The ways of the delivery world are shifting, and processes need to follow suit. A reliance on single carrier offerings or inflexible carrier choice runs the risks of delays and faltering on customer promises. Retailers are looking towards multi-carrier delivery options to match customer delivery expectations. But, on paper, more partners mean trickier management.
A carrier management system (or CMS) helps companies manage and optimize their post-purchase shipping. It can have a major and immediate impact on warehouse and logistics operations, as well as significantly reducing costs in the final mile.
And that’s as simple as it gets — to reiterate, implementing a CMS contributes to cost efficiencies and substantial savings in warehouse and carrier budgets. By optimizing shipping operations, eliminating inefficient processes, and leveraging the best carrier options, businesses can transform both their customer experience and their bottom line.
With customer expectations soaring, the delivery experience needs to be seamless. With that, here are five ways to improve the management of a multi-carrier offering, empowering the warehouse to deliver much more.
Promise the Customer Delivery Options That the Warehouse Can Actually Keep
In this day and age, choice is a must — customers crave it. If you’re not offering a variety of flexible options at checkout, you’re immediately reducing conversion rates. But it’s also crucial that these options are aligned to warehouse capabilities — it’s better to have fewer options you can keep to than providing more than you can handle. If your pack benches are swamped and you’ve missed your cut off for next-day delivery, for example, then don’t offer it as an option on your site.
Full warehouse floors can lead to broken customer promises, with internal picking and packing snags causing carriers to miss departure times, triggering a snowball effect of delays. Mistakes happen, but these potential issues simply highlight the need for warehouse and operations teams to adopt a multi-carrier strategy that offers flexibility and cost efficiency. With several partners on hand, there’s a plan B if plan A fails. It opens up the delivery options available to you while ensuring that promises can be kept.
If your web front end knows what’s going on in the warehouse and with your carriers, then there’s more chance of a smooth pick, pack, dispatch, final mile and happy customer.
Choose the Right Carrier for Smart Budgets
It’s all in the choice. Routing deliveries to the cheapest carrier service for that specific job can shave off a few cents per delivery. This all adds up to creating smart budgets, even more valuable in such an economic climate.
Key to this is the ability to adapt in-the-moment, and technology is your chief aid in making this a reality. By using a tech platform that can check different carrier service availability in real time, you can work off an accurate list of live performance results for deliveries.
This enables you to harness complete control over the customer delivery experience, overseeing factors like traffic and costs. With allocation rules set, such as parameters for region, value and weight, you can then see which carrier can deliver at that time and meet the delivery promise, match your own shipping rules and then consign the package to the cheapest service from this shortlist.
Use Data Insights to Improve the Delivery Experience
With this optimized multi-carrier process in place, it’s then just as essential that you have a means of keeping tabs on delivery performance. This data is vital. With this at hand, brands can quickly monitor what’s working and what’s not, the standard of the service and what adjustments they can make to improve it. But what should you be looking for?
When it comes to deciding what to monitor, insights should include:
- Shipment status — whether there have been any delays or disruption
- Delivery window and types — what types of service were requested by customers and how often carriers were able to deliver successfully within these windows
- Delivery experience — are you meeting customer promises?
- Carrier activity — for example, the success of first-time deliveries by each carrier and which carrier has carried out what shipments
- Shipping costs — what are they and how have they changed over time
A CMS can deliver one source of truth for delivery insights, gathering a stream of easy-to-digest real-time data.
Leverage a CMS to Support a Multi-Location Operation
There’s the straight-forward delivery of one order from one location to its destination. And then there’s the real world, featuring a network of multiple carriers, multiple locations and multiple brands. These could be companies that ship multiple brands with different allocation rules, or who operate from multiple warehouses. So how do you begin to manage operations with so many different factors at play?
Rather than stifling growth, warehouse operations should be viewed as a driver of it. If you can nail multi-location operations, you can smoothly expand the business. Leveraging a CMS can manage complex shipping in a way that breaks down complex orders into easy shippable segments. This action forms a simple and effective way of managing one order which could comprise products being delivered on different days to different destinations, or needing more than one carrier service.
Make Manifesting a Hygiene Factor
Manifesting. It’s the duller side but also the integral side of carrier ops. It’s the hygiene factor that flies under the radar until something goes wrong — and then it’s an issue. If the manifest isn’t up to scratch, that’s when the experience breaks down for the retailer, the carrier, and the customer.
But with the right CMS tech, it never needs to go wrong or be a burden.
In a modern setup, you can set up the system to automatically create manifests for shipments that meet specific requirements. And to make this even better, it's very easy to handle through a CMS user interface, giving you complete control.
Let's say you have a specific business need, like manifesting eligible shipments to a particular carrier at a specific time, considering the carrier's collection schedule from the warehouse. You can make it happen effortlessly and seamlessly with a CMS.
Alternatively, let's say the unexpected occurs, and something happens that damages your packages. With a CMS, retailers will be able to proactively inform customers if their parcel is damaged. Usually, these unpredictable instances can cause massive headaches, but they need not do so. With a CMS, retailers can be prepared for the worst and ensure that these types of events do not disrupt their processes.
Low-Effort Control, High-Performance Deliveries
To make the most of available resources, provide more delivery choices, and achieve maximum efficiency in terms of time and cost, it is essential to effectively manage multi-carrier operations in real-time. Technology opens the floodgates for live data insight, multi-location operations and ensuring manifesting is very much a hygiene factor. It’s why adopting a flexible, adaptable strategy alongside a CMS is so important.
It’s low-effort control that produces high-performing deliveries — a perfect outcome for focusing operations on delivering the best experience for both customers and carriers alike.
Dan Greenall is VP of product at Sorted.