By Matthew Robertson, Co-CEO, NetDespatch.
Carrier management is an area of logistics that has become vital to supply chain operations. The current industry trend shows retailers using numerous carriers to take care of delivery operations, which in turn offers a multitude of options to the consumer. In fact, new statistics from earlier this year show that 56% of British shoppers said they would move to a rival retailer if their preferred delivery method was not available - therefore the pressure is on for retailers to offer flexible ways of getting parcels to their consumers.
At NetDespatch we are seeing more and more SME retailers use our platform to manage these services, cutting down on time used for picking, packing and producing the correct carrier compliant label. However there are some essential points that are important to understand to ensure retailers are getting the best out of their carrier management strategies and technologies.
What are the essential features of a carrier management platform?
One of the most important features of a carrier management platform is ensuring the IT system has the flexibility to work in the same way as a retailer operates. This is key to making sure that all processes run smoothly. In today's market retailers are growing all the time, from the lines of products that are being offered, to the numbers of customers that are being served and of course, the delivery options offered – a carrier management system needs to be able to adapt and grow alongside these changes. Retailers shouldn't have to change their IT systems top to bottom every time new carrier integrations or new delivery methods are introduced, and a carrier management system should have the flexibility to add these new features seamlessly.
There is not a one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to retailer carrier management systems. Every retailer is unique and needs different IT systems to operate to their optimum performance and to make sure they are providing the best service for their consumers. Making sure the different facets of the IT systems adapt and work together with new and upcoming technologies will allow retailers to grow and profit from a faster, seamless service.
How can the carrier management platform work with the rest of a retailer's logistics IT systems?
A successful carrier management IT system can integrate with all the existing processes to create an automated operation, saving many man hours for retailers. The important part is for the system to handle the data and put it in the correct place, ready for the next person or process – be that retailer, warehouse or carrier – to use that data.
Having an IT system that incorporates all aspects of order processing, and one that can use the already available data and reduce or eliminate the need for the retailer to manually duplicate the data into different systems, is really important. By automating the data management it reduces human error by (for example) automating label and manifest production, processing orders automatically and making the process much faster with less need for human intervention. By reducing the need to manually input data and minimising manual entry, an effective front to back-end IT system can create a streamlined operation.
How can retailers develop an effective carrier management strategy?
There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account when developing an effective carrier management strategy. Making sure retailers have the best advice on which carriers they want to work with, and what delivery options a retailer can realistically provide, will help streamline the carrier management strategy. For example, if retailer data shows that consumers use overnight delivery significantly and like tracking on their products, choosing carriers that offer these options will be important.
Building on this, retailers will also be looking to match their profile to the relevant providers. For example, if the company sells a lot of high value items, picking a carrier that offers tracking and signature services may be the best and safest option to help minimise lost items and to get that item to the consumer as quickly as possible. There are a whole host of carriers out there for every size of parcel and speed of delivery. Choosing the right carriers for a retailer's business will ultimately boost sales and minimise failed or missed deliveries.
By automating processes that would have otherwise been completed manually, carrier management systems can really help retailers to get parcels out the door quickly. A knock on effect of this is increased efficiency for the retailer. Time that was previously spent physically inputting orders to the carrier can be used to concentrate on growing the business.
Not only is the carrier management process quicker, but there is more room to process more orders, and less room for the wrong parcels to be sent to the wrong addresses. The return on investment is therefore huge - NetDespatch and Snaffle (an ecommerce platform provider) customer UK Printwear reported a doubling of its turnover, which shows the real impact that automated carrier management systems can have on SMBs and business growth, as well as streamlining processes for well-known high street retailers.
Ultimately, making sure your carrier management strategy is solid can vastly change operations, and lead to happy staff and happy consumers.