In order to understand the difficulties facing freight agents in an omni-channel world, you have to realize that consumer demand is really driving these challenges. Technology has created a consumer market, even for large freight, that demands high-speed logistics across multiple channels to fulfill customers’ fast delivery expectations. People often think of the consumer’s view of omni-channel in the form of storefront, online and mobile shopping options – but on the order fulfillment and logistics side, there a host of challenges created for logistics and transportation providers for both purchase delivery and returns.
If a furniture company offers same-day shipping to its customers, it will require multiple channels not only to process those orders, but also to deliver those goods. That same furniture company may offer nationwide delivery and may or may not have distribution centers (DCs) located throughout the U.S. Third-party carriers rely on freight agents to manage the logistics of on-demand delivery to fulfill those orders.
The importance of assured delivery cannot be overstated for the shipper. In survey after survey, consumers place a high value on a company’s shipping terms. Big business disrupters like Amazon that offer the same products plus free shipping puts pressure on all businesses to offer those same terms.
But even companies like Amazon are turning to 3PLs (third-party logistics providers) to help fulfill their customer demand – a good sign that freight agents and 3PLs are considered a critical lynchpin in a shipper’s success. Freight agents are expected to manage the challenges that these companies face and provide the level of on-demand delivery that customers expect – so how can you step up to this challenge?
Here’s a look at 8 omni-channel logistics challenges facing freight agents.
#1: Upfront Pricing
Last year, over 90% of consumers said that shipping options and overall experience with a company’s shipping apparatus factored highly in their decision to choose one business over another. That is a year-over-year increase of nearly 25%.
The survey concluded that businesses could overcome this challenge by being upfront about shipping costs with their consumers and delineating shipping fees rather than adding it on at the end.
For freight agents, providing accurate pricing upfront can be extremely challenging in an omni-channel environment. Your ability to offer honest and transparent pricing will require smart analysis of industry norms and current and historical KPI data. Technology that provides insight into this type of data can be helpful.
#2: Meeting On-Demand Delivery Expectations
If a long-time customer has an out of the ordinary request to deliver a load outside your region, could you still fulfill that order? More and more customers demand these exceptions as do the large cargo shippers that freight agents interact with on a day-to-day basis. Managing those customers takes full-cycle shipment management.
Requests may be coming in from companies from different parts of the country with many different priorities for meeting delivery expectations. Your ability to deliver on promises will depend on the quality and depth of your carrier network.
#3: Managing Omni-channel Technology
As the name implies, omni-channel technology encompasses several different logistical functions. Managing this level of technology is a challenge for nearly all industries and especially for freight agents.
First, you need the internal technology that is necessary to be competitive. Big data can zero in on or highlight impact points all along your supply chain. This insight can help you improve customer service. Examples of potential impact points include bottlenecks in shipment delivery, peak delivery hours, price comparisons, revenue forecasting, etc.
Soon no freight agent will be able to get by without harnessing sensor technology, the internet of things (IoT), and cloud-based software tools. Competition among 3PLs and freight agents continues to get tougher. The freight agent that is using the most advanced logistics technology to move freight is going to grow the fastest and emerge as a leader.
In one word, omni-channel logistics is unpredictable. From the beginning of a shipment request to the final delivery destination, you as the freight agent are managing multiple logistics points that can disrupt delivery:
- User errors on shipment requests
- Unexpected traffic delays
- Missing or incomplete paperwork
- Warehouse or distribution center errors
- Weather-related logistics challenges
- Seasonal/holiday shipment request influxes
When you are manually entering shipment requests, the instances of user errors increase. Unexpected traffic delays or weather events could prevent you from getting loads out for hours, maybe even days. Incomplete or missing paperwork can hold up a load at customs or at the loading dock.
GlobalTranz TMS software helps make omni-channel logistics more predictable, which in turn makes your life easier.
#5: Unifying Diverse Platforms
Your company may be using logistics software that does not work with your carriers’ platforms. Shipment requests coming through via mobile may not work as well as desktop requests and vice versa. Meanwhile, submitting paperwork to vendors and government agencies require understanding of still more diverse platforms.
How you distill that information in an understandable way requires unifying diverse platforms. Freight agents individually may not possess the skills to accomplish this, in fact many don’t. The challenge is to find the correct business strategy for the internet that combines different channels in a cohesive way for your freight management business.
#6: Cohesive Optimization for Omni-channel Logistics
Optimizing for cohesion of omni-channel logistics requires smart investments in customer relationship management (CRM) and transportation management system (TMS) software. Your carriers must be able to communicate with your logistics systems while also being able to complete deliveries through distribution centers and warehouses.
All suppliers from carrier to warehouse manager must be working from systems that are optimized for use across different channels, while still delivering a consistent customer experience.
#7: How to Co-Locate DCs
If you are like most freight agents, you neither have the funds nor the will to maintain your own distribution centers and warehouses. Instead, freight agents are co-locating their DCs with other logistics partners. However, choosing where to co-locate your DCs also a challenge.
If the majority of your business comes from a DC where the cost of living is high, you may end up paying a chunk of your profits to maintain cargo in that particular location. Thinking about how and where to locate distribution centers and freight warehouses can have a huge impact on your bottom line.
#8: Seeing the Supply Chain Holistically
Finally, one of the biggest challenges to managing the omni-channel universe as a freight agent is being able to see your supply chain holistically. It is only then that you are able to establish a comprehensive plan for proactively predicting and meeting challenges.
But be careful that you don’t become so focused on the big picture that you overlook the tactical operational details of your business. The right freight brokerage platform and business activity monitoring technology will help you view your supply chain holistically while also proactively managing the critical details of your freight management operations.
Global Tranz CommandCenter gives freight agents a powerful tool to manage a vast carrier network, manage day-to-day business functions, and create reports in real-time to show the bird’s-eye view of your business you need in order to keep growing and improving.
Tools to Manage Omni-channel Logistics Challenges
What separates success from failure is in how you approach challenges. At GlobalTranz, we see the challenges presented by omni-channel logistics as the perfect opportunity for you to grow as a freight agent, and for us to demonstrate why we are leaders in freight logistics software and technology.
Whether you have a successful regional freight business in need of top-of-the-line TMS and CRM software or you are a new freight agent looking to team up with a successful freight brokerage, we have what you need. For more information about partnering with GlobalTranz or to discuss using our advanced logistics technology platform to improve your freight management operations, contact GlobalTranz today.