Parcel Forum, the pinnacle event for small parcel logistics, summons industry professionals from across the country to explore and discuss the latest trends, technology, and solutions related to parcel shipping and fulfillment. Whether you are an industry veteran or just diving into parcel shipping, this is the event to attend.
Let’s review the most important takeaways from this year’s Forum in Nashville, Tennesee’s Gaylord Opryland Resort, from September 11 – September 13, 2023.
The Importance of Carrier Diversification
Few would debate Carrier Diversification as the most prominent theme, a key focus throughout the exhibit hall and in more than a dozen sessions. Relying solely on one national carrier leaves shippers vulnerable to rate increases, service disruptions, and limited customer delivery options. With ever-changing options and new carriers emerging each year, it has never been more important to evaluate and diversify your carrier mix. Many are keen to see how Amazon yet again reorients the industry as they relaunch delivery for shippers outside their marketplace.
Carrier Diversification is becoming even more important as largest carriers begin experimenting with dynamic pricing models. Limited, single-carrier shippers will incur the most risk as dynamic pricing becomes more prevalent. Without the flexibility to choose between carriers, shippers may pay “surge” pricing when demand is high, without achieving any meaningful savings when carriers see demand fall.
Third-Party Fulfillment and Warehouse Automation
Automation can be a game-changer for the largest shippers as ecommerce demand continues to grow. By using technologies such as robotics, automated sortation, and advanced software, shippers can handle higher order volume, expedite order processing, and improve inventory accuracy. This not only enhances the ability to meet customer demands but also lowers labor costs and minimizes the risk of human error. Automation is not just an option, but a necessity for those in fulfillment looking to remain agile and ahead of the competition in an ever-changing industry.
Conference sessions also highlighted the importance of selecting a fulfillment partner who strategically aligns with your business objectives now and as you scale. Leveraging a strong third-party fulfillment partnership for inventory management, pick & pack, shipping, and returns management can unlock enormous opportunities for your business.
Carrier Pricing Best Practices and Pitfalls
We would be remiss to not discuss the importance of a sound strategy when looking to mitigate increased carrier rates and surcharges. Shippers looking to improve their contracts have a multitude of variables to evaluate and manage when crafting their approach. What is the true impact of next year’s GRI? Where will “demand” surcharges be applied? How does my program measure up to similar shippers? Without the ability to benchmark their parcel program, shippers face a grueling battle when negotiating with their carriers. With many citing inconsistent communication and inexperienced carrier reps, this makes the process even more taxing.
Premier consulting firms such as Shipware will streamline the process, guiding and educating shippers from start to finish through carrier negotiations. This ensures shippers maximize their savings while avoiding the “gotchas” and pitfalls often missed.
How and When to Leverage Technology
When diversifying your carrier mix, it can seem daunting to integrate new carriers. But with the right solutions and technology partners, common pain points can be eliminated. During the TMS panel discussion, Bob Malley, CEO of Sendflex, provided insight about how Parcel TMS technology automates complex decision-making around how, when, and where to use a more diversified mix of carrier services in an omni-channel fulfillment environment.
E-commerce is an incredibly competitive market and those with the most-optimized shipping rates will yield higher conversions and lower cart abandonment rates. AI and advanced-learning models continue to pave the way for increased delivery efficiency and improved customer experience. Though as much as technology can support these objectives, it has yet to be a sufficient replacement for seasoned experts.
Partnerships and the key importance for long-term growth
Parcel Forum was a successful conference for parcel supply chain partnerships. The common discussion points among many partners were that cultivating partnerships is the path to increased growth and sustainability.
Being that cold calling conversions are down, the market understands there needs to be a shift. Companies do not answer the phone or return voicemails like they did 10 years ago. They want warm introductions from people they trust. Just like having to go to a doctor if you have an illness. What do you do? You ask the circle of trusted relationships. Who is the best doctor in that area of expertise? A warm introduction already builds trust and rapport. The conversions are much higher. Statistics today show about 84% of buyers are now starting the purchasing process with a referral. Cold calling is seeing about a 1% call back rate. There’s a 24% open rate of outbound cold emails. Today, the strategic approach is to invest those cycles in cultivating partner relationships. This can produce a 40%+ conversion rate in getting meetings through a warm introduction. The market has shifted and adapting is critical. It’s time to focus on Partnerships to drive growth.
Additionally, conversations were centered around the value Partnerships bring to your customer base. In today’s market, creating as much value as possible for your customers is critical. Increased competition creates a challenging marketplace. Differentiation and stickiness are the recipe for increasing lifetime customer value. If there are gaps in your solution, bring in a partner to fill those gaps. Your customers will see the value and look to you as a trusted advisor that brings significant value. When the competition knocks on their door it will make it harder to leave. You helped that customer in several areas of their business.
We co-hosted a Happy Hour!
The conference was jam-packed all week and continued after hours with a variety of social and networking activities. As they say, all work and no play makes conferences a dull affair.
We co-hosted a Happy Hour with GLS, Passport, and Better Trucks in the Gaylord Opryland’s Garden Conservatory. Many professionals within the logistics space came to unwind and network between drinks and hors d’oeuvres
Pre-conference workshop & Dynamic Pricing session
Shipware once again hosted Parcel Forum’s annual pre-conference, daylong workshop on parcel carrier negotiations entitled, “Contract Negotiations: It’s a Brave New World (What You Need to Know Now!).”
The interactive session covered tactics and strategies that shippers can employ to optimize their carrier spending and performance and included peer-to-peer activies and breakout groups based on transportation spend to address shippers’ unique needs. Our Professional Services team covered real-world negotiation examples, case studies, led group negotiation exercises, and provided strategies for evaluating attendees’ current carrier contracts. If you’re a logistics pro responsible for your organization’s parcel contracts, make sure to sign up for this 5-star rated session at Parcel Forum 2024.
We also hosted “Death by Dynamic Pricing? What Carriers Mean by ‘Dynamic Pricing’ and What It Means for Your Business” – a 40-minute floor session on how the vaguely-defined dynamic pricing will impact shippers. We anticipate this topic will continue to drive interest at next year’s Parcel Forum as carriers continue to leverage dynamic pricing’s flexibility to drive revenue.
Is Parcel Forum worth attending?
Short answer: absolutely!
Parcel Forum is one of the largest events of the year that focus specifically on parcel shipping a major cost center for e-commerce comanies, D2C shippers, retailers, third-party logistics (3PL) companies, and more. Parcel logistics is also an industry that’s simultaneously constantly evolving and slow to change. Events like Parcel Forum give shippers an opportunity to both discover new technology/advancements and how to overcome common obstacles in implementing those advancements within their own operations.
The Forum is held in a major city each year, so attendees can take advantage of the central location to explore, take in the sights, and dig into the food scene after show hours. There are also plenty of networking opportunities for logistics and supply chain professionals, partnership executives, job seekers, and more.
Parcel Forum also assesses the educational value of each session to make sure your time and money are well spent. If you’re attending next year, make sure to check out our pre-conference workshop on contract negotiations; it just may be a fit for you!
With the challenges shippers face daily Parcel Forum was an insightful conference providing shippers best practices and support to help navigate the evolving Parcel landscape. Whether you’re looking to diversify your carrier mix, optimize your technology, or reduce your parcel costs, Parcel Forum is full of experts to support you. As a premier firm in this space, Shipware is here to advocate and support shippers in this ever-changing parcel market. We hope to see you next year!