Do you know the most significant problems transport and logistics enterprises faced in 2022? These five headaches are the following: cost reduction (94%), freight visibility (94%), capacity (81%), transport optimization (70%), and data management (69%). The good news is that you can fix all of these using the app for logistics management.
In this article, we’ll go through all the basics of logistics app design and development. You’ll learn about types of logistics apps, their key features, the most common technologies used for their implementation, the main challenges of logistics MVP development, and beyond. We’ll also steer you into the easiest way to build such an app for logistics & transportation business.
📱 Types of Logistics Apps
The logistics domain encompasses transportation, inventory, warehousing, and truck management — each one with its own needs. So, it isn’t surprising that there’s a large number of varieties of transportation and logistics apps. That’s why before going into the nuances of custom logistics mobile app development, it’s critical to decide on the app type first. To make it easier for you, we’ve cherry-picked the main varieties.
Fleet Management Apps
Without your fleet, you simply won’t be able to transport your assets from point A to point B, which will put your entire business on hold.
A fleet management solution will help you take care of your vehicles. No matter how extensive your fleet is, this application will collect, manage, and store all information about your trucks (including their maintenance history, vital for timely maintenance or replacement). Some transportation management apps also gather data about service costs to help you calculate the total ownership expenses, send maintenance notifications, generate reports, and more. As a result, you keep your vehicles running smoothly in a cost-efficient manner.
On-Demand Logistics Apps
If your trucks are not always fully loaded, it’s probably a perfect chance to create an extra source of income with an on-demand logistics app. Such solutions are like Glovo in the business world. Here’s how they work:
1. A shipper creates the request.
2. The nearest driver with extra space in their truck receives the notification, accepts the request, and picks up the freight.
3. The shipper tracks the cargo’s whereabouts and gets alerts on the shipment status.
4. Once the freight is delivered, the system sends an invoice to the shipper.
Uber Freight is probably the most well-known logistics app for on-demand shipments.
Real-Time Tracking Apps
As the name suggests, this app helps you stay updated on your shipments, vehicles, and drivers at all times, both domestically and internationally. It tracks trucks’ whereabouts in real-time and sends users updates on deliveries, locations, and routes.
My Fleet Tracker is one such real-time tracking app. It allows drivers to share their location, current status (such as _en route to customer), and details about the current destination. At the same time, admins have a complete overview of all drivers and can contact each of them via instant messaging. On top of that, the system navigates a driver to their next destination and operates in an offline mode in areas with no internet connection.
Warehouse and Inventory Management Apps
A warehouse management app helps you make sure that all your shipments will reach their destinations at the right time. These apps are very similar to real-time tracking solutions. But there’s the key difference between the two — warehousing apps focus particularly on warehouse owners, while real-time tracking tools have a wider audience.
Typically equipped with barcode scanning technologies, warehouse management apps help you manage and track the status of hundreds of deliveries. The best offerings even integrate with internal databases to make updates in real-time, thus minimizing manual input and — as a consequence — human error.
Veeqo is an excellent example of a warehouse and inventory management app.
Delivery apps are designed to facilitate delivering goods from one location to another. The primary function is to connect businesses with customers looking for their products through a network of couriers. Clients can choose between on-demand (immediate delivery) or scheduled (delivery for a specific time and date) possibilities.
These apps allow customers to track orders in real-time and offer various payment options, including cash, credit card, and mobile banking. With their help, businesses can improve customer service by providing fast and convenient delivery while clients control the entire process.
❓ Why Do Logistics Apps Fail?
There’s no denying that a logistics application can bring immense value to a business. However, a wrong approach to its development can turn it into budget waste. This rule applies to all types of apps.
Here are some of the main mistakes you should avoid if you want to make a mobile application for transportation and logistics that will succeed.
If an app performs poorly and swarms with bugs, it’ll hinder your processes instead of making them smoother. Besides, if it’s prone to data leakages and cyberattacks, that might lead to lawsuits and costly settlements.
For example, a single privacy bug in Uber’s app once resulted in a $45 million lawsuit against the e-hailing giant. A man used his wife’s phone to log in to his Uber account, and the device kept receiving notifications after he logged out. As a result, the woman learned that he used Uber to visit his mistress.
Not Considering Users
Too often, businesses base logistics app development strategies on their assumptions. For example, such an approach had painful consequences for Hailo — an Uber-like e-hailing project for yellow cab users. After success in London, the company decided to “conquer” New York. And they didn’t. All because yellow cab drivers in New York didn’t take smartphones around during work, unlike their colleagues in London, and couldn’t access Hailo’s app.
The takeaway? Even if your future solution is intended for users within your company, do your research. Take a closer look at your drivers. Which devices do they use while driving? Are they accustomed to using devices in the first place? If they are not, how would you minimize their learning curve?
Too Many Features
Some app providers fall into believing that feature-packed solutions attract users. For example, ICQ was the most popular communication tool in the early 2000s. By 2001, it boasted 100 million users. Year after year, its providers continued adding more and more new features. Eventually, ICQ was so bloated with functionalities that they had to release a simplified app version.
Back to logistics, there’s nothing wrong with feature-rich solutions. But only if you know the needs of your company. So, the best way to learn them is (again) researching and building a minimum viable product (MVP) — an app version with only the most basic features.
When building a logistics application for internal use, your task is to create a high-quality solution that caters to your needs and makes your workflow more efficient. But this doesn’t apply to the business-to-customer (B2C) domain — apps for external users. Building a perfect app is not enough here. You should also advertise it properly.
As a case in point, Everpix — a solution for organizing photos — was a very promising project. Its initiator Pierre-Olivier Latour gathered about $1.8 million in funding and involved top engineers. They built a great product and hoped it would sell itself. But it never happened, and the service closed down in 2013.
So, if you are looking to develop a logistics app with an on-demand shipment module, for instance, launch a marketing campaign for your product.
⭐ Why Architecture Matters in Logistics App Development
In layman’s terms, architecture is “a 4D model” of an app. It usually includes the components of an app, the connections between them, the way these components interact with each other, and the environment in which they operate. It also describes how the app is designed and how it will evolve into the future.
Just like a schematic of a future building, app architecture comes before coding. But in the era of Scrum teams and frequent releases, companies often skip this step and rush to implementation to meet deadlines. And such a move does help them with deadlines. But that’s the only benefit. More often than not, apps without architecture don’t have a future. And this is true for any app, including a logistics one. Here are a few reasons why.
A good solution architect considers all factors that may affect the app’s performance and designs the app’s “skeleton” accordingly. These include devices your solution is intended for, the operating system, the internet speed, the number of users using the app, usage patterns, all possible integrations, etc.
Otherwise, your app for logistics will shatter after the first traffic spike caused by a sudden wave of customers willing to use your on-demand logistics services.
Scalability and Flexibility
Poorly designed solutions are very, very resistant to changes. They are as full of dependencies as a Jenga tower. If you change one element, you should also modify the entire “tower” of its subcomponents. If you skip something, your application for logistics can start malfunctioning in unexpected places. The toughest part here is that your developers might not be aware of all dependencies. This is particularly true in cases where multiple teams contribute to a single application.
New advanced features? New markets? Take care of all the dependencies first. No wonder the developers at Uber had to build a new architecture for their ridesharing app from the ground up when they realized that the old design was bogging them down and preventing them from scaling and adding new features.
Saved Time and Costs
Yes, you read it right. Though building a logistics app without architecture will save your app development budget at the initial stages of a project, it might cost you a fortune later on. Why?
First, poorly designed transport and logistics apps are not optimized for their environment, so be prepared for sudden outages. Secondly, since a chaotic structure makes proper testing impossible, these apps are full of bugs and security vulnerabilities. Finally, don’t forget about dependencies that should be considered whenever you want to modify something, no matter how small the change is. It takes time and too often makes further growth impossible, leading you to a new problem: the necessity to build a new solution.
Meanwhile, not only will proper architecture save you from endless “battles” with dependencies, cyberattacks, and bugs, it will also allow you to reuse code to develop identical functions. This makes development faster and… cheaper.
📌 Logistics App Features: Begin with the Essentials
As we mentioned, the logistics software solutions market is brimming with different app types, each with functionalities. Once you choose your app type, your next step should be defining its most essential features. Essential is key — it’s important not to go overboard here since your first release will be more about testing the waters.
Let’s consider an example. Say you are going to build a simple logistics app that will help you deliver your shipments from point A to point B reliably and efficiently. Such solutions typically consist of two versions: one for dispatchers and another for drivers.
The Dispatcher Module
The dispatcher module should consist of the following functionalities:
- Dashboard. The dashboard of the logistics app for transport company provides real-time visibility into delivery status, schedules, and locations, enabling dispatchers to make quick decisions and adjustments.
- Real-time GPS tracking. This feature allows dispatchers to track drivers’ locations, quickly respond to issues, and provide status updates to customers.
- Route optimization. It enables dispatchers to create and manage delivery routes based on location, volume, and driver availability, optimizing routes, reducing delivery times, and minimizing fuel costs.
- Inventory management. With it, dispatchers monitor the movement of goods through the supply chain, ensuring that inventory levels are optimized and that sufficient stock is always available.
- Push notifications. Dispatchers can send real-time alerts and updates to drivers, customers, and other stakeholders, updating delivery status and scheduling changes.
- Automated dispatching. It allows for the automation of assigning drivers to delivery routes based on availability, location, and volume, reducing manual effort and enabling specialists to focus on more critical tasks.
- Data analytics. Data analytics enables dispatchers to analyze delivery performance data and identify areas for improvement, allowing them to make data-driven decisions.
Later on, you can augment these with the vehicle management feature to track the fuel consumption status and the M2M (machine-to-machine) communication engine to keep tabs on the health of each vehicle.
The Driver’s Module
Consider these driver’s features if you want to make a transport application:
- Registration and authentication. This feature ensures that only authorized drivers can log in and perform delivery tasks, protecting against unauthorized access and data breaches.
- Order management. Order management allows drivers to track and manage their delivery schedules, communicate with dispatchers and customers, and ensure that orders get completed.
- Route optimization. With it, drivers optimize their delivery routes based on traffic, volume, and customer location, lowering fuel costs, reducing delivery times, and improving service quality.
- Chat & chatbot. A logistics web development tool that enables one to get help quickly and efficiently, minimizing the need for phone calls or emails and streamlining the delivery process.
- Payment processing. It allows drivers to collect and process customer payments, issue receipts, and manage transaction records using various payment methods, including cash, credit cards, and digital transactions.
These features are enough to build a minimum viable product (MVP) for your internal logistics processes. If you happen to be willing to incorporate an on-demand element into your solutions, be sure to build a dedicated module for your customers (shippers).
🔹 Choosing a Logistics App Development Tech Stack
After the project’s stakeholders negotiate and approve the list of core features, your development team will select technologies for their successful implementation. A well-thought-out stack is fundamental to building a high-quality application for logistics. It will also significantly affect the development time and cost.
So, to build a logistics app with the features listed above, your development team might be choosing from the following technologies:
- Registration and authentication: Auth0, OneLogin
- Payments: PayPal, Stripe, WePay, Amazon Pay
- Database management: MongoDB, MySQL
- Cloud computing: AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud
- Navigation: Google Maps API or other maps API
Your team will also select technologies for the app’s frontend and backend. For example, to develop an app’s backend, they might use Node JS, Python, or PHP. Or if your goal is to quickly test the waters with an MVP, you can skip backend development with a BaaS (Backend-as-a-Service) solution, which is exactly what its name suggests — a ready-made backend. It will help you immensely. And what’s more, you shouldn’t look any further — enjoy the benefits of the “frontend-focused” developments with our BaaS partner.
💡 Integration with Other Systems
A logistics management app can integrate with ERP and CRM systems to provide a complete view of logistics operations using APIs from vendors like Uber. And here are the most popular shipping management solutions:
- Shippo API is a shipping and logistics API that provides access to shipping rates, labels, tracking information, and other data from carriers such as USPS, UPS, and FedEx.
- EasyPost API is a shipping API that enables using shipping rates, labels, tracking information, and other shipping-related data from USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, etc.
- FedEx API is a set of APIs that enriches your trucking logistics app with shipping rates, labels, tracking information, FedEx location, and service information.
- USPS API is a set of APIs that gives entry to shipping rates, labels, tracking information, USPS location, and service details.
- Shipwire API is a fulfillment API that allows logistics software applications to manage inventory, orders, real-time shipping data, and tracking information.
🌐 How to Make a Logistics App MVP: Main Challenges to Overcome
Transportation and logistics app development is not like pushing a button and getting a ready-made solution. It’s a complex process even if you decide to get started with an MVP. Below we’ve rounded up the main challenges associated with building an MVP for logistics:
- Understanding your needs. This is the foundation for ANY project.
- Choosing the right app type and a feature set based on those needs. Remember that you’re building an MVP, so you should create a WORKING product with a MINIMUM set of VALUABLE features. Defining this minimum is always a challenge.
- Choosing the right technology stack. Given the variety of technologies, you might have a hard time deciding on the most suitable options.
- Designing proper architecture. This will allow for the performance, stability, flexibility, and scalability of your app.
- Creating an intuitive UI. Your employees might not be accustomed to using gadgets while doing their job. A straightforward interface can make digitization of your processes much easier while ensuring that an app won’t distract drivers from the road.
- Updates. Your solution should work without a glitch — otherwise, it’ll be detrimental to your process. To guarantee that, you should make timely modernization. But how often should you make them? And what exactly should be improved?
- GPS data. Logistics applications rely heavily on GPS data. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Until you decide to extend your processes into China. The country has a variety of restrictions on geographic data, which can hinder the development process.
- Sensitive data. Chances are, your logistics app will be using confidential data. To prevent any potential security incidents, your team should have strong cybersecurity expertise.
So, how can you overcome all these hurdles if you don’t have the relevant talent in-house? You can always make additional hires. But what if you don’t know what expertise you need since you’re unsure about the feature set? In this case, you can outsource the process of finding the required experts, organizing them into a dedicated team, and then taking care of your project to a software development vendor. For example, you can use our logistics app development services.
🏆 Our Logistics/Delivery App Development Experience
At Acropolium, we have a solid logistics and transportation app development background. Besides being experts in the technologies necessary for building high-quality business solutions, we are also well-versed in the ins and outs of the transportation and logistics market. This will allow us to help you define your company’s needs and proceed to implementation immediately.
Here are some of our most recent projects in logistics:
- Logistics tracking app development. The client was looking for truck management app development experts. They wanted us to build a solution for logistics brokers that would allow them to accurately track the exact number of working hours of drivers. The solution was ready within three months, and the client got an investment for further development.
- Improving a shipping web platform. A shipping solutions provider came to us with an unfinished product. We conducted a thorough audit (which revealed a lot of bugs from the previous vendor), fixed the bugs, and finished the development. The solution went into live production within two months.
- IoT-based GPS fleet tracking app development. The Malaysian fleet tracking provider asked us to upgrade their testing prototype of a GPS-tracking app. It had no documentation, limited integration, and low flexibility. Today it integrates with IoT devices, allows video streaming and remote command processing, and displays 1000 objects on the map.
🔎 Final Thoughts
A custom logistics app can provide various benefits, including real-time tracking, route optimization, inventory management, and automated dispatching. They all help businesses reduce costs, improve delivery times, and enhance customer satisfaction. However, logistics app development also presents pitfalls and challenges, such as security risks, data management issues, and technical complexities.
When considering logistics bespoke software, it is crucial to choose an experienced logistics app development company that understands the unique requirements of logistics operations. Contact Acropolium to discuss your wants and needs and find an appropriate solution.