Shipping 101: Omnichannel Order Fulfillment Strategy

Online shopping showcases a myriad of advantages that surpass the benefits of driving to a local physical store.

We’ve all done it so many times— researched a product we wanted to buy, read some reviews, selected an item, put it in our cart, and provided our payment information.

We may have even paid extra for faster shipping. When we’re done, we closed the app or site and waited for the product to arrive.

It’s a simple process that most of us do regularly, but any e-commerce retailer knows that getting a customer to click the “buy” button is only half the work.

Now it’s time to fulfill the order and get the product where it needs to be.

Unlocking the Omnichannel Order Fulfillment Method

Order fulfillment is every step a business takes to get a product to a customer.

This includes receiving notice of the order, handling the payment, managing inventory, and processing returns.

While never a simple matter, fulfillment processes have been transformed in recent years with the growth of the e-commerce industry.

In the past, businesses simply had to worry about keeping products on the shelves, but now they also have to think about getting products to customers who never enter a store.

As the shift to an omnichannel method (the seamless, constant flow of goods between all sales channels) gains momentum, businesses are developing new strategies to meet customer needs.

These strategies involve multiple parts of the supply chain — from warehouse locations to shipping routes.

Streamlining the Process

Because customers no longer make a distinction from buying an item online to buying it in a store, retailers are reshaping their fulfillment strategies to allow customers to find, buy, receive and return merchandise using whatever method they prefer.

Through efficient warehouse management and product inventory solutions, retailers can streamline their cross-channel fulfillment practices.

Some retailers with both physical locations and online stores have begun building a network of regional fulfillment centers that transport items either directly to a customer’s home or to stores in the area to replenish stock.

Other methods include using brick-and-mortar stores to fulfill online orders and offering in-store pick-up for online orders (which often comes with a small discount).

Working with Multiple Vendors

By working with a pool of trusted vendors, retailers can limit the number of relationships and points of contact they have to manage, all while optimizing inbound and outbound load plans and improving customer relationships.

For example, by consolidating to a smaller number of vendors, retailers are able to contain costs within that group and can respond to supply chain needs faster.

This method helps reduce the amount of vetting needed to identify trustworthy suppliers, more effectively communicate amongst their network, and place more orders at a higher volume.

Advantages of Omni-Channel Strategy

  • A boost in revenue: Offering multiple buying channels where a customer can find your products opens up new market opportunities, which results in increased sales.
  • Reduction in delivery times, total cost: Retailers who offer multiple fulfilling options can better meet customer demand by filling orders closest to a customer’s home. This results in minimized delivery times and overall shipping costs.
  • Increased customer satisfaction: Efficient retail fulfillment processes that don’t compromise service improve a company’s brand recognition and customer satisfaction.

Route Management Strategy

With the popularity of omnichannel shopping on the rise, consumers have come to expect a rapid purchase-and-delivery process, leading shippers to explore faster ways to get goods out for delivery.

One strategy retailers are using is pool distribution (or zone skipping). In this method, shipments bound for the same geographic destination or regions are grouped together until there are enough to fill a full truckload.

By consolidating, the freight doesn’t travel to multiple sorting facilities prior to reaching its final destination.

Through this route management tactic, shippers can identify efficient shipping patterns.

This strategy not only gets maximum productivity out of a shipment, but it speeds up transit times and saves money in the process.

Online Shopping Safety – Tips For A Secure Checkout!

Considering that you have the right technology and tools in place, security in online shopping is important to avoid security breaches.

Human error is always to blame with security breaches so it’s important to maintain proactive and smart online shopping habits.

As Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals approach, the latest product lineups of smart devices go on sale.

As a result, many will be set up for use. Security protocols must be in place to protect you and your family from online security breaches and fraud.

Conduct Research

Consulting the internet for ratings and reviews before buying a product is a common step in the buying process.

When it comes to tech products, diligent research beforehand, of not just specs, but known vulnerabilities and malware can help avoid future problems.

To further minimize risk, buy from reputable manufacturers, and avoid buying used devices that can already be compromised.  

Keep It Short and Never Reuse!

During your research, check to see if there are a default password and the steps to change it. When changing a password, adhere to the best practices.

Don’t reuse passwords. And contrary to past guidelines, long and overly complicated passwords are not more secure (they lead users to saving them somewhere insecure or repeating the one password).

Using a short phrase as a password, or investing in a password manager, can eliminate the hassle of tracking passwords for every account.

Update Your Devices

Update the device. “Remind me later” isn’t convenient when your computer gets breached and your privacy and security are compromised. 

Updates provide patching against known vulnerabilities.  If not updated and patched, attackers can easily take advantage of those vulnerabilities and devices. Implementing auto-updates ensures your devices stay secure. 

Use Secure Payment Routes

Pay with either a credit card or PayPal.  These options offer more buyer protection when it comes to fraudulent charges. 

Credit card companies, such as Visa and Mastercard, have security features in place to protect consumers.

Make Sure It Says HTTPS

Be sure to check the URL during checkout.  If the URL starts with “https,” then the site is deemed secure. 

Secure in this case means that there is secure communication and data are not accessible by third parties. 

Use Google Chrome as a browser as an added layer of protection, because the browser indicates when the site does not have “https” by posting a red “Not secure” label when entering text.

Never Trust Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is never secure.  In addition to not knowing what information or data is being tracked, it also creates an open door for cybercriminals to access your information.

 A VPN is the safest, most secure, option for connecting in public.  If a VPN is not available, then using your phone’s hotspot or cellular data are both safe options.

Use Different Usernames and Passwords

Reusing usernames and passwords is number one on the list of cybersecurity mistakes. By using the same log-in credentials across multiple accounts, it creates vulnerability.

When a hacker gains access to one account, then the rest are susceptible to hacks.  Access to an account exposes personal and financial data that can then be used for future attacks. 

Having multiple log-in credentials could be daunting to keep track of, but password managers are available.

Check and Re-check Links!

The online buying process includes: shopping on the site, check out, and then confirmation and shipping emails. 

At every step, it is important to verify that the site or link is still secure. Attackers can seamlessly redirect a page to a not secure page unknowingly to the buyer.

Attacks don’t stop at the checkout.  Check all subsequent emails (you don’t want to fall for an email phishing scam). 

First, validate who the sender is. It is easy for attackers to spoof email addresses to make it appear the email is from the retailer. 

Then be cautious of any links or attachments in an email.  Don’t click if you are not 100% positive it is secure. 

Be warned that attackers spoof mail carriers.  FedEx and Amazon have warned customers about phishing attempts.

These tips aren’t revolutionary or life-changing.  It’s taking steps that individuals already do and ensuring that they are adhering to the best practices.  

It’s improving upon existing habits to ensure that security becomes a continuous process at both work and home.  

Part of not becoming a victim of a cyberattack is by being an educated shopper.  Follow these tips and you’ll minimize your risks. 

Should You Outsource Your Freight Customer Service Solutions?

CEOs would often take customer service for granted and focus on product development and marketing.

While this is a core necessity in scaling your business, customer service can actually skyrocket your bottom line.

Mastering Customer Service – Nurturing Customer Experience!

Customer service is powerful because mastering it can help you personalize the customer experience and thus, nurture your leads and increase conversions.

However, would you be better off by outsourcing your customer service solutions?

Well, outsourcing is necessary and a requisite for growth. A lot of business gurus and the biggest brands have leveraged by outsourcing.

You do not have that power to do it all – but you can increase your potential for expansion by outsourcing your customer service solutions.

When is the Right Time to Outsource?

Well, you can’t take my word for it and just outsource right away. Like anything, there is always a right timing for outsourcing.

You can never contemplate outsourcing when you have just launched. You have to take baby steps.

You have to understand what customer service is all about. It starts by knowing your target market or customers. When you launch your brand, you learn from everything – the mistakes and all.

You learn first-hand what your customers love and hate about your brand. This is where you get to connect at a deeper level with your audience.

You aren’t just bombarding them with solutions but hearing out and understanding their pain points. This will be a growth hack for your customer service solutions.

At your product or brand launch, it is recommended to be very hands-on with every stage or level of the buying process.

You can get into outsourcing other services like customer service at the developmental or later stage when you get into a better grasp of the processes.

Outsource and Let Speed Work to Your Advantage

You can outsource customer service when you are unable to respond to requests or inquiries right away.

Customers would always expect freight or shipping companies to be very fast in responding to queries – so having a team to respond to a heavy lineup of customer queries should make this work.

You have to know your average response times and keep up with your customer’s expectations.

Ideally, customer service representatives must be able to respond in a few seconds especially during business hours.

These customers would most likely be eager to purchase but they won’t wait that long for you to respond and just change their mind.

Outsourcing your customer service helps you get a team rolling for these channels to improve response times.

Ultimately, this would provide your business round-the-clock customer service solutions so your clients would not need to wait around for answers or for their orders to be processed.

Overwhelmed by Managing Multiple Channels

If the demand is too much and you are handling an omnichannel or multiple channels then there is really a must to outsource.

A lot of digital entrepreneurs are unable to use these social media channels for customer service when in fact it’s actually a much better version of your site’s live chat feature.

Consistency in all platforms greatly impacts your reputation as a business.

So, if you are able to respond to SMS requests within 24 hours then that should be streamlined with your email and social media response as well.

Personalization is now the new norm of the game – so putting a value on people’s time is very important now more than ever.

Flexibility Gives You More Freedom In Handling Customer Requests

Companies would always be thinking about their overhead costs.

So, if they could outsource customer service rather than hire full-time employees (which could be more costly) then that would be the best approach to it.

Also, if the business is still unstable or having some fluctuations in sales, then outsourcing is the best option you have.

When you outsource, you won’t have to worry about the administrative duties that come with employing full-time staff.

Outsourcing customer service specialists would only require you to provide them a briefing on your brand as well as your products and services which could only take a few hours.

You get better productivity and more results this way.

The Bottom-line – Keeping Your Customers Happy

Every company must look into how to keep their customers happy. This is essentially what makes customer service a valuable marketing tool for many brands.

Outsourcing your customer service means having a team that understands your brand’s culture and has the people skills to improve brand perception and make customers satisfied and happy with the sales process.

If you believe outsourcing your customer service solutions is beneficial for your customers and your brand – then go ahead and make that leap.

A lot of freight or shipping companies outsource for a number of reasons but you won’t go wrong when you do it mainly for your customers’ convenience and happiness.

No company ever made the wrong move for that reason.

Is It Feasible To Provide Free Shipping – Ways To Go Around It

As a small, e-commerce business, the question is how do you offer free shipping without sacrificing profits and efficiency?

The answer lies in the right combination of ensuring you aren’t overextending your budget and creating enticing offers.

Use this list of tips to give you some ideas on how to offer free shipping as a small business.

The Best Way To Offer Free Shipping Without Going Overboard

Offering free shipping can be difficult for small businesses. It is great because it reels customers in for sales, but how can you afford to pay for it?

Hide the Shipping Cost in Price

Factor in the cost, or at least some of the cost, of shipping in the price of the item. That way you can still offer free shipping and make a profit.

Set a Minimum Amount

 Many of the big box stores enforce minimum order values. Follow suit and set a minimum order amount to qualify for free shipping. This will ensure you are not losing profits when offering free shipping.

Bundle Products

Shipping more than one product will lower the cost of shipping. Bundle products that complement one another or can be used together such as a holiday gift basket.

Event-Based Promo

 Offer free shipping on specific days or hours. Use this as a flash sale, where you randomly announce the free shipping offer, or as a scheduled promotion, where you market and create excitement for the offer.

Members Only Offer

 Have a loyalty or rewards program? Offer free shipping for those customers, specifically.

Email Sign Up Offer

Do you have a newsletter or email list? Run a promotion for new subscribers. Once they sign up with their email address, they get free shipping on their first order.

Bestsellers Promo

Look at your inventory and determine your highest-performing products. Take the top three with your best profit margins. Offer free shipping on any order that includes the purchase of one of these bestselling items.

Offer To Certain Locations

Offer free shipping to certain locations or areas.  Choose areas that make sense, logistically, to ship products for free without your business losing money.

Ways To Effectively Market Free Shipping Offer

Now that you have some ideas as to how you can make free shipping feasible for your business, it’s time to look at how to promote your offers.

After all, if nobody knows about your promotion, it’s ultimately not going to be effective.

Before we get into marketing strategy, we need to figure out how your free shipping offer will be redeemed. 

In most cases, retailers are going to distribute promo codes that the shopper will redeem at cart or checkout.

Most cart platforms provide an easy interface for creating promo codes with specific parameters for custom promotions.

Promo codes are easy to distribute and it’s easy to monitor how effective your promotion has been. 

80% of consumers stated that free shipping would make them more likely to purchase. Given this information, it makes sense to present your free shipping offer to new shoppers.

Using a promotional pop-up is the easiest and most effective way to promote your offer to all new shoppers.

If your free shipping offer requires a promo code, you can easily distribute promo codes directly from your pop-up.

The best way to make sure that free shipping works and wouldn’t lead to bankruptcy or zero profit is to set restriction on your free shipping offer. Going around a free shipping promo offer is easy if you know how to dangle a carrot and set limits right away.

Facing The Challenges Of Shipping – How You Can Set The Bar Higher In The Freight Industry

By 2021, global B2C e-commerce sales are expected to surpass $4.5 trillion—almost double the $2.3 trillion reached in 2018.

But alongside the explosive growth of online selling, customer expectations have also soared.

If you’re an e-commerce retailer, not only should your line of products be of optimal quality, you need to be able to get them to your customer’s door as quickly as possible.

If you don’t, your competitors are lining up to scoop up those sales.

Abandoned Carts Due To Delays in Delivery

38 percent of online shoppers will abandon their orders if delivery takes more than a week. Amazon is setting the bar incredibly high with its two-day, next-day, and same-day delivery options. Customers increasingly expect on-demand access to products and services, and this heightened expectation poses great challenges for shipping and fulfillment.

B2B Penalties and Challenges – Impact On Retailers

Aside from direct to consumer online sales, shipping and fulfillment challenges can also have an impact on online retails who also sell their products through larger retailers.

In the U.S., retailers have become increasingly stringent when it comes to their suppliers’ order fulfillment.

Apart from the fines, suppliers may also be either blacklisted or excluded from promotions and left off dedicated shelf spaces. This can potentially add up to crippling losses for businesses.

Dissatisfaction Rating – Driving Away Your Customers

Around 69 % of consumers are less likely to do business with a retailer again if a purchase is not delivered within two days of the promised date. With the hyper-competitive e-commerce industry, there are plenty of options to turn to if customers are left dissatisfied.

It doesn’t just end with losing business from that one dissatisfied customer. People want to share their experiences—whether on social media or with their peers—which means your business reputation can take an exponential hit.

This is why it’s important to build relationships—and a great way to do so is by keeping a promise.

International Competition is On the Rise

The U.S. share of global retail e-commerce is expected to continue to drop to 16.9 percent by 2021—down from 22.2 percent in 2015. Of course, this is not to say that U.S. e-commerce sales are declining. It’s just that sales all over the world are rapidly increasing, most notably in Asia.

From this perspective, you can see how the quality of shipping and fulfillment has become almost as important as the quality of the products itself.

Apart from the obvious added costs of shipping overseas, international shipping also entails getting acquainted with rules and regulations, as well as the required paperwork and permits.

Tax and duties are also mostly country-specific, so you’ll have to keep that into consideration as well.

Think On Your Toes!

The best way to tackle the complex process of international shipping is by planning ahead. This entails building an information database with shipping rates for different package sizes and weights for the different countries you could ship to.

While this could be time-consuming, it allows you to set prices confidently and be prepared for any issues that may arise.

And if you have the resources for it, you could also opt to employ an e-commerce fulfillment service provider.

These businesses can provide you with all the rates and importation fee information you’ll be needing.

Communication and Transparency

The key here is to be transparent with your customers. While they may not expect to get their items overnight, it’s best to tell them just how long it could take, and offer shipping options.

A lot of customers are willing to pay a premium to get their orders sooner.

It’s important to keep in mind that no matter how seasoned the supplier you’re reaching out to is, they’re just trying to run a business—just like you.

Part of doing business is answering questions and concerns, so if you want to clarify anything—ask.

Perfect Your Inventory Management Strategy

Proper inventory management can address issues like these on the front end. Track inventory as it enters and leaves the warehouse with a centralized system.

Also, don’t neglect your warehouse conditions. Make sure your inventory his housed safely, and that it’s double-checked before being sent out. It would also be wise to invest in quality packaging and insurance.

Because each carrier has a unique set of services and prices, it’s important to practice due diligence when it comes to analyzing what your needs are.

For example, a lot of carriers offer packaging tailored to specific requirements. Opting for this instead of investing in your own is a good way to avoid added costs.

There are also mail carriers that provide fixed-rate shipping based on the distance a package has to travel. If you frequently ship to a certain location, see if the flat rate shipping is a more cost-effective solution.

Be Tech-Savvy!

Keep your finger on the pulse of technological developments. While not every innovation that comes along fits your business needs, you need to be aware of what options are available.

Automation allows you to be more effective and efficient in monitoring, tracking and moving orders throughout the supply chain. You might also find that having an e-commerce app boosts sales.

It may take an upfront investment, but it could ultimately boost your bottom line.

Be Proactive!

It’s easy to overlook when you’re just starting a business, but shipping and fulfillment problems quickly turn into a tremendous concern.

From warehousing, order fulfillment, and international shipping, a lot goes into making sure your products reach your customers.

But while it might seem overwhelming, there are a number of solutions providers that can help you at virtually every step of the way.

Make sure you cover all the bases to ensure that your customers don’t turn to your competition.

How To Mitigate Risks In A Global Supply Chain

A global supply chain can be defined as both a simple yet complicated system. It’s a paradox.

What is the Global Supply Chain?

Also referred to as a global value chain, this pertains overall to a chain of activities, systems, tools, networks, and people that businesses use in their daily operations or for production and delivery of products and services worldwide.

There are a lot of facets or movable parts involved in a global supply chain which are crucial to keep businesses running.

This would usually involve the manufacturing and distribution processes. This could also involve the marketing department. It would all depend on what kind of business or industry you’re in.

For businesses, the freight forwarding and shipping industry is an important part of the global supply chain.

Any resource or company that adds value to your daily business operations is a part of this global value chain, such that if one breaks down then you could encounter glitches in your business.

Yes, there is an interdependence that exists in this global supply chain. It is complex when seen from one point but it becomes crystal once you look at the bigger picture.

Advancements in technology, the internet, and even outsourcing have contributed to the greater impact of globalization on international trade.

Supply chains are really interconnected such as that they share certain benefits and even vulnerabilities along the way. 

Risks in the Global Supply Chain

Systemic risks are on the rise especially with the advent of new technologies coming out.

In addition, economic, health, political, and even cyber risks are now a large part of the challenges that global supply chains are trying to combat on a daily grind.

A risk management system or stress-testing should be in place to understand the nature of these risks and how to successfully manage its effects.

From pandemics such as the COVID-19, national disasters, economic and political turmoil, fluctuations in supply and demand, and even failures encountered in the supply value chain, globalization would mean that your business should have a hedge or contingency plan enabled for these risks.

The challenges now with global supply chains and for the freight and shipping industries are to be prepared for disruptive events.

Now is certainly dubbed as a time or period of uncertainty, and there are strategies that will help reduce the magnitude of risks while improving performance in the global supply chain.

Compartmentalize or Contain the Disruption

You have to contain the disruptive element that happens in the supply chain. Just as in anything contagious, you can limit transmission by encapsulating it to just one section of the global supply chain. In this way, you get to reduce the risks and also improve performance.

Segmentation is important so you contain the ill effects or reduce the impact of ongoing and recurring disruptions in the supply chain.

Today, there is a call for supply chains to be more specialized and flexible in terms of capacity to handle both low-volume and high-volume commodities with varying demand levels.

Do Not Be Afraid To Trade Off Some Success To Reduce Risks

Businesses may be reluctant to take steps on mitigating risks with the fear that performance could drop with this maneuver.

However, there is an advantage in overestimating disruptions rather than underestimating its likelihood because you get to deal with it right now and get it done and over with.

But, if you prefer to just sit on the sidelines and do nothing, then that could be an expensive risk in the long run.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket

A lot of companies go wrong when they forget to spread their risks and just concentrate or pool everything into one chain. This creates or maximizes your vulnerability for disruptions.

Having a centralized or common inventory makes one an easy target for just about anything. You can’t depend on a single source for everything because if that corrodes, then you got nothing else to leverage on.

There should always be a balance in the push and pull of your business movements. You can’t go into extremes like having just one supplier because it increases your risk levels and costs.

This makes your business more fragile. The ability to be flexible, responsive, and capable of having a plan B in everything creates equilibrium in your supply chain.

Be Armed with a Risk Mitigation Strategy

Having advanced IT systems enable businesses to monitor the flow of their transactions 24/7.

They get to be on the radar or on top of the supply chains as these systems would automatically send alerts when something goes off.

These contingent and recovery measures are also part of ensuring business continuity when worse comes to worst.

The mindset here is to always overestimate and exaggerate the disruptions so you can heighten performance and have backup options ready for recovery.

 This helps your global supply chain become more competitive and resilient in the face of any attacks or disruptions that target your business or supply chain.

It Pays to be Redundant Than Complacent

Redundancy is in fact more effective than complacency especially when it comes to safeguarding your global supply chain from disruptions or attacks that can help you be in combat mode and ready for anything.

Know The Differences Between A Freight Forwarder And Freight Broker

Technical jargon in business can be a pain to digest. It can be confusing and overwhelming especially when you are trying to figure out which one could provide you the exact services you need for your personal or business needs.

Well, we aim to simplify and scratch the guesswork with this comparative guide on the main differences between freight forwarders and freight brokers.

Although the two could often be used interchangeably in the industry when it comes to cargo shipping or delivery, it actually provides entirely different services.

Well, they do have something alike, as both help with arranging transportation or moving of cargo but have their own respective modalities of executing their services.

What is a Freight Broker?

Freight brokers serve as intermediaries or middlemen that connect the shippers with multiple carriers plus also manage or arrange the movement of goods.

To gain the authority of performing such services, it’s required for freight brokers to register with the Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety or FMCSA and US Federal Highway Administration with a trust bond of $10,000.

Basically, shippers would contact freight brokers to connect them with third-party companies like freight forwarders or carriers that would coordinate transportation of cargo.

However, freight brokers do not own transportation vehicles such as containers, ships, trains, trucks, and airplanes. More so, they do not cover preparation of paperwork or insurance and other fees.

They basically just make the necessary arrangements with shippers and freight carriers. The rest would be managed by the freight forwarding company.

With that being said, a freight broker has limited legal responsibility or liability for the freight because they do not take actual possession of your cargo. They also ship goods under the cargo owner’s bill of lading.

What is a Freight Forwarder?

A freight forwarder has that functionality of a freight broker plus MORE.

They cover more bases and provide specialized services for clients. Well, freight forwarders do not just arrange or manage the transportation of cargo but can do both local and international movement of goods.

They take actual possession of cargo or freight and have the carrier assets to handle storage, packing, and the like.

Freight forwarding companies perform an integrated and consolidated service that handles cargo space, assembles and packs goods, negotiates the best rates with carriers, forwards shipments, handles insurance and paperwork, and transport with their own house bills of lading.

They would usually have their own containers to prepare and consolidate cargo in preparation for shipping.

They can also handle small to large or bulk shipments which are integral to freight logistics. They also have a greater legal liability as opposed to freight brokers and would need to insure the cargo.

In essence, they would need more capital, manpower, and advanced technology to handle the business. This is a data-driven industry that requires more dynamics to make up a seamless flow of processes.

Freight Broker or Freight Forwarder? Decrypting the Jargon

There may be some overlap of functions when it comes to freight forwarders and freight brokers. There is always that gray area in any business that allows a company to innovate and bend without breaking.

Legal liabilities would differ especially because freight forwarders have more coverage and control of the movement of cargo than that of freight brokers.

Thus, the freight forwarder then takes on full responsibility from the actual receipt of cargo to its final destination.

There you go! Now, that pretty much clears up the confusion. One might have the advantage or edge over the other at many points.

Would you hire a freight broker or freight forwarder to move your cargo? OR perhaps, get the best of both worlds with us here at Package Forward.

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