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Shipping 101 For Ecommerce Platforms

ecommerce shipping

Shipping 101 For Ecommerce Platforms

The ecommerce sales are set to touch 6.5 billion USD in 2021. With the ever-expanding ecommerce industry, the shipping industry is also set for an explosion. Coupled with the changes brought about by technology and dynamic user preferences impacting the ecommerce shipping field, how do you prepare to excel, then? This article will work as a beginner’s guide to tell you all about ecommerce shipping. The world of shipping will no longer be a difficult mystery.

Shipping 101

Here is how you can map out your shipping plan to streamline and organize:

1. Shipping Strategy

Creating a shipping strategy is the first step. Here are the key points you need to consider:

Shipping rates: Will you charge flat shipping rates for all your orders or will they differ from destination to destination? A customer might abandon the cart if the shipping rate is too high, and you might incur a loss if it is too low. Decide on the shipping-rate policy first. You can also increase product prices slightly and offer free shipping.

Inventory/order management: Will you manually update every order and maintain the inventory or will you automate it? Automation is recommended as it minimises the errors.

Global or local? Will you ship across the globe? Or will you ship only in your country? This question is important to answer as it will determine how much you spend on shipping, the carrier you use, the time taken for delivery, etc.

Shipping methods: What mode will you ship through? Air, sea, or land? There might be higher risk and lower shipping cost when you choose sea over land and air, but shipping by air will afford you to deliver faster. Make a list of the pros and cons of all methods to decide.

Shipping insurance: Shipping carriers offer insurance, and this can give you a great deal of security. Get the coverage, especially if you have large volumes.

2. Shipping Costs

While calculating shipping costs, these are the four points you need to keep in mind:

Shipping carrier: Shipping carriers like FedX, Aramex, DHL, UPS are popular with ecommerce companies. But if you are only going to ship locally, ask for quotes from your local carriers, the rates might be much much cheaper. Use the shipping carrier’s calculator to compare.

Source and destination countries: The distance between the source and the destination and whether both the points are in the same country will play a huge role in determining the shipping costs.

Product dimensions and weight: It is advisable to measure all your products before you list them online – every shipping carrier charges depending upon the weight and dimensions of your package.

Margin-wise: Be margin wise. Are the shipping costs too heavy on the pocket? How much profit margin do you want to keep? Shipping is a major expense, and you should never ignore the small charges.

3. Packaging and labelling

You can either source the packaging from your shipping carrier, or use it as a way for branding. With increasing awareness, sustainable packaging is much in demand, but it is also expensive. You can also offer personalised packaging or special packaging for gift orders.

Another important part is the labelling. Each order must be labelled with the order number, the addresses among other details. Doing this incorrectly might result in a mix-up.

4. Invoicing

Many countries have laws that require multiple copies of invoices to be sent with the package. One for you, one for the customer, one for the shipping carrier, one for taxation purposes etc. Invoicing can be automated too. Just invest in good virtual infrastructure.

5. Communication and tracking

Once the order is shipped, most automation software solutions send an e-mail to the customer with the tracking link. This is a very important part of the shipping process. If the customer doesn’t receive communication from your end, it not only looks bad on your company but also might result in complaints.

6. Auditing Shipments

This is the part which most ecommerce companies fail to do. And even if they audit their shipments, they do it manually. Auditing your shipments allows you to claim for refunds from your shipping carrier. There might be duplicate or incorrect charges on your shipping invoice, or the carrier might have damaged or lost your package. You can get reimbursed for it and save on shipping costs.

7. Customs

If you are shipping globally, be well-aware of prohibited items that differ from country to country. Also, the documentation should be spick and span for the package to clear the customs zone. Know about the customs fees and don’t forget to add it to your ecommerce platform, so the customer is not kept in the dark. Most shipping carriers offer information about customs declaration on their websites.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Shipping Plan

-What is your shipping budget? Will you charge real-time carrier rates for all your orders?

-Will you offer next-day or same-day delivery?

-What packaging will you use?

-Where will you ship and where will you not?

-Will there be a minimum order cost for free shipping?

-How will you communicate regarding the orders with your customers?

-Will you opt for third-party logistics?

-Will you choose automation software solutions when it comes to shipping management?

Quick Tips

-Focus on creating a great customer experience when you package and ship the product.

-Premium packaging can encourage repeat customers.

-If your shipping strategy doesn’t work, always have plan B.

Know the rules and regulations of all the states and countries you are shipping to. Some products might be banned.

Remember to one order might have multiple shipments. That’s double-triple the work.

Outsourcing the logistics and the auditing might save a lot of work, and you can let the experts handle it for you.

There are multiple variables when it comes to ecommerce shipping. Understand, plan and then execute. While shipping might seem like a not-so-important aspect of your ecommerce business as sales, it is actually a driving factor – one that can help you achieve success.

_______________________________________________________

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.

Special Report: How to Keep Shipments Moving Forward During a Global Health Emergency

Delayed start to the new year
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted an official global health emergency that is severely affecting business operations not only in China but also around the globe. With any kind of widespread health outbreak, global importers and exporters are dealing with unpredictable logistics concerns that require a proactive approach to keep business running as usual.

It’s important to note that any cargo from the Wuhan, Hubei Province (the origin of the outbreak), and other quarantine zones, are restricted from leaving the province, which includes full container loads (FCL), less than container loads (LCL), as well as air freight. There will also be delays in factories re-opening, and a reduction of exports from China due to Wuhan residents not returning to work until February 17th, 2020 and other municipalities extending Chinese New Year until February 9th, 2020, including:

-Shanghai Municipality

-Chongqing Municipality

-Jiangsu Province

-Zhejiang Province

-Guangdong Province

-Fujian Province

The latest in air and ocean travel

In general, there has been an increased reduction in travel in and out of China. In areas where travel is permitted, strict health checks are causing significant delays at main air and ocean terminals, to ensure the safety of all travelers and workers. While the Wuhan port is closed, the other ports continue to operate. We also continue to see several airlines canceling flights in and out of China which can have an impact on cargo capacity.

Below are important considerations that will help keep your supply chain moving and better navigate any shipping challenges associated with the latest travel restrictions and schedule shifts.

Assessment of inventory levels

Having an accurate assessment of your inventory is expected, but it’s important to understand how restrictions on imports from China will impact your current inventory and regular shipping cadence. Look ahead to determine if the demand for your product may change in the next few weeks and if you have a need for expedited shipping. Starting those conversations now and establishing a plan are important as air capacity falls due to canceled passenger flights and higher demand.

Planning ahead in production

There are numerous variables to consider when planning for production. Working through these with a supply chain expert will help you be prepared and proactive as the uncertainty around the virus continues.

-What will production look like and has there been any discussion with the vendors and factories?

-How are existing inventories compared to sales projections?

-What plans are in place in case there is a shortage of workers in China or the demands are not being met within a specific window of time?

-Has there been a discussion about how the backlog will be addressed?

Backup sourcing options

When there is any kind of delayed start to production, keeping up with the workload poses a challenge, and so you may need to consider backup sources. Backup sourcing options are not always easy to find and keeping up with the sheer demand and quality controls can be a challenge. Connecting with a global supply chain expert to vet reliable options is important to ensure success.

While we may not know how long this global health emergency will last, C.H. Robinson’s global network of experts are dedicated to helping you get your shipments where they need to be. We continue to closely monitor the situation and provide updates through our client advisories as needed.

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.

demand

Adapting Supply Chains for Increased Consumer Demand and Same Day Shipping

Same-day and next-day shipping options are increasing, and consumers are beginning to desire expedited shipping options with minimal delay. Through new technologies, space optimization, and supply chain auditing, there are various ways companies can adapt to this demand.

There used to be a tattered cartoon taped to every dry cleaner’s cash register. There’s a man laughing — holding his stomach, actually, as the joke is so funny — with a bold face caption that reads: “YOU WANT IT WHEN?!”

Faced with minimal competition, it was a time when companies held production and delivery control, with consumers at their mercy to indeed receive their press garments at a time of the dry cleaner’s choosing.

Those days are long gone. Armed with just a digital device, consumers have numerous options in finding suppliers who can provide things whenever they desire. As such, they expect — rather, demand —products and services on their terms.

As a result, companies must either adapt their supply chains to accommodate these expectations or find themselves with diminished market share. Below are key areas that companies must address to compete in today’s on-demand environment.

Take inventory of your inventory

As a first step, perform a comprehensive audit of your entire supply chain, even hiring a third-party specialist to develop the critical assessment. Such a deep-dive look will measure delivery accuracy, on-time performance, worker productivity and even call center effectiveness, all significant contributors to the overall efficiency of your suppliers and their impact on your supply chain.

Find a better mousetrap

Once the audit is complete, it’s time to take action, which may mean making fundamental changes to your supply chain. If you’re currently operating with a hub-and-spoke distribution model, for instance, the feedback may point to achieving greater efficiencies by adopting a decentralized distribution model (and vice versa). Especially when it comes to last-mile delivery, partnering with a third-party provider can also help, providing you with the fast turnaround that your customers expect without straining your existing operations.

Get your house in order

Any fundamental change to the supply chain must include enhancements to warehouses, adopting technological advances that deliver greater efficiencies. For some, this may mean incorporating a short-interval waving warehouse management system (WMS), which allows orders to be dispatched in clusters or waves. Other advances automate the sizing and selection of cartons, which makes packing more efficient while streamlining costs.

Taking things personnel-ly

Until supply chain logistics can all be outsourced to robots, bottom-line performance ultimately depends on the availability and performance of your employees. To those ends, leverage technology to minimize labor supply disruptions, especially during holiday seasons when demand peaks. (This is increasingly important as unemployment reaches record lows, further diminishing the labor pool.) Technology should also be used for scheduling and training, which delivers greater efficiencies and even job retention, as greater scheduling flexibility leads to increased employee satisfaction and loyalty.

Consumer demand for ever-shrinking delivery timelines makes ongoing supply chain refinements no longer optional, but mandatory. Your long-term success depends on it.

_________________________________________________________________

Neil Wheeldon is vice president — solutions at BDP International in The Hague, Netherlands.

digital

Digital Collaboration: Get ahead, fast.

Recently at a conference for freight forwarders everyone jointly agreed: if you’re the fastest to quote, you win the customer. What astonished me was what I heard in a conversation afterwards! “We are working in shifts now, 16 hours per day, to make sure we can quote fast and win new deals,” said one of the present forwarders. I was surprised that putting in more hours to send emails back and forth is a better solution for shipping companies than digitizing collaboration and automating tasks. The banking system solved this issue years ago with the introduction of the SWIFT system: a standardized banking system that enables companies which had never worked with each other before to transfer money on a global scale at no risk. 

In shipping, we’re still way behind the curve. The newly formed Digital Container Shipping Association has taken the first timid steps to promote data standards in shipping because they believe in close collaboration between the different stakeholders. The underlying rationale for this collaboration is typically 2-fold: (a) Margins are still depressed due to overcapacity and (b) customers demand more and more streamlined services. Although costs for technology are consistently decreasing, our industry is generally considered to have been slow to adopt digital approaches. Of course, companies collaborate across company borders, mostly through emails and networks; but isn’t it extremely inefficient and unscalable, especially in times where this could be automated to be done within seconds instead of days? 

What holds SMEs back from digital collaboration? 

We have noticed that especially small and medium-sized companies are either stuck in their traditional mindset or simply don’t know how to start with digital collaboration. Why is that so and how do companies overcome this conundrum? 

Companies are afraid to share their data 

People have to overcome their traditional industry mindset first, as a highly competitive attitude makes collaboration with competitors exceedingly difficult. Most companies don’t want to share their data because they think it’s their secret and crucial for their business – but most “data” is non-sensitive. Consider container movements, position updates forecasts and contact information of local agents. Of course, crucial information about e.g., my commercial terms with my vendors should not be openly shared! However, sharing operational data means exchanging information that you can leverage to increase service offerings, internal processes and ultimately create quotations in less time. 

Even if companies are willing to collaborate, they don’t know how to get started 

Lack of existing data standards, limited capacity or scary data security questions – the list of potential challenges of data sharing is long (as for every new project!) and only a limited number of people in logistics have “been there, done that”. 

However, in the end, it comes down to what you want to achieve/solve in the first place: How do you get your customers love working with you? How do you create quotations in less time to win more business? We suggest defining your most important targets and metrics first, and reverse engineer a good solution from there. 

Now: How can you get started? 

To get started with data sharing, finding out what you want in the first place is only the beginning of a long journey. To make it a little bit easier for you, try to answer the questions below for your own business (take a screenshot or copy into a word doc): 

-What are my main pain points?

-What is particularly crucial for my customers?  

-What data describes the problem the best? 

-How well is my data organized? 

-What data is non-sensitive? 

-What additional data do I need? 

-Who has it? How can I get that data? 

-Who (of my partners) would need my data to become better? 

-Does it make sense to work with them? 

-What integrations and/or technology would that require? 

There is no one-size-fits all solution as you can see! It’s about you and your specific business model. Only after you’re able to answer these questions you can think about the next steps: design use-cases/MVPs (Minimum Viable Products), and test setups and data integrations. 

With missing IT capabilities or resources, building integrations can oftentimes be hard because you need to manage numerous data standards and interfaces. In most cases, a 3rd party technology provider can help you as a connector in the industry. Such technology companies can not only translate different data formats into one language, but they also anonymize data to increase trust and reduce perceived risks for you: You still own your data and it is 100% up to you what part of your data you want to share to reach a certain goal. Moreover, working with 3rd party technology providers has another advantage for you: they help you develop a proof of concept at low costs! 

Of course, it requires a certain level of commitment, but working with a connector lets you test with a well-defined problem and a limited group of stakeholders to develop a workable solution. For freight forwarders, it could be the integration with a selected list of carriers to enable instant online quotes/ bookings for their customers. For equipment managers it could be integrating their equipment management system with a tracking provider to automatically receive container status updates such as pickups, drop-offs, delay warnings and ETAs. 

Once the proof of concept has been demonstrated, the collaboration could then be expanded by bringing in additional stakeholders or addressing related problems with similar approaches. Being able to create quotations faster is only one challenge – several other topics including internal organization, equipment management or communication with external stakeholders can also be targeted with an open mindset and the courage to test new things. We encourage you to start right now! 

________________________________________________________

Christian Roeloffs is the founder and CEO of Container xChange – an online platform that creates transparency on supply and demand in container logistics. More than 300 container users and owners such as Seaco and Kuehne+Nagel use the neutral online platform to find SOC containers in 2500 locations and identify partners to avoid empty container repositioning. 

St. Lawrence Seaway

TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY CHAO COMMEMORATES ST. LAWRENCE SEAWAY’S 60TH ANNIVERSARY

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao marked the 60th anniversary of the St. Lawrence Seaway, the U.S.-Canadian waterway, at a Sept. 24 ceremony at the Eisenhower Lock in Massena, New York. 

“For 60 years, the St. Lawrence Seaway has been a safe and reliable gateway for global commerce, further demonstrating our nation’s strong and strategic partnership with Canada,” Chao said.

She was joined by Transport Canada Director General of Marine Policy Marc-Yves Bertin, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-New York), U.S. Seaway Deputy Administrator Craig Middlebrook, Canadian Seaway President and CEO Terence Bowles and U.S. and Canadian government and transportation officials.

 Chao and Representative Stefanik also used the event to announce $6 million in funding for the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corp. to construct a new Visitors’ Center at the U.S. Eisenhower Lock. This new center will welcome the tens of thousands of people from around the world who come to watch ships transit the lock each year, and serve as a cornerstone for tourism in the North Country region of New York.

The bi-national waterway was officially opened in 1959 by Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower. It has been proclaimed as one of the 10 most outstanding engineering achievements of the past 100 years. Since its inception, nearly 3 billion tons of cargo, valued at over $450 billion, have been transported via the Seaway

africa

Africa is Ready for Growth with Support from Trans-Ocean Transportation

RTM Lines is a trans-ocean transportation company headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, with over 39 years of experience in the global ocean carrier business. As a respected ocean transportation provider, we are continually equipping clients with valuable information and insight related to the ocean transportation industry.  Recently, RTM Lines has invested time and research to better understand the growth of African infrastructure and resources; and how those factors affect opportunities for growth and development in the breakbulk and project cargo markets. Research shows Africa resources and opportunities in key locations such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Northern Mozambique. 

“Right now, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is sitting on the world’s largest cobalt resource, however the ongoing political turmoil, makes it very difficult to access the cobalt,” said Richard Tiebel, RTM’s Executive Vice President. He states, “Africa is showing more exponential growth than any other continent. Right now, markets like Ethiopia have shown 8% GDP growth, per annum. Analyzation shows there are a number of factors within urbanization, ICT (Telecommunications), and the Extractives Industry (Oil, Gas, and Mining) driving this growth.” 

With an array of potential possibilities for growth in Africa in the coming years, RTM Lines recommends directing attention to trades and the international markets in Africa, specifically in the shipping and trading processes. The growth and opportunities available in the African market, have great potential for clients that develop and understand the Africa market. 

“In the next 4-5 years, city populations in Africa will double, which means the infrastructure will need development. This development will motivate the community to build infrastructure that supply power, water, sanitation, housing developments, and support to serve the new population in the area. Most governments couldn’t support fixed-line infrastructures, but Africa is going through an information, communication, and technological revolution. The private sector is supporting this revolution and allowing Africans to pursue business opportunities. Companies like Microsoft have been investing in some African tech sectors, to develop talent and to take Africa forward,” said Tiebel.

As the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 regulation will soon go into effect, Tiebel shared his perspective on how Africa’s natural resources can positively influence the trans-ocean transportation industry. 

Mr. Tiebel states, “the gas in Northern Mozambique is the world’s 12th largest natural gas resource. A lot of infrastructure will be needed in order to get this gas because the town itself is very small and scarcely has roads to support it, no port, no airport, or even power and electricity. The town of Palma will literally be built up in order to access this gas resource offshore.” He continues, “the cost of the IMO regulatory change on the shipping industry is unknown, and though we know the IMO’s decision will impact refiners, producers, bunker suppliers, and more, Africa offers a variety of natural resources to emerge as a major beneficiary of this regulation. This supply of natural resources has the potential to help the trans-ocean transportation industry control the anticipated spike in fuel costs in 2020.” 

RTM Lines is committed to providing customers the information necessary to ship ocean cargo with confidence. Understanding the changes and regulations in these expanding and shifting markets is key to providing smooth transit for infrastructure, mining, and oil & gas project cargo. RTM Lines is both knowledgeable and competent in global operations. Port to port, RTM Lines strives to improve the global trade market and the quality of the ocean transportation industry.

e-commerce

Shipping Solutions Keep Pace with E-Commerce’s Global Reach

I recently came across a study in which 80 percent of executives from leading U.S. e-commerce companies said they considered expansion to international markets “critical” to future growth.  The survey also revealed that Canada, Western Europe and Asia account for most international sales from U.S. websites, followed by China and Japan.  

These findings are indicative of the “no-turning-back” mentality taking place among retailers, as the reality of the growing global e-commerce marketplace takes hold. U.S. retailers now look beyond their borders and see a world in which 80 percent of B2C e-commerce sales are taking place outside of North America, and in which consumers are increasingly open to shopping across borders.

International e-commerce sales have become so pervasive in fact, almost 60 percent of shoppers say they made an international purchase in the past six months. That number jumps to almost 63 percent for European consumers, and 58 percent for Asia-Pacific shoppers.

This is especially true within the lucrative U.S./Canada trade relationship, with as much as one-third of Canadian e-commerce purchases going to U.S. sites, and more than 60 percent of Canadians having made an international purchase in the last six months. 

Today consumers across the globe, including in emerging and developing countries, have unprecedented access to brands and product selections online. Consider, for example, that 75 percent of online shoppers in India and 61 percent of shoppers in Nigeria have made international purchases. It’s no wonder then the value of retail e-commerce is surging and projected to be valued at almost $5 trillion by 2021, just two years from now.

For smart retailers, the customers are there. The challenge is to connect with consumers in a way that aligns with their local customs and expectations to localize transactions and fine-tune the customer experience. And, since ensuring seamless deliveries is an important part of any customer experience, it’s essential to understand that international logistics resources are possible today that were unthinkable just a few years ago.

Meeting customer expectations – in every country

In thinking about satisfying expectations, a retailer will come to understand that the world’s consumers essentially want the same things when shopping online:  

  • Consistent inventory across all channels
  • Detailed product information 
  • Site navigation in their native languages
  • Prices listed in local currencies
  • Online payment/currency-conversion capability
  • Access to rebates and other savings incentives
  • Fast delivery – what they want, delivered when they want it.

A retailer must dedicate time to market research as a way to understand consumer preferences and dislikes.  You need to make sure there’s demand for your product, determine who your competitors are, and then find your competitive advantage. A good logistics strategy will be an integral part of that competitive advantage because seamless, on-time deliveries – and hassle-free returns – are among the most important deliverables for consumers all over the world.  

PriceWaterhouse Cooper’s 2019 Global Consumer Insights Survey asked consumers in 27 countries about their shipment expectations. Among the more interesting findings, is the impact mega-retailers including Amazon, Alibaba and Net-a-Porter have had in defining global consumer expectations. Global consumer expectations include free shipping (72 percent), free return shipping (65 percent), package tracking (54 percent) and same-day delivery (50 percent).

To accommodate these globally-shared expectations, international retailers are building logistics strategies that create the “look and feel” of a domestic delivery – despite being an ocean or a continent away.  Italian customers don’t really care if customs delays affected a shipment leaving the United States, or that bad weather over the Atlantic forced a shipment to be re-routed. They just want their packages delivered on time, as promised. Every time.

Behind the scenes, logistics providers are working to expand their international footprints, to ensure capabilities are in place to help businesses meet their delivery promises.  For example, my company recently announced a $1B investment in the future, including a new national hub set to open in Toronto in 2021.  You’ll find similar developments happening around the world.

Technology and innovation are also allowing logistics companies to provide levels of service that were unthinkable as recently as a few years ago. Some of those solutions include: 

-Customized solutions. Shipping companies can support a retailer by providing a wide range of options to build the best solution for a particular customer’s needs. Shippers have traditionally been bound by rigid carrier schedules; today, a solution can meet a specific need. For example, a shipment traveling from southern California to Ontario would benefit from direct linehaul service to the border, followed by induction into a Canadian distribution center. The direct linehaul could conceivably shave two to three days from a “traditional” Canada-bound schedule.

-Different modes of transportation. Hybrid solutions might integrate ground service with a rail or air component, depending on a particular situation. In fact, 2018 was a particularly strong year for intermodal volume on U.S. railroad, according to the Journal of Commerce.

-Expedited service. For shipments to Europe, Asia, Latin America, or even across North America, a retailer can take advantage of unprecedented expedited air solutions. We used to think of “expedited” as a solution reserved for extreme emergencies, but today, retailers increasingly rely on expedited air solutions because of its guaranteed, anywhere/anytime capabilities.

-Cross-border expertise. Efficiencies in customs management now make it possible for shipments to move swiftly across international borders. Experienced providers will ensure maximum efficiency in the clearance process, including assignment of the proper tariff classification code. Getting the tariff classification correct is important because an incorrect classification will delay a shipment, and shippers might pay a higher rate of duty. A report by the Auditor General of Canada found 20 percent of shipments arrive at the border with an improper code assigned! And since tariff classification is used to determine eligibility for free trade agreement benefits, an incorrect classification could cause the shipper to miss out on those savings as well.

E-commerce truly is the engine of future retail growth. And thanks to innovations in transportation efficiency, your access to the world’s customers has never been easier.

UPS & CVS Pharmacy Collaborate for Customer Convenience

CVS customers now have the added convenience of utilizing recently expanded in-store UPS package pick-up and delivery options. UPS confirmed earlier this week that more than 6,000 CVS Pharmacy stores around the country will offer the service which was confirmed to roll out immediately.

“This deal offers additional convenience to consumers in the e-commerce era,” said Kevin Warren, UPS’s chief marketing officer. “Working with CVS Pharmacy demonstrates our commitment to increased customer choice and control with our global UPS My Choice® network.”

The collaboration directly impacts both companies, as it not only brings added traffic to nationwide CVS Pharmacy locations, but also provide the added option of trip consolidation for UPS customers seeking an all-in-one shopping experience.

“We will continue to bring our customers new omni channel services and experiences that redefine convenience and make it easier to meet the demands of their increasingly busy lives,” said Kevin Hourican, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, CVS Pharmacy. “Adding UPS Access Point locations at CVS Pharmacy locations offers added convenience in local communities throughout the country for shipping and safely receiving packages.”

By adding more locations for customers seeking convenient shipping options, UPS also adds to the UPS Access Point locations, which currently boasts more than 40,000 and 38,000 drop-boxes globally. Additionally, the collaboration impacts over 60 million UPS My Choice Program members currently customizing shipping needs. These members have direct access to the extended UPS network to for estimated arrival and progress alerts, sign for a package in advance, set vacation holds, and more.

“Until now, the UPS Access Point locations have largely been local businesses and The UPS Store® locations. With this announcement, UPS broadens our services to offer an enviable network of secure choices to busy shoppers,” Warren said. “Consumers now have access to a vast and robust suite of options that include the CVS locations, neighborhood businesses, lockers and The UPS Store centers.”

Uncertainty in Today’s Air Market: What it Means for You

Reoccurring annual events, like the holiday season, typically bring predictability to air shipping. But lately, out of the ordinary events have disrupted the seasonality we typically expect. The best way to deal with the ever-changing peaks and valleys in air capacity throughout the year is to know both the historical patterns and potential air market disruptors.

The cyclical nature of air freight

Air freight service predictably follows the law of supply and demand. When shipping volumes spike, space on airlines becomes harder to secure and prices go up. And the opposite is true, too. If shipping volumes diminish, space on airlines becomes readily available and the prices go down.

As you might expect, the holiday peak season is one of the busiest shipping periods of the year around the world—including for air. But there are other seasonal surges to be aware of as well. The graphic below visually represents the seasonality of the air market in years’ past.

New disruptors to the air freight market

We’re just over halfway through 2019, and already it’s quite a different market than we’ve seen in the past. Several disruptors are causing a great deal of uncertainty.

Tariffs on Chinese goods

The ongoing trade war is one of the biggest disruptors to air shipping this year. Earlier tariff changes did not make a huge impact on air shipping. But demand for air freight shifted significantly when enough shippers preemptively repositioned inventory prior to the June 1, 2019, deadline. On May 31, 2019, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) announced the deadline would be extended to June 15, 2019.

Ecommerce and high-tech goods

With the growth of ecommerce and high-tech products flooding our markets, air freight is quickly becoming the go-to mode of transportation for many shippers—any time of year. Combined with the promise of two-day shipping, it’s often the only way to meet customer demands.

Adjust your air freight strategy based on the market

With air freight volumes lower than we’ve seen since the 2008 recession, now may be the ideal time to update your air freight shipping strategy.

Choosing air freight can be a strategic way to lower inventory levels in the United States. Finding a balance between inventory costs without sacrificing customer delivery expectations often requires expertise. The air experts at C.H. Robinson are available in offices around the globe to help manage your air freight and ensure any problems are resolved in real-time.

You may even consider that if air freight rates dip low enough, you could make up the difference (at least in part) of the added tariffs on Chinese goods.

The air freight market is a complex ecosystem that will likely remain uncertain for some time. While this uncertainty lasts, you may want to switch to a quarterly planning strategy to avoid a long-term commitment when you don’t know what’s coming.

What’s going to happen?

While inventories in the United States remain high, it’s likely that air shipping volumes will remain low. The best way to insulate your company and your relationships from today’s air market is to stay flexible. Adapt quickly to ensure you can take advantage of soft markets while still buying appropriately during peak seasons.