Journal of Commerce
Monday, May 30, 2005
By: WILLIAM HOFFMAN
A new round of Web site development is catching shippers' attention,
causing a surge in Web-based shipping.
At Seko Worldwide, which recently upgraded its Web site, online
shipping volume surged fivefold to 25 percent of the forwarder's
total volume in just one year, said Tom Madzy, chief information
officer. Online bill payment is one of the more popular services
with shippers, Madzy said.
Wayne Bersch, vice president of operations at Billings Transportation
Group, said his less-than-truckload volume climbed 20 percent after
the company revamped its Web presence.
DHL's online bookings jumped 150 percent in two weeks when the
carrier allowed shippers to process credit-card transactions at
its Web site without opening a DHL account, said Michael Heilman,
vice president of e-commerce Americas and customer technology at
DHL Information Systems Americas. Shippers also can use the DHL
site to obtain rate quotes, access inventory levels and account
balances, store transport and customs documents, track and trace
freight and even pay invoices.
The surge in online transactions may be attributed to greater familiarity
with Web-based technology among shippers and the greater functionality
and value of that technology.
For shippers, the ultimate test may be whether and how much Web
sites help speed delivery. "If you give people what they need,
they'll go direct to the source, and the sooner they get to the
source, the sooner they get to market, which is the name of the
game," said Jay Cotton, transportation supervisor for UCB Pharma
in Birmingham, Ala.
Carriers say the recent uptick in online use represents a marked
change in how they and their customers view their Web sites. Until
recently, carriers encountered resistance to Web-based services
from shippers, who often complained that the sites focused more
on advertising than on service. Even service-oriented sites frequently
inspired complaints about long response times, incomplete or incorrect
information and complexity.
"When you have to really struggle to go where you want to
get, you eventually kind of give up," Heilman said.
In addition to happy shippers, the improved online services are
yielding cost-saving benefits and great efficiencies for carriers.
For DHL, each invoice filed electronically saves $1.80. Online pickup
requests save DHL $2 over the cost of a phone call. Online payment
also reduces DHL's time to collect from up to 40 days to about 24
The carrier also benefits by linking once-separate shipping steps
into a seamless process that allows DHL to sell more premium services,
Heilman said. Online validation of credit-card numbers and shipping
addresses speeds transactions even further.
Bersch said customers are more trusting of doing business online.
Shippers who used to call Billings for bill-of-lading and proof-of-delivery
documents now download them from the regional carrier's Web site.
Madzy wants to offer an online routing guide for foreign shippers
unfamiliar with the United States. DHL hopes to make its U.S. Web
site a model for adoption by its other business units as the carrier
accelerates its competitive assault in the U.S.
Ken Weinberg, vice president of sales and marketing for Carrier
Logistics, which designed Billings' new site, said one-stop freight
management means automated e-mail notification of transportation-related
events, rather than depending on staff to compose, address and send
a message that might still get lost in the shuffle.
Bersch said Billings is experimenting with sending notifications
to managers' Blackberry devices to further cut delays. "In
our industry, the speed of information flow is critical and the
customer wants that information now," he said.