Millions of households around the globe await delivery of their special packages come holiday season. The logistics of transporting these packages worldwide might make some merchants wish for their own fleet of flying reindeer, though.
Unfortunately, flying reindeer aren’t an option for merchants. Instead, most packages must be delivered by a wide network of logistics professionals, from the businesses and manufacturers that produce the products to the drivers that deliver shipments to recipients’ doorsteps — not down their chimneys.
Shipping and logistics represent big global business. Recent data indicates nearly 12 billion parcels and packages were shipped domestically in the U.S. alone in 2015 — marking a 2.9 percent increase from the previous year. In fact, global parcel shipping is poised to grow 20 percent by 2018.
With an ever-growing number of packages expected to be shipped worldwide, merchants will need more real-time insights into the status of those deliverable items. This is where an application programmable interface (API) solution can be used to enhance the supply chain process. Notable players in the logistics API market — including uShip and Easyship — already feature API-based solutions that automatically trace data. These solutions provide merchants with insights into the status of their deliveries, including goods destined for international markets.
Another logistics solutions provider, Ingram Micro, offers solutions to aiding eCommerce merchants in achieving their global shipping needs, like data and compliance management solutions. Among the company’s portfolio of products is the Shipwire API, a logistics API to offer merchants real-time insights into the supply chain process. PYMNTS recently spoke with Ingram Micro’s vice president of engineering, Evan Robinson, and Phil Guindi, vice president of product management, about how the Shipwire API is enabling a smoother delivery experience for eCommerce merchants.
Keeping payment and packages flowing
Studies show merchants interested in participating in global trade have more to fear than fear itself. A recent survey found 75 percent of polled merchants walked away from an international business opportunity because of non-payment concerns.
This is where APIs like that offered by Shipwire come in. Such technology was designed to ease merchants’ concerns about potential fraud by working with third-party systems to know when an order has been vetted and approved. For Shipwire customers, that means they won’t receive orders until the necessary approvals have been completed.
On the payments side, real-time information on how to handle a shipment could help some exporting merchants avoid a potential headache after an order is received or sent out for delivery.
“With the APIs that we have, we can be instructed just in time to know that the order is ready to ship,” Guindi said.
Instant access to the most up-to-date information is key for merchants engaged in both international and domestic trade to effectively be able to deliver for their clients.
The Shipwire API works by helping customers access more than 150 global warehouses managed by Ingram Micro, allowing clients to route orders through specific locations as needed. The API can also offer merchants a real-time look at possible customs and duties incurred during cross-border transactions.
Ingram Micro’s warehouse facilities can also route international orders, Guindi explained. When cross-border orders are received, the API notifies the recipient of any specific handling instructions for the order based on the local market where it is being delivered. This can be particularly useful if a merchant must facilitate the delivery of hazardous materials, he added.
Batteries, for instance, require special handling instructions because they can spark a fire or become a source of heat if they are improperly handled.
“In the event we get a cross-border order, we will be aware of the type of treatment it needs,” Guindi said. “We can make sure we use [proper] carrier methods and that the [appropriate] warehouse is being instructed to handle it so that it is export-compliant and has the right hazardous material handling [capabilities].”
Tracking global deliveries
Major logistics providers are expecting a heavier workload than usual this holiday season. United Parcel Service (UPS) expects to deliver 750 million packages, and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) projects it will deliver approximately 850 million. With so many packages our for delivery across the country and around the world, how can smaller merchants — those without a legion of magical worker elves to assist them — make global deliveries and manage to keep tabs on the status of every one?
As Robinson tells it, the logistics landscape has come a long way in the past 10 years. This is especially true for smaller eCommerce merchants engaged in international trade.
“If you wanted a system that could connect your shopping cart and marketplaces and other order-taking systems to your logistics network, you more or less had to stitch it together by hand yourself,” he explained.
For eCommerce merchants, one of the main difficulties comes when tracking deliveries across a network of warehouses. It becomes even more complicated when the merchants want to expand operations internationally, Robinson added. That kind of endeavor could result in more work for merchants who would have had to build a solution themselves, or it would force them to hire outside consultants.
As merchants expand their operations domestically and internationally, they often struggle to connect a shopping cart, marketplace, Amazon store or eBay listing to their preferred fulfillment provider, he added.
“We saw that [that kind of successful expansion] was beyond [the] reach of all but the most well-resourced companies,” Robinson said. “It was really holding eCommerce back.”
To help merchants with their domestic and international growth plans, Ingram Micro sought to address these needs with a solution that could automate the connection between a merchant’s tools and the logistics services. It developed its Shipwire API to be a connective supply chain solution.
“We built the Shipwire API to make it easy for merchants to have a single connection to a worldwide logistics infrastructure,” Robinson said.
While consumers worldwide might go to sleep wondering what surprises Christmas will bring them, merchants with shipments to fulfill can at least rest easy knowing where in the supply chain those deliveries currently lay. And, of course, no reindeer are required.
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About The Report
The PYMNTS X-Border Receivables Report, a Flywire collaboration, is your go-to resource for staying up-to-date on a bimonthly basis about the notable changes and shifts in the cross-border receivables market.