A lot of small businesses start off their route planning adventures using a tool like Google Maps Route Planner or Mapquest Route Planner. They’re great products from some great brands and they can work fairly well when you have a small number of stops for deliveries (10 max).
Google Maps is a web-based mapping service developed by Google, first launched in 2005. It’s free, fast and user-friendly and they offer a quick guide on how to get started making a route.
However, if your business grows, or if you are already dealing with more than 10 stops, you will quickly see the limitations of this consumer route optimization software.
- Your routes need to be 10 stops or less.
- You can only plan for one driver at a time.
- You can only plan one route at a time.
- You need to manually determine the order of your stops.
- You can’t include constraints such as delivery time windows, driver breaks, vehicle load capacity, etc.
If those limitations don’t bother you, here are the steps on how to route multiple locations with Google Maps (Keep in mind it can still be a little complex, and that’s where the EasyRoutes route planner comes in; more on that below).
1. Process your addresses
The first thing you will need to do is choose the addresses you need to create routes for in the Google Maps route planner. If you have a lot of addresses, you will first need to figure out a way to cluster them into groups of orders you want to deal with. One way to do this is to sort your orders by postal code and assign those to drivers, or you can divide up your city into zones (North, East, South, West) or neighbourhoods.
Doing this allows you the drivers serving those areas to use less fuel by sticking to one area instead of driving all around the city. Fuel-savings are just one of the benefits of a well-optimized route.
The EasyRoutes Way: You don’t need to think about the best way to group orders into areas for your drivers. EasyRoutes automatically divides orders into the most efficient areas for your routes.
2. Manually enter your addresses
Once you’ve identified your stops, you will then need to manually enter them one at a time into Google Maps for each territory or zone you’ve created in step one.
The EasyRoutes Way: EasyRoutes integrates directly with your orders in Shopify. You can just select the orders you wish to route and EasyRoutes will process the rest.
3. Re-order your stops in the order you want to complete them
You will then need to arrange your addresses in the Google Maps route planner into the order you with to complete them. This order is complete up to you and based on your eyeballs as you look at the map. Ideally you are ordering your stops based on the proximity to the next stop. If you want to factor in things like delivery times, breaks for your drivers, vehicle capacity, or anything else that affects your deliveries, you will need to think about that as you finalize your stop arrangement.
The EasyRoutes Way: EasyRoutes does the hard work of calculating the best delivery route plan for your orders.
4. Give your drivers their delivery instructions
Separately, outside of the Google Maps route planner, you will need to prepare any delivery instructions and notes for your drivers. This may include information such as where to park or where is the best place to drop off a package. You will also want to include customer information incase your driver needs to reach out from on the road.
The EasyRoutes Way: EasyRoutes has all this information at your driver’s fingertips to make their lives easier.
5. Keep building routes in batches of 10 stops
Don’t forget you can only create routes in batches of 10 stops, so consider this when processing a long list of orders.
The EasyRoutes Way: EasyRoutes can create long or short routes with ease.
6. Dispatch your routes to your drivers
Google Maps allows you to send the list of addresses to your drivers via email or SMS.
The EasyRoutes Way: EasyRoutes also lets you use SMS or Email. You can also use Whatsapp, or copy the URL to your clipboard to share any other way you like. We even have a QR code so your driver can just load the route onto their device using their device’s camera.
As you can see, Google Maps is great for creating small delivery routes or personal route plans, but if you require anything more complex or if you anticipate your business growing, you should seriously consider a route planning software solution like the EasyRoutes route planner.