Brokers tapping consumer tech to extend value for small shippers

Brokers tapping consumer tech to extend value for small shippers

Freight brokers can connect with enterprise shippers through transportation management system integrations but are using third-party service enticements to lure smaller shippers. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Freight brokers are taking the unusual step of offering value-added services such as third-party accounting software and independent contractor marketplaces to lure small and mid-sized shippers as customers.

C.H. Robinson on Tuesday said it has set up a partnership that connects its self-service brokerage tool Freightquote with TaskRabbit, a database of independent contractors available to do ad hoc projects such as furniture assembly, handiwork, and moving help.

Another broker, Uber Freight, on Monday said it has tied up with the widely used accounting software provider Intuit to allow shippers to get discounted access to QuickBooks Online to review and pay freight invoices.

Both partnerships can be seen through the lens of brokers wanting to broaden their reach and stickiness into segments of the market that have traditionally been less relationship-based.

“We know that many small business owners today face unprecedented challenges,” Mac Pinkerton, president of C.H. Robinson’s North American surface transportation division, said in a statement. “That is why we built these new digital enhancements using our unmatched scale, information advantage and technology.”

The TaskRabbit partnership allows shippers to hire a TaskRabbit-registered contractor to package or palletize shipments, move shipments to a convenient location for carrier pick-up, or help with moving and unpacking shipments.

The contractors can be booked in tandem with the freight booked through Freightquote, which allows shippers to instantly receive quotes and book truckload and less-than-truckload (LTL) capacity. Freightquote has also added the ability to get instant quotes and booking for parcel and temperature-controlled shipments, C.H. Robinson said.

Smoother invoicing process

Uber Freight’s agreement with QuickBooks is designed to allow small shippers to more easily manage the freight invoice payment process related to shipments booked through Uber Freight’s mobile platform. The partnership is one of a number Intuit has created with various commercial entities providing free access or discounted rates. Uber Freight, which provides instant truckload capacity to shippers, is the only logistics provider among the partners.

The QuickBooks invoice management feature is available through an application programming interface (API) on the Uber Freight platform. It allows shippers to automatically receive and pay their Uber Freight invoices from within their QuickBooks Online portal.

Shippers cannot automatically flow invoices from other brokers or carriers into QuickBooks, so the solution is likely best suited for shippers that predominantly or wholly use Uber Freight as their broker.

“Manual invoicing and bill payment can be time-consuming and tedious processes for many small businesses that don’t have a dedicated accounts payable team,” Uber Freight said in a blog post announcing the partnership. “This integration enables auto-invoicing for our platform users that use [QuickBooks Online], improving invoicing timeliness, review, tracking and payments. Uber Freight shippers that use [QuickBooks Online] will be able to link their Uber Freight account into their [QuickBooks Online] environment and begin managing their invoices.”

Both companies are offering financial incentives to use the other product, with current QuickBooks Online users receiving $500 off their first shipment with Uber Freight and current Uber Freight shippers getting a 40 percent discount on the first year of QuickBooks Online. 

Contact Eric Johnson at eric.johnson@ihsmarkit.com and follow him on Twitter: @LogTechEric.