B2B Shipping and Handling Integrations Deliver Greater Functionality

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Among the most popular and critical integrations that any B2B company can offer its customers are shipping and handling tools for calculating sales taxes in foreign countries, managing customs and duties, simplifying split-shipping and drop-shipping and connecting directly with carriers for complex shipping needs. Unlike B2C websites, versatile business platforms that sell to other businesses don't just ship by the big-three shippers: FedEx, UPS and USPS. B2B companies ship by trains, planes, ships, and trucks, and many companies use two or more carriers on each shipment to a singular address. Buyers also ship products to multiple stores, choose different shipping strategies based on inventory locations and often need to arrange logistics for storing products when they have to remain idle between carrier pickups. All these variations create a complex supply chain for B2B companies and their customers, but both can manage their shipping professionally from a single platform -- a B2B platform that's been customized for shipping.

User-friendly features like shipping integrations are increasingly important for B2B platforms. B2B buying decisions revolve around complex customer needs and concerns, so offering digital tools and integrations are increasingly employed by B2B organizations that receive impressive returns on their investments such as 10-percent growth rates in new customers and 20-percent faster deal conversions.[1] Shipping and handling integrations can play critical roles in achieving these kinds of results. The benefits begin as soon as customers log-in to their accounts where they can review their ordering histories, view and print invoices, access custom shipping reports, connect with carriers directly and perform other shipping-related tasks. These include:

  • Tracking shipments, viewing waybills, submitting freight claims and checking shipping schedules
  • Calculating shipping charges for large and complex orders
  • Calculating state sales and use taxes where applicable
  • Performing currency conversions for foreign shipments
  • Automatically calculating customs and duties for any country
  • Retrieving bills of lading and proof of delivery
  • Submitting claims for shipping damages
  • Viewing real-time rates and updated inventories across warehouses and distributorships
  • Managing drop-shipping and split-shipping
  • Requesting special price quotes for special handling, hazardous materials and products that require special shipping methods such as flat-rack or open-top containers
  • Receiving instant updates on shipping prices
  • Generating real-time order tracking updates
  • Comparing freight rates from dozens of carriers
  • Streamlining and automating freight shipments
  • Arranging for recurring orders to be scheduled automatically

 

B2B Company Benefits of Shipping Integrations

B2B companies benefit tremendously by offering their customers API integrations of the most popular carriers including trucking carriers such as DHL Global, Conway, YRC, UPS, FedEx, DayTon Freight, ABF, R&L, Super Regional and more than 200 other companies that offer shipping APIs for B2B shipping integration. Scalable B2B eCommerce platforms can add as many of these direct integrations as desired based on their customers' preferred shipping methods. Business benefits of customized shipping and handling capabilities include better integration with inventory management and CRM systems, ability to print shipping labels with carrier-specific labels, better order tracking, faster fulfillment processes and automation for customer self-service that frees staff from time-consuming manual shipping duties.


1. Split-Shipping Integrations

Split-shipping is probably the most popular of shipping integrations because purchasing managers routinely purchase products for chain stores and companies with multiple offices and divisions including items for resale and business supplies. It's common to negotiate bulk prices or custom rates, but the actual deliveries can be split among dozens or hundreds of addresses. Split-shipping integrations can remember all these addresses, keep track of shipments by address and products, prepare correct shipping labels for fulfillment and deliver many other offering efficiencies for both customers and the B2B company.


Split-shipping can be labor-intensive without customized split-shipping tools, but the challenges for B2B companies is to design a user interface that can manage the process seamlessly. When customers also want special price quotes for custom handling or unusual shipping requirements, split-shipping can become even more complex. Fortunately, most freight companies can provide APIs or application program interfaces that provide direct connections with them so that customers can negotiate and compare prices, pull data from multiple shipping scenarios and get instant prices and delivery schedules. These integrations also allow customers to track their orders directly from the B2B platform, so they can follow the shipping journeys of hundreds of shipments from the same convenient user interface or customized dashboard.


Better In-House Fulfillment Using Split-Shipping

Usually, drop-shipping integrations handle shipments that require using other distributors, vendors and manufacturers to fulfill large orders. However, it often makes sense to arrange shipping from multiple company warehouses where inventory is stocked and ship the products separately by using split-fulfillment.


2. Custom Handling

Shipping integrations for custom handling might include special shipping instructions, custom packaging, automatic alerts about how full shipping containers are and widgets that retrieve information on package, case and pallet sizes and auto-calculate how many pallets are needed for different product counts. Customers can calculate small-freight orders for LTL or less-than-truckload shipping by connecting with many carriers that specialize in delivering LTL orders at competitive prices. Many carriers charge extra for special handling, providing delivery notifications and handling orders with special care. Customers can review the price differential, compare carrier prices and choose shipping options and carriers more intelligently.

3. Warehousing Management

Many companies stock their inventories in multiple warehouses, which are often in different regions to facilitate faster global shipping. Keeping track of real-time inventory counts in multiple locations is the first difficulty that this practice generates for B2B companies. Customizations can update orders in real-time and estimate delivery times for order fulfillment when items aren't in stock in sufficient quantities. Customizations can also provide customers with increased shipping options by optimizing warehouse fulfillment strategies to get the lowest shipping costs and managing split-shipping based on shipping to different addresses from the closest warehouse.


Benefits of Customized EDI

Electronic data interchange or EDI can support many warehousing customizations that optimize warehouse management, help customers avoid premium freight charges on expedited shipments and track orders more efficiently for greater transparency and visibility. Custom features for customers might include delivering advanced shipping notifications to warehouses and improving supply chain management for environmentally conscious customers who are looking for low-energy SMART shipping options, environmental sustainability and ethical sourcing in the supply chain.


4. Drop-Shipping

Many of the larger product vendors -- especially those with large product lines or regional and global offices -- don't stock all their products in company warehouses. Some companies manufacture products only after receiving orders for them, and some vendors customize products to order. These situations present challenges to B2B sales platforms that want to offer their customers the fastest possible order fulfillment. However, a platform with robust shipping integrations like drop-shipping management can send part of the order based on what's in stock and arrange later fulfillment of the remaining order. Known as drop-shipping, the missing products can be ordered, shipped from vendors directly or rounded up from diverse warehouses, distributors, vendors and manufacturers. These company business associates usually ship the order to the customer directly.

Drop-shipping integrations can post these orders to the company's ERP system, track what's shipped directly and send a fulfillment request order to the vendor, supplier or manufacturer. The integration can even be programmed to reorder the product for the B2B company’s inventory. The supplier can then send the order directly to the customer and replenish inventory or arrange production of the order and ship the products as soon as they’re ready. Even though the vendor ships the products, they still bear the company's label. Drop-shipping can be an accounting nightmare, but back-office integrations automatically update the figures in inventory management and accounting and generate the necessary invoices to apportion the order to each party's account.

5. International Shipping Conveniences

International shipping generates many special needs such as calculating VAT and other tax rates, printing labels in different languages, handling multiple currency conversions, adding customs and duties, qualifying shipments to breeze across international borders, declaring relevant information to each country's customs officials to obtain clearances and managing international logistics when shipments are to be transferred to other carriers and need to be stored securely between stages of the journey.

International shipping generates headaches for any buyer and B2B organization, but B2B customizations can cut through the red tape faster than a fading celebrity who's invited to cut the ribbon at a high-profile event. Some popular customizations might include variations on any of the following features:

  • Language Barriers
    Translate shipping itineraries, customs registrations, routing information and other documentation.
  • Returns
    Product returns can create complex situations that are affected by local regulations on returns, local import-export laws and other variables.
  • Customer Service Issues
    Buyers and B2B sellers face their own customer service problems that can be complicated by needing to address problems in a foreign language and a different culture. Customizations can connect to international service desks to manage CRM in other countries.
  • Payment Difficulties
    Currency conversions aren't the only problems caused by accepting international orders. In many countries, fewer percentages of the population use Visa, MasterCard or PayPal, so websites might need expanded ways for customers to pay for their orders and shipping charges when using a foreign-based carrier. Another concern is that prices involving other currencies are always estimates until the order is actually processed due to fluctuating exchange rates.
  • Registration
    Do B2B companies and customers who ship their orders internationally need to register in each country where they do business? In many case, the answer is yes. Customizations can provide this information automatically.


6. Dimensional Weight

Popular shipping companies UPS and FedEx recently adopted dimensional weight pricing for shipments which requires a complex formula to determine actual weight, package size and billable weight based on extra charges for large-volume packages of smaller weights that take up more room on trucks. B2B companies and their customers can use shipping integrations to generate the right prices for shipping large orders in an instant, but the tools can also be used to research ways to reduce costs by changing package sizes, packing items more efficiently on pallets and even negotiating with carriers that charge shipping costs based on dimensional weights. Carriers compete with each other, and many of these companies will negotiate special shipping rates for larger and recurring orders.


7. Other Shipping Integrations

Many custom shipping integrations are possible with customized software and development. These include customized user interfaces that let customers know how full their shipping containers are based on dimensional weight information on products and shipping container sizes and options of specific carriers. Tracking, scheduling and transparency are very important in the shipping process because customers might want to determine their shipping strategies based on when products arrive so that staff will be available to receive, process and unload the order. Customizations can arrange high-degrees of delivery accuracy so that customers can optimize their use of business resources. B2B companies can make each shipment more streamlined, predictable and accessible. Other custom efficiencies include using multiple regional carriers instead of a national or international service, planning deliveries based on speed and cutting costs by scheduling the cheapest options.

Tips on Shipping and Handling Customizations from B2B eCommerce & Integrations

Shipping and handling issues concern every B2B buyer and eCommerce platform that sells products to businesses, and shipping and handling integrations are among the most important customizations your company can offer customers. The B2B eCommerce & Integrations team has years of experience customizing these features for B2B companies, and they know how to develop customizations that satisfy new dimensional weight calculations and provide custom capabilities such as pulling in document signatures and corroborating photos as proof of delivery. Our engineers can tap the API layer of back-office operating software to integrate as many carriers as is practical so that your customers can compare prices, arrange complex deliveries and track shipments with greater efficiency. Call or contact us today for a price quote or consultation on shipping and handling customizations.


 

References:

[1] McKinsey.com: Do you really understand how your business customers buy? www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/marketing-and-sales/our-insights/do-you-really-understand-how-your-business-customers-buy