See more of the story

More companies are experimenting with e-commerce as a way to sell and deliver goods to customers who either can’t or are less inclined to visit them in person.

C.H. Robinson is rolling out enhancements to its Freightquote service for small businesses that the company said will help owners who deal infrequently with the complexities of shipping and logistics and those who might be new to it.

The latest enhancements include a partnership with TaskRabbit that gives infrequent shippers access to TaskRabbit’s network of for-hire handymen who can do things like properly assemble orders on pallets to reduce the chance of damage during shipping.

Eden Prairie-based C.H. Robinson, the world’s largest third-party logistics provider, released Freightquote.com by C.H. Robinson last fall as a self-service option for small businesses. It gives them the ability to compare, book, track and pay for various shipping options on a simple-to-use platform.

“In the past a lot of the capabilities to really be successful within the supply chain space specifically were relegated to those larger companies who could afford teams of people to focus in this area,” said Mac Pinkerton, president of C.H. Robinson’s North American Surface Transportation business. “Small businesses just don’t have that luxury.”

Most small shippers don’t have the capability to identify, qualify and manage the contracting process of a vast carrier base. But Freightquote.com gives them the ability to leverage C.H. Robinson’s Navisphere platform, which connects hundreds of thousands of shippers and freight carriers.

With Freightquote, small shippers have an easy-to-use, web-based, mobile-ready platform that is compatible with a cellphone or tablet that walks them through various shipping options.

Alan Musser, CEO of Anthem Brewing in Oklahoma, uses Freightquote and says it’s been simple to use and helpful in managing his shipping costs. He’s used it to find best shipping options and prices for things like getting a labeling machine from a craft brewer in Vancouver and orders for 1,200 pounds of apple purée from Michigan.

“It’s really simple to use. It takes about five minutes or less,” Musser said. “Plug in their ZIP, plug in my ZIP, here’s my quote, here’s the options to use, which companies do you want to use, are their any specifics regarding the product.”

Since last fall C.H. Robinson has been gathering customer feedback on the tool and are now launching some new enhancements.

Today when a small business goes on Freightquote.com and enters shipment characteristics, they can view side by side the price to ship it small parcel or LTL common carrier, and the in-transit nuances and service capabilities between modes.

An LTL common carrier might be an affordable alternative, but there are generally more complexities to navigate, such as whether a semitrailer can make a pickup or delivery in a residential area or if the freight has to be transferred to a smaller delivery vehicle; and whether vehicles can carry perishable freight or unload heavier items using a lift gate. C.H. Robinson says the latest enhancements give shippers the ability to mitigate problems like these, avoiding unexpected costs and providing a better customer experience.

C.H. Robinson released its second quarter results last week. In a volatile quarter, he company reported revenue of $3.63 billion, down 7.2% from the same quarter last year, while adjusted earnings were $1.06 per share, down 13% year over year but better than the $0.60 per share analysts expected.

C.H. Robinson’s shares closed at $95.46 per share on Tuesday, up 2% for the day. Year-to-date its stock is up 22%, and stock has ranged between $56.94 and $99.22 over the past 52 weeks.

Patrick Kennedy • 612-673-7926