Learn more about the risks associated with carrier-provided APIs.

By now we are all familiar with the unexpected boom in e-commerce, courtesy of the pandemic shopping habits of consumers. As shippers have pivoted to meet the new metrics for a fully functional supply chain (including enhanced customer expectations, low shipping costs, and fast delivery times), the need for a top-notch shipping software has won out as a top priority.

We’ve previously mentioned several important factors for determining a parcel shipping software partner:  Core Technology, Pricing Scheme, Speed, Service & Support, Business Focus and Updates. [Read the entire Multi-Carrier Shipping Software Comparison Guide] When it comes to finding a partner that supports multi-carrier shipping for parcel, there are options.

Many carriers offer free online APIs that can seem like a simple and cost-effective alternative to a custom-built solution. These API-aggregators have a quick set-up, are low-cost, and are simplistic in nature as far as maintenance and connectivity. So, what’s the problem? Why not just use the carrier-provided APIs?

Resilience

With API-aggregators, you are getting that simplistic and basic carrier connectivity we mention above. Most supply chains have unique and complex business logic, and an API-aggregator won’t be able to handle the nuances of your business. When you ask a question of the carrier API, it gives you a response. Enhanced functionality must be created around the basic capacities of the API for it serve any real purpose. Think about rate shopping or any business rule logic [Everything You Need to Know About Complex Business Rules – In Five Minutes] – these types of complex functions require a complete solution – not just a cobbled together quick fix. 

Resources

As we pointed out earlier, the service and support team from your shipping software should serve as a valuable and trusted partner, not just another cookie-cutter vendor looking to secure your business. Support in the shipping technology industry is crucial for ensuring a positive customer experience.

Unfortunately, the technical support behind free carrier APIs can be minimal. Even if you can work one-on-one with the APIs, limits exist for the range and comprehensiveness of their support. A more basic solution means a more basic support team, sometimes this support is even outsourced – never a good sign for those looking for a personalized experience. On the other end of the spectrum, if you can work with a partner who owns the intellectual software property, you are going straight to the source. This source is typically an expert technician who understands your business and can work with you on the most basic to complex issues. [Read on: Solving the Shipping Software Support Equation]

Risk Control

By using an API-aggregator, retailers put themselves at several levels of risk. Justin Cramer, Co-Founder of ProShip shares the following, “An unavoidable level of risk is an API call to the carriers themselves. Though some small parcel carrier services can only be executed with real time API’s, most have a premise alternative. This removes the risk of the carrier’s API becoming oversubscribed leading to slowness or failure. The risk of making API calls to the carriers is compounded by adding a hop to a third-party aggregator. They have their own components, their own internal dependencies and, therefore, have an additional layer of risk of slowness or failure that it outside of the retailer’s control.”

When carrier engines run inside the retailer’s software network, the brand has the ability to provide more resources to the rating and shipping servers, as well as spin up multiple servers for redundancy and reduced down time.  What this boils down to is additional control for the retailer: to mitigate the risk in a way they do not have by using an external API-aggregator.

Reach

This last point, Reach, echoes the Resource reasoning from earlier, but it takes it one step further into another essential part of shipping: compliance. It is the responsibility of your vendor to keep your software up-to-date and compliant. It is widely known that non-compliance brings fees and chargebacks that can build up. With minimal teams of support, an API-only solution may not have the time to dedicate to compliance initiatives like a full-service solution would.

This also tracks to any new service offerings that you may be looking to add to your shipping profile. Carriers are often the last ones to make these available to your system because it relies on the carrier APIs, which haven’t yet implemented the new service. Conversely, carrier compliant software vendors have agility built into their development cycles and can push out new carrier services more quickly with shorter roll-out times.

In addition, an API-aggregator has throughput limits which don’t allow retailers to plan for business growth. Without the ability to scale as needed, you will need to plan for a new solution that can meet the industry’s latest omnichannel fulfillment trends. During busy times, like peak season, brands should feel confident that their shipping software will be able to handle the complexity driving elite enterprise businesses.

Reliability with ProShip

With all this mind, carrier APIs should not be thrown out completely. Clint Boaz, Senior Sales Engineer at ProShip, shares, “The carriers provide a very useful service with their APIs. They are vital for specific functionalities like tracking, or when they are the carrier’s preferred way to ensure compliance to their specifications. They deliver on what they were designed to be – a low-cost means to connect lower volume shippers with unsophisticated requirements to carrier services.”

When looking for a shipping software that meets all your needs, look no further than ProShip. ProShip is established as the last shipping system you will ever need to integrate. With a robust and advanced system, ProShip is the number one in speed, compliance, reliability and experience. We have heard from many businesses who did not have the vision for growth at the time they integrated their initial system. As their business scaled, they outgrew their initial vendor and looked for a partner in ProShip, who could offer an integrated and automated multi-carrier shipping solution.