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Product Review – BoxC, e-commerce logistics management platform

e-commerce (Electronic Commerce) is the act of buying and selling goods or services on the internet, including the transfer of funds to the seller or service provider..

e-commerce is said to have first started in 1994 with the sale of a CD of “Ten Summoner’s Tales”.. This was the first real-life case of a consumer purchasing a product from a business using the internet..

As per emarketer, this year, worldwide ecommerce sales will exceed $5 trillion for the first time, accounting for more than a fifth of overall retail sales.. Despite slowing growth, total spending will surge past $7 trillion by 2025..

Currently, there are 4, widely known/used e-commerce business models

  • B2B model where a business sells products/services to another business
  • B2C model where businesses sell products/services to consumers
  • C2C model where consumers sell products/services to each other
  • C2B model where consumers sell products/services to businesses

Creating and managing your own e-commerce business, however, can be quite cumbersome as several elements are needed to cater to any of the business models..

One of the most critical elements of any e-commerce business is logistics.. E-commerce retailers need access to logistics networks to ensure fast and seamless delivery..

Businesses that want to manage their own e-commerce business from start to finish, rather than using Amazon’s FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon), for example, have two options:

  1. Build and manage their own network of logistics service providers
  2. Outsource the delivery function to an LLP (Lead Logistics Service Provider)

Regardless of the selected route, the need for an e-commerce logistics platform is evident in both instances. These platforms bring logistics stakeholders (first and last mile carriers, courier services, clearing agents, postal operators, freight forwarders, fulfillment centers) together and provide the required shopping experience..

Here is my review of BoxC, an e-commerce logistics management platform built for both, e-commerce retailers and logistics service providers..

BoxC is an e-commerce logistics management platform that claims to simplify every last detail of e-commerce logistics using a single API. It incorporates a global network of shipping and logistics services and integrates customs clearance, customs duties (depending on the delivery mode chosen), taxes, and dangerous items pre-screening..

Using BoxC, retailers from small to enterprise level can build their own e-commerce logistics platform with a ready-to-roll infrastructure to launch or expand any e-commerce business globally, without upfront costs..

Similarly, logistics service providers can use BoxC to build their e-commerce logistics platform to manage their clients’ e-commerce shipments..

How do they do this..??

To start off, it seems with a blank canvas.. User does not need to download any software to use the system.. The web-based interface allows the user to create an account and onboard themselves fairly easily through the company’s website https://boxc..com/..

The services offered by BoxC are

  • Shipping
  • Returns and
  • Fulfillment
  • API

All these services are linked to a one-time profile set up for the company which sets the tone for all activities on the site..

Ship by BoxC

The Ship by BoxC option allows customers to set up their e-commerce logistics platform to ship products from selected origins to selected destinations including handling of customs clearance on the selected routes.. 

BoxC has predetermined carriers built into the route selection and these carriers will be used for the selected shipping mode.. 

When users create a shipment with all the valid and relevant packages and other details, the system automatically creates the relevant shipment labels.. 

Insignificant or obvious as it sounds, a shipping label is one of the key factors of an e-commerce business and is required by everyone in the chain.. It forms an integral part of the supply chain and ensures the package reaches the desired destination.. 

The labels include crucial information such as the recipient’s address, contact details, sender details, return address and all relevant information used to track the package from despatch to delivery..

Returns by BoxC

Research indicates that the global reverse logistics market size was valued at USD 840.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12..4% from 2022 to 2028..

Returns by BoxC module helps companies with their reverse logistics enabling the return of products to BoxC’s collection centers in the United States.. Once received, customers have the option to store, process and reship the package to another customer for a subscription fee..

At this time returns can only be sent to specific return addresses in the USA, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada.. Returns from the rest of the world can only be sent to a default BoxC location in the USA from where customers have the option to verify and/or reship the packages to another location.. 

For reshipments to other locations, users also cannot create the all-important shipment labels using the BoxC platform at this time, but can create labels for reshipping the returned or undeliverable parcels with an updated address to a fulfillment center or warehouse..

This functionality needs to be added by BoxC as research indicates an increasing adoption of reverse logistics by numerous companies which is expected to drive the global market over the forecast period..

Fulfilment by BoxC

Fulfilment by BoxC is seemingly designed to give vendors the option of storing products in warehouses operated by BoxC while allowing them to fulfill orders across the world..

But the process of adding products or a shop seems a bit complicated for the average user as it deals a lot with codes to be used and is designed more for data import/transfer than creating on the fly on the site.. When adding products there is an option to create HS code, but there is no dropdown or list available to select from the available HS codes although the site makes clear reference that “Misclassifying products can result in delays, penalties, and confiscation by Customs..”

Although the site indicates that users can download instructions related to Fulfilment by BoxC and how to go about it, there is no link to these instructions..

These glitches would need to be addressed to make the system more efficient..

API by BoxC

Perhaps the most exhaustive and clearest part of the site is the API documentation segment.. API or Application Programming Interface allows users to integrate all above mentioned services with their existing technology allowing customers to create their own customised solution to handle larger volumes..

The seamless API integration uses application/json content type transmitted over secure hypertext transfer protocols and allows the use of any programming language for interaction..

BoxC’s customizable, scalable technology using the single API allows customers to  become a part of a go-to growth strategy for international e-commerce without the need to integrate with multiple, fragmented service and data providers.. This single integration allows the user to have all the tools needed to expand internationally..

Complicated compliance details continues to be a huge challenge for many users around the world as the requirements are constantly changing.. BoxC’s integration with global compliance requirements ensures that their platform is constantly updated with global compliance regulations such as customs clearance requirements, duty information and changes depending on the importing country, local taxes..

Although the system has the option to check for dangerous goods, the list is restrictive and provides only a few options for customers.. However, BoxC did advise me that additional dangerous goods can be added on request..

BoxC manages the compliance, processing, sorting, linehaul, customs clearance, taxes and duties, and last mile delivery based on their relationship with the various service providers on the selected routes.. 

BoxC brings a growing list of service providers essential for international e-commerce logistics under one platform.. The strength of the platform lies in the fact that the list includes

  • first and last mile carriers from origin and destination points,
  • parcel insurance,
  • airlines,
  • customs brokers and agencies,
  • warehouses, and
  • data providers

Using these providers, customers can create routes for each origin and destination dynamically and the system can also be customized to an individual customer which is especially useful for repeat customers..

All the routes incorporate the requirements and costs of each service provider in the chain and all the information is made available to the user once the shipment has been created..  All that the user needs to do is create a shipment (either directly or via API) and select the route based on cost and speed of delivery..

Any city with minimal shipping volume can be an entry point and currently BoxC has 20 international entry and 30 international exit points through which packages are processed, cleared at customs and transferred to carriers for last mile deliveries. BoxC offers last mile delivery options to over 50 countries, and is growing, using one or more last mile carrier options..

BoxC’s advantage lies in its differentiation.. The BoxC platform provides an alternative to the limited technology and interoperability of the systems run by postal operators.. These systems more often have limitations and variability as they were not built for e-commerce making it an unreliable choice for e-commerce retailers..

On the other spectrum, e-commerce integrators like FedEx, UPS, DHL are much too expensive for B2C parcels while consolidators require substantial investments in time and money to achieve the technology and infrastructure required to cater to the e-commerce market..

Users have the option to pick from below options when getting a cost estimate instantaneously..

  • BoxC Parcel which delivers between 3-6 Business Days;
  • BoxC Plus which delivers between 2-5 Business Days ; or
  • BoxC Priority which delivers between 1-3 Business Days

The option to make the shipment payments is another strong point as users have the option to pay as they go which provides e-commerce businesses the flexibility to scale rapidly and compete globally without the upfront costs and risks of traditional expansion..

Users will always only pay for what they use, and the site provides real-time information when calculating shipment estimates..

Unlike many other platforms in this space, BoxC does not have any minimums or committed cargo volumes from customers.. The versatility of the system is that customers can join without upfront capital investment or commitments, paying only for the services they need..

Loss of shipments and parcels are common in e-commerce and customers would be better off with some level of protection.. BoxC offers this protection through their system so customers don’t have to go out of the way to take a separate cover..

BoxC’s inbuilt XCover Protection seems to address all the key requirements for an essential cover against theft, loss or damage during transit up to $10,000.. Although it is not much, shipments below $30 are automatically protected free of charge and anything above that can be chosen at the time of creating the shipment and the rates are indicated in the estimate..

I do, however, have an issue with the delivery terms offered – DDU and DDP.. Since DDU and DDP are commonly understood as part of Incoterms, it would be good if the “version” of the Incoterms is indicated, like whether it is Incoterms 2010 or 2020 as even the older versions can still be used.. Clients and BoxC could find themselves in dispute if this is not clarified, especially since in Incoterms 2020, the rule DDU has been replaced..

BoxC allows the users to choose from existing transport and clearing service providers both at origin and destination and also provides customers the option to add on more local service providers on demand, from first mile to last mile..

BoxC by default seems to favor and use local service providers both at origin and destination and based on a recent personal experience, such options will be welcomed by many customers..

I had a recent experience where I ordered something from a small e-commerce enterprise in the USA for delivery to South Africa.. The label and tracking details I received showed one of the big-name companies as the last mile delivery company.. I spent a few days on their website trying to track down the parcel and even their “local” office could not help beyond what was on their site and kept referring me back to the e-commerce vendor..!!

Eventually, I was contacted by the local postal service who had the parcel for several days and it would have been good if the e-commerce vendor knew/told me about it.. So BoxC’s strategy of using local service providers for the various locations is a solid one..

Summary

COVID-19 has shown the indispensable nature of e-commerce in terms of driving sales guided by the need for customers to shop online..

e-commerce businesses that find themselves with a strong digital presence have a great competitive advantage over their peers who did not invest in a robust e-commerce offering..

The global Courier, Express & Parcel (CEP) market is currently worth USD429 billion out of which CEP E-commerce Cross-border Market is worth USD32 billion and many players are competing in this market..

BoxC - e-commerce logistics management platform

Sandy Shen, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner said, “The complexity of setting up a digital commerce platform makes it difficult to roll out quickly. It takes months and sometimes even almost a year to have the platform ready for customers. In the current scenario, however, time is of the essence for businesses to jump-start their digital commerce platforms, if they haven’t done so already.

BoxC’s offering addresses this complexity quite nicely through its scalable and flexible technology which helps businesses set up and manage their e-commerce platform quickly and easily go global.. 

BoxC is positioned within a growing multibillion-dollar market and as an independent e-commerce logistics management platform, while BoxC can provide the customer with a fulfilling and personalized customer experience, the customer may need to have a good level of technical expertise.. 

Having said that, customer onboarding is quick and if you have an API, the setup of your e-commerce site is relatively trouble-free and quick.. The platform is simple and easy to use and comes with easy-to-understand support documentation which is essential..

With a bit of an upgrade in terms of UX, and once the issues mentioned above are fixed, BoxC’s e-commerce logistics management platform has enough elements to compete with some of the leading e-commerce logistics management platforms currently..

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