The real drama for Online Sellers will come in the days following the mega sales and fist fights, as consumers return a potentially incapacitating volume of purchases for retailers to deal with.
Logistics is a term used to define the process of moving goods from point of origin to point of use, notwithstanding the process of reverse logistics, which describes the process in which finished goods get put back into the Supply Chain to create added value.
The definition of Logistics has been a constant for many years, with origins going back to the Military, the term Logistics simply represents moving product from Point A to Point B in the fastest and most cost effective way possible.
Although answering the question, “What is Logistics?” is relatively simple, the processes are far more complex.
- Tightening of the economy, currency fluctuations, increased competition and reduced margins have been catalysts for companies to take a closer look at their cost centres.
- Manufacturing, Warehouse Space, Inventory, Technology, Shipping Costs, Packaging, Staff and Material Handling Equipment, all represent a significant cost to a company; but yet are necessary to operate an effective Supply Chain.
Although many companies continue to manage their own supply chain, more and more companies choose to outsource their supply chain to specialist organizations; these organizations are called 3PL providers.
3PL providers manage inventory, storage and distribution of product. 4PL providers take it a step further; not only do they run inventory, storage and distribution; they also manage Customer Services, Reverse Logistics and other value added services.
Although this is not a new concept, we are starting to see more small to medium sized businesses adopting these options. Whilst it is beneficial for SMEs’ to invest into product development rather then capital expenses; it is also beneficial for SMEs’ to concentrate on sales and marketing rather than storage and distribution.
A Word of Warning
Freight companies are not 3PL providers, holding inventory does not make a freight company a 3P provider, when looking for a 3PL or 4PL provider do your due diligence, take a look at their current clients, take a look at their technology and finally make sure they can scale as your Business scales.
So, the original question “What is Logistics”
What is logistics? Logistics is a term, Supply Chain is the process, whatever you do make sure you can get your product from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible. Here at 3PL we can guarantee the use of a third party will add value to your business.
Visa Europe’s UK Consumer Spending Index for April has shown the biggest spike in online consumer spending for some 16 months
Visa Europe’s UK Consumer Spending Index for April has shown the biggest spike in online consumer spending for some 16 months. Before April this year, it was December 2014 that last saw such a large spike as wintry weather took its toll on the spending of high street shoppers.
You may wonder why something of this nature is featuring on our logistics and fulfilment blog, but we think this news is definitely relevant. With the majority of our customers operating their own ecommerce websites and selling through various different marketplaces like eBay and amazon, then the news of online spending growing at the fastest rate for over a year, holds fair importance.
Minister of State for the Digital Economy, Ed Vaizey, dubbed the figures a reflection of Britain’s evermore tech-savvy consumers, and encouraged businesses to make the most of a “more digital Britain.”
The continued rise in ecommerce sales should come as no surprise given that the UK is one of the most developed digital economies in the world and a nation viewed as early adaptors of technology.
Visa’s figures show online spending growth hit a 16-month high in April, up 8.4% on the same period last year, whilst face-to-face spending remained relatively flat at 0.2%.
The UK and Ireland Managing Director of Visa Europe said that “growth in consumables remains evident, but consumer spending is increasingly focused on the experience economy. Eating out, booking holidays and discovering new experiences are all driving spending growth”.
“The average British person spends around £1,500 online each year,” the Minister of State for the Digital Economy added. He also said that he wants all UK businesses to be taking advantage of this and that they should make the most of the opportunity that the internet offers. With businesses embracing online technology, Britain is becoming increasingly stronger and more digitally minded.
Within the Consumer Spending Index for April, the only sector to report reduced expenditure was clothing and footwear, down 2.8% year-on-year, where unseasonal weather was attributed to have had an adverse effect on sales in these sectors. It can be safely assumed that the wintry weather throughout April played a big part on the overall sales for clothing and footwear, as high street chains were not reaping any sort of benefit.
Overall however, the most notable point to take away from the Index for April is that general ecommerce sales are growing, and fast. This latest data is certainly no surprise to the team here at 3P Logistics as our throughput in fulfilment of ecommerce orders continues to increase month on month. We foresee overall ecommerce sales continue to outstrip forecasts for the remainder of 2016 and beyond whilst buyer habits will continue to swing towards m-commerce (shopping using mobile devices in general)
Marketing your E-Commerce business requires time, dedication and know-how.
A constant flow of site visits don’t happen overnight and your followers on Twitter or you likes on Facebook don’t come out of thin air. It takes a lot of planning and carefully thought out practices to maximise your marketing potential and help achieve your goal of increased sales. No matter how much you read and study around the topic of gaining online followers and having that authority on social that you require, the only thing that works best is to just go out and try it yourself to determine what methods work best for your business.
Here are the top 3 tips for you to get more customers:
1. Automated Emails
It is very important to keep your brand at the top of the mind of both current and potential new customers. It is paramount that you find a way to retain your re-engage and retain your current custom but also acquire and convert new custom. Why don’t you consider using the various marketing software that allows you to schedule emails for specific times, dates and for specific reasons. For example, emailing someone straight after they have just purchased from your site asking for them to leave a review either on your website or another platform. Perhaps its been a few months since a certain customer has purchased from your site and you want to send an email asking them to buy from you again. You could also send emails through to customers who have abandoned their basket or cart, reminding them that they can still purchase from you and not somewhere else. These few techniques could be the difference between converting sales or letting cold hard cash slip through your fingers.
2. Consider Facebook
Admittedly there are mixed reviews about Facebook and its capabilities etc. but boosting posts and spending money on Facebook Ads can be quite beneficial. On top of that, why not launch a Facebook store while you’re there.
Facebook has dropped its organic reach for any post, no matter how many likes, followers, fans etc. to around the 1% mark. All in a bid to make you spend more money. However, spending a little bit of money isn’t such a bad thing. Lets say you spend the minimum for boosting a post, which is £4.00, you will gain an average reach of 1000 accounts. Out of that 1000 lets say you get about 40-50 likes on your post. This is now where you can get the most out of your £4.00. If you look at the list of the people that have liked your post just because you boosted it, you can directly invite them to like your page. And most of the time, having liked your post about your products, they will like your page too. We have worked out on average there is a 20% success rate here.
The next stage is then your store. The good thing about a Facebook store, is that it is easy to set up, and if you have your e-commerce store on the likes of Shopify, it can integrate directly. It is easy for visitors to find as a ‘Shop’ just comes up as another tab to click on when they are on your page. This is all part of the customer journey, from liking your post, to liking your page and then going directly to store and taking a browse right through to actual purchase.
3. Press, PR and Bloggers
If you’re looking for different ways to get the word of your business out there, look at optimising your PR efforts and also look into using bloggers to advertise and sell your stuff through their own websites and blogs. One good website/application for PR is BuzzSumo which is a highly robust search engine allowing you to find the publications and authors that most commonly discuss a certain topic. This will allow you to very quickly build up your PR database with contact and businesses that might want to cover your efforts.
Another great way to get your products out there is to take advantage of social media, the likes of Instagram and YouTube are brilliant for this kind of stuff. The best way to find bloggers is simply by looking for them on Google. If you’re in the e-commerce and retail business these can be great, but also for any other industry. The size of their audience varies, but some of them have large followings, and the process of reaching out to them is quite easy. All you need to do, is search for them on Google. You may have to play around with your keywords to find the people who may be interested in your product but there are many people who review products part-time or for a living.
Another tried and trusted method for increasing traffic is landing your business in the press. Now you might not get covered from very big newspapers and sites, but you have a better chance of getting press from local news sites and community papers. You have a good chance of being featured if you can tell a unique story, if you can talk about your product in interesting ways, and if you write a good pitch. When reaching out to the press, a concise pitch is nearly always better than the long pitch because reporters see lots of pitches. If you’d like to get press attention, write a short and compelling email. Tell them about what makes you different, and try to pitch yourself as a local success story.
And To Conclude
As a forward thinking provider of e commerce order fulfilment services to a wide range of retailers our experience and guidance helps our clients to sell more effectively.
Marketing efforts will always take time, especially early on as you figure out what tools and platforms work best for your brand, but these three tips will definitely help you. Here at 3PL these three tips are what we believe to be the most important in helping you get your e-commerce business up and off the ground running, with an edge on the competition. All you need to do is take the time to implement these strategies and put them to full use and the results will be visible over time.
As the old saying goes – nothing ventured / nothing gained.
(Why not also read our 2016 E-Commerce Success blog post)
So you’ve cracked the UK market but how do you now grow your business internationally and can you really afford not to?
Ian Walker, Managing Director of 3P Logistics shares his thoughts:
In more recent years the term “cross border trading” may have come firmly onto your radar and this is simply another term for International trade whether it be imports or exports. Overseas nations are fast emerging with new found wealth fused with an insatiable demand for Western goods and services. Combine this with the strengthening of political ties and we can safely conclude that the climate for International trade has never been better. Logistically the world is a much smaller place these days whilst the more common barriers to trading internationally are being dismantled at pace. Pretty soon the only barrier left will be your own imagination!
If you are serving the UK Market in isolation then your coverage will be a mere pin pick on a Global scale and the missed opportunity for growth is vast. International trade isn`t without it`s risks of course but such risks can be minimised through solid research, access to affiliated trade bodies and the use of strategic partnerships such as third party logistics.
Prior to launching internationally the main questions to ask yourself centre around the three P`s of Product, Price and Placement. You firstly must identify a clear demand for your product or service. Thereafter you must have a plausible price point that still delivers a net margin contribution with all costs considered. Finally, you really need to understand which territories to focus your offering and understand why.
Once you have exhausted the three P`s it is time to court expert advice and support. Such advice and support is normally free and is in plentiful supply in the form of government affiliated advisory bodies and logistics operators. Whether your trade involves inward or outward investment there is an army of independent support on hand to help you along the journey.
Support network includes:
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)
International trade should not be viewed in trepidation but instead be seen as an unbridled opportunity to meet new people, explore new cultures, and grow your sales in the bargain. Comprehensive research is fundamental to the overall success of International expansion whilst a degree of experimentation never hurt anyone.
Most importantly – International trade should be fun, so go enjoy it!
About The Author
With its head office based in the North West Ian is the Managing Director and original founder of 3P Logistics, a leading provider of global logistics and order fulfilment. His business provides outsourced supply chain support to a wide range of UK & International b2b & b2c clientele. Recent winners of the Wigan business awards the business also works closely with various affiliated bodies in helping its UK based clients to grow internationally.
For more information:
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Visit Us: www.3p-logistics.co.uk
In today’s world where neither land nor sea remains uncharted, why is it that so many vastly populated territories rich with product hungry consumers remain largely uncharted by UK Business?
Is it the fear of the unknown perhaps or is there a degree of follow my leader?
As history shows, our nation has a track record in overseas exploration and an insatiable passion for International Trade. I often wonder what Cook, Drake and Raleigh would make of our somewhat passive approach to emerging marketplaces.
As we know, China has dominated the headlines in recent years and will remain a vast opportunity for UK Exporters for some time to come. That said, the opportunity to be “first to market” in some of the less publicised emerging nations may carry far greater appeal to those businesses seeking the utopia of reduced competition and greater margin.
With more and more UK businesses warming to the opportunity of trading with China the lateral thinkers amongst us could do much worse than navigating alternative routes to market.
Ironically if you follow the scent of overseas manufacturing output then you will inevitably stumble upon the next thriving economy and its new found wealth whilst I often refer to these nations as “the untouchables”. From Mexico and Brazil to Vietnam and Indonesia the populations are vast and a surge in demand for western goods and services for many years to come is inevitable.
Yes, emerging nations have infrastructure challenges and yes, International Trade with lesser known territories does have increased risks. That said, if these markets were simple enough to crack then they would soon be saturated by the rest of the world and margins quickly depleted.
I often hear that the world has become a much smaller place, hence with the support of the UKTI combined with a reliable supply chain partner we really should be viewing the world as a single post code.
As the old saying goes – “the only limiting factor is our own imagination!”
For any supply chain assistance relating to global imports or exports get more information on our freight page, or just get in touch.
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As the online industry continues to grow at an ever-increasing pace, the demand for outsourced fulfilment companies has never been higher. After all, sellers don’t set out to become warehouse keepers when their main aims should be to source and sell great products.
Deciding to outsource your order fulfilment is all about timing, and centres around three essential trigger points:
1: Sufficient demand
2: Sufficient margin
3: The need to employ people or take on a warehouse
What is Outsourced Order Fulfilment?
To summarise, Order Fulfilment is defined as asking someone else to pick pack & ship your orders, so you don’t have to. Any leading third party fulfilment house would house numerous retailers under one roof, providing them with a range of additional support services. Such services could include anything from web photography and listing support through to enquiries handling and inbound telesales.
For a nominal cost per order, outsourcing you fulfilment frees you up to take care of the more virtual aspects of sourcing goods and marketing.
How Would I Know When to Outsource?
Running a successful online business will normally result in various growing pains along the way. A lack of space, time, expertise and cash are common stumbling blocks normally associated with business growth.
Some sellers that have a clear business plan decide to outsource from day 1 and spend their time in other key areas of the business. Other sellers decide to keep things in-house until they have established “proven demand”. With outsourced fulfilment you only “pay for what you use” hence when orders are low your costs remain low.
A minimum of 100 orders per week, or around 15 orders per day is a useful threshold at which some of the above constraints should be evident and sufficient benefit can be obtained from outsourcing.
Can I Afford to Outsource?
The more pressing question is can you afford not to?
If space, time and know-how are holding you back, then outsourcing to a reliable fulfilment house is a sure-fire way to regain control of your business. If you intend to sell on line for a bit of “pocket money” then fine – You should stay as you are, enjoy it and treat it as hobby.
If you have greater ambition to be a sizeable seller, then sourcing great products at the right price and taking them to market will require dedication. Employing staff, taking on an industrial unit etc, all contribute to your fixed costs. Meanwhile your cost per order equivalent is more likely to exceed that of any flexible “pay as you use” alternative.
More often than not, fulfilment houses are able to pool their throughput with the major carriers to obtain lower delivery tariffs. In tapping into such buying power, savings can be realised and often offset the cost of picking your orders.
How can I expect to benefit from letting someone else pick & pack my orders?
There are numerous benefits to be realised as result of “letting go” of the physical aspects, and these include:
- More time to source & sell
- Space is no longer a concern
- A better work/life balance
- A scalable business (complete flexibility)
- Steal a march on the competition
- Tap into existing industry expertise, and knowledge of “best practice”
- Potential to lower your operating costs
- Potential to grow your sales through channel expansion
Demand for outsourced order fulfilment is growing as quick if not quicker than the online world itself as more and more sellers realise the advantages of working with a third party fulfilment company.
You can get more information on picking and packing orders from our other blog posts.
A brief re-cap
If you value your time and are serious about growing your online business then outsourcing should be a viable option for your business. Employing warehouse staff and taking on industrial or self-store units merely adds to your fixed costs, reduces flexibility and increases risk. Alternatively, you could consider moving some of your lines to a fulfilment centre, like 3P Logistics as an initial move. Instead of taking on more staff or space, examine the possibility of moving stock that takes up an appropriate percentage of your orders into fulfilment and study the cost and time benefits incurred. It can offset your expansion costs, and open up your eyes to the benefits.
20 years after the first recorded online sales transaction, e-commerce is now a worldwide market comprised of merchants ranging from multi-national retailers to single owner-operator businesses.
While the earliest days of e-commerce sales were dominated by the bricks and mortar retailers that were already well established, new technologies have allowed those smaller, and newer market entrants to quickly grow market share and revenue streams by rapidly responding to the constant change in market dynamics. This in turn has paved the way for cross border trade.
UK SME’s currently trail behind the rest of Europe in terms of exports, according to recent research from the UKTI. Of an estimated 5.4 million businesses in the UK, with Small to Medium Enterprises currently accounting for 99% of those businesses, you’d think that it would be more than one in five that currently export. France are one in four, and Germany one in three.
Although these are the figures for the UK, France and Germany, cross border trade is growing. 33% of retailers surveyed currently sell on international sites and one in four of those retailers earn more than 20% of their revenue through international sales. In 2013, cross border e-commerce sales between Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, the UK and the US totalled $105 billion. By 2018, this figure is said to jump to $307 billion. A near 200% increase. With this in mind, Bigcommerce’s Democratization of E-commerce Report predicts that US SME’s e-commerce market alone will exceed $100 billion in total sales in 2015.
However, there are still problems that retailers face when it comes to trading internationally. Examples such as language barriers or even fulfilment processes are amongst the most common. Retailers only need to invest time to research and build a strategic plan before taking the leap into cross border trade.
Trade between two nations is an excellent way to strengthen international bonds because it helps to create long lasting partnerships where before none may have existed.
For those who don’t know that Black Friday is this Friday, where have you been? Yes, Black Friday is this Friday, the 27th of November.
Certain analysts predict British shoppers alone will spend up to £1bn on tech, games, clothes and other goods in 24 hours, whereas Visa Europe believes that shoppers will spend up to £1.9bn during the consumer holiday. The consumer holiday being the whole weekend, which ends with Cyber Monday on November 30.
Third party logistics businesses and order fulfilment providers are ready for the sales weekend that starts with Black Friday and ends with Cyber Monday. Here at 3P Logistics, as an E-commerce fulfilment provider, we are in close contact with our partners, especially over this period. The warehouse will be full of products ready to be sold online at discount prices. Stock has been moved to premium locations for ease of packing, in order to cope with the high demand that comes with the largest sales event of the year.
Of course, we’ve all heard of boomerang Thursday also. No? Well, boomerang Thursday is given its name due to the amount of returns of products from customers that businesses like 3PL have to deal with. It’s just as important to be able to process these returns smoothly and efficiently, as it is to get orders out on Black Friday itself.
Amazon have decided to take the sting out of Black Friday and list certain products at marked down prices all week on the run up to Black Friday. 7,000 deals were available from yesterday – five days earlier than the official sale day falls. Customers will be able to get their hands on new offers every 10 minutes for the entire week, with items ranging from the Amazon Kindles to a Withings smart-watch. Retailer’s lightening deals are back. Limited items are available for a short period of time with Prime members having the ability to see these deals before other shoppers.
In the US, expenditure is set to be far higher than that of the UK because of how much it is established as a big sales event. For America Black Friday marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping period, and takes place strategically on the first shopping day after Thanksgiving.
It is clear for everyone to see what the rewards of online retailing actually are, but having to deal with customer demand during the spike that is Black Friday, during the increasingly demanding period that Q4 is, can make it a minefield. Luckily enough, 3P Logistics Ltd are the perfect fit for you online retailers.
Nonetheless, the one big question surrounding Black Friday is whether or not your business can afford not to take into account every essence of making a Black Friday sale. There really is no accounting for the way in which shoppers adapt their spending habits for retail events like this so it’s really important that retailers have every box ticked. Therefore it is good that retailers have grown up recently, most specifically in terms of managing customer expectations.
Tesco are a great example of this. They have taken a completely proactive approach to Black Friday this year and released a message online that warns Black Friday and Christmas shoppers that there will be delays with their next-day click-and-collect services, as one can imagine. It’s not just the smaller online sellers, big supermarkets and other multi-channel retailers have to set expectations within their customers. This is what gives you an edge on the lesser prepared retailers, can you really afford to give THEM the edge?
We will see, this Friday, the 27th November.