As shippers shake off the snow, and settle in for a new year with new parcel rates, it can be reasonably derived from the surge in online demand during the holiday season that 2014 has a lot of promise for companies in practically every industry.

    So as businesses across the world get to work on implementing parcel improvements, it’s probably best to start by reviewing three pretty important lessons we learned in 2013:

    1. On-time delivery guarantees don’t guarantee on-time delivery. Christmas was a tough stretch for shippers and their customers. By now, we all know that the unexpected surge in online shopping – more specifically in last-minute online shopping – caught a lot of people by surprise. The overwhelming increase was more than the carriers predicted which left plenty of holiday gifts in limbo during what is widely considered the most important time of the year. And while the carriers have addressed their service failures head on, the damage was in many ways irreparable. Even though shipping charges will be refunded and gift cards awarded for their troubles, some customers that were left in the cold when it mattered most will be inclined to shop elsewhere next year; and that’s bad for business. The takeaway leaves many businesses with a new understanding of the importance of service in the supply chain equation. Cost is king, but the bottom line is companies need their product to get there on time, and thus it’s important to incorporate contingency plans into your 2014 business prospectus.

    2. The costs associated with small package shipments are not coming down. Unless they were hiding under a rock, shippers learned this a long time ago. It’s important to note, however, that competition is trending upward as well; and it’s doing so at levels we’ve never seen before. The parcel environment is unique in that the crowding of specific industries increases the demand for a service provided by two competitors with a strangle-hold on their own market. The level of parity in your industry demands that attention be paid to cost drivers like never before. Areas of your business that before went unnoticed because there were bigger fish to fry may now represent closing windows of opportunity that offer your company a leg up on the competition. Parcel shipping has long been an area where costs were deemed “necessary” and where significant savings were perceived as non-existent. The landscape has changed, and now is the time to get a grip on your parcel spend or run the risk of getting left behind.

    3. Business is booming. The silver lining in all of the mess that was the Christmas service shortage was that people spent a whole lot of money. The emergence of new technology continually presents companies with new and innovative ways to get in front of their customers. Savvy executives in every industry are already busy making sure that they are able to meet what could ultimately be unforeseeable demand during the next holiday season (and possibly before). As the global economy continues to rebound, companies of all shapes and sizes are going to need the necessary capital to hit the ground running in keeping up with emerging trends. To do so will require a willingness to broaden your horizons to other areas of cost savings; and your parcel agreement is a great place to start.

    The commonality among these three things – and everything else we learned last year – is that it pays to be proactive. With a demonstrated resurgence in demand, a proven trend in rising costs and the realization that customer retention is a must by any means necessary, all elements necessary to develop a foundation for growth are readily apparent.

    Those companies who are willing to adjust accordingly will leave themselves better equipped to capitalize on the opportunity ahead.

    Those who don’t? Well, there are millions who can attest to what it’s like to be left standing there empty handed.

    Brandon Staton is the Marketing and Communications Manager for Transportation Impact, LLC, and First Flight Solutions, LLC, industry-leading parcel spend management firms and No. 547 on the 2013 Inc. 5000 and No. 183 on the 2013 Inc. 500, respectively. Brandon and the Transportation Impact team have helped negotiate small package contracts for some of the most well-known companies in the world, reducing their respective parcel shipping costs by an average of 22%. Brandon can be reached directly at 252.764.2885 or via email at