten stops on your routes, you’ll want to take a look at apps with your needs in mind. So below, we will cover the top three companies, and not include companies like route4me inc, road warrior pro, maps waze, and circuit.
Shiptrack positions its app as a complete real-time dispatch and delivery solution. The app offers an easy-to-use interface. In addition to route planning and optimization, it provides real-time driver tracking, electronic proof of delivery, automatic notifications to vendors, and much more. The company also boasts 24/7 customer support.
Starting Price: Not Stated
Best Suited For: last-mile carriers, retailers, manufacturers, logistics providers, postal services, and health care providers
Pros & Cons
- Free demo
- Comprehensive features (e.g., route planning, billing & invoicing, barcode support)
- Complete transportation dispatch and management features
- 24/7 live customer support
- Track drivers
- In-person training
- Does not provide performance metrics
- Not available on Mac or Windows desktop
Another leader in the delivery industry. Onfleet promotes its app as a ‘complete toolkit for last-mile delivery.’ Its features include route planning and optimization, integrated auto dispatch, real-time traffic data, integrated delivery and customer information, in-app proof of delivery, comprehensive driver performance analytics, and more.
Starting Price: $149/mo (Subscriptions)
Best Suited For: Last-mile couriers, retailers, distributors, on-demand delivery startups.
Pros & Cons
- Free trial (Business plan)
- Route tracking, route optimization
- Analyze drivers’ performance
- Customer database
- Delivery management
- Mobile device
- In-person training
- No label printing
- No billing/invoicing
- Does not provide 24/7 live support
- Not available on Mac or Windows desktop
OnnaWay offers delivery management software that will make delivery operations easier. It offers packages for small to large-sized companies. While its software is suited to delivery businesses in various industries, OnnaWay has developed a solid reputation in the food delivery category. Its features include route optimization, live tracking, menu management, online ordering, integrated customer database, reports/analytics, and more.
Starting Price: $197/mo subscription (upgrade to pro)
Best Suited For: Delivery operations, food delivery.
- Ease-of-use (based on customer reviews)
- Available on ALL web/installed and mobile platforms (includes Mac & Windows
- Many food delivery features (e.g., menu management, online ordering, food delivery management)
- Drivers settings.
- No free trial
- More expensive than competitors
- No in-person training
- Does not provide 24/7 live support
- Limited/no features in transportation dispatch and management
- Limited features
Is there an App for Route Planning?
The short answer is: absolutely, yes! There are a variety of apps on the market that offer different levels of prices and properties. The tricky part is finding the ones that matter, and that is appropriate for you.
What is the Best Route Planning App?
The choice of which app is best for you depends on many factors. These factors include pricing, design, user experience, and the package of features the app provides. In the end, the best app will be the one that gives you the best value for every dollar spent.
In conclusion, every routing expert will tell you the same thing: to create a routing schedule to multiple locations and destinations is highly complex for anyone. In this day and age, we haven’t quite achieved route planning on auto-pilot, but some of these developers are getting quite close to these capabilities. As the market grows, everyone in the field will create tools to manage orders better, provide gas reduction, manage a workforce, help increase volume, and provide ways for clients to manage packages and pickups better. We hope that this article gives professionals the capacity to sort their priorities and find the best solution for them. As always, let us know if there’s anything else we can do to help you!