For anyone who is not closely involved with the shipping industry, it is nearly impossible to know how much goes into the process behind the scenes. As PARCEL readers, however, you are likely to be painfully aware of exactly how much work it requires to get a package from Point A to Point B. What is more often forgotten or overlooked is that this is only the tip of the shipping iceberg. Shipping has a lasting impact across the entire business, which means that merchants have a lot more to evaluate when it comes to their shipping partners and carriers than price tag alone. Below, we’ll discuss a little about the impact that shipping has across multiple departments. 

As the most obvious area of the business affected by shipping, Operations has a heavy hand in selecting vendors and leading the charge of ensuring logistics processes are consistently up to par. This team has the arduous task of making sure carriers are getting the company’s shipments delivered to customers on time and under budget. Managing carriers is about a lot more than negotiating the best contract, though – it also involves working with them to manage sorts, processing, and real estate planning, among other things. Most importantly, Operations must enable cross-department communication so all areas of the business that have a stake in shipping can be heard.

Advances in technology over the past two decades have forever changed the way that merchants do business. The rapid speed of technology is both a blessing and a curse to shippers. Carriers and technology vendors are constantly releasing new, more efficient ways to improve the shipping process – but implementation can often be time-consuming and costly, and if data is not managed properly, it becomes useless. Carriers who advertise technological efficiencies should supply data to their customers in a way that is useful and actionable to improve communications and optimize processes. 

Customer Service
In today’s highly competitive market, it is critical that merchants have the full spectrum of communication tools in place and sufficiently staffed to handle the influx of customer service calls, text messages, instant messages, and tweets -- especially during the busy season. When carriers make package information available to their customers, they effectively reduce the number of inbound inquiries to the merchant, resulting in both happier customers (who have instant access to information about their packages) and reduced call center costs -- a win-win. By empowering consumers with better communications and improved access to information, merchants can deliver the kind of service that builds brand loyalty, and in turn, increases customer revenue.

Believe it or not, your carrier can play a significant role in the marketing of your brand. A good returns shipping solution can help you manage tight inventory in the critical countdown to peak season by addressing backorders and other customer service issues proactively. This can help you save potential lost sales and offer a better overall experience for your customers looking for this year’s must-have products. As for those social networks that can turn a single bad shopping experience into a whirlwind of brand-damaging comments? By using the right shipping technologies to exceed a customer's expectations (and having a talented social media team on staff to manage brand communications), these networks can be a highly effective and low-cost word-of-mouth marketing vehicle for merchants.

Finance professionals are in a constant battle of costs versus benefits. Ultimately, staying in the black is the universal goal -- it’s the path to get there that varies. Some merchants consider cost above all else, but as we’ve discussed above, merely judging a process or vendor by the number on the contract is incredibly shortsighted. Yes, you have to manage costs; but you have to do so while also managing the customer experience to encourage future purchases and lasting loyalty. Since finance is ultimately an integrated system with each piece affecting all the others, every decision made in all the departments above will affect bottom-line results. 

It’s time to acknowledge shipping as more than a transportation and logistics issue. Done right, shipping can have a positive impact on the business all the way from the financial offices to the marketing department. When it’s time to reevaluate your shipping processes and partners, ask yourself what you could be doing differently with your deliveries and returns to grow and evolve your business in a positive direction. 

David T. Marinkovich is Vice President of Marketing and Field Sales for Newgistics. Newgistics provides delivery and return solutions for top brands in direct-to-consumer retail and other industries. With Newgistics, shipping goes far beyond moving boxes. Every parcel processed by Newgistics opens up new opportunities for companies to strengthen their brands and improve efficiency—all while saving on shipping costs. That’s how Newgistics became the recognized leader in customer returns. And it’s why shipping has a new home. To find out more, visit