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Omnichannel is “in.” Siloed channels are out. Customers expect to get whatever they want, whenever they want, at the prices they want and the ability to change their minds up to the delivery time. It sounds like a shipping nightmare, and in some respects, it is. Shippers cannot hope to fulfill every possible demand at all times, but they can help ensure positive experiences. This will require an LTL and e-commerce focused shipping strategy. In other words, shippers will need to combine their approaches to handling e-commerce and LTL. Shippers need to know the benefits of combined strategy and a few best practices to develop a winning LTL and e-commerce plan.

Benefits of Combining LTL and E-Commerce Shipping Strategies 

Omnichannel means the ability to serve customers across any channel and blend all channels to create seamless experiences for customers. Up to 60 percent of all transactions, including online and brick-and-mortar sales, involve the use of the internet at some point in the shopping journey. As a result, companies must embrace the combined nature of omnichannel to realize its benefits, and the same is true of combined LTL and e-commerce shipping strategies. Some of the top benefits of combined LTL and e-commerce include:

  • More time for customer service and filling orders.
  • Reduced paperwork errors.
  • Increased accuracy in freight quoting, reducing accessorial or after-the-fact fees.
  • Efficient processes.
  • More revenue for customers.
  • Lowered carrying costs through additional shipping models.

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Best Practices in an LTL and E-Commerce Shipping Strategy

Gaining the benefits of omnichannel-based LTL and e-commerce is excellent, but the path to full realization is not necessarily clear. Shippers should follow these best practices to create a comprehensive, cost-saving strategy:

  1. Refine LTL and e-commerce solutions’ provider bidding practices. How shippers submit RFPs to carriers and solicit new services can have a significant impact on pricing and timeliness of response. Since time is everything in the capacity crunch, those that refine processes by advising of expectations in the RFP and defining the review process can streamline carrier expansion.
  2. Expand LTL transportation networks. Using multiple carriers is likely the best and only way to access a global customer base in the age of e-commerce. Shipments outside of a carrier’s designated area will naturally require another carrier, and the global market of e-commerce means every option must be on the table. The alternative is to refuse sales or delivery to certain areas.
  3. Integrate LTL and e-commerce freight management platforms, explains Deborah Lockridge of Trucking Info. Integrated platforms had the natural effect of self-verifying information and automating the freight tender process. Moreover, integrated solutions provide better traceability and reduced costs than trying to manage multiple systems independently. Shippers should also integrate the ELD and labor management systems to gain true end-to-end visibility, as well as the whole scope of warehouse management technologies and platforms.
  4. Consider DIM pricing. Dimensionalizers automatically measure freight to ensure dimensions are within the carrier limitations, as well as provide information for calculating DIM weight versus actual weight.
  5. Remember the impact of tariffs and new taxes. Although the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in early 2018, the likelihood of new taxes and tariffs levied in the coming year is great. Shippers should consider the impact of tariffs and potential changes to laws in making all decisions.
  6. Maximize efficiency by eliminating empty backhauls, asserts Supply Chain 24/7. Empty backhauls are wasted space and lost money. It’s that simple.
  7. Partner with a freight broker, like a 3PL. Freight brokers can help SMBs access volume discounts, expand carrier selection, take advantage of value-added services, such as invoice auditing and even cargo insurance.

Putting It All Together

Shippers have to meet e-commerce customers’ needs. Delivering as expected will require the use of new technologies and convergence of LTL and e-commerce management platforms. Shippers should follow the tips listed above to bring harmony to their systems and streamline shipment processing. Of course, shippers must also work to build positive experiences for customers up to delivery, installation and customer service, if necessary. In a sense, the reputation of less than truckload service has evolved and grown more important, especially in the age of social media, which we’ll discuss next.