How to Select the Right Shipping System for your Business: Part 2
How can you be sure you’re selecting the right shipping system for your business? It’s the number one question every manager faces when weighing the costs and benefits of replacing a legacy system. There is, unfortunately, no easy answer. Shipping operations – and shipping software requirements – are more complex than ever; and there is usually no “out of the box” solution that meets most shippers’ needs.
In the inaugural post of this series, How to Select the Right Shipping System for your Business: Part 1, we examined how to improve your odds for success by creating a shipping requirements blueprint. In today’s post, the second in the series, we take a look at vendor comparisons and due diligence.
Once your requirements document draft is complete, you’re in a great position to consider potential vendors. The Internet may be helpful in an initial search, but you may also want to:
- Ask your industry peers; learn what they like and don’t about their system
- Ask your carrier representatives about multi-carrier shipping systems with which they’ve integrated
- Ask your enterprise system representatives about multi-carrier systems with which they’ve integrated
Carrier Agnostic or Carrier Provided?
Carriers also offer a range of free systems, which may sound very appealing as a means to get the basic job done with very little upfront investment. However, it’s wise to carefully scrutinize what “free” means. Most of these systems may offer some level of automation, such as rating, but they will not offer the same level of rate selection that a carrier-agnostic system provides. Before you choose a carrier-provided system, consider the following:
- Will the system allow you to fully compare rates between multiple carriers and modes?
- Does the carrier require you to commit to a certain shipment volume and a contract in exchange for the free system? Can this commitment or contract be canceled and at what cost?
- What will be required to integrate the system to exchange real-time data with your host systems? Who will be responsible for the implementation and updates?
- What is the availability of support after the integration and what are the service level agreements of the supporting party?
- Is the carrier willing to apply an equivalent monetary investment with a third-party vendor solution that more closely meets your needs in lieu of the carrier provided solution?
These and other aspects are important to consider when calculating your implementation costs and evaluating your ability to respond to rapid business changes once your new system is up and running. Let’s say, for example, your competitors offer free shipping for all customers and the best way to compete is to add other, lower cost carriers to your mix. If you’re using a carrier-provided system, you’ve committed to a certain volume of shipments, which means your options are limited. The best option is to choose a truly carrier-agnostic solution that allows you to shift your volumes dynamically as business partners change.
Vendor Due Diligence
Equally important to evaluating the software, it’s also critical to ensure you choose a vendor with sufficient resources to support your company for the long-term. Your vendor due diligence process should include:
- Company history, operations, and financials
- Technical and industry expertise
- Company’s product roadmap
- Product development and support resources
- Customer base
Once you’ve determined which vendors offer the software solution you require, get to know the company. Insist on meeting and interviewing the team members who will work on your project. Ask for customer references, preferably those with a configuration similar to your needs.
Bottom Line: It’s a Partnership
Ready to learn more about selecting the right multi-carrier shipping solution partner?
Contact us today to discuss how our technology can quickly take your parcel shipping initiatives to the next level and stay tuned for more posts in this series that provide recommendations on how to choose the right solution to navigate the growing complexities of parcel shipping.