5 shipping carrier integration challenges for retailers to overcome

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Is the cost and effort involved in adding individual shipping carrier integrations, and maintaining them, holding your retail business back? If so, you’re not alone.


If you’re limited to a small number of carriers, adding new ones is a surefire way to improve your fulfilment operation. However, if you’re adding new carriers through a legacy or home grown solution, you will have lots of connectivity and maintenance issues. The associated cost, and the drain on your technical resources, is likely to be prohibitive.

 

If your business is looking to improve the delivery process, this article goes into more detail about some of the main carrier integration challenges.

1. Each integration can be different

Carrier integration is quite a big process, it can be tricky if you don’t know what to expect, or have practice. Each carrier can have different integration methods.

 

You have some with an API that you need to send the data through. You also have carriers that are web service enabled, that you need to do a local integration with, which can be even more complicated.

 

In this case the carrier depends on you to do the bulkhead management, the unique number on the label for tracking purposes. There’s also the management of gazetteer files, which contain the routing information and geographic identifier codes to help carriers know exactly where to send a parcel. 

2. Staying up to date is a lot of work

The API integration you have with each shipping carrier must be maintained and updated from time to time. Most carriers will issue updated API specifications at least once every six months. In some cases, as is currently happening with most of the main UK carriers, they can launch a new API. This means creating an entirely new integration.

 

All carriers bring out new services, and every time a new service is created, there’s some work to be done updating your integration.

 

And then there’s general maintenance. When a shipping carrier changes fields on their API, they have to be updated on your side. Carrier maintenance is a big thing, you could need multiple developer resources working full time just to manage it.

 

Related5 benefits of managing multiple shipping carriers in one platform

 

3. Updates can be time sensitive

Another aspect of maintaining a shipping carrier integration is that the work is usually time sensitive. A carrier will often specify that a change needs to be completed within a specific time frame, for example, within the next couple of weeks.

 

To keep your deliveries running smoothly, all of a sudden, you need to get a developer resource to work on that portion as well. If the carrier is doing maintenance on their side, with resulting down time, you may not even know until it’s too late.

4. Being aware of potential problems

When a carrier’s system goes down completely, the cause is usually a general outage, or a connection issue. With a homegrown system, or when you manually upload orders, monitoring for such events is near impossible.

 

In effect, it means checking carrier connectivity regularly to see if you have any problems, diagnosing the problem quickly, and contacting the carrier immediately to find out what the issue is. Whatever the cause, the end result is that for a period of time the shipping carrier won’t be available.

5. Switching between carriers

The ability to switch quickly and easily between carriers is a gamechanger for retailers. This is especially true in managing the cost of sending parcels. To be able to get the best price, you need to be able to switch quickly between carriers, and organise new contracts as soon as possible.

 

This also gives you a negotiation point. If you only have one shipping carrier, you don’t have a strong bargaining position. If a carrier knows you can switch quickly, they will be more amenable to giving you better rates.

 

The other factor in being able to switch carriers quickly is that you can enter new territories. By switching quickly you can send internationally when needed, using the carriers with the best service for the area.

 

Related: Shipping internationally? Solve these 4 cross-border delivery challenges

 

Conclusion

The ability to add more carriers, quickly and cost-effectively, improves contingency planning. In the event of something going wrong with an existing carrier service, you can easily select an alternative and carry on as normal. Naturally, it also helps you offer customers better service and more flexible delivery options.


Another advantage is being able to expand your carrier network to enter new international markets. And not least, adding more carriers gives you the power to negotiate better rates and switch between them quickly to increase efficiencies.




Find out how Scurri takes the hassle and expense out of carrier integration and maintenance. Book an initial consultation with a delivery management specialist today.

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