Moving your product from point A to point B is seldom an A-to-B process. As customers happily dive into their shipments, little thought goes to the intricate network behind the scenes that made it happen, but those same shipping solutions are likely a major concern for you. One of the most challenging aspects of shipment is the dual selection of mode and carrier. While it's tempting to lean on a basic freight quote to keep things moving along, you'd be doing yourself a disservice. Basic freight quotes are full of holes, and may not be meeting your fulfillment center's needs in a meaningful, consistent way.
There are three main shortfalls to keep an eye out for.
In supply chains with a variety of products, a variety of solutions are needed to send them on their way. Perhaps one of your product models has an unusual shape, or fragile additions, while another is dense enough to make box integrity an important consideration. If you're operating on a freight quote that assumes one model requires the same packaging and handling care (or lack thereof) as another, you're putting yourself at risk for damaged item returns, overpayment or additional charges—all of which can tangle up your profit margins. Make sure that your freight quote incorporates any extra attention or set-and-forget streamlining warranted by a given product or combination thereof. Such value-added services on the part of a carrier can actually be emphasized as value-added services to your customer, ultimately improving the customer-facing experience without much additional effort.
If your supply chain doesn't work, neither will your B2C efforts—you can't sell what you can't obtain or create, after all. Your relationship with your freight carriers needs to incorporate agility to respond as quickly as possible to disruptions and obstacles. Flexibility to shift between modal shipping options is a huge benefit you can't afford to ignore—and knowing what the price of that switch is ahead of time helps inform your decisions. If, for example, moving your shipment from a ship to rail will cost more than the cost savings of using over-water transport in the first place, you may need to adjust your prices on products or customer-facing shipping to compensate. Examine the real-time response cost of using your current carrier for last-minute changes in the supply chain, comparing it to at least one alternate, to find out if you're overpaying to keep your supply chain shipping solutions open.
Fulfillment needs an exponentially increasing amount of support as it grows, and if your current fulfillment provider (or providers, as the case may be) can't meet those advanced needs, you'll ultimately be the one paying the price in customer perception. Basic freight quotes make an easy, palatable chunk of data to feed into planning—provided everything stays at its current levels. In business, that's a rarity and typically indicates company stagnation, which is definitely not where you want to be. Your providers should be as comfortable with and excited for growth as you are, ready to go full steam ahead in a holiday order crush or sustained popularity of products. Technology should be your first indicator that a shipping partner is poised for scalability. Tech means transparency, and transparency means better integration with your own shipment systems as they change and grow.
Shipping solutions should make your job as a fulfillment professional easier, and that means looking for the same traits you would in a team member: adaptability, flexibility and the commitment to stick with the company when things get more challenging. If your current carrier doesn't fit the bill, consider "interviewing" another to see what they could bring to your table.