For carriers and retailers alike, shipping solutions no longer simply encompass a cardboard box and a few strips of tape. Increasingly complex customer demands and the advent of innovations like the data-driven IoT have essentially eliminated the one-size-fits-all approach to shipping goods; the carrier is now as much "on the hook" to vary their offerings as the retailer is to vary their SKUs. Thankfully, these brave new (and complicated) worlds in fulfillment services have quite a few intersections, allowing smart supply chain partners to team up and make the most of shared opportunities.
Carriers and Retailers Can Inform One Another
Few tools are as helpful in business as actionable data, and no one excels at collecting and parsing it quite like shippers and retailers. With approaches that are just different enough to invite corroboration rather than overlap, these businesses are two sides of the same coin and should compare notes as often as possible. Is a developing company suddenly receiving an increased volume of consumer products? A retailer might take this knowledge and consider a targeted marketing campaign in the region. Do the customers of a certain website tend to order after the close of business? A carrier might want to introduce an early-morning route stop at that retailer's warehouse to expedite those late night orders the following day. In a win-win scenario, both the carrier and retailer stand to benefit through increased order volume (or, conversely, reduced order loss) by sharing actionable information. Adrian Gonzalez of Talking Logistics goes even further, saying that carriers are as responsible for carrying data as they are for carrying freight.
The True Cost of Shipping Promotions
In a race to keep up with competitors, many a business has fallen prey to sticker-shock on free shipping promotions after the fact. Communication and planning with a carrier representative can help determine the upfront cost as well as the break-even point on a given order to help guide marketing decisions. For example, armed with knowledge of the maximum potential cost of free shipping, a company can then determine what spend (both financial and/or action) is required from the customer to properly balance it. Additionally, determining the thresholds—weight, geographic distance, dimensions—that bump a shipment to the next cost tier will help advertising teams target ads to the right audience for maximum financial gain.
Carrier Flexibility Becomes Retailer Flexibility
Some carriers have begun actively looking for ways to improve the end-consumer’s experience. On top of real-time tracking, some providers have been experimenting with features that allow buyers to select when and where they receive their shipments to prevent missed hand-offs—and, in turn, customer disappointment that would otherwise reflect, however unfairly, on the original retailer. This flexibility can be incorporated into retailer value-added pitches, giving retailers a hassle-free bullet point to entice consumers still on the fence back into their carts. A growth-minded carrier will be able to make suggestions and innovations based on the needs of their largest customers, building a functional, symbiotic relationship that ultimately translates to faster, more reliable shipments to the real winner in this partnership scenario—the customer.
In a retailer-shipper collaboration, one side cannot completely inform the actions of the other, but they can certainly bolster communal goals. Customer expectations for versatile, modern shipping solutions— from speediness to digital transparency—are at an all-time high and show no signs of slowing down. To keep up, carriers and retailers will need to rely on one another in a perpetual relay race. Much like a well-built consumer product, this means that fulfillment cooperation is emerging as a must-have trait for success and is far more than the sum of its parts.