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Cloud-based technology to execute parcel shipping workflows is critical to establishing resilience and business agility.

There is no doubt, the way we all shop has been transformed.  This means what was once the status quo in parcel shipping has fundamentally changed, and some retailers have simply not been able to keep up.

While the likes of Walgreens, Belk, and Foot Locker have made headlines, many other retailers lacked the infrastructure (technology, carrier network, systems integrations, etc.) to execute buy-online-pick-up-curbside (BOPIC), ship-from-store, or same-day delivery, and they were threatened with collapse when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. These companies are now under immense pressure to successfully navigate peak season and get back on track.

One thing has become clear: cloud-based technology to execute parcel shipping workflows is critical to establishing resilience and business agility.  As a result, we are seeing an overhaul of parcel shipping practices across retailers, manufacturers, and logistics providers alike. Businesses are no longer just paying lip service to cloud; they have launched head-first into it.

The Definition of “Cloud”

“Cloud” is a term that is often overused and under-delivered. For example, many multi-carrier parcel shipping solution providers state their technology is cloud-based, when really, they are simply managing a server in the cloud.  This is not the same thing as cloud architected multi-carrier parcel shipping technology.  These managed services rely on the same legacy technology and manual processes and resources as on-premise solutions – and there are usually hidden costs.

In contrast, true containerized, cloud multi-carrier parcel shipping technology is built on a .net core; no code is required for system logs, which are built into Azure or similar.  This means there is significantly less effort in customization and implementation.

Why should you care?  That “less effort in customization and implementation” is important.  It means that when a supply chain disruption occurs, you can quickly on-board new carriers, pivot shipping workflows, stand up temporary distribution centers, and more – without relying on in-house teams or incurring costs associated with hardware, maintenance, and training.  With true cloud technology, your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is markedly reduced.

Cloud-Based Multi-Carrier Parcel Shipping Software Increases Agility

By implementing multi-carrier parcel shipping software with a cloud architecture, you can increase the agility of your order fulfillment workflows and reduce the number of manual touches an order receives.  Technology features include automated shipment execution, parcel contract management, rating, rate shopping, parcel consolidation, labeling and document creation, and parcel delivery track-n-trace – and because the technology is in the cloud, upgrades from one version to the next are seamless, reducing effort for in-house QA teams.  Furthermore, scaling of software services is managed by cloud orchestration, which enables you to dynamically manage your growth while maintaining profit margins during unexpected shipping events or surges in volumes.

Cloud-Based Parcel Shipping Technology Provides Better Data & Integrations

In the wake of 2020, building a flexible technology stack is now a top priority among executives. More than ever, companies recognize how important it is to have the power of data and business systems integrations on their side, or in contrast: how difficult it is to navigate supply chain disruptions when on-premise solutions stand-alone (or are clumsily integrated) and data is siloed.

True parcel shipping agility comes from the ability to integrate supply chain technology such as WMS, OMS, and e-commerce systems with parcel shipping software in the cloud.  This enables you to seamlessly share critical information throughout your organization, improving reaction time and collaboration and optimizing distribution costs.  And the right cloud shipping software will not only help you utilize and hone the power of cloud integration to sync your supply chain, but it will also provide Business Intelligence to aggregate and normalize all shipping operations data, empowering key stakeholders in your organization to run rate simulations, compare “what if” to current transportation strategies, and set and measure parcel shipping KPIs.

In addition, cloud-based shipping software can leverage cloud native technologies such as Spark Analytics, Data Bricks, Azure Synapse, and more, which provide faster analytics and easier integration to IoT input.  It can take raw data and apply Machine Learning (ML) algorithms to predict the impact of IoT events on the supply chain.  For example:

  • You can analyze omnichannel capabilities to better understand whether stores can ship based on space and inventory
  • You can determine which types of orders can be shipped versus picked up
  • You can analyze the impact of carrier capacity limitations and order demand, providing your managers with the ability to pivot carriers and transportation budgets to match customer expectations

In other words, by integrating data sources in the cloud, you can make cost-savvy supply chain decisions that align with business strategy.

The Time is Now

As we continue to sustain carrier capacity limitations, surcharges, and supply chain disruptions, the need for resilience has never been greater, and cloud-based technology is one of the most valuable weapons you can have today. It dictates your ability to grow and survive in a changing environment, and by implementing true cloud-based multi-carrier parcel shipping software, you have the magic combination of shipment volume scalability, distribution flexibility, and data-informed strategies.

Make sure your business is one that comes out of this year’s peak season stronger than before.  Download our e-book: How to Leverage Cloud Technology to Revolutionize Parcel Shipping.