Adoption of real-time, direct connections (including API connectivity) with carriers is growing exponentially in popularity – 3PLs and commercial shippers alike see the value in increased efficiency when it comes to something as business-critical as shipping. With direct connections, shippers and 3PLs alike benefit from more accurate freight-shipping information to make more informed decisions, and effectively minimize their costs.
But amidst all the buzz, we’ve seen some concerning things like vendors who only offer APIs, or don’t have a single carrier connection in Canada or Mexico.
So, to help you navigate the growing number of vendors offering carrier connectivity platforms, we’ve provided three things that you should keep in mind as you shop around for the solution that is right for you.
1. Do they offer MORE than APIs?
While the transportation and freight industry has recently put an increased emphasis on API technology, it is important to note that API connectivity is just one part of the total picture of live carrier connectivity.
API stands for Application Program Interface, but, in layman’s terms, it is technology that allows different computer applications to communicate with each other. When employed correctly, APIs can transmit live data between computers instantaneously. This is beneficial to professionals in the logistics world as it lets them see live shipping data promptly, as well as letting them receive up-to-the-minute information directly from their carriers. Today, APIs are crucial to helping you minimize your transportation costs, allowing you to do more with less in your supply chain. This carrier connectivity is the future of shipping, but platforms that only offer APIs ultimately place you at a disadvantage, which may come as a surprise.
There are two primary issues with selecting a carrier-enablement solution that only provides APIs:
a. Using only APIs limits your functionality
If your carrier connectivity solution only uses APIs, you’ll miss out on functionality that is critical to managing the entire freight cycle. It is not uncommon for carriers to provide an API for rating, but not provide tracking/tracing, invoicing, or documentation through that same API— all features that are vital to better managing your freight.
b. Using only APIs limits you to an elite subset of carriers
While API connectivity is growing in popularity, it is important to note that not all carriers support APIs. If you select a vendor that only provides API connectivity, you will be limited to an elite subset of carriers, which often comes at a higher price. Carrier connectivity platforms should expose you to even more information and freight opportunities, not hinder you from making the best decision for your organization, API or not.
When shopping for a live carrier connectivity solution, make sure that they provide alternative forms of connections beyond APIs alone, to ensure you’re not limited in functionality or carrier selection.
2. Do they currently offer multi-modal connectivity?
As e-commerce continues to expand into new industries like fresh-food and pharmaceutical delivery, the demand for goods shipped to consumers’ doorsteps will only increase. This shifting consumer demand creates a ripple effect on the entire industry – for example, instead of retailers relying on a network of distribution centers, they now are increasingly putting pressure on suppliers to have flexibility and ship-on-demand.
Some carrier connection platforms only offer a single mode of shipment, or very limited connections in additional modes. This limits the shipper’s ability to be competitive, and adequately respond to the evolving demands and tastes of their customers in this rapidly changing, e-commerce powered revolution.
When you have multimodal connections, not only do you have increased flexibility to support the ever-changing market; you also can easily see rates for different modes of shipping, ensuring you always get the best price. Multi-modal connectivity gives your supply chain the flexibility and nimbleness needed to meet customers wherever they are.
3. Do they currently offer Connectivity in ALL of North America?
In 2016, the value of the freight flowing between the United States and Canada was $544 billion. Of that $544 billion, 60% of the freight was shipped using trucks. For freight moving between Mexico and the United States, the numbers were pretty much the same: $525 billion in freight was moved along the southern route between Mexico and the United States. Of the $525 billion Mexico-United States freight flow, 71% was executed by trucks along the southern route; an even greater value than truck movement between the U.S. and Canada.
Combined, freight movement to and from the United States’ closest trade partners is valued at nearly $1.07 trillion. As a result, it is extremely concerning that many live connectivity solutions only offer connections within the U.S. However, it is not surprising that many solutions lack this capability, as it can be time-consuming and complex to initially navigate the landscape and build international connections. And since many connectivity solutions today have only been in the space for a few years, they just simply haven’t had the time or experience to build out their connectivity network.
When evaluating your solutions for carrier-enablement, make sure the system you choose isn’t limiting your geographical options. And when shopping for a live carrier connectivity solution, don’t take “soon” for an answer: The opportunity cost of not operating in Canada and Mexico could place your business at a disadvantage in the future. Cover all your bases in North America by selecting live carrier connections that are currently connected to carriers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
When making an important purchase as a consumer, we often do our thorough research, comparing the functionality of all the available options (fun fact: approximately 94% of B2B buyers research online to make purchase decisions). However, because it’s been such a buzzword in the industry, some shippers will stop the comparison when they hear “APIs.” Not all carrier connectivity solutions are made the same. As the supply chain landscape evolves, find the solution that meets the needs of your business and customers not only today, but in the future as well.
At Banyan, we know that the best live connection solution is more than just APIs. Our international and multi-modal live carrier connections extend way beyond APIs, with features that offer our users full visibility into the freight cycle, so they can make the decisions that are best for them.
If you want to learn more about live connectivity solutions, click here to schedule a demo.
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