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What Logistics and Warehouse Businesses Should Learn From Amazon’s Mistakes During the Pandemic

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What Logistics and Warehouse Businesses Should Learn From Amazon’s Mistakes During the Pandemic

Amazon has dominated the COVID-19 news because of its ability to get some medical supplies and the reliance of people on ecommerce to protect them as they shop. It’s been a good time for the company’s financials, with significant increases in sales and secure positioning for its other services.

Unfortunately for Amazon, it was also in the news because of product mishaps, fulfillment concerns, worker illnesses, and poor handling of concerns. What the brand did, and didn’t do, can be a useful guide for smaller warehouse and logistics companies to follow.

The best lessons are from Amazon’s mistakes because few 3PLs and service companies are big enough to survive similar mishaps.

Take care of your partners

Amazon faced a tough situation, just like all of us. We all got some things wrong. The hope is that they won’t turn into long-standing issues. For Amazon, it’s unclear if that’s the case, but the thing with the most significant potential for prolonged harm is how it communicated and worked with its partners.

The biggest misstep from a partner standpoint would be when it announced a halt to accepting shipments from some third-party sellers and gave little guidance on what this meant. Sellers flooded Amazon’s forums to ask questions, and rumors spread just as fast as valid answers. People were upset, scared for their businesses, and frustrated that Amazon might not be a viable marketplace in the future.

While Amazon did eventually move back to allowing all third-party shipments for its FBA program, some harm has been done. Companies are looking at moving to do their own fulfillment — which was rewarded by the Amazon AI at some points during the pandemic — to prevent any future move from Amazon bringing an entire small business to a halt.

Amazon may be trying to tackle some of that relationship harm with efforts like waiving some storage fees or supporting more fulfillment operations. Still, it’s unclear how much harm happened.

Diversify and simplify when you can

An estimated one-third of top Amazon sellers are in China. It is believed to source some of its own products from China, and many of its smaller sellers also get products or drop-ship directly from the region. The spread of the pandemic and closure of factories, as well as shipping issues, then hit Amazon and its sellers quite hard.

Different points at the supply chain all ran out of goods or production capabilities, which started limiting what was available and hurt revenue for everyone involved. Diversifying sources and partners, both in goods and location, could have mitigated some of this risk.

Logistics professionals should look at regional needs and concerns right now. Identify where your product lines could struggle and if there are potential replacements for materials. If you’re a 3PL or providing other warehouse services, consider expanding to multiple locations. This can help you get goods to the end-customer faster as well as protecting fulfillment operations during COVID and similar black swan events.

Safeguarding people is just the minimum

At least seven of Amazon’s employees have died from the coronavirus, and the company has been very unclear about how many others have become ill. There is a new lawsuit by employees around the company’s contact tracing and potential exposure of employees — worth noting that the lawsuit doesn’t seek damages, just an injunction forcing Amazon to follow public health standards.

Throughout the pandemic, Amazon has taken heat for how it has treated its workers. This covered safety equipment and protections, sick leave and sending people home, and how it responded to labor demands. And, much of the anger is deserved.

The pandemic is scary and should be taken seriously. It was Amazon’s responsibility to make its employees feel like they were taken care of and protected.

Hopefully, this has served as a wakeup call for logistics and warehouse businesses. Your people matter, far beyond just what they contribute to the health of your business. There’s also a good chance your business will be judged by how you treat your teams. The world now makes much of this information public, too, if you need that extra layer of fear to get going and ensure your teams are safe, protected, and following the right policies.

Protect long-term customers and your business model

Consumers are spending more money on Amazon and shopping more often, largely due to the pandemic, but they’re not as happy about it. People saying they were either “very” or “extremely” satisfied with Amazon’s service fell from 73% to 64% from June 2019 to now.

The biggest frustrations have been delays in shipping and unavailable products. People view that they’re paying for the service, and its interrupted supply chain is still creating waves. Prime shoppers aren’t able to get the fast, two-day shipping on all purchases, despite being the most lucrative customers. Amazon has actually seen a decline in customer satisfaction over the last five years, according to that same report.

Growing discontent is a threat. Logistics and warehouse businesses don’t have the size of Amazon or the weight to throw around. If your customers aren’t getting what they’re paying for, they’ll move on to another service provider. The same is true if you’re late, damaging goods, or getting orders wrong. There are few real alternatives to Amazon, but there are many alternatives to all of us.

That’s perhaps the most important lesson in all of this for the logistics profession. Amazon needs to learn it before a genuine rival rises to compete, but it’s a good focus for warehouses starting today.

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Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an ecommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of ecommerce. He has years of experience in ecommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.

supermarkets

From Physical Retail to Online Business: Marketing and Logistics Principles for Supermarkets

Supermarkets and retailers around the world began distributing goods via order channels over a decade ago, often as a future-oriented addition to a minor business segment, complementing standard services. As such, ordering online and receiving groceries via delivery is nothing new. Caught off-guard by the COVID-19 outbreak, however, supermarkets and food-retailers today are facing the challenge of switching their business model from physical retail to online order and delivery with unprecedented urgency. With physical distancing measures in place across entire countries, people increasingly prefer to avoid purchasing their groceries as walk-in customers to safeguard their health and well-being.

In this situation, the supermarket industry finds itself in a fundamentally altered market environment. The changes required from them are profound. Their typical infrastructure, such as buildings and storage centers, was strategically designed to walk customers through a supermarket, positioning products on shelves as per marketing and product placement logic, factors that become obsolete in an online retail world. What matters now is safe, reliable, and fast supply of customers’ online orders via dedicated distribution services. Logistics is at the core of addressing these challenges and the interface between marketing and logistics indeed becomes vital for fast implementation in the current scenario.

For a swift short-term switch, the prerequisites are two-fold: On the one hand, the supply of selected products needs to be covered either through local production or through available imports. On the other, a functioning online ordering front-end needs to be made available to customers. Yet, especially for supermarkets, it is the seamless and efficient operation of the “pick and packing” functionality that has now become the bottleneck.

This has several consequences that can be addressed: First, online supermarkets cannot provide the full portfolio of goods to their customers, at least for the time being. Sales analysis is required to meaningfully reduce the portfolio of products available online, and hence decrease the complexity of assembling orders later on. Amid the current circumstances, food and canned products will have higher importance than non-food items, and any of the latter to be upheld would need to be chosen sensibly. While customers may have less choice, portfolio reduction will help significantly in maintaining capacity for faster, more reliable physical delivery.

Second, shortened product portfolios can be divided into two categories: High runners and low runners. High runners are regularly purchased in high volumes, and their turnaround is quick. Low runners might be appealing in the physical retail world, but have less meaning in the current landscape. Third, high-running products within a simplified offering need to be stored differently for now. Usually, they would be placed decentralized along strategic points throughout the supermarket to attract attention. In a recalibrated setup, identified high runners need to be stored centrally in a dedicated area of the market where employees have unhindered access for fast “pick and packing”. Fourth, the commissioning time needed for workers to assemble an incoming order, needs to be kept as low as possible by minimizing physical distances required to walk.

Fifth, in packing the online orders received and getting them ready for dispatch, standardized package box sizes can be used to further reduce complexity. Just like in a game of “Tetris”, utilizing uniform cubic sizes will allow for packages to be stored in delivery vehicles in the most effective fashion. This is particularly relevant for food retailers that do not rely on third-party logistics providers for reasons of quality and food safety assurance.

Sixth, physical delivery of the commissioned orders should be prioritized and planned in a calculated way. Typical linear concepts such as “first order in, first delivery out,” will not be efficient under the current circumstances. Seventh, because of the reduced product portfolio, the products offered should not be static, but optimized on a regular basis. In other words, the now required short-term shift should not limit the industry to short-term thinking. Requiring customers to order in excess of minimum order amounts, imposing high delivery charges, expecting customers to accept long delivery times, accepting the jamming of orders, amongst others pitfalls – all of which we are currently witnessing internationally, can be avoided by emphasizing the outlined marketing and logistics principles.

While it is clear that supermarkets are at the heart of consumer goods supply during the current pandemic, it would not be reasonable to compare them with established online giants such as Amazon and others. Their business model and logistical setups are different, from the outset. This naturally calls for customers to exercise patience and good-will with their supermarkets for a while. Supermarkets are logistical hubs, run by people, for people, through people, even if for the time being, they may appear as an anonymous online screen only.

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Frank Himpel is a faculty member of the Engineering Management and Decision Sciences division at College of Science and Engineering at Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar. Prior to moving to Qatar with his family in 2018, Frank served as a professor of business administration and logistics in Germany, where he also received his academic degrees. His research into aviation and air transportation management has taken him to several countries around the world.

 About Hamad Bin Khalifa University

Innovating Today, Shaping Tomorrow

Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development (QF), was founded in 2010 as a research-intensive university that acts as a catalyst for transformative change in Qatar and the region while having global impact. Located in Education City, HBKU is committed to building and cultivating human capacity through an enriching academic experience, innovative ecosystem, and unique partnerships. HBKU delivers multidisciplinary undergraduate and graduate degrees through its colleges, and provides opportunities for research and scholarship through its institutes and centers. For more information about HBKU, visit www.hbku.edu.qa.

order

WFH? Here’s How to Manage your Ecommerce Order Deliveries Successfully.

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus has turned the whole world upside down. No one is sure about anything anymore. And that scares us. Luckily, the culture of remote working has been catching on. There are a gazillion tools that help you get rid of the snags of WFH. Regardless, managing your team as an ecommerce business owner remotely is no joke. Especially during a time when you cannot afford to lose business or customers.

Here’s a cheat sheet to stay on top of your orders in the age of social distancing.

1. Real-time shipment monitoring: The good news is that there is a greater push for shopping online. More and more customers are seeking comfort in the ease of ordering products online. In the US, there has been a surge in the ecommerce order volume for health and beauty products. The real challenge is staying on top of order fulfillment. You need a unified portal that tracks and monitors your packages in real-time. While your logistics team may be efficient, it is prudent to have visibility into shipment details. A real-time shipment tracking system that feeds you with the total shipments, total deliveries, potential delivery exceptions for every single day at all times. A real-time tracker is a great way to oversee your team’s order fulfillment efficiency with zero manual intervention.

2. Real-time Delivery updates: Your customers are anxious about their orders. More than ever before. If you see a sharp rise in the “ Where is my order” calls to customer support, rest assured, it is the new normal. Instead of overburdening your lean support team, send delivery updates to your customer proactively. Inform your customers of the order location. Auto-set triggers to initiate notification for any change in the shipment transit activity. Your customer stays in the know of the order shipment status at all times.

3. Custom exception notifications: Delivery exceptions are a downer. Lost, delays, damages can ruin your customer’s delivery experience. When left unattended, a bad delivery experience could quickly spiral out of control. To salvage this situation, act immediately. Whenever your real-time tracker notifies you of a potential disaster, come clean and inform your customer.

“Hey Mike. We regret to inform you that your order [ tracking# 887676756454] is experiencing a delay. But we assure you that we are working with our shipping partner to get the order to you at the earliest. Thanks”

Surprisingly, buyers are quite understanding and more cooperative once they are informed of any issue beforehand. In fact, your customers appreciate your transparency.

4. Carrier performance monitoring: When your business is fulfilling orders using more than one shipping carrier, how do you evaluate them. Even global carriers such as FedEx, UPS or DHL have their share of strengths and weaknesses. How do you play to the carrier’s strength so as to benefit the most? Easy. Measure their on-time delivery performances. Categorize their OTD across different zones, different days of the week and different package dimensions. Or simply plug into an Audit tool that can generate all this for you.

5. Cost-saving recommendations: Companies across the world are laying off employees. There is a huge drive for cost-cutting across organizations. Brick and Mortar stores are brainstorming ways to omnichannelise their user experience. The least you can do as an ecommerce business owner is to audit your shipping invoices. If you have not automated your auditing process yet, time to reconsider. An in-depth invoice audit not only results in instant savings on your shipping costs by disputing service and billing errors, but they also unearth strategies to optimize your shipping spend. The need of the hour is to shave away all the payment excesses and billing overcharges.

AuditShipment is an automated invoice audit service that identifies more than 50 carrier errors across vendors, disputes billing errors, validate tariff rate against SLA and offers benchmark discount reports. They also help get you refunds on late shipments from vendors like UPS, FedEx, etc. In addition to offering post-order fulfillment audits, our advanced technology also offers real-time shipment tracking and custom delivery notifications. With AuditShipment, stay on top of your orders at all times.

online

PREVENTING TRADE IN ONLINE FAKES

Online Buyer Beware

U.S. consumers spent over $600 billion dollars with U.S. merchants online in 2019. For consumers, online shopping is enticing for its convenience. With credit card in hand, shoppers can easily compare prices, make a purchase, and have the products shipped directly to their homes. The ability to sell online has transformed the ways in which manufacturers, shippers and retailers conduct business.

The evolution from brick and mortar to online stores has also made it more convenient for illegitimate businesses and criminals to pass off counterfeit products, which has attracted the attention of the U.S. government. Since November 2019, a flurry of government activity has focused on protecting consumers in the e-commerce environment.

Trade in fake goods 3.3 percent of world trade

Political Hue and Cry

The Senate Finance Committee examined online counterfeit goods last November when it issued a bipartisan report highlighting two key fact findings: U.S. businesses have difficulties preventing the sale of counterfeit goods online, and e-commerce platforms have no affirmative obligation to police counterfeit goods listings or to proactively remove suspected counterfeit items.

In January, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a report titled Combating Trafficking in Counterfeit and Pirated Goods, in which DHS found that e-commerce has contributed to a shift in the sale of counterfeit goods in the United States. As consumers increasingly purchase goods online, counterfeiters are increasingly producing a wider variety of goods that may be sold on websites alongside authentic products. The report adds that American consumers shopping on e-commerce platforms and online third-party marketplaces now face a significant risk of purchasing counterfeit or pirated goods.

A week after the release of the DHS report, the White House issued an Executive Order “Ensuring Safe and Lawful E-Commerce for U.S. Consumers, Businesses, Government Supply Chains, and Intellectual Property Rights Holders”. The Order implicates express carriers and the international postal system as contributing to the problem of imports of contraband and counterfeit goods.

American brands 24 percent of fake products seized

House Bill 6058, the SHOP SAFE Act of 2020, was introduced in early March in the House of Representatives. The bill proposes to impose contributory trademark infringement liability on e-commerce platforms unless they take steps specified in the legislation. The legislation received immediate support from several prominent industry associations.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association’s CEO stated that “more needs to be done to prevent counterfeit products from unknowingly entering the homes of American families.” In support of the bill, the CEO of the Personal Care Products Council stated that “counterfeit personal care products damage businesses, disregard regulatory protection and more importantly threaten consumers’ health and safety,” adding the Council encourages “Congress to establish a system that makes online marketplaces and others responsible for ensuring that products on their platforms comply with U.S. laws and regulations”.

Two days later, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) stated that the convenience of e-commerce “has come at a devastating price: a proliferation of dangerous counterfeit goods that endanger consumers and property, and an army of counterfeit merchants from overseas that undermine American small businesses with unscrupulous tactics.”

Counterfeit medicines

Hiding on Plain Sites

In general, the owners of intellectual property (copyrights, trademarks, patents) have had a lot to say about the online platforms and marketplaces that host e-commerce. As summarized in the Senate Finance Committee’s report, e-commerce platforms place the burden of policing and enforcing intellectual property (IP) on the IP owners, suggesting they do not have a duty to police counterfeit listings or proactively remove suspected counterfeit goods from platforms.

The proposed SHOP SAFE Act of 2020 would place a greater burden on platforms. By taking steps outlined in the legislation, platforms would be able to avoid liability for IP violations.

During the week the SHOP SAFE Act was introduced and a hearing held to address the issue of e-commerce threats to consumers and the economy, a technology company, PreClear, announced it is using “technology that pushes out the border and prevents infringing goods and potentially harmful goods from being exported to the U.S.” PreClear’s founder is quoted as saying that the technology is in use 24/7 and rejects thousands of non-compliant items daily.

There is no doubt that the sheer volume of infringing and other non-compliant merchandise available to consumers on the internet begs for a solution. The question is whether protection and enforcement begin after the items are in the stream of commerce in the United States or before the items ship to the United States. One of the missing variables in the trade policy equation remains how to prevent infringing items from leaving the country of origin in the first instance.

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Tim Trainer was an attorney-advisor at the U.S. Customs Service and U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. He is a past president of the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition. Tim is now the principal at Global Intellectual Property Strategy Center, P.C., and Galaxy Systems, Inc.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Republished with permission.

MODEX 2020 Day One: Millennials and Their Impact on Distribution

Day one of this year’s MODEX event kicked-off with its anticipated array of technology solutions in action and hundreds of global companies sharing the latest and greatest impacting the supply chain. From warehousing and robotics to transportation and packaging, just about every moving part of the supply chain represented a part of the show.

Keynote speakers such as Michael Roe, Senior Account Executive at DMW&H, took on challenges specific to the distribution and ecommerce sector: millennials.

The generational differences brought to the ecommerce market have shaken the way distributors approach customer adaptation. Furthermore, distributors are now challenged to balance multiple consumer demands while remaining relevant. Roe explains:

“Millennials changed retail because of the way they shop. Millennials value culture, experience, and they value the value of the experience. Although it may seem new, it may not be so new.”

“Distribution practices have changed because we have to adapt to the customer base. If you understand what your customer wants, you have to change your distribution and understand how it’s going to work.”

He goes onto explain that during the early days of ecommerce, companies like Amazon (known to-date as the fastest company to reach $100 billion in sales) changed that model and took the stores out of the equation. This effort was a strategy used by ecommerce companies to reinvent the consumer’s shopping and comparison experience by adding ease and convenience. Amazon created a presence everywhere through its distribution centers – they were simply found everywhere. To this day, Amazon continues to expand its footprint with the help of automation.

For the modern consumer, the days of mall visits are a thing of the past for some, while for others in the same consumer pool prefer the option of both ecommerce and the traditional store model. Baby boomers typically still prefer the in-store experience with 84 percent confirming this preference. They want their product when they leave and aren’t keen on the idea of waiting for something already paid for.

Meanwhile, Gen X prefers the option of comparison-shopping while reaping the benefits of maximized value. Millennials demand a hybrid model offering a complex blend of what Boomers and Gen X’ers seek. And they want it for a competitive price. Navigating this shift has left some scratching their head as they identify the most adaptable approach.

At the end of the day, it boils down to understanding the customer and identifying the best approach to navigating the balance of consumer demands. The millenials concept isn’t all that new at all. in fact, generational changes have always been present, it’s all a matter of anticipating these changes and preparing the solution accordingly. Roe concluded that “Every generation has changed their shopping preferences. With each generation comes faster response times to customer preferences.”

KC SmartPort

KC SmartPort Shares Leading Differentiators for its Ecommerce Surge

Known as the “hub for food logistics” in the Midwest, the Kansas City region boasts a unique approach to economic development. KC SmartPort – a nonprofit economic development organization – focuses on attracting freight-based businesses to the region through its streamlined efforts in workforce development, real estate opportunities, and thriving logistics-focused operations. The Kansas City region recently reported substantial growth in ecommerce and distribution companies establishing operations in the area with these companies planning to invest $1.3 billion and aiming for the creation of seven thousand jobs. KC SmartPort president Chris Gutierrez and his team attended the Dallas RILA/LINK 2020 conference as exhibitors and shared the latest and greatest developments emerging in the Kansas City region.

“With online sales increasing every year, companies have really been focusing on their omnichannel strategy. The Kansas City region is centrally located and offers a robust transportation infrastructure from road, air, rail and water, ultimately supporting the ability for businesses to reach 88-90 percent of the population in about two days. This really lends itself as a successful strategy around ecommerce,” said Chris Gutierrez, president of KC SmartPort.

“Since 2012, we’ve had over 40 million square feet of industrial buildings built primarily on spec because the ecommerce companies will go through a peak season and if they hit their numbers, they need to be in the next building within a certain time frame to hit next year’s peak. If they don’t have a building to move into, then the opportunity is lost. That’s something our region has been very successful in supporting,” he added.

Among big-name ecommerce and distribution companies that made the move to the Kansas City region in 2019 include Wal-Mart, Hostess, Amazon, CVS Pharmacy, Overstock.com, Tool Source Warehouse, and more. Part of this surge in ecommerce, automotive, and retailers is dually supported by the region’s balancing of business and workforce development efforts.

“What we are doing locally is a three-step process. First, we create an awareness buzz at the elementary and high schools and community colleges around supply chain jobs that serve as career opportunities with great benefits and growth options rather than just filling a position. The second part of local efforts involves public transportation, rideshare, and other mobility solutions to support getting the employee to the job site.”

“The third leg of this approach is encouraging employers to critically think about workplace culture. We take it a step further and educate employers of the importance of the first week during onboarding, eliminating the desire to go to the next company offering a quarter more in pay but offering a potentially more satisfying culture. If the company offers a healthy culture, it makes a huge difference, specifically with non-tangible things that add value to the employee experience.”

These multi-layered efforts not only support the existing workforce and growth in economic development but serve as proactive solutions for future workforce generations in Kansas City. More than 2.3 million people in the region rely on the unique economic development team covering both Kansas and Missouri. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA) serves as a bi-state authority covering a broader regional area while addressing large-scale concerns. This partnership serves as a major differentiator in the region for businesses seeking a myriad of options in amenities, incentives, and transportation.

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Chris Gutierrez is the President of KC SmartPort, Inc., a KCADC affiliate organization focused on attracting freight based economic development to the greater Kansas City region and providing thought leadership to the supply chain industry in Kansas City. Chris has been active in economic development and logistics for over 30 years. He joined KC SmartPort in 2003.

google

How World-Class Amazon, Apple & Google Have Built Successful Cultures

Every small business wants to be the next Amazon—or the next Apple or Google. Their products and services, as well as their growth and profit margins, are the envy of all. But it is their company cultures that drive their success. After all, without the brain trust and boots on the ground, those enterprises would have remained small and insignificant. Now, everybody wants to work for them. Why?

Their trendy work campuses capture headlines and imaginations, but location and environment are just veneers for the culture they contain. Yet, these headquarters are also extensions of brand. From Apple’s “spaceship” park to Amazon’s geodesic Spheres and Google’s playful Silicon Valley campus, the looks of these businesses reflect brands driven first and foremost by people-centric cultures.

It may seem skewed in priority to place workers before the actual work being done. But if we want to benefit from the lessons of these top organizations, we will focus on culture the way they do. As global competition for talent increases, this is the formula that works.

You can begin to build a better talent infrastructure by working on the seven “pillars” of good culture I’ve identified through researching leading companies. These include how organizations handle transparency, positivity, measurement, acknowledgment, uniqueness, listening, and mistakes. The examples of Amazon and friends, however, are worth studying in more detail. A few key techniques and best practices that these three amigos share warrant special consideration.

Transparency Is Clarity

The design of Amazon’s Spheres addition to its Seattle workplace campus is meant to inject nature into the business environment. But the glass-and-steel structure also embodies the company’s commitment to transparency. Three linked geodesic domes leave precious little in the dark—which is also the way to enable employees to do their best work.

Amazon, Apple, and Google use transparency in two major ways. First, they attract talent that aligns with their stated mission and values. They make these goals and guiding lights clear to all job candidates, weeding out of contention folks who won’t row with the crew. This creates a cohesive workforce that is dedicated to being part of the brand.

This both reveals and capitalizes on the companies’ uniqueness. They all stand out from the crowd. One way that our businesses can do this is to concentrate on hiring for a fit with our core values and a prevailing attitude. Using personality tests to assess potential hires for their inclinations and motivations can help standardize an otherwise subjective practice and get the right people in the right seats.

Second, these companies use technology to employees’ advantage. Access to relevant and accurate information is critical to their job roles, and these high-tech firms know how to centralize data. Amazon even launched a business service called the Transparency Program, which helps brand owners thwart counterfeiting and intellectual property theft.

But the retailer’s greatest wielding of transparency is most visible in its delivery services. Moving vast volumes of merchandise to their destinations requires an intricate web of logistics. Small businesses can imitate that command of information-sharing by giving workers open access to the details they need and the people in the company who can best assist them.

Positivity Is Power

One look at Apple’s massive, ring-shaped Campus 2 tells you how strong the tech giant really is. More than a mile in circumference, the structure’s powerful curved lines reveal something about the company’s working ethos. And any enterprise dependent on innovation would be wise to adopt the Apple staff’s positive mindset.

Because the business world is dynamic and markets fluctuate, many organizations find themselves reacting to problems and challenges rather than proactively getting out in front of them. That’s only a recipe for more of the same. Top companies like Apple and Google employ a positive approach to planning, pursuing goals, and solving problems called appreciative inquiry.

This model optimizes a team’s strengths while ferreting out less successful strategies that can tank morale. Appreciative inquiry adds a methodical element to what might otherwise be chaotic, and a means to innovate that could easily be squelched by negativity or repeated failure. It gives workers a sense of accomplishment, even when actual gains may be small.

The central technique involves four stages: discovery, dreaming, design, and destiny. This 4-D Cycle prompts teams to discover what is working for them, so they can preserve and expand upon it. Next, they dream big and imagine their ideal outcome. From there, they select a likely path and design systems or steps to move them forward. Finally, they do what it takes to achieve that destiny.

Becoming agile in this approach gives small businesses a way to break the cycle of putting out fires and watching morale sink. It sets a positive tone that can be echoed in every other area of planning and workflow. And it’s self-perpetuating: one accomplishment prepares the team for its next success.

Numbers Instill Confidence

Visiting Google’s eclectic California headquarters may seem like downing one gigantic energy drink, with something impish rushing around every corner. From fleets of brightly colored communal bicycles to a statue park of oversized sweets named after the company’s android inventions, the vibe is Google’s brand—and the brand is utterly self-confident. Here is a business that knows exactly who it is and why it exists.

This sense of definition extends to its talent. Most small businesses have only fuzzy outlines to their image. That’s because most of us allow culture to form rather than intentionally building it. Job candidates can sense this, and they will be drawn first to companies with strong, distinct personalities. Google, and other companies that cultivate the cultures they want, enjoy attention from people who want that too.

This begins with articulating a mission and vision that inspire. It continues through identifying the best-performing employees and attempting to attract more like them. Google does this via data collection and analysis. Having created the foundation, they could take a deep dive into assessing which parts of culture work best and why.

With a legion of employees, Google was able to conduct a two-year study with a decent sample size that showed them which psychological conditions are likely to coalesce with the company’s mission and values—not just to create a happy workplace, but to create the best support system possible in which to perform work. This is the essence of culture at its best.

Google’s study found that successful outcomes correlated to the satisfaction of certain human needs, foremost of which was psychological safety. Workers needed to feel confident in taking risks, free of judgment or possible sanction. This let them stretch and sometimes fail—but ultimately innovate. From this confidence stemmed other areas of fulfillment, such as being able to depend on coworkers and to clearly understand the company’s expectations of them, which also helped teams achieve their goals.

Revealing these key conditions and the high performance that resulted from them allowed Google to continue to monitor variables and outcomes for further insights. The numbers instilled confidence in how the company manages its culture, which in turn lets it promote those traits when recruiting talent. Along with Apple and Amazon, Google leaders have embraced culture as a way to draw the best people—and they never let their employees forget who it is that makes those organizations successful.

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Leadership speaker Chris Dyer is a recognised performance and company culture expert, Founder and CEO of PeopleG2 and author of The Power of Company Culture (Kogan Page, 2018).

parcel

The State of “Fast and Free” Delivery: What Retailers and Parcel Carriers Should Know

Thanks primarily to Amazon (and the explosive growth of Amazon Prime), consumers in 2020 are conditioned to expect that virtually anything bought online can be shipped for free. That’s true for small orders like prescriptions and batteries, and for huge items like appliances and tires. If it means a shopper has to buy an annual subscription, or spend a little more to meet a free-shipping minimum, most people would consider that a low bar to meet.

But as every retailer and ecommerce seller knows, shipping is never free. Today’s multi-billion-dollar parcel carriers are getting paid. They moved nearly a billion parcels this past peak season. That shipping cost is being ultimately absorbed by sellers and is reflected in the price buyers are paying for products.

And parcel volume growth isn’t slowing down – it’s accelerating. According to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, global parcel shipping volume grew 70% from 2014 to 2017, to 74.4 billion parcels. The index projects global parcel volume to rise at a rate of 17% to 28% from 2018 to 2020, surpassing 100 billion parcels this year.

Handling increasing parcel volume isn’t just about figuring out how to do more of the same. The process of getting things where they need to go is under a transformation. In a recent report, Gartner found that transportation is the largest portion of delivery costs, due to a shift from carriers handling bulk freight to small parcels.

[Parcel and last-mile delivery will] continue to be the fastest-growing shipment segments due to increases in multichannel retail, eCommerce in B2B and same-day delivery offerings.

Gartner also observed what many companies are feeling. As volume continues to grow, companies only have time to react instead of plan. That means many are missing opportunities to revolutionize parcel logistics with innovation and alternative delivery models.

How fast does “fast” need to be?

According to research from Freightwaves, consumers unsurprisingly still have an appetite for fast delivery, with 60% of shoppers saying they’ve abandoned an online purchase because of slow delivery times. With record volumes to handle – and so much at stake with consumer expectations – efficiency, on-time consistency, and flexibility are key for parcel delivery services, whether it’s same-day, next-day or deferred.

This year’s U.S. peak shipping season saw about a billion package deliveries (up 4.5% from 2018). Retailers are offering more same-day options, which increases demand and the need for trucks, local delivery vehicles, drivers, warehouses and warehouse workers.

This year, the challenge was also complicated by a shorter selling season (the holiday season was six days shorter in 2019 than is typical), new restrictions on driver hours of service, and the December 16 implementation of new rules for Electronic Logging Devices in commercial trucks. All of these factors impact capacity and the ability of networks to deliver fast and on time.

Emerging shift in consumer behaviors

On the flip side of the “freer and faster” coin is Gartner research analyst Tom Enright. He’s counseled retailers on their supply chain and fulfillment strategies for more than a decade.

In a groundbreaking report published in November 2019, he detected an emerging shift in consumer behavior: “Consumers are starting to express increased concern about the environmental impact of retailer’s shipping practices, and are seeking slower, more sustainable options.”

Consumers are now defining convenience as order fulfillment on their terms, and they’re expressing more and more concerns about the environmental impact of fast, one-off deliveries.

It’s a conflict between three consumer choices:

-The desire for instant gratification

-The price reduction they can get for waiting longer for a delivery

-The impact fulfillment speed has on transportation, packaging and other environmental issues.

According to Enright, for retailers, these shifting demands are driving the emergence of two new requirements that are somewhat at odds with current models:

-Retailers must be more environmentally sustainable in order fulfillment operations.

-Retailers must offer a wide range of shipping speeds and prices, especially if incentives or other benefits are included in the offering.

Considerations for retailers and parcel carriers

That means retailers – and their parcel delivery partners – need to consider more flexible fulfillment options. These will need to be able to satisfy a consumer who wants a totally different delivery than currently exists. Companies will need to consolidate multiple online purchases from different retailers, have them combined using less packaging and have it delivered as one shipment a week from Tuesday. That’s instead of three separate shipments expedited for delivery tomorrow – or even same-day.

Major retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, and The Home Depot are doubling down on offering same-day delivery options. And for parcel delivery providers, it remains a highly fluid and exciting market. New network models are not only welcome, but will be required to meet the ever-evolving demands of shippers.

The explosive growth of package volumes, and consumers’ desire for next-day and, increasingly, same-day delivery, aren’t likely to wane anytime soon. And retailers and parcel carriers will need to pursue creative, innovative ways to keep up with those expectations and meet that demand.

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Valerie Metzker is the Head of Business Development at Roadie, a crowdsourced delivery service that works with consumers, small businesses and national companies across virtually every industry to provide a faster, cheaper, more scalable solution for scheduled, same-day and urgent delivery. With over 150,000 verified drivers, Roadie covers 89% of U.S. households — the largest local same-day delivery footprint in the nation.

ecommerce shipping

Ecommerce Shipping Guide 2020: All You Need to Know

This year, the ecommerce shipping industry is adapting automation and other efficiency-boosting tech tools for a 360-degree transformation. The shift in trends that began in 2019 is only going to pick up pace this year, with two of the most important trends of automation and scaling globally gaining impetus.

In 2019, 79% of US ecommerce shoppers said that free shipping would make it more likely for them to buy things online.  53% of users abandon the cart because of hidden costs like shipping, tax, etc. That’s how important shipping is for ecommerce sales.

So what changes should you be prepared for in 2020 when it comes to shipping?

What do you need to know about ecommerce shipping?

These are some of the questions we aim to answer through this guide.

A Step-Wise Peek Into the Ecommerce Shipping Process

Step 1 – Understanding a shipment

The most basic thing you need to understand is what constitutes a shipment. A shipment can be one thing or multiple things, created as a result of an order placed by a customer through online channels. One order might have multiple shipments too.

Step 2 – Using a shipping management software

Managing an inventory, especially when you are listing your products or services on multiple platforms, is a must. Using shipping management software keeps you organized. It also helps you check the status of every order in real-time.

Step 3 – Choosing your shipping carrier

There are a host of shipping carriers that are preferred by ecommerce companies like UPS and FedEx, among others. Therefore, compare the costs, the insurance, the delivery times, and the network of a shipping carrier before choosing one.

Step 4 – How to ship?

What is the most effective shipping method for you? By air, sea, or road? Ascertain this.

Step 5 – Determining whether to ship globally or locally

Will you be taking orders from international customers, or will you be shipping only in your city, state, or country? Answering this question will help you streamline the process.

Step 6 – Tracking & communication

Your work only begins once you have shipped an order; it does not end there. Customers prefer to have constant communication about their orders through tracking. Until the product is delivered, your job is not done.

Step 7 – Packaging and labeling

Incorrect labeling or inefficient packaging can cause damage or loss. Also, a badly packaged product negatively affects brand reputation.

Step 8 – Calculating costs

Shipping costs are one of the most important heads in your company’s balance sheet. Consider the factors like shipping methods, package dimensions, third-party-logistics, etc. while calculating the costs.

Step 9 – Knowing the regulations

You have to check the rules and regulations for all the countries or states you are shipping to. Some products cannot be shipped, while some need to have accompanying documentation, especially when you are shipping globally as they pass through customs. Know this beforehand.

Step 10 – Auditing & refunds

One of the most important steps is auditing your shipments. Shipping carriers might often overcharge you or levy incorrect fees and charges on your shipments. Automated or manual auditing allows you to claim refunds, making a slight addition to your capital.

Shipping Trends to Watch Out For in 2020

1. Going global

The whole world is a market. ecommerce companies are scaling internationally to boost growth. The demand for non-local products (that gain an ‘imported‘ or ‘exotic‘ tag) is only increasing. About 2.2 billion users are expected to shop online globally by 2021 – that’s your market if you go global.

2. Technology

The use of technology has increased efficiency, revenue, minimized errors and facilitated a better organizational structure. You can use shipping automation software solutions or something as simple as chatbots for your customers to track or know more about their orders.

3. Multi-channel presence

Just using one ecommerce platform like eBay or Amazon is not something online sellers prefer anymore. The new trend is to have a presence on multiple channels to maximize the chances of getting sales.

4. Faster delivery

Shorter wait times and same-day delivery options are what are in demand this year. Instant logistics is a major trend. A survey revealed that 88% of online shoppers are willing to pay for same-day delivery.

5. Personalized and premium packaging

Most ecommerce companies are spending a lot of money on designing the packaging. It works great for branding and says a lot about the company. Offering the users an option to personalize packaging is fast becoming a trend. 52% of customers are willing to make repeat purchases if the online merchant offers premium packaging, while 62% were more likely to purchase from a brand that used sustainable packaging.

The Past and the Present

The evolution of shipping and logistics in e-commerce has been phenomenal, especially in the last five years. The shipping modes, costs, size of warehouses, delivery times, packaging materials are only some of the things that have undergone a change. Internet of Things (IoT), machine learning (ML), automation, real-time tracking, Artificial Intelligence (AI), etc. have brought about this evolution. And this year, the ecommerce shipping industry is set to revolutionize with about 25% of the world shopping online. Are you ready?

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Ana Shan is a product evangelist at AuditShipment.com, an AI-driven audit service that automatically captures more than 20 carrier errors and helps businesses save up to 16% of their shipping costs.

data science

10 Data Science Projects E-Commerce Businesses Are Using

Today e-commerce businesses are using data science in many different areas to stay ahead of the competition. For instance, e-commerce sites are investing funds into personalizing shopbots to enhance customer experience and recommending products to buyers based on browsing habits and previous purchases.

Selling the best products only works if e-commerce businesses can identify who wants to buy them and recommend them when these customers are ready to make a purchase. Here are some ways e-commerce businesses are utilizing data science to enhance the customer experience.

1. Retain customers

One concern for every e-commerce business is customers switching to other e-commerce websites. Customer retention is crucial if a business is to expand and grow. There are many benefits from having loyal customers, such as receiving real-time feedback from them and having them recommend products or services to others.

A churn model provides metrics such as the number and percentage of customers lost to the business as well as the value and percentage of this loss. When a company is able to identify customers who are most likely to switch to a different e-commerce site, it can take actions to try and keep them.

2. Give product recommendations

Using big data analytics offers a way to understand the shopping behavior of customers and predict patterns. For example, being able to establish which brands or products are most popular when spikes in demand for certain products occur or times of the year when customers shop more can help to determine the right strategies.

Recommendation filters for a particular user are based on past searches, purchase data, reviews read, etc. and allow a personalized view. This helps users with the selection of relevant products.

For example, if you’re looking for a mobile phone on an e-commerce site, there is a possibility that you might want to buy a phone cover too. Deciding whether this is a possibility might be based on analyzing previous purchases or data searches of customers.

3. Analyze customer sentiment

Gathering customer feedback is very important for e-commerce sites. Using social media analytics, data science and machine learning, companies can perform brand-customer sentiment analysis. Natural language processing, text analysis, data from online reviews and online surveys are just some ways to analyze customer sentiment.

If you’re running an e-commerce business and you’re studying at the same time, it’s possible to find writing services to help you, so you have more time to devote to the business and analyze all of this sensitive data.

If you need to deliver an essay consider Dissertation Today. Use the best paper writing service such as killer papers review or even resume services.

4. Predict the lifetime value of customers

E-commerce businesses can benefit from knowing what net profit a customer is likely to bring to the company. Being able to predict the lifetime value of a customer can help with factors such as defining objectives for expenditure, optimizing marketing strategies and deciding cross sell and up sell according to customer purchases.

By using data science models to collect and classify data, e-commerce businesses can predict future buying behavior and have more understanding when formulating business strategies. They know which customers are most loyal and can decide where spending money on advertising etc. will offer the most return on investment.

5. Manage Inventory

Proper management of inventory is essential for e-commerce businesses. When customers are unable to get what they want when they want it, it’s a major deterrent to retaining them. They will simply move on to the next company that can offer this. They want to receive the right goods at the right time and in perfect condition.

The maintenance of the supply chain has become complex today and using inventory data analytics enables businesses to manage inventory effectively. Using machine learning algorithms and predictive analytics enables patterns to be detected that can define inventory strategies.

6. Detect fraud

Living in a digital world where millions of transactions are taking place consistently makes fraud detection essential. Many different forms of fraud are possible and fraudsters are becoming smarter every day.

E-commerce businesses can detect suspicious behavior by using data science techniques. Signs of suspicious behavior could include a shipping address differing from a billing address, an unexpected international order or multiple orders of the same item.

Common data science techniques to detect such behavior include:

-Matching algorithms to estimate risks and avoid false alarms.

-Data mining to address missing or incorrect data and correct errors.

-Clustering and classification to help detect associated data groups and find anomalies.

A fraud detection system helps companies to decrease unidentified transactions and increase company revenue and brand value.

7. Improve Customer Service

A customer is central to any business, especially e-commerce. Personalizing services and giving customers what they really want and need is essential to keeping them happy. Big data analytics offers businesses the potential to enhance their processes so that customers enjoy transacting online.

Natural language processing allows customers to communicate with voice-based bots and data can be stored for future purposes. When businesses know more about their customers and what they want, they are able to devise the best strategies to improve their customer service.

8. Optimize prices

Data-optimized pricing is making some retailers plenty of money. Many online retailers, such as Amazon, Home Depot, Discover and Staples, vary their pricing based on secret formulas. Cost analysis, competitor analysis, and market segmentation are all critical when it comes to pricing.

Pricing of products can impact a business in many ways when it comes to market share, revenues and profits. A key for retailers is to be able to figure out the right price and with big data analytics, they are not only able to determine that number for the market in general but also calculate it with some precision for individual customers.

9. Make online payments easy

Many e-commerce sales are made via mobile platforms and online payments must be secure and safe for customers. Big data analytics helps to identify anything that threatens the process and helps to make online shopping safer.

Various payment options make the online payment process easy and convenient for customers.

10. Determine the quality and reliability of products

E-commerce stores usually provide warranties for products that allow customers to deal with any problems at no cost during the warranty period. Analytics relating to warranty claims can help to determine the quality and reliability of products.

If manufacturers are able to identify early warnings of possible problems, they may be able to address them in time to avoid serious damage to the business.

Text mining and data mining are two techniques that can be used to identify patterns relating to claims and problems with products. The data can be converted into real-time insights and recommendations.

The bottom line

We’ve taken a look at the ten ways that data science models can impact e-commerce. There are so many e-commerce websites and many of them sell similar types of products. Data science helps e-commerce businesses to understand and analyze customer behavior and provide ways to enhance customer service.

When companies understand what they do best and who their loyal customers are by using data science, they are able to improve product designs and customer service, formulate better pricing strategies, manage inventory effectively and provide secure online purchasing and payment options.

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This guest post is contributed by Kurt Walker who is a blogger and college paper writer. In the course of his studies he developed an interest in innovative technology and likes to keep business owners informed about the latest technology to use to transform their operations. He writes for companies such as Edu BirdieXpertWriters and uk.bestessays.com on various academic and business topics.