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How to Best Prepare for Current (and upcoming) Supply Chain Disruptions

supply chain

How to Best Prepare for Current (and upcoming) Supply Chain Disruptions

Weekly meal planning is a recurring event in our household. Although this activity is not particularly exciting, every Saturday my wife and I sit down to plan out our family meals. This process helps us avoid the mid-week supermarket scramble, as well as sidestep overspending on items we don’t actually need. Sound familiar? Supply chain planning is no different when it comes to yielding efficient results, especially this year.

It’s no secret the way companies ship their freight has shifted due to COVID-19. C.H. Robinson is great at helping customers secure capacity and optimize their global freight across our suite of service offerings as their needs evolve. Due to COVID-19 market changes, our global team of supply chain experts has spent extra time securing expedited less than container load (LCL) capacity for companies that can work with extra lead time. Another big change is how many ghost or charter flights are used to make up for lost capacity from the mass decline in global passenger travel.

However, COVID-19 is not the only event putting pressure on the freight market now. And with passenger travel not expected to recover until 2024, proactive solutions are needed to avoid current and upcoming disruptions.

Prepping for peak shipping season and new tech launches

When it comes to maximizing your global freight, it’s important to take seasonality into consideration. Peak shipping season for global air freight historically begins in October, and we’re already anticipating a busy peak season due to the unbalanced relationship between supply and demand. Even if air freight volumes were consistent or less than previous years, there is a lot less capacity to work with. Additionally, ocean shipping is experiencing a busy peak season now as companies prepare for the holiday shopping surge.

Consumers are also eagerly awaiting new technology releases—including the iPhone 12, Sony PS5, Xbox, and more. High priced commodities, like consumer electronics, primarily ship via air. And while consumer tech launches are not uncommon during the holiday season, the lack of passenger planes aren’t helping the situation this year. This, combined with the volume surge in other commodities related to peak shipping season and continued demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) creates a tighter market.

What can global shippers do to combat tight capacity?

The key is to remain flexible and remember it’s never too late to start planning. Although some items, such as technology, tend to move by air, global shippers can consider shifting other commodities to expedited LCL or expedited full container load (FCL) service to mitigate disruption and stay agile in a tight global freight market.

However, for those shippers that truly depend on air capacity, shifting modes isn’t always an option. So, while ghost flights were a reactive solution for many this past spring, C.H. Robinson took our own planning advice and proactively chartered weekly 747 cargo flights from China to the U.S. from October to November, as well as Europe to the U.S. until the end of the year. Capacity on a 747 cargo aircraft can hold up to five times more freight than an average ghost flight. And our global network of experts knew proactively purchasing that space was necessary as global shippers face peak season, PPE from Asia, and a recovering economy out of Europe. We’re already seeing this approach drive solutions for our customers.

Looking forward to COVID-19 vaccines

COVID-19 vaccines are on the horizon. Once one or more is available for global circulation, it will likely create a significant ripple effect throughout supply chains. Even if your company is not directly connected to distributing or manufacturing a vaccine, the time to start planning alternative modes or routes is now.

Like technology, vaccines primarily ship via air to monitor the temperature and deliver them to market quickly. According to IATA, 8,000 747 flights would be needed to distribute a single dose of the vaccine to 7.8 billion people around the world. Although a vaccine with this large of a global magnitude is new, we can get a sense of the supply chain reaction by looking back at the height of global demand for PPE. Throughout the spring we saw airlines, 3PLs, carriers, companies, and government agencies go above and beyond, working extra hours and expediting products in order to create and deliver PPE around the globe quickly. It’s likely we’ll see the same comradery with the vaccine—pulling manpower and capacity away from other shipping needs.

Although we know air freight will play a vital role in distributing vaccines, last -mile is also an important area companies and logistic professionals are planning for. Last-mile planning will be especially important in countries where road or manufacturing infrastructure may be underdeveloped. However, keep in mind whether your company is involved in vaccine distribution or not, it’s still likely your supply chain will be impacted by higher transportation rates or additional capacity constraints across modes.

Final thoughts

As the pandemic spread across the globe, we saw air cargo rates rise to unprecedented levels. Airlines and cargo operators continue to adapt quickly to this dynamic market. Now it’s time for companies to evolve, too. Never before has a balance between proactive planning and flexibility been so important.

Planning ahead and using forecast data can be the difference needed to turn a dysfunctional supply chain into a strong, agile one that is ready to face this volatile market. We know logistics can’t exist in a world of absolutes. This makes it difficult to prepare for today’s (and tomorrow’s) disruptions—or even to know where to begin. That’s where C.H. Robinson comes in. Utilizing our information advantage, you can rely on our people to bring you smarter solutions across your global supply chain. Reach out to one of our experts today to start the conversation.

retailers

Lessons from Retailers that are Thriving Despite the Pandemic

While many retailers are struggling, there are those that are thriving during the biggest period of change in most of our lifetimes. Apple’s Steve Jobs said that “innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity and not as a threat”, so what lessons can we learn from retailers that are innovating and thriving?

1. Digital

As brick and mortar retailing ground to a halt for many, digital became a lifeline. It’s a good start to have a transactional shopping website but it’s not enough to thrive in most markets. You need to provide a smooth digital customer experience – the site must be simple to use, easy to pay, and provide relevant order progress updates. It needs to go further and bring your brand experience to life so customers can see the same values and priorities are at play in both your physical and digital worlds. Then, layer on an integrated social media approach to bind everything together and keep a close connection with your customers that drives sales. All aspects have to be integrated and telling the same story, so separate teams working in silos can’t deliver the business punch that a well-rounded experience and communication plan provides.

Strong brands with a clear proposition are showing us how to do it, for example, sports retailers including Nike, Adidas, and Foot Locker. With engaging website content that goes beyond the products, stores where there is always something new to see, and integrated social media messaging, they are a great model for any business to learn from.

Amazon has extended its lead in retail during the pandemic by being exactly what customers needed when going to the mall was not an option. Amazon is easy to use, offers a wide product range, and gets your purchases to you quickly. With Prime, they go beyond simple retail models and create multiple connection points with customers’ lives. There’s probably only room for one Amazon in the market, yet you can take the lessons from their success and translate them for your own brand. How do you build a tribe of loyalists? How can the customer journey and delivery be made simple and on-brand?

2. What’s your story?

Having a clear proposition and strong customer offer has never mattered more. Clarity on what you stand for makes it easier to have a consistent story across all your customer touchpoints. And don’t forget that it’s always been important to offer customers the right products and services to drive sales. The enduring demand for Apple’s must-have products made their stores a retail destination, with queues outside the door as soon as they were able to open. Are your products compelling enough for customers to make a journey to shop for them?

3. Meet customers where they want to be

In the UK, successful brick and mortar retailers enduring falling footfall have partnered with third party food distributors, like Uber Eats and Deliveroo, to give them a new and easy route to customers. In the US, Target-owned Shipt gives members same-day delivery from a range of local retailers via their app. For the retailers, it’s a clever approach that gives them a new fulfillment route with almost zero effort to set up.

Disney has been innovative in how they reach customers. The timely launch of their Disney+ streaming service has given them a new route for film releases like Mulan, as well as a captive audience of people based at home looking for new content. In early August Disney CEO Bob Chapek reported that Disney+ had over 60.5 million global subscribers; an impressive number given that they launched less than 12 months ago. You don’t have to go as big as Disney, however. My local bakery set up online ordering within a week and started a fresh-baked bread home delivery service with a trailer attached to a bike. They used social media to encourage regular customers to support them by ordering online and provided easy links to start ordering.

What innovative route to customers could be right for your customers and brand?

4. Keep trading

One of the biggest lessons comes from retailers who were able to keep trading because their food offer meant they were able to sell the rest of their ranges too, for example, Target in the US and B&M in the UK. Being labeled an “essential retailer” in the UK meant keeping your stores open and brick and mortar sales coming in. These stores saw an online surge and kept some physical sales too, meaning they had a stronger sales base to help them weather the storm. If the government orders you to close, you have little choice yet if you can find ways to keep trading and stay part of your customers’ lives it is much easier to bounce back. If you shut up shop for even a short while you can quickly lose relevance for your customers, a hard lesson many apparel retailers are struggling with now.

5. Review your efficiency

Retailers who have thrived have been flexible and responsive to change. As the routines of daily life have been turned upside down, new customer shopping patterns have made previous ways of working and colleague rotas outdated. You need to review your operation and make it efficient for the new realities of trading. The best operators use workload models and workforce management systems to calculate the resources they need now and alter shift plans to fit the changed demand. Don’t stick with the way you used to do things, or you’ll spend too much salary budget when it’s quiet and not have enough colleagues available in the busier spells. If you haven’t got a workload model that calculates the hours you need, get one as soon as you can as it will help manage your all-important cash flow. If you wait until things get back to “normal” to put robust workload planning in place, you could be waiting a long time and mismanage your salary investment in the meantime.

In a world of constant change, thriving retailers make constant readjustments and it does feel uncomfortable. The fittest thrive, so make sure your operational core is working well and flexible enough to cope with the demands that variable business levels will throw at it.

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Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world-leading productivity partner that helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity, and optimize budgets. For more information see https://rethinkproductivity.co.uk/

logistics

Technological Advancement in the Logistics Industry

In the last ten years, the rise of over 3.5 billion registered users participating in global e-commerce has occurred. The ease and openness of the e-commerce industry allow individuals and businesses to participate in domestic and international e-commerce trade platform, giving each country the opportunity to scale up its workforce and revenue collection. With the help of technological advances, products are now being introduced by the Internet through social media, live streaming, and many more avenues, rather than the traditional sales marketing and advertising methods. The growth of e-commerce has also affected the logistics infrastructure requirements and needs.

Logistics company owners are left with a variety of problems due to the ever-changing e-commerce world, including proper storage, competitive pricing, quick delivery, and fluctuating quantities and unpredictable changes. Though most are eager to find a solution, many have yet to realize that the solution requires full technology integration. Consistent system maintenance and development, integrating sales, operations, administration, and financial functions, connecting and configuring a variety of endpoints, protection from cyber-attacks, and many other functions are essential to creating a cost-effective and productive company during the internet era. With a complexity of technology system operations, it is best for companies to partner with a trusted technology company in developing a logistics platform that will deliver multiple benefits and develop long-term commercial ties.

The availability of a technology platform that works without geographical boundaries will have a huge impact on e-commerce and logistics users because they will be able to collaborate and cooperate with each other under one platform on every computer and smartphone device. Each user in real-time is able to list detailed logistics requirements and services to include pricing schemes, transportation schedules, warehouse spaces, detailed information operations, and others. Additionally, a working relationship with only particular companies and owning branch offices, warehouses, and vehicles in other countries should be transitioned into more transparent cooperation with local companies. Being able to share resources with trusted local companies will give advantages in speeding up operation processes and minimize cost while reducing investment risks.

Internet commerce trade will reach global sales of 17.5 percent in 2021 with a compound annual rate of 15 percent. As a result, many countries have introduced new regulations for e-commerce items that have created confusion and problems for many companies. These e-commerce regulations are overlapping with non-e-commerce items, resulting in a delay in clearance. In addition, when the pandemic lockdown period is lifted, we will see an increase of international and regional trades with the rise of conflict as a result of slow information distribution, causing delays and missed delivery dates.

We are at a point that it is almost impossible for companies to function properly without technological help in recalling HS code numbers, custom tax code, restriction and document requirements, operation notification and monitoring, and many others. With the availability of a real-time crowd sharing platform that is accessible for users, business and logistics transactions are a click away to finalize. Companies should prepare to meet unprecedented regional and international unexpected trades challenge in the internet era, nothing has ever flourished entirely alone: the logistics industry needs an advanced technological integration platform to flourish in the e-commerce era.

 

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Eddy Syaifulah is the head of Mahyu LLC.

e-commerce

UPS, FEDEX, AMAZON, TARGET, WALMART AND BEST BUY ARE KILLING IT IN E-COMMERCE. HERE’S HOW.

COVID-19 has sped up e-commerce adoption across all industries as many businesses emerge from the global pandemic battered and bruised. At the end of 2019, e-commerce represented 11.3 percent of total U.S. retail sales. This percentage inched up to 11.8 percent at the end of the first quarter of this year. For the second-quarter, some estimates suggest this percentage could double, at minimum, as businesses closed, and consumers stayed home because of COVID-19.

Indeed, while increased online sales is not a new phenomenon, the speed with which new generations of customers have gone online is and has led to a change in demand that is unlikely to reverse quickly according to McKinsey & Company’s latest COVID-19 Briefing Materials: Global Health and Crisis Response (June 1, 2020). McKinsey estimates that 20-60 percent more U.S. consumers are digital as a result of COVID-19. Stickiness of digital, localization, and selectiveness in spending are major trends that businesses will need to address as the pandemic alters the way business is conducted.

McKinsey also found that consumers are shopping online more and are more willing to switch across brands. This can be seen in one the biggest “winners:” groceries. According to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, online groceries grew 110 percent in daily sales between March and April. However, there were delays in last-mile deliveries as companies including Amazon, Walmart and Instacart had to hire more workers to assist with the increased consumer demand.

In March, Amazon had to restrict non-essential shipments from third-party sellers and other retail vendors and focus on receipt, restocking and delivery of essential products that were most in demand. Meanwhile, Walmart touted not only its online store capabilities but also curbside pickup. The result was a strong first-quarter earnings for the period ending April 30 with comparable-store sales up 10 percent and e-commerce sales up 74 percent. Strongest sales were in food, consumables, health, and wellness.

Retailer Target also noted strong first-quarter sales. While comparable-store sales increased only 0.9 percent in its first-quarter ending April 30, e-commerce sales jumped 141 percent with 80 percent of e-commerce orders fulfilled in Target’s stores. Food and beverages rose over 20 percent, essential and beauty 10 percent, and home rose in the single digits.

As more workers work from home, electronics and furniture sales also increased. Best Buy noted in the eight days ending March 20, sales jumped 25 percent as customers purchased work-from-home-related items. As stores closed, online sales increased more than 250 percent, with half of those orders using curbside service available at most Best Buy stores.

For small parcel carriers including FedEx and UPS, the e-commerce volumes proved to be a boon. Both carriers have been preparing for rising e-commerce volumes by introducing such service offerings as seven-day deliveries, faster delivery times, later pick-up times, returns solutions, fulfillment solutions designed for e-retailers, alternative delivery pick-up and drop off locations and more. By all accounts, FedEx and UPS appeared prepared to handle the sudden e-commerce volume increases.

Just as the COVID-19 impact was being felt in the U.S., UPS noted in its first-quarter earnings that March volumes were 70 percent business-to-consumer (B2C) with April trending similar. FedEx also noted a similar trend with higher than usual B2C volumes.

The result was a sharp increase in residential volumes for both carriers and delays occurred. It should be noted that residential deliveries are typically more costly for FedEx and UPS versus business-to-business moves in which batches of parcels can be picked up and delivered at once.

A number of consumers took to social media to voice their frustrations and share photos of overflowing packages at carriers’ facilities. However, not only were carriers faced with higher than normal volumes, but they were also dealing with the coronavirus itself, affecting an unknown number of FedEx and UPS employees who would otherwise be sorting packages, loading and unloading delivery vehicles and delivering packages. Networks slowed as a result.

Having temporarily suspended all service guarantees and implemented international peak surcharges in March to handle a surge in international volumes, FedEx and UPS introduced new temporary peak surcharges to address the U.S. domestic situation.

UPS’s latest surcharges took effect on May 31 and addressed Residential, SurePost, and Large Parcels. Meanwhile, FedEx’s domestic temporary peak surcharges took effect on June 8 and addressed Residential for FedEx Ground and FedEx Express parcels, SmartPost, and Oversize Parcels for FedEx Ground and FedEx Express parcels. Keep in mind, these temporary peak surcharges are in addition to already existing surcharges and individual shipper’s contracted rates.

Besides surcharges, FedEx also capped some shippers’ volumes. This is a similar approach to what the carrier does during the holiday season if a shipper exceeds agreed-upon volume commitments. However, this is not the traditional holiday season and many shippers were caught off guard by this tactic. UPS also took a page out of their holiday season playbook and dispersed managers and supervisors across the U.S. to pitch in and help at sorting facilities and deliver parcels.

The rapid increase in e-commerce parcels seemed to catch FedEx and UPS off-guard and significantly impact their lower margin service, Residential. Moving beyond the COVID-19 crisis, e-commerce will play a bigger role in B2C as well as B2B. Businesses will utilize a number of creative ways to handle the last mile – curbside pickup, buy online, pickup in-store, residential, third party locations for pickup and delivery, and more. FedEx and UPS will need to work closely with customers to share capacity availability and concerns.

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John Haber is the founder and CEO of Spend Management Experts. With more than 25 years of supply-chain experience, John has helped some of the world’s leading brands drive greater efficiencies through their supply-chain operations while reducing transportation, distribution and fulfillment costs. He began his career at UPS, where he held various executive level positions in corporate finance and corporate strategy and was instrumental in developing profitability and costing models. He also managed the carrier’s National Accounts Profitability Group where he audited the pricing and profitability of UPS’ top customers. John’s finance background combined with decades of experience working with high-volume shippers enables him to offer unique insights on strategic supply chain planning, including distribution model optimization, transportation cost analysis and carrier contract optimization and compliance.

trade

THE “HOMEBODY ECONOMY” AND TRADE

Mindful Spending

An estimated 2.6 billion people – one-third of the world’s population – continue to live under some form of quarantine conditions. These are trying circumstances for individuals and businesses. From a consumer demand perspective, the longer we all engage in some form of quarantine or social isolation, the more likely our new habits will take hold.

The emergence of this “homebody economy” is becoming apparent in consumer spending. Only China seems to be rebounding in consumer spending – the rest of us are still cutting back on discretionary spending. We are focused on essentials, being cost-conscious and cutting back on services and travel. We are even spending less on apparel and footwear, which impacts millions of jobs worldwide as workers in global value chains face uncertainty in their employment.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 93 percent of the world’s workers live in countries experiencing workplace closures due to COVID-19. ILO estimated the reduction in working-hours for the second quarter of 2020 as equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs. Job losses, reduced hours and foregone income are having a clear dampening effect on spending habits and demand in international trade, which in turn creates more job insecurity.

No Contact

In most countries, the vast majority of people have turned to e-commerce and other digital or contactless services such as curbside pickup and drive-throughs. Many consumers are likely to delay resuming “normal” shopping and other behaviors until after a vaccine is widely available. That includes, unfortunately, the resumption of preventative healthcare. The hidden health impacts of foregoing routine health screenings and other interventions will be felt in national economies for years to come.

On top of all this, we know that the impacts of recession – layoffs, loss of income and the growing effects of income equality are closely correlated with reduced health outcomes and life expectancy. The World Health Organization has cautioned about the long-term consequences of lockdowns and isolation on mental and physical health, noting that depression and anxiety under normal circumstances cost the global economy an estimated $1 trillion per year in lost productivity.

No doubt we’re all feeling some level of anxiety, mood swings, and changes in sleep patterns. McKinsey’s consumer sentiment survey shows, in another twist of cruel circularity, that people are spending more time inactively, consuming digital content, which could have negative implications for people’s happiness.

Trade Antidote for the Irritable, Anxious and Exhausted Among Us

Lest we leave you further depressed, might trade in some goods and services provide a much-needed antidote to the mental and physical wear and tear of COVID-19? We think so. Here are some ideas.

Yoga – Global demand for PVC has been hit hard with a major drop in demand in China. So, why not do your small part by buying yourself a fresh, new vinyl mat. The PVC-based mats are cushy, which might be nice for your next savasana. If you’ve gained a little weight during the lockdown, you can rely on American textile engineers – the same ones medical personnel turn to for durable emergency wear – to also deliver yoga pants that will hold your belly in place as you stretch in downward dog.

Guided Meditation – Evidence of meditation practice dates back to approximately 1500 years BCE, but we generally thank Chinese Taoists and Indian Buddhists from the 6th to 4th centuries BCE for developing forms of practice that spread throughout the world. These days, Andy Puddicome, a Brit who studied meditation in the Himalayas and became ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India, can be credited for making meditation accessible, modern – and available online – for the masses through his app, Headspace. Through Headspace and others, you can have guided meditation through an app on your phone, a service traded across borders thanks to the Internet.

incense

Incense – The use of incense can be traced back to ancient Egypt where it was used by priests for fumigating ceremonies and tombs. It was thought to hinder the presence of demons and served as an offering to their gods during worship and ritual, which is how incense came to be used in India and throughout southern Asia and China. Resin-based incense such as frankincense traveled to Europe and the Mediterranean along a trading route known as the Incense Route. Today, you can buy very high end and exotic incense like the brand, Astier de Villatte, which is handmade on the Japanese island of Awaji by masters of aroma who have been honing their craft and handing it down for hundreds of years. Also popular is incense made from palo santo (which means holy wood), a tree that grows along the coast of South America.

A Cleanse – If you’ve tried any form of keto, paleo or cleanse diet these days, chances are you had to look online to find far-flung ingredients from around the world. Popular ingredients include Maca powder derived from root vegetables grown in the Andes mountains in Peru, carob, which is native to the eastern Mediterranean region, and the Schisandra berry, which comes from mountainous regions throughout China. Another exotic ingredient is moringa, a nutrient-rich plant derived from “the miracle tree” native to North India. If your diet has you cutting back on caffeine, you can also try teas that taste like coffee, such as from Teecino. Their herbal teas use herbs and nuts like ramón seeds harvested in rural communities in Guatemala through programs that support educational and nutritional programs for women and children in Central America.

inredients

The Struggle is Real, Trade Can Help

The WTO issued a news release in June that estimated an 18.5 percent decline in merchandise trade in the second quarter of 2020 as compared to the same period last year. By any measure, the impact on trade, on livelihoods, and on our well-being has been profoundly negative. But as we work toward collective resilience, one thing you can do is to work on being healthy at home. And, with all of the products and services available to us through trade, we have lots of ways to do just that.

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Andrea Durkin is the Editor-in-Chief of TradeVistas and Founder of Sparkplug, LLC. Ms. Durkin previously served as a U.S. Government trade negotiator and has proudly taught international trade policy and negotiations for the last fifteen years as an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University’s Master of Science in Foreign Service program. 

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

covid

3 Approaches to Continuing Operations through COVID

COVID has impacted every aspect of our personal and professional lives. Businesses across different industries and verticals are adjusting their strategies and day to day processes in an attempt to make the best of this unprecedented moment. For this reason, different types of technology have become more prominent as they allow businesses and professionals to maintain the pace of business in light of how COVID has transformed the way we work.   

A recent survey from the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that half of Americans are currently working from home. Along with these changes in work come new challenges regarding problem-solving, engagement in work tasks, and productivity. But as the trend of working remotely is here to stay – especially for Dev teams, for whom this was already somewhat the norm. In fact, in a recent IBM survey, 80% of respondents want to work remotely occasionally, and over 50% want to work from home primarily.

In particular, businesses within the logistics industry need to be able to address the logistical issues of keeping employees safe and aware of the risks, as well as maintaining internal operations so that business can continue. Here are three tips and suggestions for technology and process shifts that can help logistics businesses continue operations through COVID. 

Large Scale Consent with COVID Waivers

As employees at all levels of the supply chain continue to work, and as plans to reopen the office are being built out, there needs to be a way to keep everyone safe and healthy. This involves letting employees know about risks associated with COVID. Using liability waivers – legal agreements that must be signed before a particular activity is undertaken – can be a good solution for this. But rather than use pen and paper contracts (which require face to face contact) or traditional eSignature (that does not scale, especially when there is a high volume of signers), consider one-click contracts. They allow for rapid and seamless acceptance and still carry the same legal weight as a normal contract. They can also be accepted via text or email.

Use Clickwrap to Present Standard Agreements

Because of COVID, businesses are seeking ways to improve their current processes by cutting down on the time or money spent completing them. When it comes to contracts, many use pen and paper or eSignatures to send agreements and collect acceptances. However, these old processes have no place in this new world. One solution is to use clickwrap agreements to present your standard agreements, or market terms. A clickwrap agreement removes the necessity of signing and replaces it with a box or button that users can check or click to signify acceptance. That way, there is no need for face-to-face contact, and contracts can be executed remotely as necessary. 

Automate Everything 

With the changes in business priorities, logistics teams will no longer have the bandwidth for some repetitive tasks that previously received a lot of attention. Instead of hyper-focusing on them or ignoring them altogether, automate those processes so you have time to focus on others. Workflow and Content Automation (WCA) is a growing category of technology that businesses should leverage. After identifying the repetitive processes, WCA enables you to identify high volume, low-value transactions and automate the document workflow associated with them such as implementing clickwrap agreements. This includes standardized agreements like terms and conditions, privacy policies, and NDAs. 

As these constant changes require businesses to make changes to their current internal processes using technology that helps them adapt better to the ongoing circumstances. Using clickwrap agreements can help significantly reduce the amount of contact between transacting parties. It can also be a massive internal lift as it helps with workflow and content automation, thereby enabling you to reduce repetitive processes. Finally, using COVID liability waivers that scale with your business is a sophisticated way to ensure that your business minimizes physical contact and protects its best interests in this new world.

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Brian Powers is the founder and CEO of PactSafe and a licensed attorney. As the CEO, Brian leads the strategic vision of the company’s high-velocity contract acceptance platform.  Prior to founding PactSafe, Brian’s law practice focused primarily on representing the transactional needs of tech companies. Brian is a frequent speaker, instructor and author on topics ranging from clickthrough contract acceptance to privacy-related consent management.

GT Podcast – Episode 122 – Craig Reed with Avalara

In this episode, Global Trade Magazine speaks with Avalara’s, Senior Vice President of Global Trade, Craig Reed about the tips and trends of e-commerce, and how their technology is helping companies streamline their taxation compliance.

disruptions

Preparing for Future Supply Chain Disruptions: Insights from the Field

Organizations across all industries—from automotive, consumer goods, and pharmaceuticals to transportation, electronics, and oil and gas—have felt the disruptive effect of the coronavirus pandemic. Turning the global supply chain on its head, COVID-19’s impact has cut across multiple facets of international trade, including manufacturing, import/export, logistics, compliance, and supply chain management. This disruption has been a wake-up call for organizations worldwide, prompting them to assess their readiness to respond reliably, expediently, and effectively to rapidly evolving risk factors going forward.

Disruption Is Inevitable

Whether driven by an unprecedented pandemic or events that are more familiar, like trade wars or frequent duty and tariff changes, future disruptions to the flow of goods are unavoidable and companies must be as prepared as possible. Case in point: on June 29, the amendments to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) came into force, impacting U.S. companies that export goods, software, and technology to China, Russia, and Venezuela.

A few days later on July 1, a new free trade agreement entered into force as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). While the USMCA is designed to provide “significant improvements and modernized approaches to rules of origin, agricultural market access, intellectual property, digital trade, financial services, labor, and numerous other sectors,” companies must respond efficiently to changes in import duties, tariffs, and rules of origin verification procedures in order to avoid compliance issues.

The current government’s uncertain trade relations with China, BREXIT’s unfolding impact on U.K. trade, and evolving pandemic predictions are just a handful of factors that may unsettle global supply chains going forward. With disruption an unavoidable consequence of doing business in 2020, successful companies are securing their supply chains by prioritizing operational responsiveness, agility, and adaptability in order to keep goods flowing while avoiding compliance violations and penalties.

Are You Prepared?

Today’s businesses are keenly aware of the importance of keeping a close eye on their sources of raw materials, parts, and finished products to ensure logistics costs do not erode overall profit margins. But COVID-19 caught many companies off guard, throwing their sourcing strategies and revenue flow into crisis.

Descartes’ 2020 Global HTS Classification Benchmark Survey of importers, shippers, logistics and supply chain operators, and customs brokers around the globe analyzed the impact of the supply chain disruption on companies’ operations and ascertained how they are addressing issues for the long-term.

The survey found that 35% of respondents were forced to research alternative suppliers or locations as a result of the pandemic. An additional one-third felt increased pressure to identify ways to reduce duty and tariff costs in order to shore up the shrinking bottom line.

Lessons Learned: Count On Technology

For those survey respondents forced to look for alternative suppliers due to COVID-19, many also looked to advanced technology solutions to address the more demanding workload and support the shift to a distributed workforce and the ‘remote working’ model.

In their leaning towards more advanced technology, approximately three-quarters of respondents were aiming to establish a workflow process for mass classification and to create an audit trail for proof of due diligence; sixty-eight percent were seeking a collaborative online classification process, while 55% sought configurable classification rule sets for different industries and product categories.

The Descartes survey also found that the majority of companies—not just those impacted by COVID-19—are adopting more advanced technology to enhance responsiveness to change and to increase resiliency. Regardless of the number of SKUs classified annually, businesses are recognizing the value of additional layers of protection against the unknown to help ensure their import operations remain viable during turbulent times.

Keep Agility and Responsiveness Top of Mind

Prior to switching to av more automated and integrated research and classification solution, most respondents surveyed were using labor-intensive and error-prone manual methods; a massive 81% were accessing multiple government websites to access classification data and 46% were looking up information in hardcopy books—an unacceptable drain on valuable time and resources and a serious impediment to pivoting swiftly in the face of disruption.

Respondents using advanced global trade intelligence solutions, with up-to-date tariff data accessed from a single system, reportedly accelerated the classification process by 30% to 100%. This increase in speed is a critical piece of the preparedness strategy, as companies aim to focus on agility to keep goods moving during market volatility.

Future-proof Your Organization

New disruptions to the global supply chain may be just around the corner. A proactive global trade intelligence strategy will help organizations continue to drive commerce while ensuring trade compliance in the face of inevitable change:

1. Take advantage of more advanced technologies to maintain compliance efficiency and accuracy as workload demands increase, as well as to better manage a more distributed workforce.

2. Look to technology solutions to increase the resilience and responsiveness of trade compliance programs.

3. Ensure a single point of access to research complex international trade information, including up-to-date HTS codes, duties and tariff treatments, rulings, and explanatory notes.

4. Use a robust solution to effectively exercise and establish a “standard of reasonable care” for product classification.

With the impact of COVID-19 on sanctions and export controls still not fully known, compliance professionals should re-evaluate their global trade compliance strategy, honing it to boost adaptability, agility, and responsiveness to change. By leveraging advanced global trade intelligence technologies, companies can better insulate themselves from the fallout of future supply chain disruptions while minimizing duty spend and achieving higher trade compliance rates in the process. For compliance professionals everywhere, the age-old Boy Scout adage rings true: Be prepared.

fashion

COVID-19: The Fashion Store That Stands Out of the Crowd

When things get tough it’s often hard to remember why you started. When you’re drowning in paperwork, figures and the latest sales initiatives it can be hard to see beyond the next task at hand. Whether you own a fashion retail chain or a small independent boutique, it’s safe to assume that you started out with a desire to share your love of fashion with the world.

Unfortunately, it’s often all too easy for that dream to get lost along the way. This may seem like a minor issue, a simple fact of life when faced with the reality of running a business. But if you’ve lost sight of who you are and why you do what you do, you could actually be damaging your chances of success, particularly during a worldwide crisis where retailers must stand out from the crowd in order to triumph over the competition. Maybe now is the perfect time to go back to basics and remember what makes you unique?

When calculating sales targets and budgeting stock, it’s often difficult to see beyond the line of figures in the cashbook. But if we want to convert sales it’s vital to connect with our customers on an emotional level. Let’s go back to why you started. Perhaps you wanted to curate the perfect selection of stunning occasion wear dresses, to share with your customers the fun of dressing for a big event or a special day. Perhaps you wanted better options when buying clothing for your kids and decided to source childrenswear brands in line with your vision to help make parents’ lives easier and children’s clothes shopping fun. You more than likely imagined yourself as the customer – how you would feel as you browsed the ranges, or what you would think as you entered the door. Things seemed simpler then (then again, didn’t everything?)

But perhaps we need to simplify things once more in order to get to where we want to be. It’s all very well using the latest window dressing or SEO techniques, sending out carefully worded newsletters, and offering sales and coupons. But customers know when they’re being sold to, and more often than not, it’s a major turn-off. How many times have you deleted yet another sales email from your inbox, or avoided a store assistant’s pushy sales techniques? It’s time you put yourself back in the customer’s shoes. Who are they? What do they want? How do they want to be treated? Talk to them if you have the chance and find out what the problem is that only you can solve. They may just remind you why you started out in the first place.

The fashion and trade sector is always changing and every few months retailers update their stock, bringing out the summer dresses or stocking up on jumpers and scarves. The bell-bottoms that were ubiquitous years ago have been relegated to the backs of wardrobes to give way to the skinny or the wide leg. But it’s not just trends that change. Are you the same person that you were when you started your business? Is society in the same place as it was when you started out? Even if you launched your business just a year ago, the answer to these questions is more than likely to be “no”. And as situations change, if we continue to do what we always have done, we’re likely to get left behind. But how does that fit with going back to where you started? If we’re supposed to constantly be changing and adapting, how can we stay true to our original goals? The key, as always, is to strip things back to the essentials.

Let’s go back to the occasion to wear example. If your original vision was to offer stunning party wear but people are no longer buying glitzy dresses perhaps now is the time to consider what led you to your choice in the first place. Was it the glitter and sequins that attracted you? Maybe you could consider introducing a range of casual wear, but with a touch of your signature bling to stay true to your brand and bring a little sparkle to your customers’ everyday lives? If the reason you went into occasion wear was more about dressing your customers for their special events, you may simply need to reassess the mood of the moment – if sustainability and slow fashion are the buzzwords of the day, perhaps you could source more classic designs which will last a lifetime, or consider an offering a hire service to help your customers live more sustainably while still fulfilling their fashion fantasies? Consider what your original vision can offer to your customers today and be ready to step outside of your comfort zone.

Ever had the feeling that you’re stuck in a rut? Haven’t we all. It’s often easier to source your collections from the same brands year after year – you’ve built up a relationship, you know what to expect, it’s quick and easy. But ease can be an enemy of progress and relying on those tried and tested habits can lead you away from what you originally set out to achieve. If you’ve gone back to basics you should already have a good idea of exactly what you want to offer your clients. Whatever it is you decide, one of the major factors is likely to be “something they can’t get anywhere else”. We all want to be original, and when the competition is sky-high we need to be able to set ourselves apart from the crowd. “Building your own special identity is a long-term process, but it’s worth all the effort.” – says Mina Melikova, CEO of TradeGala and chief executive of occasionwear brand Goddiva.

If your customers can find the same styles in another perhaps more local store, or they keep seeing those same old favorites in your storefront season after season, they’re likely to look elsewhere. Do what you did when you were just starting out – trust your instinct and branch out with the up-and-coming designers you happened across at the last trade show. Take a risk on a new international brand you discovered recently on your travels. If you want to be faithful to your brand personality you shouldn’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd – it’s the key to success after all.

We know that sourcing brands and purchasing stock can be time-consuming, and can take you away from that all-important time with your customers. This is why we created TradeGala – the B2B online marketplace we do the legwork, sourcing emerging and well-established fashion brands from around the world, with something to cover your every fashion need. New brands are added every week so there’s always something new, something to inspire! Revisit your vision and find the brands to help you achieve it at TradeGala.

data analysis

3 Ways Data Analysis Can Refine the Customer Experience

Nowadays, you have to understand what the customers need if you want your business to succeed and grow. If you don’t put some effort into doing that, you might miss out on crucial details about what customers are looking for in businesses. It will force them to look for other alternatives. In this article, we’ll discuss three ways to use data analysis to help your business boost customer loyalty, among other things.

Customer Experience and Why It’s Vital in Business

Customer experience is the customer’s interaction with your business at different touchpoints. It refers to how customers will engage with your online ads, websites, mail, social media, commercials, visiting your store, phone calls, buying and using your products and services, etc.

So, customers always think about the kind of experience a company offers before checking on the quality of goods. It means that if your business offers great products but sucks at offering excellent customer experience, then people will start buying from your competitors. Therefore, you must always do some data analysis to ensure your business delivers exactly what the customers want.

Your customers will always observe a brand’s performance and compare it to their expectations. So, every interaction a customer has with your business and its products leaves a long-lasting impression, which then creates a certain opinion about your company. It explains why it is vital to keep a customer’s needs first to help get better results at the end of the day.

Many companies now agree that using data analysis helps boost customer experience hence more sales. However, measuring customer experience and applying it to your business to get results are two different things, and most businesses struggle with the former.

So, how do you measure customer experience effectively?

There is no one perfect way to measure the customer experience. However, here are the three most effective ones you can trust:

1. Customer satisfaction (CSAT) – It method involves reaching out to your customers after a certain sale, asking them to rate the service. You will get results ranging from not satisfied to very satisfied.

2. Net promoter score (NPS) – In this one, you ask a customer to rate your business on a numerical scale. Here is the most common one you might have come across, “How likely are you to recommend us?”

3. Customer effort score (CES) – It one helps to find out how much effort a customer needs to fulfill a certain task on, let’s say your website. Most businesses use a defined scale to do this, which also acts as a small survey. It contains options such as I agree, and I strongly disagree.

Redefining Customer Experience Through Data Analysis

Once you have mastered how to capture customer data and measure their experience, you can improve your services and delivery. These are some of the ways how data analysis refines customer experience.

1. It Helps You Understand How to Respond to Your Customer’s Needs Intelligently

Quality data is the biggest foundation of developing a great consumer experience. Customers and prospects usually generate a lot of data by engaging in different online activities, especially when engaging with your business.

Most leading businesses today tap their prospect or customer data from the activities generated through indirect or reseller channels.  You can gain some insight by combining the views of your data sources with detailed demographic information.

The first step you must take is developing a good strategy to help you access and integrate customer data. Choosing to focus on one touchpoint to get data can be a good idea, but it’s always best to try and use several sources. The main goal is to understand one common view that all customers have. It will give you a good view of your customers’ experiences and interactions across different channels. That way, you can easily respond intelligently to what your customers need.

With this information, you can easily determine the relevant goods and services your customers need from your business. A link building agency can also help to bring more targeted potential customers to your website, who you can then study to see what you can do to win their loyalty.

You can also work with your IT experts to help turn the customer data into an EDW (Enterprise Data Warehouse) that will serve different functions or servers. However, most businesses find this quite challenging, not just technically but also financially.  Luckily, there are pre-configured platforms you can use today to help make the data consolidation easier.

Therefore, you should evaluate some relevant approaches to determine which one is more relevant. Also, check for one that can provide the best data to better fulfill the customers’ needs.

2. It Helps You Determine Customer Behavior

Predictive analysis can allow you to anticipate your market and customer behavior and respond accordingly. Its analysis involves data mining or statistical tools and methods that help to develop predictive models. OLAP and BI are some of the most effective systems you can use as they enable you to assess past and current events.

So, doing data analysis can help you employ excellent tools and methods to explore patterns and trends in data to determine things that can happen if certain factors change. With that information, you can easily tell what most customers have in common, making it easier to fulfill their needs.

Some predictive analytics solutions can also use software computing power and automation to help you get insights faster. Using powerful algorithms can help mine plenty of data and rapidly analyze patterns, correlations, and affinities. Additionally, combining software automation with great data access can help your company evaluate performance more effectively.

You can see much success by implementing some predictive data analysis using data sources such as transactions or any other application data. Doing this can help your personnel in stores, contact centers, or those managing e-commerce sites to easily adjust marketing offers accordingly.

3. Helps Build Better Customer Relationships

A good company-clients relationship is a vital factor you must always consider if you want your business to thrive. Data analysis provides you with different ways to build a great one. If you want to be the go-to business for people looking for the services you offer, you must be a good listener. What does that mean?

You can use social media to help conduct some sentiment analysis, which can show you how customers regard your services. You can also check your help-tickets to see what your customers complain the most about. This information can show you where to improve hence allowing you to provide exactly what people need and better customer experience.

Some customers might also indicate in the help ticket the kind of services they expected to find from your company but didn’t. You can use this data to ensure your company has everything customers in your niche are looking for.

A good example is how a shoe store can observe the size of shoes that get more purchases or those that get many returns. That way, they can easily ensure the highly demanded product is always available hence boosting the customer experience because they never miss what they planned to purchase.

Summing it Up

We are living in a world where everything is analyzed. Your customers look at how you treat your clients and the quality of the goods you sell. You must always make data analysis a huge part of your business because it allows you to study crucial trends in the market and your customer’s behavior. Doing this helps to understand everything you need to do to ensure you meet people’s demands.

When customers visit your business to purchase a good or service and get what they need, you automatically become their favorite place because you have proven to be reliable. However, if potential clients come to you and don’t get something they wanted or your employees don’t act professionally, then you can easily lose them. Since you cannot provide customers with the great customer experience they expected, your competition will take over.