Want to know how to get the most value out of the time and money you spend on office shipping? To find that out, you must start with the data. This includes all the information you have about the performance of the carriers you use — their delivery times, costs, tracking capabilities, everything. You can work with this information to start charging back costs to operating units — and to figure out how to make your office shipping more efficient and less costly. The only problem is, it takes a ton of time to get all this data together and analyze it — and who has that kind of time anymore?
Carriers do have software available to look at their own data. But every carrier’s software is different, making it impossible to do an easy apples-to-apples comparison of their competitive performance. High-volume shippers, whose businesses depend on order fulfillment, have been using data systems that provide these functions. But the cost and complexity of those systems render them practical only for high-volume shipping environments.
THE ANSWERS WILL COME OUT OF THE CLOUD
Fortunately, there are cloud-based solutions coming to market that will make it possible for office shippers to access and analyze multicarrier information, providing one comprehensive view into all shipping activities. This saves you the time it would take to bring all your carrier data together in one place.
These new shipping solutions are being offered as SaaS (software as a service), which means you buy a subscription to the software, and all functions and data reside in the cloud, instead of on servers your IT has to support. SaaS allows for agile deployment extending reach across the enterprise without a heavy IT implementation, which making it far more cost effective upfront. Not only is it more cost effective, it creates a more flexible approach, since sending can be initiated and managed from virtually any place with access to the Internet.
A cloud-based SaaS shipping solution is ideal for the office shipping environment, with its ever-increasing volume of ad hoc operational type shipments — product samples and information packets requested by customers; important documents that need to be delivered in critical time frames; items going out to labs for analysis. Office shippers will be able to work as effectively as high-volume, order fulfillment operations.
EVEN SMALL SHIPPERS SEE BIG BENEFITS
Let’s look at what a single view of multicarrier data could do. We know a New York nonprofit publisher that uses a staff of volunteers to ship out individual book orders. Unfortunately, this casual labor force has a limited understanding of the carrier services available, so shipping choices can be arbitrary. We discovered $10 books that were overnighted with $30 shipping fees. The data they needed to optimize their carrier selection was siloed in each carrier’s unique system, giving the volunteers little visibility. Here, a unified cloud-based solution would give everybody one dashboard for all transactions, with multicarrier data visible to make the best shipping decisions.
Larger office shippers benefit in similar fashion. In a big organization, lots of office shipping is done from individual desktops. We’ve seen companies with more than 50 separate FedEx accounts and, not surprisingly, no corporate discount. A cloud-based solution would provide a consolidated, centralized view of the shipping data. The organization could then reduce its number of carrier accounts to only those needed, get a corporate rate tied to a single payment mechanism, and see the true extent of all shipping operations through a single dashboard.
ACTUALLY, IT’S ALL FULFILLMENT
In some ways, office shipping is just like order fulfillment. Repeat customers are a big part of a fulfillment operation and in office shipping, you often have many shipments to the same individuals. Office shipping may also involve fulfilling orders, albeit at a lower volume. For these customers, you’d like to offer free shipping sometimes, but when? A consolidated look at the multicarrier data can let you compare costs and delivery windows for the shipping expense you’ll now have to cover.
Fulfilling orders, in fact, is becoming a big part of the sending load for many office shippers. We work with many bricks and mortar operations that are expanding their business online. These businesses need to get an impartial analysis of the data to enhance their carrier selection and optimize their shipping operations, and a cloud-based solution will be the perfect approach.
Online sales are becoming a bigger part of the operations of many companies and they are looking for a consolidated platform to help them simplify and optimize their sending. To gain control over this increased activity, these companies need to take a comprehensive look at multicarrier data, just like big fulfillment shippers do. Thanks to cloud-based solutions, office shippers and other businesses that are seeing big spikes in their shipping operations will be able to do that at reasonable cost, while adding an additional measure of operational flexibility.
CHRIS GILES is Vice President, Business Development, Global Product Management, Pitney Bowes.