2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget. With all the surprises, curveballs, and challenges we’ve all faced, supply chains of all sizes were tested more than they ever were in recent years. But, even with the unpredictability variable always at play, there are ways you can prepare for a better shipping year ahead.
Learn From 2020
Gilroy Associates surveyed their network of businesses regarding what takeaways they learned from 2020 that they could apply in 2021. They found that half of those surveyed had to adapt and introduce new products or solutions to meet the needs of the customers. Additionally, half of respondents said they plan to launch new products or continue to expand services in 2021. Many of those surveyed also stated that they plan to use creative sales strategies, and 60% of respondents said they will continue to build new partnerships to help their businesses thrive and to improve customer service.
As much as we want to forget the events of this past year, we cannot ignore the lasting effects it will have on commerce on a very large scale. Consumer behaviors have changed significantly with more people shopping online, which means more consumers are also shipping items purchased online to their homes or businesses. Understanding the current state of the freight market and the effects external events like lockdowns or large-scale logistics projects (vaccine distribution) will have will help you develop a better shipping strategy.
Ask some key questions. What worked for your business in 2020? What didn’t? Do you have an updated business continuity plan in place? Did your shipping volume increase? Do you need additional assistance in managing your supply chain? Answering these questions can help give you a clear idea of steps you can take now to plan for a successful 2021.
Embrace the Technology
Even if we were in that “normal world” we took for granted before COVID-19, changing technology is always something to keep in mind when it comes to preparing for a successful year ahead. Business and the way business is done has changed, and it’s important to continually adapt and innovate where you can or you could be left behind. In a freight market like this one, with limited capacity and affordable rates getting trickier to find for many shippers, a transportation management system (TMS) is a must-have tool for shippers.
A powerful TMS centralizes your search for available carriers and lanes and their rates, so you can easily compare your options, tailor-made to best suit your shipment. This streamlines the process of option-searching in the age of uncertain market conditions. Shippers need solutions faster than ever to stay competitive, and wasting time manually contacting carriers for quotes will put you behind.
Don't Forget the Basics
It’s easy to get caught up in the whole “rolling with the changes” mindset, but at the end of the day, you’re still shipping freight! Not everything has changed. For example, packaging will always be an essential step of the shipping process no matter what happens in the world. Making sure you have the appropriate amount of packaging materials on hand at the start of the year will set you up comfortably at the beginning of 2021. And remember, don’t let your packaging standards slip. Practical freight packaging protocols should always be at the top of your shipping strategy’s priority list. You can download our free Guide to Freight Packaging for a more comprehensive look at packaging materials and best practices.
Staying aware of what accessorials you’ll need when filling out a freight quote keeps you from incurring unexpected billing adjustments after shipment delivery. Know which accessorials are necessary for your shipment and which ones are optional.
Using reverse logistics to increase customer satisfaction is a must during the holidays, but you can get 2021 off to a good start by optimizing your reverse logistics strategy. Make transparent return policies and provide the things your customers would need in the event of a return. This will ensure greater customer loyalty, it helps your bottom line and maintains your positive brand reputation.
Partner with a 3PL to Prepare for the Expected and Unexpected in 2021
As we close the book on 2020 and look to 2021, prepare for a successful year ahead by partnering with a 3PL like FreightCenter. Let us help you navigate the ins and outs of an ever-changing freight market with our expert shipping agents and a world-class TMS. We can help you plan for the everyday and expected shipping needs as well as the unexpected. We will guide you through every step of the process, from getting a quote all the way to delivery, and make sure your shipping experiences are positive ones.