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Monthly Archives November 2020

Are E-commerce Supply Chains Ready for An Unprecedented Holiday Season?

holiday season supply chain

Visible President, Casey Adams, talks about what to expect for e-commerce shipping during the holidays and how to prepare to best serve and impress (article also featured in GritDaily).

In the wake of COVID-19, there are significant changes in consumer habits and mail carrier performance. Here’s how retailers can prepare for an unpredictable peak season.

2020 is the year of new norms, and that includes holiday shopping behavior. Consumer habits, mail carrier performance and supply chains continuously evolve as the pandemic continues.

In a world-wide study released last week by Salesforce, 58% of consumers and 80% of business buyers expect to do more online shopping after the pandemic than before.

 

Percentage of Shipments for 7 Days in Transit

supply chain holiday season

 

Percentage of Packages Delivered by Transit Days and Month

percentage of packages delivered

 

What to expect

Parcel carriers have managed holiday-like spikes in shipping volume since the pandemic hit. Research indicates holiday volume will mirror or top that.

Internet advertiser, Criteo, reported that online sales were 30% higher in the Americas and 17% higher worldwide from June 15 to 28 compared to February 2 to 14, pre-pandemic. Increased e-commerce sales during the outbreak indicate that consumers are online shopping more than ever and will presumably continue throughout the holidays. According to the aforementioned Salesforce survey, 88% of respondents reported that they plan to continue purchasing gifts online and sending them to recipients.

This surge could lead to lags in shipping times and increased costs for retailers as carriers place increase surcharges and limit package pick-ups.

Retailers have started their Black Friday and holiday promotions early to combat the volume. What was a 30-day promotional period previously is now around 75 days.

 

How retailers can best serve customers

Communication is key. Perhaps most importantly, retailers should communicate early and often the possibility of shipping delays, so there is transparency when gifts will arrive.

Create a multi-carrier strategy. Diverse options help mitigate risk. Carrier diversity is a workaround for capped volume and capacity constraints. Additionally, splitting volume between carriers can help avoid the surcharges that apply to shippers who send a certain number of parcels per week. Consider enlisting help from a logistics provider with an extensive network of reliable partners to support this strategy.

Utilize multiple fulfillment centers. Strategically located fulfillment centers benefit both the retailer and the customer. When inventory is stored at more than one location, the product can be shipped from the location closest to the customer and reach them faster without incurring expedited delivery fees, improving transit time. Having distribution centers across the country serve as emergency preparedness if a facility shuts down for several days in the event of a crisis.

Optimize your packaging. When it comes to packaging, think outside the box. Pun intended. Packaging doesn’t just contain and protect a product; it reinforces your brand. Consider how packaging contributes to the customer’s overall experience. Evaluate whether you are using the right materials—and the right amount of materials—for maximum efficiency. Reducing the package’s size/weight and eliminating excess materials can create savings and allow more orders to get loaded for delivery.

Take advantage of technology. Choose a logistics partner that can optimize shipping processes using technology. Parcel tracking and scan and pack verification systems add an extra layer of accuracy and quality control to the fulfillment process. They ensure the right products get delivered to the right place as timely as possible.

If possible, online-only retailers should consider establishing pop-ups in customer-dense cities to allow curbside pick-up through web and app portals. 88% of customers expect companies of all kinds to accelerate digital initiatives due to the pandemic, and 83% expect retailers to provide flexible shipping and fulfillment options such as buy-online-pick-up-at-store, according to Salesforce.

 

Silver linings and opportunity

Although recent events have created supply chain disruptions globally, it has also created an opportunity. Companies are re-evaluating their supply chains, finding ways to increase resilience and efficiency and build customer loyalty.

 

 

Tips to Prepare for Black Friday (and Cyber Monday)

black friday ecommerce shipping

Everything has changed this year, and holiday shopping is no exception. As the coronavirus continues to spread, retailers have had to come up with creative ways to attract Black Friday shoppers while creating a safe shopping experience. In addition to implementing contactless pickup options, stores are widening their aisles, adding registers to avoid congestion and offering pre-booked shopping times.

But despite retailers’ efforts to make in-store shopping as safe as possible, three-quarters of people surveyed by RetailMeNot said they prefer to shop online this year. The same percentage said they will try to have their holiday shopping done as early as possible. That means businesses must be ready to deliver, so we’ve put together a rundown of strategies to help you prepare and make the season bright for you and your customers.

 

Extend your sale dates

Carrier capacity will be tighter than ever this season, and holiday shoppers are being warned to prepare for delays and bottlenecks that some are calling “Shipageddon.” In fact, due to these anticipated delays, experts say those who haven’t yet started their holiday shopping are already behind. One way to help your customers receive their orders in time for the holidays is by expanding your Black Friday sales window. Giving customers early holiday deals can be a great way to spread out demand over a more manageable timeframe and alleviate shipping bottlenecks.

 

Prepare inventory for the rush

There are several ways to get your inventory in top shape ahead of Black Friday/Cyber Monday. Before the rush starts, verify that you have enough inventory to meet demand. Reviewing historical sales data and which products have been popular can help you predict which items are likely to be top-sellers. Additionally, retailers should dispose of “dead inventory,” or slow-moving stock that takes up space and ties up cash. This will help make room for new items and safety stock to lower your risk of stockouts. Smaller retailers that have limited capacity and don’t want to risk overstocking items should consider having similar products available so customers can purchase comparable items.

 

Assemble bundles in advance

When holiday shopping, consumers are not just looking for discounts but value. One way retailers deliver extra value during the holidays is through product bundles and bonus gifts, which hold greater value than standalone products. Mystery boxes—packages filled with surprise products—are another increasingly popular way to captivate holiday shoppers. These not only create an exciting customer experience, but also help retailers clear out inventory. Ask your fulfillment partner to do kitting and assembly in advance to ensure these items are ready before the holiday rush. If you perform these services in house, store the bundled items near each other so they can be picked and packed more efficiently.

 

Offer free shipping and options

Amazon has had an undeniable impact on consumer expectations. Shoppers want to order products with ease and receive them quickly without paying for shipping. Free shipping makes shoppers feel like they’re getting a deal, and many will even buy more items to hit the free shipping minimum order threshold. While many shoppers will choose free shipping if given the choice, others will be willing to pay more for expedited delivery. Research shows that customers simply want options.

 

Optimize your packaging—and make it special

Your packaging is an extension of your brand and a critical component of the customer experience. Packaging not only provides in-transit protection but also presents an opportunity for cost savings. Evaluate whether you are using the right materials—and the right amount of materials—for maximum efficiency. Optimizing the size and weight of your packaging and eliminating excess materials saves you money while also reducing the environmental impact.

Another important packaging consideration is the experience your customer will have when they open their package. Memorable, unique packaging that gives customers a special (and frustration-free) unboxing experience can improve your brand value and turn customers into brand advocates. A thank-you note, coupon, bonus gift or sample will also surprise your customer and make them feel appreciated. With the number of YouTube channels dedicated to unboxing and the millions of views they garner, it seems likely that having memorable packaging is a trend that’s here to stay.

 

Be prepared for returns

When the rush of returns starts, usually shortly after Black Friday or Cyber Monday, it is critical for businesses to have a strong returns management plan in place to deliver a positive customer experience and build trust and loyalty. An effective returns strategy should be focused on expediency and transparency, which require proper planning, systems and resources.

To process a greater number of returns as efficiently as possible, make sure that you are properly staffed and that you’re taking advantage of automated workflows in your system. It’s also important to be transparent about your return policy and ensure it is communicated clearly so customers know what to expect. And, as always, customers should have full visibility to shipment and tracking information.

 

Take care of your employees

Last but certainly not least, remember to take care of your team. Employees who feel appreciated are more likely to provide quality customer service and be more productive. With the high-stress environment of a fulfillment center around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, plus the longer holiday hours, this time of year is at high-risk for employee turnover. Maintain open communication by having conversations with employees to make sure they feel appreciated during this critical time.

Your supply chain planning is tested during peak seasons like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but with proper preparation and a flexible range of options, your supply chain can meet these challenges. Our team of professionals is here with industry-leading supply chain solutions and services to support your business and help you deliver excellence all year long. Contact us today at 877.728.5328 to speak with one of our supply chain experts.

 

 

 

Benefits of a USPS Approved Reseller

In a previous blog post, “Beware of the Dangers of an Unauthorized USPS Rate,” we explain what a USPS Approved Reseller is and why it is critical for shippers to ensure their discounted USPS rates are coming from a company authorized to resell them. In this post, we’re taking a deeper dive into how a USPS Approved Reseller can support your business and improve your bottom line.

 

It Pays to Know Your Rate Provider

Most companies likely know who provides their USPS shipping label, or they have heard of the popular PC Postage providers, but that doesn’t mean they know where their rates are coming from. It can be helpful to know who your USPS rate provider is, as they can introduce you to new software options or USPS products that will save your business money on every USPS shipment. For example, does your company ship more than 150,000 Priority Mail packages per year? If so, an authorized USPS rate provider like Visible Supply Chain Management could help you get approved for a discount on your USPS shipments.

 

Software Options & Shipping Technology

When you partner with an approved USPS Approved Reseller, you have more software options and access to experts who will assist your business in selecting the right software solution. Utilizing a shipping technology with robust automation features not only adds efficiency to your warehouse or shipping department, but it also reduces human errors by ensuring that the right box dimensions, carrier, or service level is selected on each order. This can reduce shipping costs and improve the customer experience by reducing order errors. Because Visible Supply Chain Management can work with nearly any shipping software available, your business isn’t limited.

 

Access Expertise and Savings

When your company partners with an approved USPS reseller like Visible, you can access your USPS rate in any number of shipping platforms, but you also get access to expert insight on the best way to utilize the USPS within your business. This expertise comes from years of experience in USPS pricing and can have a real impact on your bottom line. Just one way to do this is by utilizing Priority Mail Cubic pricing, which is meant for shipments less than .5 cubic feet. Your business may already use Priority Mail today, but if your shipments are small and heavy, you could save up to 30% or more by using Priority Mail Cubic pricing.

 

An Unauthorized Reseller Will Cost You

Shippers who receive discounted postal service rates from unauthorized resellers run the risk of having their rates increased without notice, or even losing USPS service all together. This kind of disruption puts a shipper’s customer service capabilities as well as their reputation on the line. Ecommerce volumes are at an all-time high, and shipping with an authorized rate reseller will help keep you protected and delivering packages all year long.

Get discounts without the risk by partnering with an approved reseller like Visible. Contact us today at 877.728.5328 to find out how Visible can help your business better utilize the USPS and reduce your shipping costs.