What You Can’t See Can Hurt You

Written By
Derek Szopa

Rising expectations of visibility

Whether keeping an eye on our front porch with a Ring doorbell, or tracking our daily steps with a FitBit, it’s fair to say that most of us like to know what’s going on...at all times. As online shoppers, we want to know when our orders are processed, shipped, and out for delivery. The expectations are set. But what about when it’s your job to serve up that information to shoppers? And what if it’s not that easy?

Retailers today face ever-growing pressure to keep their customers in the loop and up to speed with the processing and shipping of their orders. E-Marketer reports that “98.1% of US internet users agreed that shipping impacts brand loyalty.” But as supply chains become more diverse and complex, it can be hard to achieve that total visibility, even internally.

A landmark survey of supply chain leaders across diverse markets and industries in 2017 revealed that only 6% of supply-chain-dependent companies said they have achieved maximum visibility into their supply chains. While it’s likely that number has increased slightly in the intervening three years, it’s still a striking statistic. The same study showed that from 2015 to 2017, the quest for visibility moved from the sixth most pressing priority to the third.

Whether in the B2C space or the B2B space (let us not forget that global B2B online sales passed $12 trillion in 2019!), successful shipping operations will need to move swiftly towards a more comprehensive and transparent level of visibility across the supply chain. The market requires it.

A singular point of view

With increased scrutiny and importance, the quest for supply chain visibility requires a holistic perspective. As with any system, dependencies abound, and a problem in one area quickly impacts the whole. While a consortium of partners and providers may ‘own’ different sections of the supply chain, it must be managed – and overseen – from a singular point of view.

As Gartner notes in their Three-Step Plan for Supply Chain Digital Transformation, “Technology blurs boundaries between internal and external partners.” It enables a more unified view of the supply chain through APIs that allow shippers’ and carriers’ systems to talk to each other. Developing a platform that could allow for seamless integration was core to the mission of CloudSort from the start. By working with existing shipping labels, and integrating easily into our customers’ current systems, we’re helping shippers and 3PLs build a richer view of their supply chain, not an additional one.

The missing link of the middle mile

While much of the broader conversation around tracking and visibility relates to the final mile, when customers finally receive their goods, the middle mile presents a huge opportunity for shippers to get out ahead of any problems that might arise, and manage expectations from the outset.

Even on the warehouse loading dock, CloudSort’s Dock Sortation and Visibility (DSV) tool helps shippers make smarter choices about how to load up vehicles, which drives both efficiency and visibility. Scanning and tagging shipments at more strategic moments in their journey ends up having a positive ripple effect through the whole system.

The hand-off between the middle mile and the final mile is also crucial. Seamless technical integration with a final mile network such as the USPS helps shippers feel confident that no links are missing in the chain of custody for that precious cargo. A more direct pathway to that local or regional USPS hub can help.

As companies grapple with developing more efficient, effective, and transparent supply chains to keep up with customer demands, CloudSort is proud to introduce new tools and technology solutions that can help. The results will be visible indeed.