The days of single-carrier shipping are behind us, and many wholesalers and retailers are now using a suite of carriers to optimise their shipping functions and give their customers the best experience possible. How do they do it? And why is it worth the effort?
Let’s look at how multi-carrier shipping works, why you might choose to use multiple carriers, and what you need in place in order to do it effectively.
How multi-carrier shipping works
Multi-carrier shipping is simply having the option to assign consignments to a range of carriers depending on what you’re sending.
For any consignment you intend to ship, there may be dozens of different freight companies who can do the job. Having the ability to pick the best one is really powerful for wholesale and ecommerce businesses. When you use the best option each time, the benefits really add up – whether it’s through improvements to the customer experience, efficiency boosts across your business or simply bottom line savings from paying the best rate possible.
Why do multi-carrier shipping?
As with any aspect of your business strategy, it’s wise not to put all your eggs in one basket. Just as your business has its distinctions that help you stand out from the crowd, transport carriers also have their own propositions and things they do well.
Here are a few reasons you might choose to have multiple carrier relationships:
The most obvious (and perhaps most important) reason to run with multiple carriers is the ability to pick the cheapest one for every consignment you ship. Every carrier will come in at a slightly different price for each shipment, and they all have their own ways of being cost-effective – so it’s worth running a quick comparison before you send.
Small ecommerce side-hustles sending products around their local area can happily get away with using consumer-focused shippers. However, larger ecommerce businesses and wholesale shippers who send freight interstate need to be a bit more picky, as sending freight across the border adds a little more complexity to the process.
Many carriers go interstate as part of their service, but not all – so you may have one carrier for your more local deliveries, and another for customers or warehouses in other states.
Metro vs. Regional
In big cities and metropolitan areas, local couriers use a mix of transportation options to get freight moving fast – sometimes within the same working day. This is typically favoured by ecommerce businesses, whose customers have high expectations on delivery timeframes.
When shipping regionally, you don’t have those same options. You need to be able to switch between a network of regional carriers who can send freight to your regional customers to your satisfaction.
The right fleet for your freight
If you sell a range of products in a range of weights and sizes, you may want to have a few carriers at your disposal.
Freight profile is a vital consideration when choosing a carrier. Some carriers specialise in carton freight, others in palletised freight, others in bulky freight and some in ‘white glove’ (sensitive) freight. Your product mix could easily necessitate the need for an individual carrier for each profile.
Internal strategy and customer experience
Some organisations choose to partner with shipping carriers whose values align with theirs. A retail group with a number of brands in its portfolio, for example, might use a number of carriers depending on their various target markets. Its ‘heritage’ brand might align with Australia Post for its history and sense of trust, and its retailer which targets a younger generation might go with a smaller, nimbler carrier that allows it to offer fast and free shipping with live tracking.
Having the flexibility to switch between carriers at will allows you to craft the customer experience beyond the sale.
What you need for effective multi-carrier shipping
Only working with one carrier? You could start multi-carrier shipping straight away, with no extra tools. However you’ll be wasting a lot of time logging in and out of online carrier portals, negotiating rates and trying to track the many invoices coming in from your new shipping partners to make sure the numbers are stacking up.
Here’s what you need in place to get the most out of multi-carrier shipping.
The ability to print multiple shipping labels in-house
Each carrier has their own unique label, and carriers won’t take a consignment without theirs on the shipment. With MachShip, you can use your existing printing hardware to print out perfect labels for all of Australia’s main shippers – as well as quote, consign, manifest, track and view PODs.
Somewhere to centralise and compare all your pre-negotiated rates
The time you spend on each carrier’s website getting rates, and putting them into your own Excel spreadsheet, will mitigate any cost savings you might make from comparing carriers. Use a freight management system like MachShip to consolidate every carrier in your network into one browser window, and pick the right one instantly.
A dashboard to track carrier performance
Data on carrier performance is essential for making the right decisions in the future. Don’t rely on returns or anecdotal evidence – use a dashboard like MachShip’s to determine the DIFOT score of all your carriers instantly.
MachShip integrates with hundreds of carriers and allows you to import your negotiated carrier rates. Want to find out more? Book a demo of MachShip and see how you could start adding carriers to your shipping function without the hassle.