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2 for 1: Get Choice and Visibility in a Multi-Carrier Shipping Solution

When it comes to retail parcel shipping, the near-constant evolution of consumer expectations can present key parcel shipping challenges to even the most sophisticated retailers.  For example, some consumers want free shipping, whereas others prioritize next-day shipping.  And while some consumers want parcels delivered to their homes, others prefer to pick them up curbside.  Complicating matters further: returns.  Some consumers want to return items directly to the store, and others are content to drop parcels off at their local carrier’s storefront.

How can you meet such varied shipping expectations and still maintain profit margins? What does it really take to satisfy a customer?

The Consumer’s Non-Negotiables

In today’s e-commerce market, the biggest players have moved consumer expectations toward a subscription-fee framework that rewards immediate gratification but limits choice. It’s entirely possible the consumers to whom you are shipping are pleased with a longer delivery lead time — but you won’t know unless you give them the option to choose.  Similarly, it’s entirely possible they’d prefer all items in an order ship at the same time, regardless of lead time. But again, you can’t know your consumers desire this option — and you can’t optimize your shipments to account for it — until you give them the choice.

ebook logistyx quadrant Choosing a TMS for Parcel ShippingTo give consumers these choices, many retailers customize their e-commerce platforms to present multiple shipping options at check-out.  And on the backend, they integrate their e-commerce platform with a multi-carrier shipping solution. A sophisticated multi-carrier shipping solution will allow you to build business rules that account for the consumer’s shipment preferences such as origin, destination, lead time, service level, and cost, and then automatically select the lowest cost carrier service in your network to meet the consumer’s needs.

Even better: multi-carrier shipping software will automatically print the appropriate return shipping labels when the order is fulfilled.  You can then place those return labels into the cartons, enabling a simple, fast, and seamless return process regardless of whether the consumer returns the product to the store or ships the product back to your warehouse. And while convenient for the consumer, equally beneficial is your ability to pre-select the carrier service that makes the most financial sense for return shipping, thereby controlling transportation costs and minimizing return shipping errors.

Consumer-Focused Parcel Shipping Goes Beyond the Label

Once your e-commerce platform has given your consumers a say in how they want their parcels shipped, when they want their parcels shipped, and where they want their parcels shipped, and your multi-carrier shipping solution has printed the right label for the box (and the return), you need to give your consumer visibility into their parcel’s delivery journey and the estimated delivery time. In fact, time of delivery is just as important to consumers as lead time these days. This type of visibility gives consumers a sense of control and awareness — the same sense they get when you offer them those when/where/how delivery choices.

Therefore, the right multi-carrier shipping solution will also have a Control Tower that allows you to provide your consumers with visibility into their parcel’s delivery journey, including the estimated delivery time.  The system will send early warning signs when there are parcel delivery issues or “exception events,” empowering customer service teams to proactively trouble-shoot the exception event and communicate delivery updates to the customer in real time. For example, perhaps the product can be sent from a different distribution center to arrive on time. Or perhaps the customer is willing to retrieve the product from a nearby store or locker.

A Control Tower even makes it possible for you to provide customers with the ability to track and trace shipments on your own (not the carrier’s) website – reducing inbound calls about shipment status to customer service and increasing the customers’ browsing behavior while on the website, which (fingers crossed!) could lead to additional purchases.

Consider too that tracking delivery exception events enables you to capture accurate carrier performance data – improving carrier service measurement and better informing carrier contract negotiations.

Find the Right Multi-Carrier Shipping Solution

Your goal as the retailer is to optimize parcel shipping so you can keep your transportation spend low. A great multi-carrier shipping solution with a Control Tower will allow you to remain flexible to adjust to consumers’ unique shipping preferences while achieving on-time delivery at the optimal cost.

Learn more about how the Logistyx Parcel TMS can help you achieve efficiencies in parcel shipping.