By: John Agoglia, Pierbridge
Shipping is all about movement. It is about moving product out of warehouses, fulfillment centers, stores, offices, and supplier locations to homes and businesses down the street or across the globe. But there is a growing need to move them faster, more efficiently, and less expensively to keep up with customer delivery and free shipping expectations.
Multi-carrier shipping software has been around for many years. But the latest cloud-based platforms are providing businesses with more capabilities than ever. They go beyond just printing labels and are true transportation management systems (TMS) designed to control delivery and costs. Expanding needs and growing businesses need scalable solutions that are easy to deploy, powerful, and have the speed to handle all the demands of omnichannel shipping.
They are doing it by moving on-premise multi-carrier shipping software capabilities to the cloud.
Here are three ways that cloud-based, multi-carrier shipping software is coming of age:
1. Beyond parcel
While a carton or two dropped on a porch or doorstep or left in a mailroom by a national carrier is the image that many have when they think of parcel delivery, today’s customers are savvier and more demanding. They want what they want when they want and where they want. And increasingly, they expect all of that for free. This includes luxury goods, home furnishings, and furniture, which were long thought to be the domain of brick-and-mortar stores, shipped in consolidated loads from distribution centers via freight. And increasingly, what they want requires personalized service. All of this is changing the way shippers need to ship, regardless of where the product is purchased or where it is delivered.
While it is true that in the end, all delivery is local delivery, it is also true that local is no longer just about couriers. eCommerce demand is now attracting the services of local carriers across a wider spectrum of carrier modes who offer new last-mile residential delivery services that have traditionally been handled by parcel carriers. Multi-carrier is now becoming multi-modal. Of course, the shift to more localized delivery services adds a level of management complexity to the plate of many shippers and that requires the right TMS system.
2. Everyone’s a shipper
It’s easy to think that only eCommerce merchants and retailers have to manage more frequent and small shipments, but today’s shippers are just about everyone. They can be manufacturers shipping parts to an auto store, a lawyer sending paperwork across town, and eCommerce sellers drop-shipping from suppliers, stores, and other sources of inventory in closer proximity to consumers. Omnichannel shipping strategies require a TMS that is built to handle the scale of so many different kinds of users.
Of course, just as no shipper works alone, no software system does either. It is important that the TMS is able to Integrate easily with ERPs, WMSs, eCommerce websites, and customer service portals to handle the entire parcel lifecycle and reduce manual errors. The key is not only finding the right apps, shipping APIs to website widgets, but also finding the right technology partner as well.
3. Controlling pack and ship
Despite what you are shipping, where you are shipping from, and where you are shipping to, the best shipping software can help you do it better. Quick and easy deployment, flexible and role-specific workflows, dangerous goods and international shipping compliance, and support of omnichannel delivery services can be the key to eCommerce success.
Regardless of how much shippers work to keep their shipping costs under control, they can easily lose money by unexpected fees. One of the most common—and easily avoidable with the right strategy and technology—is dimensional weight (DIM) fees. If shippers aren’t packing correctly and with transportation costs in mind, they will wind up spending more than they planned, leading to reduced profits, not to mention disappointed and downright annoyed customers. Cartonization reduces DIM fees, waste, and customer packaging fails, and as more carriers charge for shipping air, the technology is becoming indispensable.
For success, shippers need not only cloud-based shipping software to keep up with today’s needs, but one that can go beyond traditional multi-carrier shipping software and stay ahead of the game.