COVID-19 is responsible for a lot of change. From shelter-in-place orders, to social distancing practices, to cautious healthcare processes, and even to the way we buy things, our lives have been completely altered. The global shift to ecommerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) deliveries is one specific trend that’s accelerated a lot quicker throughout the course of the pandemic than many shippers, retailers, and their logistics partners were expecting.

As people found themselves stuck at home, shopping behaviors and consumer preferences began to rapidly transition from traditional brick-and-mortar business to a frenzy of online sales. It’s been particularly difficult for shippers and retailers to figure out how to adjust their distribution processes to meet the needs of today’s consumers. In the past, companies relied on historical data to determine their next move; however, this approach is no longer a viable option with all of the current industry disruptions.

At this point, many companies are really starting to feel the weight of their operational inefficiencies. To prevent unnecessary supply chain costs and service failures, and thrive in this new post-pandemic reality, here’s ways shippers need to respond to the “new normal” of shipping.

Diversify Your Fulfillment Network

Having a limited number of warehouses and carriers in your fulfillment network won’t cut it anymore. Speed has become key in ecommerce and acts as a major competitive advantage for companies. If you take a look at wildly successful industry leaders like Amazon, you can see that their one-day Prime service wouldn’t work without the support of a complex and diverse fulfillment network.

Maximizing flexibility in your shipping processes is now essential when any one of your facilities could shut down at a moment’s notice and it’s become a struggle to find available capacity from your regular carrier. Shippers that have more fulfillment flexibility will be able to ultimately access more capacity and assume less risk as a result.

Create Better Partnerships

You can’t do it all on your own. Third-party logistics providers (3PL) that have state-of-the-art technology that can help shippers seamlessly move to an online environment, especially for companies that are currently too cash-strapped to develop their own internal platform. By leveraging a 3PL’s advanced technology and automated ecommerce processes as well as their established network and expertise, you can improve shipping efficiency, increase visibility, optimize order management, expand your brand’s reach, and boost profits.

Tech-enabled partners with the right infrastructure can help with other supply chain improvements, like better inventory management as well as faster receiving and put-away times. 3Pls providing asset-based services like port drayage transportation near your key ports of entry are also valuable.

This Looks to Be a Long-Term Trend

Retailers who are seeing growth in their DTC business requires them to specifically find partners who understand that business. Having the experience to manage DTC distribution requires an ability to manage what are typically smaller order-sizes, but at higher volumes. Clearly, speed and accuracy remain a top priority.

It’s important to make sure you’re sufficiently prepared to handle the way the shipping industry is evolving. Don’t wait until it’s too late to start assessing how you should respond to the “new normal.”