Season 1 Highlights From the Unboxing Logistics Podcast
by Jaidyn Farar
Now, we’ve taken great moments from each episode and compiled them into one place. In this article, you’ll find 17 insights on just about every aspect of logistics you can imagine, from AI to supplier relationships, sustainability to 3PLs, and everything in between.
1. How is AI used in the logistics space?
Episode title: Challenges and Opportunities of AI in Logistics
Guest: James Sutton from Summit Advisory Team / Elevate
Since ChatGPT launched in late 2022, AI has been at the forefront of the public mind. How will it affect the supply chain industry? James shares his perspective on the current role of AI in logistics and hints at his vision of the future.
“Personalization was the first mainstream use case for AI. And that's more on the marketing side, but it's been leveraged by companies for about a decade now, and it continues to get better as external data gets better.”
“Logistics is a little bit tougher. In enterprise [shipping operations], a lot of those [AI technologies] are not being leveraged today. It's all scan-based, and it's more like legacy route planning.”
“So the supply chain industry is lagging as far as leveraging some of these new technologies. But it’s also really cool that there are a ton of opportunities in that space.”*
*Quotes have been edited for clarity and concision.
2. What should you include in your peak season planning?
Episode title: Preparing for Peak Season
Guest: Tom Butt from Summit Advisory Team / Elevate
Peak season is over … but it’s also on the horizon (don’t you love it when something happens annually?). Tom believes organizations need to prepare for peak by taking a close look at their people, processes, and technology.
“During peak season, volume can be up to ten times what you might expect during a regular week. So it's really about making sure you have a game plan."
“From a people side, that could be making sure that if you have incremental labor, you’re making sure those folks are trained up, that you have contingency plans. Likewise, on the process side, you may have things like proactive inventory placement or slotting initiatives.”
“From a technology standpoint, you want to make sure your systems are ready and they're not going to break. How many transactions are you processing per second from your order management system? Are your carriers ready to handle that volume? Have you communicated?”
3. When are alternative carriers the best option?
Episode title: Shipping Cargo Via Passenger Plane
Guests: Chris Grey & Ed Burek from SmartKargo
To send packages quickly and affordably, shippers need to stay agile. That often means partnering with multiple carriers to take advantage of their unique services. Chris Grey and Ed Burek join forces in this episode to explain how SmartKargo (and similar services) can help improve a customer’s delivery experience and reduce cart abandonment.
“Cart abandonment has been 70% for almost 20 years now. Do you know one of the number one reasons why people abandon cart? Because they see shipping prices come up after they put everything in their cart and begin the checkout process.”
“If you get something to them in two days [using air cargo shipping], you can price that in. You know what that's worth, and if you want to use that versus ground shipping, you can make those decisions so that when they're purchasing it doesn't pop up.”
“Shipping's part of that customer journey, and having those alternative carriers who will work with you is key.”
4. What should you look for in a 3PL’s tech stack?
Episode title: Choosing the Right 3PL
Guest: Adam McCoy from eHub
When evaluating third-party logistics providers, you have a lot to think about. According to Adam, one of the most important considerations is their technology.
“For any ecommerce business that is looking for 3PL services, they should evaluate the technology with respect to the partnership. How is the technology strengthening the partnership? How is it improving communication? How is it improving transparency and visibility into what each part of the partnership is providing?”
“That's a critical part of evaluating a 3PL—understanding not just the technology stack that’s part of the fulfillment but understanding the technology stack that strengthens the partnership.”
5. How does a shopping guarantee help alleviate consumer anxiety?
Episode title: The Power of the Shopping Guarantee
Guest: Eric Thorson from BuySafe
With fraudulent merchants running amok online, consumers have stepped up their scrutiny when visiting new ecommerce stores. Eric explains how businesses can build trust with potential buyers and ease their concerns.
“There's been quite an evolution of the word security as it pertains to ecommerce. Consumers originally were concerned [with questions like], is this website a safe place for me to be? Will I be compromised or breached in any way? Over the last several years, consumers have become less concerned about that. They've moved their concerns and anxieties towards that other unknown factor, which is the people who run that business.”
“One best practice [to address their concerns] is adding trust-signaling graphical elements to the site. The trust signals either come from the merchant themselves or third-party services such as Trusted Site, Norton Shopping Guarantee, or McAfee. The idea is to address the anxieties that shoppers have the moment they reach the site.”
6. Should retailers continue to offer free shipping and returns?
Episode title: Supply Chain and the Consumer Experience
Guests: Matt Boland From Körber and Jill Barron From Summit Advisory Team
As buyers continue to incorporate returns into their online shopping strategy, merchants are feeling the financial effects. In this episode, Matt and Jill discuss this trend and explain why many businesses are switching gears.
“We are seeing a shift away from the Amazon effect, away from free shipping. There are retailers out there now that are saying, no longer is it free shipping if you buy a $5 item. They're putting thresholds on the purchase. They’re starting to charge for returns again. They're trying to balance, how do we still make sure that our customers are getting the best experience, but not break the bank at the same time?”
“I think the most important thing, if you are a retailer, is to be nimble. You have to have systems that allow you to plug and play as these expectations change.”
7. How can merchants shape demand to save on shipping?
Episode title: How to Decrease Cost to Serve
Guest: Tom Butt from Summit Advisory Team / Elevate
When it comes to cost-cutting, the most effective strategies are often the simplest. Tom explains how average order size can have a major impact on shipping costs.
“If someone comes onto your website, are they buying five to ten things per order or are they buying one thing per order? The reason that's important is because if you see your customers buying one thing, you're likely only going to ship that item by itself, and you're going to have to absorb the shipping cost on that item. You're going to take a margin hit there.”
“If they buy four to five things, you can ship all of those things in one box. If you shape your customers' demand by offering incentives to buy more, you may be able to offset the incremental cost of shipping.”
8. Do good supplier relationships have a lasting impact?
Episode title: Building Better Supplier Relationships
Guest: Jill Barron from Summit Advisory Team
Jill Barron has spent much of her career building relationships with suppliers and vendors. In that time, she’s come to learn that relationship-building lays the foundation for a partnership that benefits both parties.
“A lot of times when a vendor or a supplier feels that the retailer is meeting them halfway—they're not hitting them over the head with a hammer all the time and charging them back—the supplier is a lot more willing to come up with concessions.”
9. How can you take advantage of a shipper’s market?
Episode title: Taking Advantage of a Shipper’s Market
Guest: Tyler Diestel
Coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic, shippers began having more leverage than carriers when it comes to rate negotiations. Tyler walks through what it means to be in a shipper’s market and emphasizes the importance of solidifying strong relationships with carriers while it lasts.
“Now that we're edging out of the pandemic and things are starting to return to normal, there are fewer packages that need to be delivered. The carriers are fighting for all these packages. As a result, you'll see carriers reducing their rates and having some really good shipment options included with their standard services."
“Essentially, the shippers now have the option to say, which carrier should I go with? Which carrier is offering me the best prices? Now more than ever is the time that you would be able to build these very close relationships, which will prove to be invaluable down the road. Even though you have the pick of the litter, you still need to put in the legwork now.”
10. What are the consequences of poor cybersecurity?
Episode title: Ecommerce Cybersecurity Strategies
Guest: Iskander Sanchez-Rola from Gen
Cybersecurity is a big deal! If your site misuses personal information, you could face serious consequences. Iskander explains why ecommerce businesses should make security a top priority.
“If your protection is not proper, there will be legal repercussions. If you do it constantly, and you are obtaining all this PII [personally identifiable information] and storing it in your servers, and doing all these kinds of things, there can be even more dangers if you don't protect it properly.”
11. How does carbon neutral shipping work?
Episode title: Carbon Neutral Shipping: How Does It Work?
Guest: Jicara Gorski from EasyPost
On this episode, Jicara and Lori announce EasyPost’s : Every label that comes through the EasyPost API is now carbon neutral, at no extra cost to shippers. But how does that work? Jicara walks through the process.
“At the end of a quarter, we'll take the amount of emissions that we've calculated for that particular period, and we will purchase a commensurate decarbonization project to offset emissions.”
“We'll do this on a rolling basis in perpetuity; customers will have the ability to see the emissions that are associated with each of their parcels and how many offsets have been purchased against their activity.” “They'll even be able to download a badge onto their website and post their participation in this ongoing initiative.”
12. Why should small businesses pay attention to customer data?
Episode title: Shipping Resources for Small Businesses
Guest: Kelli Martin from FedEx
Small businesses grapple with many challenges that larger organizations don’t face. What should they be focusing on? Kelli thinks that among other things, SMBs need to be digitally savvy and use customer data to its fullest potential.
“[For small businesses], digital intelligence is something that's going to be huge in the very near future. Having access to lots of data will help you better understand your customers. All of that's going to become available very soon, and small businesses should be jumping on that.”
13. When does your business need an enterprise shipping system?
Episode title: EasyPost Enterprise: Navigating High-Volume Shipping Challenges
Guest: Jeff Skaistis & Jeff Goeters from EasyPost
“When you're a small company, you generally buy an off-the-shelf product, you plug it in, you turn it on, and that's what you ship with. When you get big enough, you can't do that. You need to get to what we call an enterprise product, which is designed to help you plug all those pieces together.”
14. How can consolidated shipping improve the international shipping process?
Episode title: Is Consolidated Shipping Right for You?
Guest: Guy Gemmill from APC Postal Logistics
If you’re sending products internationally, working with a shipping consolidator makes the process simple and hassle-free. Guy provides just a few reasons why consolidators can be trusted to get the job done.
“The reliability of consolidated shipping has come a long way. It's a very reliable service. In addition to that, regulations and customs configurations vary for each individual country. A consolidator knows what these rules and regulations are. They know what customs wants to see, and they know what customs does not want to see. So your material is going to be compliant and safe as it travels from the U.S. to the destination.”
15. Can small businesses afford to focus on sustainability?
Episode title: Sustainable Shipping Tips for Small Businesses
Guest: Veena Harbaugh from Sendle
Many people believe sustainability efforts cost a lot of money. But in reality, even companies with limited resources can focus on sustainability. According to Veena, small businesses can become more eco-friendly without breaking the bank.
“In a company's sustainability journey, there are things you're going to do right at the beginning. And those things are often efficiency-style things where there is a cost-saving and a carbon-saving component.”
“Further along into that journey, you might be making some investments into new materials, working with a different manufacturer, things like that. By that point, your business is building to the point where you're going to be able to capitalize on a customer segment that's excited about [sustainability].”
16. How is the logistics space becoming more diverse?
Episode title: Empowering Women in Logistics
Guest: Anna Podolskaya from EasyPost
Traditionally, women have been outnumbered by men in the supply chain industry. This is especially true with high-level leadership roles. But things are changing, and Anna is excited about it. In this episode, she shares her perspective and highlights some of the strides the industry has made.
“[The logistics industry is] changing a lot, and I'm really proud. I have attended PARCEL Forum for the last three years, and they’ve started doing a Women in Logistics branch where you can see how many women are attending this event—that's amazing!”
“This year I became a part of a Women in Logistics and Delivery Services organization which is called WILDS. They're supporting a lot of initiatives for women in logistics and delivery, which is great.”
“Our company is helping a lot to promote diversity and to hire more engineers, hire more C-level people, middle management. People see the needs in this sector, that we need to have different voices.”
17. What sets an omnichannel approach apart from a multi-channel one?
Episode title: Navigating Omnichannel Commerce
Guest: Kylie Schafer from Summit Advisory Team
Omnichannel vs. multi-channel—what’s the difference? According to Kylie, it all comes down to the cross-pollination between channels.
“What makes [a fulfillment strategy] omnichannel as opposed to multichannel is crossing over between the channels. So, for example, customers can buy online and pick up in-store or return in-store. It's basically being able to fulfill for the customer regardless of where they started interacting with you.”
“So maybe that customer comes to your website, but the stock is in the store around the corner from them. They can pick it up, you can ship it to them from the store, whatever that looks like. It's that cross-pollination across those different selling channels that moves you from being multi-channel to being omnichannel.”