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Key Features and Integrations for Custom Logistics Apps

Logistics companies are increasingly relying on upgraded tech to drive higher margins and faster deliveries. Here are key features to consider when building a custom logistics application.

6 October 2021

by Nakul Shah

Logistics companies are increasingly adopting new technology to improve the efficiency and productivity of their operations. They are also customizing software applications for their unique needs to derive the most value from it. In this article, we look at the main features and integrations that are typically included in custom logistics apps.

How Logistics Companies Currently Use Tech

Logistics firms are leveraging improved technology to enhance supply chain productivity and minimize errors and costs. These software solutions benefit all logistics industry areas, including shipment tracking, supply chain management, international transportation (air and ocean), and trucking transportation.

Let’s review the standard systems used by logistics companies to enhance their processes:

Freight marketplace

Freight marketplaces link forwarders and shippers, enabling users to find suitable shipping options, compare quotes and delivery info, and perform online shipment booking. This type of platform offers transparency as freight forwarders, exporters, and importers can compare shipping rates online with all details and charges included and select the best option.

Crowdshipping marketplace

This platform helps you save money on international transport by enabling you to hire validated travellers to deliver your goods to a destination. Couriers offer bids for their delivery rates and you can select the most affordable option.

Local delivery marketplace

These marketplaces link shoppers, retailers, and drivers and facilitate same-day delivery. If consumers want an item delivered to their office or home, but the seller doesn’t provide delivery, you can use these marketplaces to get your items.

Trucking marketplace

This platform matches shippers with truckers. Shippers can access available trucks and their freight quotes and location. Truckers also benefit, as they can enhance their business, get added income, and fill empty trucks.

Common Custom-Built Software Tools for Logistics

The main reason logistics firms develop custom software is because off-the-shelf solutions can only perform general or limited tasks and typically do not meet specific needs. Some companies may be using multiple tools for one job, and they can benefit by creating a custom product. Using old-fashioned spreadsheets to analyze data and bridge gaps between systems is inefficient, and a custom application can offer better results.

Logistics firms that perform repetitive tasks manually may also decide to create custom software to automate these processes. Off-the-shelf solutions may not be scalable. Companies that use paper-based processes may think of going paperless with a custom platform. Logistics enterprises that use old and outdated software may wish to upgrade their systems by opting for customized packages.

Key Features for Custom Logistics Software

Now, let’s look at the main features and integrations that should be added in custom software for logistics organizations:

Automated invoicing features

You can integrate automated invoicing functions with your marketplace to improve delivery of invoices and documents, save time, optimize data accuracy, and go paperless. This general functionality can be used by all sub-sectors of the logistics industry that invoice their clients for payment. Developers can custom-build the invoicing feature or use an API to integrate with a third-party invoicing solution.

Shipping and tracking APIs

You can integrate with logistics and shipping APIs to link with leading carriers, purchase labels, monitor packages, and include customs info in shipments. For example, EasyPost presents shipping and tracking APIs that give you tracking data, branded monitoring pages, real-time feedback on carriers, predicted delivery date, and real-time updates.

You can also consider integrating with an e-commerce shipping product. For instance, ShipHawk provides integrations that enable you to automate and optimize your shipping functions. It gives you access to leading parcel carriers like DHL, USPS, UPS, FedEx, and others with its small parcel API integration. ShipHawk gives access to LTI carrier accounts, and you can add your own custom carriers. Shipping companies can thus include APIs for shipping and tracking in their custom software.

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Identity/verification tools

Security is paramount in the logistics sector, and you can integrate with security solutions to ensure safe transactions in your marketplace. These products offer features like global watchlist check, identity verification, checking of sex offender registry, checking of national criminal records, and more. Transportation companies can integrate an identity/verification system like Checkr in their custom software through an API.

Checkr offers seamless HR and API integration, and its chief functionalities include criminal classification, screening status, 24/7 support, and analytics and reporting.

Customer support software

Shipping and transportation carriers can use customer service software to handle all customer data in one system, build benchmarks and reports, and conduct consumer satisfaction surveys. Zendesk is a popular customer support platform that offers features such as a ticketing system to answer support requests, messaging and chat tools, robust reports and metrics, and more than 100 integrations with third-party applications. Thus, shipping companies can use an API to integrate customer support software in their custom build.

Predictive analytics

Shippers can use predictive analytics for purposes like route optimization, predictive maintenance, demand and capacity planning, risk management, network management, and more. For instance, Amazon utilizes sophisticated predictive analytics tools to ship items sometimes even before the order is placed. In the logistics sector, UPS uses predictive analytics to analyze more than a billion data points each day to estimate customer demand, package volumes, and capacity.

Developers of shipping companies can custom-build a predictive analytics feature or use an API to integrate a third-party predictive analytics solution in their custom software.

Warehouse management/real-time inventory

Real-time warehouse and inventory management improves the supply chain, tracks product movement, and enhances business efficiency. You can use this feature to analyze data to optimally schedule goods or raw materials and eliminate both stock-outs and excessive inventory.

In logistics, just-in-time inventory is not always feasible due to practical restrictions. Therefore, the best alternative is real-time inventory management. Real-time inventory analysis highlights products that have high demand and the specific times of the demand. This deep analysis facilitates proper stocking and the optimization of promotional campaigns. For example, a web retailer can prepare for a seasonal increase in demand for specific products based on past seasons’ analytical data.

Warehouse and inventory management is typically used by shipping and transportation companies and third-party logistics (3PL) firms. Their developers can use an API to integrate their custom software with a quality warehouse and inventory management solution.

Determining the ROI of a Feature or Integration

Logistics firms can decide which features and integrations add value to their products based on their usefulness.

Does it address a major problem that you face?

The feature or integration should resolve an urgent issue. For instance, a shipping firm that is dealing with untracked inventory should prioritize inventory and warehouse management features over something like predictive analytics.

Does the value provided offset the cost of implementation?

Custom development costs money, and onboarding your team to a new platform can take weeks or even months depending on complexity. Therefore, only useful features that deliver value should be included to obtain a good return on the investment.

Is your team/product capable of utilizing it?

Your team and product should be able to use the feature easily. For this, it may help to request some free trials to determine whether lay users in the logistics company can utilize it without much effort.

Is it the best solution of its kind?

When integrating with a third-party solution, consult reviews and compare feature lists before committing.

Logistics App Development with Crowdbotics

Crowdbotics’ managed app development is a fast and easy way to add new features or build entire custom logistics apps from scratch. Our PMs and developers are experts in modern app development for tightly regulated, complex industries. If you’re planning a custom logistics software build, get in touch with one of our experts for a detailed estimate today.