Why Parcel Shipping Data is Critical to your 2020 International Trade Strategy
The rules of international trade are rewritten all the time, and this has never been truer than it is today. To have an impactful international trade strategy in 2020 for parcel shipping, you’ll need to navigate the following:
Brexit will give rise to several changes to cross-border shipping that shippers will need to properly address to maintain their flow of goods and provide the service their customers seek. For example, as the United Kingdom exits the European Union, the countries within will receive new country codes for shipping. While this may not seem like a big issue, shippers using shipping software that doesn’t include the new country codes may inadvertently find their parcels have been misrouted, causing delays, lost parcels, and spoilage of time-sensitive goods.
New country codes also trigger new codes for customs and carrier services, as well as new payment terms. Shippers within the EU using software solutions that continue to assume shipping to the U.K. is not an export will rely on outdated payment terms, leading to unexpected and unwelcomed charges.
Universal Postal Union
Navigating the changes to the Universal Postal Union (UPU) could also prove challenging. Under the new deal, the UPU has agreed to let the U.S. set its own postal rates for imported parcels weighing less than 4.4 pounds. The deal also permits other countries to adjust their rates for inbound parcels from the U.S. annually starting in July 2020. For international shippers, this may mean higher prices for postal services.
U.S. – China Trade War
Another headline-grabbing event that recently rocked global commerce and distribution was the U.S.-China trade war. In 2019, import tariffs imposed by both the U.S. and China increased prices for e-commerce businesses and significantly impeded trade. Small businesses sustained the brunt of the hit, and many organizations eyed Asian countries like Vietnam for fulfillment and manufacturing. In addition, online consumers in both the U.S. and China took “shop local” to a whole new level and increasingly upped their consumption of domestic products to avoid the hefty price tags on foreign imports.
Though the U.S. and China no longer appear to be fanning the trade war flames, shippers would be wise to keep a close eye on the situation while also exploring workarounds such as fulfilling from an alternate location, front-loading inventory, halting online product sales in the affected categories, and accounting for tariffs in pricing strategies.
Cost-Effective, On-Time International Shipping Requires Data
Manufacturers, retailers, and 3PLs shipping internationally need to review their transportation network with an eye toward flexibility. When the ground underneath shifts (as it has of late), flexibility will be key to minimizing fulfillment disruptions.
And the key to achieving this flexibility? Leveraging data.
In a recent survey by American Shipper, 50% of respondents admitted to receiving supply chain data from 15 or more data sources. Yikes! And what’s perhaps more mind-blowing: more than a quarter stated this data hails from 50 or more different internal departments, service providers, and customers. With so many data sources involved, how can the supply chain reporting process be anything less than chaotic? How can the reports themselves be timely? Insightful? Actionable?
These staggering figures underscore a shipper’s need for a single solution to capture and connect all of the relevant data (not to be confused with all of the data) and then apply advanced data analytics to empower supply chain stakeholders to make fast, smart decisions that protect profit margins and enable consistent customer service.
Right System = Right Data = Right International Shipping Strategy
According to the American Shipper report, 53% of companies aren’t using Business Intelligence to collect and analyze their supply chain data. This poor adoption rate implies companies are still performing manual data analyses (translation: excel spreadsheets). And there’s no way companies using excel spread sheets have quick reaction times when their shipping landscape changes. What they do have: delayed reactions to international shipping events and hence an over-abundance of risk in the form of shipping cost increases and delivery delays.
Advanced multi-carrier shipping systems are the key to reducing these risks. They seamlessly integrate with business-critical enterprise applications and enable shippers to create a single shipping ecosystem, where data is accessible and accurate – a “sole source of truth,” if you will. They feature data analytics and Business Intelligence to improve visibility into a shipper’s end-to-end transportation landscape and make it easy for shippers to identify trends and spot potential hiccups early, empowering them to make more informed decisions in a fluctuating international trade environment. For example, in the case of the new UPU deal, leveraging data to perform a rate simulation across multiple U.S. carriers may reveal a more cost-effective shipping option. Or in the case of Brexit, data analytics may identify opportunities for cross-border consolidation services shippers hadn’t considered before when shipping from/to the EU/U.K.
Future-Proof Cross-Border Shipping
While it may be hard to predict the next new tariff or trade war, businesses that are making use of their data will be ready to pivot when necessary. Want to learn more about how you can leverage data to optimize international shipping? Contact us today.