Shipping changes: what’s new for delivery operations

By Sorted - April 14, 2023


If you work for a retailer or an ecommerce brand, this year has probably been a challenging one so far. And, undoubtably, you’re looking for a way to save more money, make more money, and keep your customers happy.

We’re lucky enough to work with some of the most exciting and most innovative retailers in the industry – and we get front row seats when they’re undergoing operational shifts or process changes. These are the trailblazers, and the trendsetters.

The Sorted team regularly sits down to review the themes and trends we’re seeing in our customers’ plans, which gives us a unique list of things that some retailers are starting to focus on, that all retailers should be thinking about.

Here, our Customer Success Director, Paul Hill, runs through some of the key best practice tips that are changing and evolving in 2023, so you can get a head start on the competition.

Product-led delivery management

Product-led delivery management

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We all know that Carrier Managers are thinly-stretched players in the logistics team. More and more retailers are recognising that managing delivery operations, especially the delivery technology that powers the ops, is a job in itself.

That’s why Product Managers are moving into place, to have an over-arching view of the delivery tech stack.

Split shipments

Let’s talk about your dreams and fantasies for a moment (well, your shipping-related ones at least…).

A customer order comes in through the website, and all the products that you need to fulfil the order is only at arm’s length away. You can pick, pack, label and send it on its way.

Now, wake up, stop dreaming. In reality, products are spread around – maybe in deep storage, maybe they’re fast moving, maybe they’re in opposite ends of the warehouse, maybe some are in boxes in store and some are hanging garments in the distribution centre. All the items for each shipment need to be consolidated, but you can’t always get them to the same packing station.

For larger retailers, especially in the ‘two man’ delivery world, there’s sometimes a deal to be done. Paul has seen retailers work with carriers to create a model that works for everyone…

Split shipment optimisation - working with carrier

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Getting clever with date and time expressions

Without getting too philosophical, do we really understand time? Let’s take a look…

“Date and time expressions sound super geeky.” Says Paul. But we’re all delivery nerds here, right?

There’s only really one answer for time in delivery technology, under the bonnet, and that’s ‘Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC, for short). This notes time markers, offset by local time differences; enabling worldwide translation of accurate time readings. So, for example, New York is UTC-05:00 and Beijing is UTC+08:00.

Date and time innovation

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That’s the way software understands it. Of course, clever carrier management software will take the UTC time in the back end and show the user the local time in the front end. And this becomes really important when shipping internationally, or when sending parcel traffic through different time zones. But one thing we all have in common is that there are 24 hours in a day, right?

Well, yes. We all have the same 24 hours in each day cycle – but what if that is actually an outdated way of thinking about the shipping operation? Paul says that many retailers are starting to think so…

Consumer-driven demand for carriers

That old juggling act. How should your checkout be configured, and who decides the strategy for carrier services? Is it driven by the customer? Maybe it’s led by commercial negotiations and carrier contracts? Or maybe the Board actually sets the direction?

In short, how do you get your carrier mix right?

Well, Paul talked us through the best practice that we’re seeing a lot of retailers adopt.

Consumer-driven demand for carriers

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Shipping empty air

You’re probably protective of your budget at the moment, so you probably don’t like the idea of handing over money for nothing?

Well, that’s something that many of the biggest retailers are tackling at the moment – and the battleground is set on ‘shipping empty air’. Quite literally, paying to ship nothing.

Empty air reduction with packaging and example

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In carrier networks, it’s all about cubic capacity. There’s a finite amount of space in each vehicle in the post-purchase journey. From the 45 foot articulated lorry, to the intermediate bulk vehicle, to the smaller CND (collection and delivery) vehicles that do the rounds in the suburbs and the cities – as you move down the delivery chain, space gets tighter. So if you’re shipping boxes or packages with lots of spare space, you’re taking up (and paying for) more of that cubic capacity than you actually need. That’s inefficient; for the retailer, the carrier and the environment.

So, how are clever retailers currently thinking about the ‘empty air’ problem?

Tech that keeps up

Underpinning the best retail results? Hard-working, easy to manage and innovative tech partnerships.

Watch to see how Paul details the balance between IT project workload and innovation when it comes to delivery and shipping technology.

When thinking about best practices, trends and themes in retail planning, it’s natural to end up overwhelmed. Getting inspired and forming a wish list of the perfect post-purchase can be productive but daunting.

Retailers asking for control

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Tech keeping up

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Paul helps to break it down, with a starting point. From the retailers yielding the best results, what is their ‘square one’?

Bookmark this blog and get ready to return – you’re going to need it.

As you look to the remainder of the year, think about your peak preparations and have 2024 planning on the distant horizon, it can be difficult to know where to prioritise. Especially when things change so quickly, we’re here to support you and help you form your ideas and your strategies for shipping, delivery communications and tracking, and even returns.

Hopefully the ideas in this article have acted as inspiration. And we’d love to have a chat with you to see how you can take some of these ideas forward. Get in touch with us below.