By Stephanie Vozza
It's common for a shipping professional to be laser-focused on comparing prices and selecting the cheapest vendor services for individual shipments. However, consolidating your shipping operations as much as possible is often the smarter strategy. Picking just one primary shipping vendor can vastly simplify your work and help your budget, too.
Here's a look at the benefits of making this move, and how to choose the vendor best suited to your needs:
Benefits of Consolidating
- Lower prices. Vendors often offer discounts based on volume, and consolidating more of your business with a primary shipping services vendor can give you leverage in negotiating rates or tapping into better pricing options available to loyal customers.
- Better supplier relationships. The more you work with an organization, the better they will understand and value your business. That has a tangible impact on service. Your questions may get faster responses, and a close relationship can also lead to more personalized advice and suggestions from a vendor. If you encounter a problem, you may get speedier help.
- Added services. When you settle on one primary vendor, you may have the option to integrate their software with your accounting or ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems, or implement their APIs (application programming interfaces) on your website. That can help you record your shipping expenses and/or offer easy tracking for your customers. You may also get access to extras like free supplies and delivery for packing materials, depending on their offerings.
Choosing a Shipper
It's usually best to consolidate the majority of your shipping services with one larger vendor that best fits your overall needs, and keep one or two other vendor services as backup for emergencies or specialty cases where your primary vendor can't accommodate you.
For your primary vendor, look for the features that are most important to you. For example, what kind of volumes do you ship — is one supplier more cost-effective for bulk shipping? Are you mostly domestic, or do you frequently ship overseas? Are your packages fairly standard, or do you often deal with oddly shaped or fragile pieces? What are their rates for the types of shipping supplies you need?
List out the shipping services that meet your needs, and do some more digging. Call and ask them about benefits available to you if you consolidate your business there. Ideally you will have used this vendor before, so view their track record with your company to see if you've had hiccups in the past. For untested vendors, read reviews and ratings for delivery options, quality control, pricing and customer service, and try out their online ordering or communications systems to see if they're easy to use.
Once you do the research, you should have a rough ranking of individual shipping services vendors — the first is your likely pick for primary vendor, and the second or third may be your backups.
As you start to shift the majority of your business to your top choices, you'll be able to assess any gaps in service that come up and adjust your plans if needed. It may take a few weeks to start seeing benefits from these moves, but if done right, you'll reap savings in both time and money.