Advantages of integrating shipping data into fulfillment processes

by | May 14, 2015

Consumers today demand fast, seamless and basically flawless experiences. As we all know, these high expectations leave little wiggle room for error or inefficiency anywhere along the omnichannel retail supply chain.

Despite so much pressure to be efficient, many businesses still manage the shipping portion of their fulfillment as a separate process from the other steps, most of which are now handled between vendor and retailer via EDI.

Problem: Separate Processes, Manual Steps

With this approach, a vendor generates a purchase order in its fulfillment system, and then logs on to a separate FedEx or UPS portal to receive an order tracking number and print a shipping label. The vendor now must log back into its fulfillment system to manually enter the tracking number into an advance ship notice (ASN) before sending the complete ASN to the retailer. This is vital information for retailers, because it is what their customers need to track order status.

It should come as little surprise that the occasional keying error occurs when someone manually enters an 18- to 22-character order tracking number into an ASN field. It is also tempting for vendors to put off this step for later, since the carrier has probably picked up the package by now and the vendor feels little urgency to immediately forward completed ASNs.

Both scenarios make for less-than-ideal customer experiences. A consumer either receives an order tracking number that doesn’t work, or the correct order tracking number arrives several days after the order has shipped — sometimes even after the package has been delivered.

Despite the fact that most retailers have their own accounts with FedEx and UPS, the vendor’s carrier billing number gets connected to the shipment with this approach. This process adds an additional invoicing step as the vendor must allocate the shipment cost to the retailer and, in most cases, the retailer has a lower negotiated shipping rate. By using the retailer’s account for shipments, the process is simplified and the consumer likely benefits from a lower shipping cost.

Solution: Integrated, Automated Carrier Management

With SPS Commerce Fulfillment, arranging shipping can be made a seamless step in the integrated ASN process between vendor and retailer. This automated, integrated approach to carrier management eliminates the need for manual data entry and the possibility for delayed ASN completion.

Here’s how it works. When a vendor creates an ASN in the fulfillment solution, FedEx or UPS is electronically prompted to open a job using the retailer’s account with the carrier. An order tracking number and printable shipping label are sent to the vendor, and this information is automatically added to the ASN in Fulfillment. Next, the completed ASN is forwarded from vendor to retailer.

When the shipment is connected to the retailer’s carrier account and not the vendor’s, the retailer is invoiced directly for freight costs at their lower shipping rate.

SPS Commerce’s Carrier Link solution holds many powerful advantages, including:

  • Greater accuracy. Vendors eliminate the need for manual data entry for greatly reduced human error, while also ensuring compliance with retailer ASN requirements.
  • Enhanced efficiency. Completed ASNs get automatically sent to retailers early in the shipping processes, so that order tracking numbers are available to consumers right away.
  • Cost savings. Retailers and vendors field fewer expensive service calls related to order tracking, and retailers avoid vendor markups by being invoiced directly by the carrier.
  • Improved consumer satisfaction. Customers will receive the correct order tracking number early in the fulfillment process, lending to a positive retail experience.

Many leading retailers and their vendors have already integrated carrier management into their Fulfillment solution, with superior results. Our integration experts can help you do the same.

Contact us today to learn more.

Scott Bolduc


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