Shipping API: What Is it and How it Revolutionizes The Industry
Updated 16 Oct 2022
Logistics has rapidly digitized over the past decade, and software products are helping to improve the profitability of enterprises of various sizes very well. According to ReportLinker, digitization in the logistics supply chain market is projected to reach $23,607.06 million by 2027.
Many business owners say that it is long and expensive to implement new digital solutions into pipelines without disrupting established internal processes. However, this is just a stereotype since there is a way to speed up and reduce the cost of implementation thanks to various shipping APIs.
In this article, we will discuss what it is and what benefits it brings to businesses and consider some APIs types. So, without further ado, let’s get started.
What Is Shipping API
Before talking about some specific types and examples that real companies use, it is worth starting with the basics, namely shipping API meaning.
An Application Programming Interface (API) is middleware that allows two different applications to communicate with each other without user intervention. At its core, it is a bridge between one digital solution and another that ensures uninterrupted communication between them.
However, what is such a connection for? In abstract terms, let's imagine that one program speaks Spanish, the other speaks English. It is quite difficult for them to interact because they do not understand each other. The API, in turn, is a translator who knows both Spanish and English and can pass messages between them. More technically, this is bilingual software that can freely transfer information between two interfaces of different programs to get up-to-date information.
Shipping API operations scheme
In the case of the logistics industry and specifically shipping APIs, this is a special type of integration that allows logistics management system software to interact as a whole. For example, it can be an online store union, a software for warehouse inventory management, order management systems, and advanced delivery options.
What Benefits Shipping APIs Can Bring?
Digitalization and the popularity of APIs would hardly have grown so fast if they did not benefit those who invested in their implementation. Right now, logistics enterprises that are on the cutting edge of technology are reaping the following benefits.
Lower shipping rates
Various shipping APIs offer better shipping rates due to the fact that a large number of companies provide the services. For example, some APIs will help you save on FedEx and USPS packages. As a result, you reduce operating costs and can use the saved money to develop business efficiency. They also save customers money by increasing customer satisfaction.
Reduced checkout abandonment
Reducing checkout abandonment is one of the main goals of many businesses. In addition to dissatisfaction with the visual part and the process flow, the client may not like the terms of delivery and will leave the purchase without completing it. By leveraging the improved delivery API options and rates, enterprises can offer their customers better deals. It will prevent them from leaving the shopping cart and finding another seller.
Customers want to know where the goods they ordered are located and what happens to them during delivery. Various providers allow you to implement real-time shipment tracking API in software solutions, email, or text messages. In addition to satisfying customer requests, you will reduce the burden on customer support as the total number of customer questions about the status of their packages will decrease.
Losing parcels or delivering them to non-existent addresses is a rather big problem for logistics businesses. Delivery to the right address is important to reduce costs and increase company loyalty. Having to re-deliver a returned package or send a new package is costly for businesses. What's more, delivery issues reduce customer confidence in your business. Delivery APIs can automatically check and validate addresses to which delivery will be made.
Increased overall business efficiency
APIs give a much-needed boost to a business, not just through cost savings. These are the main tools for optimizing internal processes, the significance of which is not so great, or the simplification of routine pipelines. This frees up time and money that can be used for higher business priorities.
Industries that boosted from implementing shipping APIs
What are Shipping APIs Used for in the Logistics Business?
Shipping APIs are extremely flexible and can be customized for a wide variety of logistics tasks. Proper use of these features will allow you to automate a wide range of internal processes and make them more efficient. However, before that, you should know the main features of the API in logistics that you can integrate into your business.
Creating Orders and AWB Generation
As soon as you receive notification of a new order, it must be processed and prepared for shipment by the respective service provider. This whole process is called order manifestation, which consists of many steps. Previously, all these steps had to be done manually by individual employees, but APIs allow you to automate and speed up the entire pipeline.
Once the order details are entered on the partner's shipping platform, the API creates an order, generating an AWB ID to track the order through all stages of its life. Next, a shipping label is automatically generated with all the information about the order, after which the order is transferred to the company for delivery. API automation significantly speeds up this multi-step process and provides transparency in control over the status of the order.
In addition to automating order preparation, APIs can be useful even before this process. For example, you can drive sales of certain products by showing customers the Estimated Delivery Date (EDD), which they constantly look for on pages with products of interest. The faster the possible delivery, the higher the chance that the buyer will order the goods.
However, how do such EDD APIs actually work? Everything is quite simple and complicated at the same time. The shipping API takes the pin data provided by customers on the platform and parses it against past shipment data to that delivery location by the respective delivery partners. After analyzing the data, it is possible to calculate the approximate delivery time from the location of the goods in the warehouse to the threshold of the buyer's house. Further, this data is automatically displayed in a specially allocated place on the product page, which may encourage buyers to complete the order.
Sending Tracking Updates to Customer
Order tracking is something that many logistics companies want to have in their arsenal. There are quite a few different APIs on the market that allow you to track orders. Many of them work to get tracking information from shipping partner platforms at regular intervals.
After passing each conditional "checkpoint", from packaging to delivery to the doorstep, the API passes the specified information first to the e-commerce business and then to the client. This greatly increases the transparency of the entire delivery process for both businesses and their customers. Clients automatically receive updates on the status of the package.
Сancelled Orders Management
It is difficult to imagine a logistics business without canceled orders. As a result, most companies use specialized shipping APIs that take effect as soon as a customer has requested a cancellation of an order and the e-commerce business has accepted it.
This technology automatically creates a new canceled order on the shipping partner page then starts the order back to the warehouse, regardless of the stage of the order, and plays a big role in warehouse management systems. After that, it becomes possible to track this order until it returns to the warehouse, after which it is possible to fill the inventory again with this product and sell it.
Orders can be edited, and there are quite a few parameters that can be edited, ranging from changing the delivery address to calculating discounts and much more. All updated information must be transferred to the shipping partner if the order data is edited, regardless of who does it (customer or business). After that, the order itself should be changed no matter what stage it is at.
The Non-Delivery Report (NDR) consists of several steps: a delivery failure notification, data collection from customers to ensure successful delivery, and then the transmission of new delivery instructions to the delivery partner. And integration APIs play a big role in this process as they are used to pass instructions and information received from customers to the delivery partner and hence the delivery agent. Automation significantly reduces the likelihood of losing important information at any stage.
Best Shipping APIs By Different Criteria
As we said earlier, there are quite a few different APIs designed to meet various businesses’ logistical needs. To avoid getting lost in all this diversity, we decided to break the most popular solutions into categories.
Tools to Work With Top Parcel Couriers
If you are faced with choosing which logistics giant to cooperate with, you will have a choice between market leaders in the face of UPS, DHL, FedEx, and USPS. All of them are rightfully leaders in deliveries, have thousands of offices and distribution centers and provide an extremely wide range of services. However, for better orientation:
- UPS is the oldest privately owned delivery company with the highest number of deliveries per year.
- DHL has a wide global reach but outsources US domestic shipments to other carriers like USPS.
- FedEx has a large aircraft fleet and specializes in fast delivery.
- USPS is an economical option that is great for small businesses.
We will briefly review the shipping APIs of these companies so that you can make the right choice for your business.
UPS Supply Chain APIs
UPS Supply Chain Solutions' logistics tools are well suited for large supply chains with worldwide coverage and a full range of freight forwarding services, including air, sea,, and multimodal. In addition, with these APIs, you can easily take care of warehousing, distribution, customs clearance, and insurance of your products. Users have a whole list of different APIs that help businesses:
- Create warehouse orders and pre-shipment notification
- Query your stock inventory, statuses of shipping orders and pre-shipment notices, and more
Although DHL was founded in the US, the shipping giant is currently part of Deutsche Post, headquartered in Germany, which slightly limits their influence in the US. However, at the same time, it has a fairly wide coverage, which is not limited by various sanctions and embargoes related to the United States.
In the DHL shipping API catalog, there are many digital solutions that can cover various logistics needs of businesses, such as:
- Finding the location of various points DHL pick-up and drop-off points
- Tracking the shipment and the status of the parcel
- Tools for loading and unloading forwarding documents
- Creation of shipping labels (to create labels)
- Solutions for working with DHL in Europe
- Duty and tax calculators
- Shipment booking for forwarders.
To select the right API, you should consult with DHL specialists who will recommend the ideal solution for your specific needs. In addition, the DHL Developer Portal provides you with all the necessary credentials and integration materials for free after registration.
FedEx has been around for over 50 years and is an international company with a huge reach. An interesting fact is that this company was the first to offer overnight delivery and a tracking system for shipments.
This shipping giant’s APIs are bundled into FedEx Web Services, which makes it easy to integrate them into any website that needs quality delivery services. With FedEx APIs you can:
- Get rate quotes
- Create shipping order labels
- Track packages
- Facilitate the return process
- Generate reports
Our company makes systems for such tasks, and we know from experience that if you implement such an API, you will greatly simplify the work of warehouse logisticians, packers and return managers, as our clients have already been able to with our help.
All tools are publicly available at the FedEx Developer Resource Center, along with the necessary documentation and FAQs for connecting APIs.
Learn more about logistics app development and how it boosts businesses.
USPS is a state-owned American delivery company with a fairly extensive fleet for domestic deliveries, but it connects assistance from FedEx for international deliveries.
USPS shipping APIs are also bundled into a web tool portal that allows web and proprietary application developers to access various USPS online services. And they can access a lot:
- Price calculator
- Tracking and shipping information
- Delivery label generation
- Address validation
- Drive pickups, and more
Registering and using USPS Web Tools is free if you have a business account.
Tools to Work With 3PL Companies
If your business plan does not include finding separate carriers, organizing your storage facilities, and much more, you can turn to 3PL services for help. A 3PL or third-party logistics company that manages outsourced logistics for their client and can cover activities such as warehousing, distribution, transportation, inventory management, returns management, and more.
And for this business option, there are APIs that you should pay attention to:
C.H. Robinson APIs
American company C.H. Robinson is a provider of a fairly wide range of logistics services, from delivery to transport management. This company has its own system called Navisphere, which includes various APIs that you can apply to your business. The list of tools includes:
- Market quotes and real-time delivery options
- Creation of orders and tender shipments
- Regular notifications about the status of parcels
- Viewing the movements of your supply chain
- List of available departures
- Financial instruments for invoicing
- Document flow for BOL, POD and Lumper receipts
- Creating orders and labels for parcels
DB Schenker APIs
DB Schenker, a division of the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn AG, combines air, sea, and land transport with warehouses in more than 50 countries. As a result, they are very flexible in their services and can provide them to companies from various industries.
DB Schenker has a shipping api API portal to support developers in learning, testing, and managing their APIs, which include:
- Pricing module for rate tracking
- Booking module
- Shipping instruction module
- Delivery tracking tools
- Map collection point
Such technical solutions are extremely useful for any business that needs logistics. You not only can accurately calculate shipping rates, but you can also track all your packages accurately, sharing their locations with your customers. Our company has repeatedly developed such systems in order to optimize the internal processes of e-commerce and logistics companies.
Tools to Work With Freight Forwarders
Forwarders are companies that organize the transport of goods on behalf of shippers. They do not transport the goods themselves but organize the logistics by cooperating with several carriers for different delivery methods. Unlike 3PLs, they only provide part of the service in the form of setting up delivery services for you, acting as an intermediary between you and the carrier. This is a great strategy if you are going to work with international shipping.
DSV is a Danish logistics company that is currently in the world's top three. If you choose DSV as your freight forwarder partner, you will need to work with their own myDSV developments, EDI or API. Their toolbox includes:
- Request modules for current rates
- Departure booking
- Shipment tracking
- Module for creating transport labels
The Californian company Flexport has been providing logistics services since 2013 and one of its divisions is a focus on high technology and innovation. As a result, this company has a wide enough list of shipping APIs to integrate with their platform. In addition to standard cargo reservations, status tracking, and financial and document management, they offer CO2 emissions calculations and port information. If your company is moving towards being eco-friendly, then Flexport is a great choice.
Tools for Various Shipping Options (Air, Rail, Trucking)
If you target a specific shipping method, you will need the dedicated APIs of the respective companies specializing in the relevant shipping type.
Delta Cargo APIs
Delta Cargo is a full-fledged division of Delta Airlines, which is the US air transportation giant. They offer a variety of shipping options both domestically and internationally depending on the size and weight of the shipment, as well as travel time.
Delta Cargo APIs allow shippers and freight forwarders to manage shipments directly from their own systems. Their arsenal of tools that you might find useful include:
- Trading modules for finding flights and getting current prices
- Booking APIs for creating and managing shipping orders
- Tracking tools to get real-time updates on the status of active shipments, including GPS tracking and door-to-door delivery details.
To gain access, you must complete and submit the API request form. Registration, setup and use are free.
BNSF Railway APIs
BNSF Railway is a major rail transportation player with a 32,500-mile rail network in North America. It even offers intermodal services to transport goods internationally, as well as a special train, door-to-door delivery, and other delivery options.
The set of shipping APIs of this carrier is quite standard. However, it will cover all the necessary needs of businesses that need high-quality rail transportation:
- Track shipments
- Real-time quotes
- Schedule requests
- Retrieving waybills
- Shipment status updates
J.B. Hunt APIs
J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc. is an American trucking company with a fleet of over 12,000 trucks and over 100,000 trailers and containers, making it the largest provider of this type of service in the United States. The company has its own set of APIs called JBHT and offers the following business tools:
- Cargo tracking
- Quote requests (but only for full trucks)
- Document exchange
- Transportation scheduling
- Creating, modifying, planning, and searching for orders
Learn more about fleet management and vital software for it from our recent article.
Shipping API Aggregators
If your company needs to process a lot of orders and work with several carriers, then connecting with them can turn into a challenge. However, there is a simpler solution, namely the shipping API aggregators. These platforms are integrated with several carriers, and you can easily implement them in your business in order to receive information through one channel. There are several popular solutions of this type on the market.
EasyPost is a versatile tool that will help you connect to over 100 different carriers. Their shipping APIs allow you to order shipping, compare prices, track your shipments, create labels, insure packages, and more. However, there are two pricing plans to look out for. The former is called Developer and offers 120,000 free shipments per year, while Enterprise provides unlimited shipping and additional benefits, but you'll have to contact their sales team for an offer and logistics API integration.
With over 80 different carriers in its arsenal, Shippo primarily focuses on the e-commerce sector and works with direct retailers and fulfillment companies. With Shippo's REST APIs, you'll be able to query rates and ship via multiple carriers, create labels (including alcohol shipping labels), schedule pickups, manage returns and multi-pack deliveries, and more.
In order to start using Shippo, you need to know about its pricing plans. There are 3 in total, namely a free single-user offer, a professional plan if you want to pay for a label that starts at $10 per month for up to 60 labels, and a Premier solution with an individual subscription fee.
Tools to Work With Freight Marketplaces
This is the last category on our list, and we decided to add online delivery marketplaces. They are designed to connect shippers who want to move their goods and carriers who can do so (or freight forwarders willing to arrange transportation). The way it works is very similar to booking a room on Airbnb - you enter your departure details and get a list of offers with rates and travel times that you can compare. Let's look at a couple of popular solutions.
Freightos is a digital booking platform for international transportation. This gives you quote options mostly from freight forwarders or 3PL companies, as global freight transport comes with complexities like customs clearance and multimodal shipping that carriers can't handle for you.
You can compare rates, terms, and ratings, decide who to ship with, and order delivery through Freightos.
Freightos integration provides several connectivity options:
- Marketplace APIs
- Cargo valuation
- Delivery price calculators and other tools
- Industry data on air and sea transportation
Freightos also offers Transportation as a Service for global B2B logistics to support international transport operations.
uShip is a digital marketplace that brings together shippers and carriers who specialize in moving large and heavy loads ranging from cars to livestock. It operates on a bidding basis, where transport providers bid and compete to move a customer's cargo.
uShip freight API offers business customers the ability to use their own uShip PRO shipping automation platform and book, manage and track your shipments there. In order to integrate their solutions into your business, you first need to register on their Developer Portal, after which you can receive the necessary instructions.
Shipping APIs you should pay attention to
How to Integrate Shipping API to Your Solution
The search, selection and shipping API integration is a complex process that requires both technical knowledge and certain experience in this area. Smooth and fast integration can only be achieved by connecting a reliable technical partner with experience in this domain. After all, even the most understandable documentation will not save you from the need to involve skilled developers who can implement all solutions into your workflows. And Cleveroad can help you with that.
Cleveroad is a professional software and mobile app development vendor with over 10 years of experience in the market. We have extensive experience in the Logistics industry and provide a wide range of services from the development of custom solutions to support and upgrade of legacy software.
Cleveroad in numbers:
- 10+ years on the market
- 120+ in-house engineers
- 170+ successful projects
- 8+ expertise industries
In addition to developing custom software, we are engaged in the implementation of various APIs in business systems and we will help you:
- Analyze your enterprise system
- Find the perfect API for smooth implementation and maximum value
- Deal with the technical issue of implementation
- Optimize UI/UX for efficient work with new API features
- Test the final implementation results
- Сarry out ongoing support for your product with a built-in API
If your business needs a shipping API connection to boost internal processes, just drop us a line, tell us about your idea and our solution architects and business analysts will come up with the best solution for your enterprise.
Implement the best shipping APIs
Drop us a line and our representatives will contact you to discuss implementation possibilities.
An Application Programming Interface (API) is middleware that allows two different applications to communicate with each other without user intervention. In the case of the logistics industry and specifically shipping APIs, this is a special type of integration that allows different software solutions to interact as a whole. For example, it can be an online store union, a warehouse management system, order management systems, and advanced delivery options.
Shipping APIs bring many benefits that help businesses automate internal processes and save money. One of them are lower shipping rates, reduced checkout abandonment and address validation to decrease lost parcels percentage.
There are many famous shipping companies on the market that have their own shipping APIs. For example: UPS, DHL, FedEx, USPS, Delta Cargo and many more.
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