For the savvy broker, attracting ecommerce customers makes all the sense in the world — and carrier selection plays an outsized role in that.
You see, the problem that most brokers run into is this — most of your customers and potential customers, including potential ecommerce customers — view you as a commodity.
Being viewed as a commodity is a serious problem. It basically means that your customers and potential customers can’t differentiate you from your competition.
Basically, as long as you don’t mess up, most of your customers view one broker like another. They have this idea in their head that all shipping is equal, that all brokers are equal, that all carriers are equal.
Now, you and I both know that this is far from the truth — but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the perception in the heads of your customers.
There are a few ways to deal with that.
Efficiency is critical when it’s hard for you to differentiate yourself from the competition, especially for a new broker. Ecommerce businesses are absolutely spoiled for choice, and they’ll be looking for the most efficient broker possible to help them handle their fulfillment.
If you’re just getting into the game, there’s one area where you actually may have an advantage here compared to an established broker. By getting a powerful TMS early in your career, you’re able to keep operational costs low. This is because modern TMSs are able to automatically handle tasks that used to take a team of humans to complete.
And much of your competition is using a TMS anyway, so it only makes sense to get one and, at the very least, keep up.
A TMS can help you to reach a high level of efficiency. Even if you’re an established broker, an updated, modern TMS can be a huge asset in increasing efficiency within your organization. And in ecommerce, efficiency is essential.
But efficiency only takes you so far. One of the biggest problems with shooting for efficiency is that everyone is doing it — a TMS provides substantial ROI, and as the years go by, having a TMS becomes something of a baseline. Smaller ecommerce businesses aren’t necessarily going to expect access to a customer portal to track their shipments, but the larger businesses you’ll target absolutely will.
Which means that, first, you need to get the best TMS you can afford, but second, you’re still going to have a tough time competing on price because everyone is going to be racing toward efficiency, just to keep margins up.
That’s a race to the bottom.
The smarter thing to do when attracting ecommerce customers is to focus on customer service married to efficiency. For brokers, one of the biggest things you can do to provide excellent customer service is to give your customers as many carrier options as possible.
You’re probably pretty used to thinking about customer service in a pretty traditional way — the interactions you have with your customer through the process of a transaction, either face-to-face, over the phone, via email, over fax, or through a variety of communication mediums.
Now, I just want to step back a bit here and say that this kind of stuff is important.
When the ecommerce businesses you target view you as a commodity, that generally means that your customers are comparing you and the competition not on the value of what you do, but on price.
Customer service helps you circumvent that — if you’re nice and easy to work with, if you always do what you say you’re going to do, and do it fast and efficiently, if you go out of your way to make sure your customers got exactly the service they were looking for, if you’re taking care of problems when a shipment goes awry or a carrier does something strange…
Well, your customers are going to choose you over the competition, as well as recommend you to their colleagues. On top of that, they’ll likely be willing to pay a little extra for the ease of working with someone who isn’t a pain in the butt and who can get the job done.
That is, as long as you can provide them with what they’re asking for — and for freight brokers, that means having as many carrier options as possible. Even if the price isn’t always right, your customers are going to appreciate the additional options.
That’s part of customer service — providing customers the service or products that they want regardless of what you would prefer (and even if you don’t always make a large profit on the deal).
Wider carrier selection abilities give your customers more options — which means they’re more likely to choose you to manage their logistics.
Because if you don’t have a carrier available to meet their needs, they have no choice but to choose someone else.
And, in the mind of the customer, a lack of selection or options often seems like poor customer service. When you walk into a store, if they have what you want, but not in the right color or right size, you don’t view it as a quality or price problem — you view it as a service problem.
It goes something like this:
“Why can’t they provide the exact item I need? They must not care about me that much if they can’t be bothered to get a few extra sizes and colors for this item.”
But, if you have carriers available to get your customer’s goods wherever they need to go, suddenly you seem like a great broker to work with — “why bother with the broker who has limited options when I can work with the broker who can send anything, anywhere, at any time?”
RateShare™ is one of the advanced features of our TMS BrokerWare™. It will help you get access to a broader range of carriers, including carriers you don’t currently have contracts with.
This allows you to provide more options to your ecommerce customers, which means you’re providing better customer service than the other guys.