In 1999, E-commerce sales accounted for only 1% of the total retail sales in the US. In 2017 it was more than 9% (a 3,000 percent increase). Over the last four years, the sales increased by 13 – 16%, which outpaced traditional retail sales, which are generally between 1% & 5%. The industry has estimated that e-commerce sales will reach 17.5% of retail sales by 2021 for the entire world.
So E-Commerce is on the upswing. How has this affected transportation and logistics in the Fulfillment industry?
It can be hard to keep up with the constant changes in the Fulfillment Industry. The most important things to remember are:
Follow these simple guidelines to help your company to stay on the right side of E-Commerce Growth.
I love shopping. When I tell people that shopping is one of my favorite things to do, they are under the impression that I must spend a lot of money. Not true. To me, “Shopping” does not mean “Buying”. For me, it means Searching, Evaluating, Comparing, Analyzing…., and yes, sometimes buying in the end. But I like to see what my options are, so I know that in the end I’ve made the right decision, and gotten the right style and fit. I’ve found that perfect item I was looking for and that I won’t regret that purchase later on. That is important. After all, who likes to have buyer’s remorse, or worse yet, have to return things to the store? And it's not fun to pack it up and ship it back. It causes a lot of extra work if you don’t do your homework on the front end. I’m not an impulse purchaser. I’m more like a “weigh my options” type of buyer. I rarely return things (unless I am buying for someone else and the size is wrong).
This same methodology can apply to a client relationship. All customers are not a good fit. We may want them to be. They may want to be. But sometimes, we should just politely decline to pursue that partnership. Is it disappointing? Yes. But the pain later on when they are disgruntled is much worse, and can cause future losses for your business. Ending on a sour note, or getting a bad review from this customer, is a terrible outcome - especially one that should never have been yours in the first place. This is not what you want to happen, and it can be avoided by some pre-planning (my version of shopping) upfront.
Find the Right Customer that Matches your Business Model
Following these guidelines will help you to avoid buyers’ remorse. More importantly, it will save you time and money. Wasting months vetting, onboarding, and executing your project plan just does not make monetary sense. If the relationship does not make both parties happy – then it is doomed from the beginning. (Customer is miserable and ends the contract = the dreaded store return)
Finding the right customer that fits your needs while matching their own is not a perfect science. It is a combination of hard work and luck. It is akin to looking for the perfect handbag- just the right shade of tan. It matches most outfits but is not boring, dull, or dowdy. You can go to 20 stores and search 50 websites, and then, bam, you find it when you are not looking.
So keep looking for the right customer – you will find them eventually and the search will ultimately pay off.
Amazon dominates eCommerce. The selling platform makes up about 38 percent of online retail sales (eMarketer, May 2020). It allows companies of all sizes to reach customers while spending a fraction on marketing that they would otherwise need to spend to get that kind of traffic. But selling on Amazon does not come without serious challenges, as anyone who has sold on Amazon can tell you. The most important decisions to make involve:
In this article, we will discuss these challenges and the solutions for creating profitable, manageable expansion of your business on Amazon with Complemar and Thor and Company (T&C). Selling on Amazon can be fun and rewarding, so don’t give up on your Amazon store!
It is important to have a strategy for selling on Amazon and weigh the options. Selling FBA only can be very costly, especially for small businesses. Selling Fulfilled by Merchant is often overlooked because it is time-consuming to pack and ship orders in house.
Actual screenshot of an Amazon account, August 2020
An FBA, FBM hybrid strategy is possible for your business.
Most businesses have a hard time keeping up with the demands of managing an Amazon account.
There are dozens of companies out there who can help you manage your seller account, but not all of them are worth the high price. If you need help with your Brand Registry, don’t ever hand over control of it. Find out how they make their money. When choosing a seller account management service, make sure they do not have conflicts of interest.
Coordinating campaigns with seasonal products, inventory levels, and Prime Day.
FBA works if you are comfortable letting Amazon handle your inventory. Selling FBM, you have the most control over your products. If your inventory is low, or you are not sure about inventory levels, you can prioritize where your products are shipped only with FBM. You can turn your FBM listings on and off whenever you want. Working with Complemar and T & C, you have control over your inventory and your promotions are managed for you.
Onboarding, where to start?
All puns aside, how you start the process sets the tone for the rest of the partnership. Whether you are moving from one 3PL to another or taking that first big step from your garage to the “big time”of outsourcing your fulfillment needs, there is more to onboarding than just moving the product to somewhere else.
Are orders flowing correctly? Are our shipping methods and services levels mapping properly? Is tracking information feeding back accurately and are orders closing promptly?
The software integrations, or communication between systems, should be top of the to-do list. If the information doesn’t flow from your shopping cart, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system, or OMS (Order Management System) to your fulfillment house’s WMS (Warehouse Management System) your orders won’t get out the door. This is vital for third party integrations too; each marketplace or selling platform has its requirements and technicalities. It is crucial to take the time to properly understand the integration requirements of each system, to know the capabilities as well as the limitations, and to test, test, test.
The most effective physical onboarding happens when there is clear communication around, and execution of, receiving requirements. The importance of having your product labeled and packaged as per your new 3PL’s Inbound Routing Guide cannot be understated. The receiving department will be able to process your inventory efficiently and accurately when the product arrives as expected. All requirements set by the 3PL serve a purpose: specific labeling enables receiving practices; carton contents and pallet stacking aid put away; barcoding enables verification at the pick and pack stations. Be sure to pass along the 3PL’s Inbound Routing Guide, or at the very least the relevant portions, to your freight forwarders and brokers, to your vendors, and insist your vendors share the information with their freight carriers so all can adhere to inbound product and dock appointment requirements.
Once the product is in house and the systems have been integrated the final step is training or communicating with all interested parties. Take the time to learn the systems and processes of your new 3PL. Request demos. Ask questions. Introduce all team members from both sides and get to know each other. Have clear conversations with your account manager to determine expectations, who will be doing what, when, how. What is the best way to communicate with the 3PL after you go live; how do you reach the Customer Service team?
Internally, the 3PL will communicate all your account specifics and outbound expectations to Operations, Fulfillment, and Quality. Do the items ship as master cases or eaches? Is there any branded packaging or specific dunnage used? Is the product fragile, perishable, serialized? What is the order cut off times and priorities?
In a nutshell, good communication is the cornerstone of a successful onboarding process. From the start, expectations from all sides must be shared and understood. 3PL’s onboarding process will determine the success of the partnership.
In the past, when you had a large print project, you went to a commercial printer. When you needed to bulk mail the project, you went to a mail house. If you needed a short-run print, you went to a digital printer. If you need fulfillment, etc, etc, etc.
Printers who did not diversify themselves, are no longer. The average commercial printer can now take your product from design to mailing. The average printer also has you covered, if you want to print 100 catalogs or 10,000 catalogs. To make it cost-effective for the consumer. Printers today equip themselves with a combination of digital presses for short one specialty pieces to offset presses for long run projects.
The print industry has also become very “green”. Offset Inks are produced with vegetable oils, Digital press toners are plant-based biomass material to reduce environmental impact and paper trimmings are sent back to the paper mills for recycling. Also, the paper purchased is FSC certified. This certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests.
We believe that this market is ever-growing and if you do not change with the times you will get left in the past. That is why at Complemar we are growing with the competitive landscape to make sure we stay relevant and up to date with all of the new technology that is getting discovered.
At Complemar Print, we have you covered from all angles. From our high-end digital presses that can print up to 29”, to our high-speed Black & White printers to our offset multi-color press, we have you covered from the short run to long run projects. If it has to mail as either a standalone or inserted into an envelope and mailed, we have you covered. Need it die-cut, UV Coated, Shrinkwrapped, and much more; we have you covered.
We are FSC Certified, G7 Master qualified and ISO 9001 Compliant
With the progression of the digital age, the printing industry has undergone an evolution. For the past 25 years or more, the demise of printing has been predicted with the rise of the internet and a forecast of a paperless society. The reality is that the print industry is very much alive! While order quantities have gone down and some businesses have shifted their print collateral to online access only, there have been tremendous opportunities for printers to thrive. Companies with well-rounded marketing campaigns realize that multiple platforms are necessary to effectively interact with customers and prospective companies.
Print is a valuable tool in reaching those businesses. With email saturation, there’s no guarantee that the correspondence will be opened and read. A well-designed direct mail piece is highly effective in reaching the intended target and generating a response. Print literature can also be used to drive traffic to a company website for more information.
Complemar Print, the printing division of Complemar Partners, has successfully navigated the changing times. In addition to supporting our parent company’s core fulfillment efforts by producing related print items such as inserts, product cartons, instruction sheets, etc., Complemar Print is also a full-service commercial printer servicing clients such as advertising agencies, marketing firms, colleges, and private companies. We strive to become a true partner with our clients by understanding their business needs and developing print solutions that help them achieve their goals.
Through the years, Complemar Print has invested in technology and equipment to grow our business and become a leading printer. We are a G-7 master printer, ISO 9001 compliant, and FSC-certified. Complemar Print has augmented its traditional offset press equipment with state-of-the-art digital presses, offering clients a wide variety of print services including:
Along with our press equipment, Complemar Print offers complete bindery, mailing, and fulfillment capabilities to handle projects, from simple to complex, for our clients such as:
Please visit our website: www.complemarprint.com for more information or contact us at 716-875-7238 if we can help with your next project!
The Amazon effect is nothing new for those of us who work in the world of logistics. This effect normally refers to the impact that the retail giant has had on traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores, along with the landscape of online shopping. In truth, the meaning of the Amazon effect could be different depending on your intended audience.
A traditional brick-and-mortar retail store may refer to the Amazon effect as the negative impact that online shopping has had on their business. With the millions of products available online, combined with competitive shopping and fast + discounted shipping, the traditional retailers continue to lose market shares at an increasing rate to online marketplaces like Amazon.
A more modern retailer that is eCommerce focused (or solely based online), may refer to the Amazon effect as the need for these small to mid-market companies to have a presence selling their products on Amazon. This new-found need may be due to the marketing vector that Amazon (specifically Amazon Prime) offers, and the increase in sales that this moniker yields. Inversely, they could be looking to offer their products on the site as a defensive posture to help protect against relevant competition currently selling ‘similar’ items on the site. The Amazon effect for some modern retailers is the quantifiable “need” to have your products available on the Amazon platform (either by FBA or FBM… which is another opportunity that deserves discussion).
The logistical arms of companies, parcel carriers, and 3PL’s may have a different view of the term ‘Amazon effect’. For this diverse group, the Amazon effect is the need to provide services that continually evolve, and improve, to remain competitive. This Amazon effect has forced providers to focus on faster order processing with later same day shipping cut-offs, with a decreased dependency on labor. These efforts are pushed forward with technology advancements, automation, and efforts in continuous improvement. The focus on customer service, business agility, and technology have forced these businesses to adapt and innovate.
Even as a consumer/ customer, the Amazon effect is tangible. How many times have you competitively shopped on Amazon to see what other, or similar, items are available for quicker delivery at a more economical price? Additionally, how many times have you gone straight to Amazon to look for your newly-needed item – without looking at a larger big-box store or the product company’s website? Amazon has created a position within the consumers' buying habits that companies strive for – to be the first option.
At Complemar, we can help you provide the best service offering to your end consumer. The strategic placement of our fulfillment centers allows us to offer you 2-day ground shipping for 98% of the population within the contiguous 48 states. Our proprietary software and technology can offer a unique solution for complex challenges (Serialization, Lot Tracking, Alternate item numbers, etc), and helps us drive for best in class on-time delivery. Additionally, our team of experts and business partners can assist you with the navigation of the Amazon effect – and how you can best position your product/ company for continued success with your customers. We pride ourselves in eCommerce fulfillment, Health Care fulfillment, packaging & co-packing opportunities, with a full-service print facility located in Buffalo, NY.
With Amazon's large network of distribution centers, investment capital, technology advancement, and obsession with customer service – the Amazon effect is a real thing that everyone needs to be aware of. It may mean different things to different people within a product's supply chain, but the Amazon effect is affecting the way we do business, whether it is the faster delivery concept that was adopted from Zappos or the quality assurance that Amazon demonstrates on a daily basis. The Amazon Effect is an innovative idea that is reforming and improving the landscape of fulfillment and e-commerce.
Before joining Complemar, my entire experience with the fulfillment industry was as a consumer. My previous background is in food & beverage manufacturing where outside processors and distributors were essential partners. It’s been enlightening to sit on the other side of the table. Here is the perspective of my former life. Hopefully, it provides insight into how clients evaluate outside partners from a financial perspective.
Outside Processor/Fulfillment Needs
o Producing multi-flavor packs;
o Producing special themed marketing & product offerings, particularly during holiday seasons;
o Distributing products from an acquisition that did not fit in the firm’s current distribution and supply chain functions;
o Re-working products due to manufacturing defects;
o Destruction of defective products;
Finance’s role is to provide analysis of the impact on future results while meeting the objectives shown above.
Putting it All Together
After receiving input from the different teams, the finance work begins. The final analysis should contain sufficient comparison to facilitate a decision.
Highlighting these factors will strengthen the presentation and provide valuable data for the analysis that determines the client’s final decision.
Every step of a clinical trial is well-planned, researched, and detailed, and the packaging should be no exception. Secondary packaging that protects the products during the shipping process is critical to the success of a clinical trial. An increasing number of clinical trials are conducted in the U.S. every year, prompting regulators to suggest the need for larger patient samples. This, in turn, creates a greater need for clinical trial packaging.
Reverse logistics presents an opportunity to improve your relationship with your customer base and build brand loyalty. Although the customer has little to do with warehouse procedures like refurbishing and restocking, how you handle the process with the customer will impact them. A customer service department that is well-versed in your returns policy can impact your customers’ satisfaction, and thus your bottom line.