6 Things You Should Know Before Starting an E-Commerce Business

By being a logistics service provider, we are not surprisingly behind the scenes when it comes to e-commerce. However, we have a unique perspective: one that stems from the fulfilling, shipping, and managing of online orders. E-commerce is the newer and exciting realm of commerce that does not require a storefront, although it has its own set of unique challenges. In fact, e-commerce is even more competitive than regular retail for a multitude of reasons. Substantial and varying competition, loyal brand followers, resource allotment, SEO, customer satisfaction, marketing, and of course, order fulfillment are all aspects of e-commerce that can hurt online businesses, especially those just opening their “doors”. So how can you combat these commerce hurdles? At Langham Logistics, we have curated a simple list of 8 things that all e-commerce small business owners and those thinking of starting one, should know and understand to both improve their business processes prior to jumping in and increase their chances of success.

1. Strategize for the Good, Bad, and the Ugly
Having a concrete yet flexible strategy is vitally important in business, whether online or not. Knowing how you will obtain your products by either drop-shipping or ordering in bulk and storing, photographing your products, writing product descriptions and what to include, how you will handle order fulfillment, are a few things you need to consider. Be sure to read up on business management, accounting, and supply chain tactics. Have an exit strategy, and know how you will approach disgruntled employees and customers. Just like a marriage, it is important to be confident that you have the strategy and passion to pull through the highs and lows of life and business.
 
2. Domain and Design
Choosing your domain address is crucial. Having an awkward, offensive, or non-memorable web address could easily kill your business before it even starts. Dedicate enough time choosing it, and solicit feedback from associates you trust. Once you have chosen the one you love, try to not change it, but at the very least, set up a redirect if you do change it so it doesn’t hurt your user experience or turn away past customers who may think you have gone out of business.
Design is a wide-open opportunity to really let your business shine. Invest in a great looking and extremely well functioning website design. With e-commerce being an extremely competitive field, it is much easier to find the product somewhere else than having to struggle through a poorly designed site. Site and customer information security is also a vital aspect of the design of your website. Simply said, people do not buy from sites that are not secure, nor do you want to have to spend time trying to mitigate the backlash if your website is breached and customer information is stolen.
 
3. Social Transparency
Social media is a fantastic way to engage with your customers, build trust, and market products and promotions with little to no money. However, it does require commitment… and a lot of it! Know where your customers frequent and build your business’s presence on those platforms. Pinterest and Facebook are some of the best places for e-commerce retailers because these sites allow for more play in visual aesthetics than Google Plus and Twitter.
 
4. Target Customers
We have rarely seen a successful business prosper by being unaware of whom they are selling to. Build a profile of the exact customer that you want to buy your products. Be specific because doing this will allow all marketing strategies to be aligned with sales and increase the opportunity for success. Understand the different characteristics of customers that could potentially visit your site. From moms, to teens, to other business owners, know who is viewing your site, buying from it, and aim to increase those numbers.
 
5. Be Realistic with your Resources
We all wish money grew from trees and that bills never came in the mail. Know exactly the amount of money coming in and where it is going. Too often business owners are unaware or in denial of how much they are in debt until they are closing up shop. Understand your limitations, grow with patience, and always have your eyes on the financials.
Be realistic with your service and product resources. If a supplier is unresponsive or repeatedly missing deadlines, ditch them. Dealing with a poor service provider is never worth the damage to your business. Always seek the best employees, services, and be proactive when things go array.
6. Managing Inventory and Fulfilling Orders
As a logistics provider, we know the importance of your e-commerce business. Often, order fulfillment and the managing of inventory can be afterthoughts when it comes to running your business. Why? They are not your core function. However, from our point of view, it should always be at the forefront of someone’s, if not your mind. Missing deadlines, sending damaged products or the wrong products, and delayed shipping are all hurtful to your bottom line and customer base. Do your research and speak with a competent logistics service provider. Most are always willing to help solve a logistics problem and improve your supply chain, thereby improving your customer satisfaction.

Regardless of e-commerce’s high-level of competition, it is a great opportunity to become a business owner at a significantly lower risk compared to opening a brick and mortar store. Whether you are considering taking the e-commerce plunge or are already knee-deep, get out there and put your strategy to work!


Supply Chain Consulting: 5 Reasons Why a Supply Chain Fails

Not everyone understands why companies need supply chain consulting. Perhaps they are looking to streamline their logistics processes or benchmark their operations against similar industries. Whatever the case, Langham can help improve your supply chain efficiency.

With over 25 years of experience, our supply chain experts have helped clients in various industries such as automotive, life sciences, airport logistics, consumer goods, and electronics. We have become an extension of their team and helped clients assess their current strategies, operations, technology, and execution strategies.
Here are some examples of how a supply chain can fail:
1.    Lack of communication
If you are not getting the right products to the customer at the right time with the right documentation and at the right price, you will obviously not meet customer expectations and risk losing the account. Effective supply chain management is about communication and keeping your customer pro-actively informed of any challenges, delays, or other obstacles.
2.    Long lead times and delayed shipping
It’s all about supply and demand, right? We all know that things can happen along the way to cause longer lead times and delayed shipping from suppliers.  This could be caused by port strikes, delayed manufacturing, or lack of available space on their shipping lane. Regardless of the reason, this type of disruptive event can impair a company’s ability to satisfy their ultimate customer, putting everyone at risk.
3.    Forecasting demand based on historical trends
Not keeping track and comparing metrics in real-time, as well as not using historical data for forecasting sales trends, can wreak havoc on your supply chain. One blip can throw off your demand forecasting for the year. Be sure that you are also monitoring market metrics such as credit ratings, product quality by suppliers, and delivery performance.
4.    Lack of industry experts
Your company can spend an enormous amount of time doing extra work regarding shipment transportation when it’s not the core business. Unless you have knowledgeable industry experts in ocean, air, and rail logistics in-house, you are probably leaving money on the table and jeopardizing service.
5.    Little or no risk management strategy
Just when you think you have achieved supply chain efficiency, a “kink” throws everything off balance. Risk is inevitable. Acts of God, market trends, and demand changes are all reasons that something can go haywire. However, having written scenario plans in place regarding how your company will handle the unexpected makes a world of difference and can help minimize risks and maximize opportunities.
If your company is facing constant pressure from customers and stakeholders, or you need a fresh perspective on supply chain; Langham can help. Click below and fill out our online assessment to get started.

How to Choose a 3PL Provider

Throughout the United States and other industrialized countries, there are thousands of 3PL providers. With endless choices available to business owners, how do you differentiate and choose the one that offers all the right services for your company?

Here are a few things that you should do before you make the jump into a new partnership.

Take a Hard Look at Your Business
The first step any business should take when beginning the process of outsourcing to a 3PL is to make sure that your team is ready. Understanding your budgets, the opportunities available, and if your company is financially stable are all considerations. Outsourcing your logistics is a major step and can have benefits that will allow your business to grow, but you need to establish current and future objectives to make sure you are making the most informed decision. A good question to ask your team is: “When we are sitting around this table a year from now celebrating the success of this decision, what things will have changed?”

Collect Basic Information
Develop a RFI. These are questions that all 3PL providers should be able to answer quickly that may narrow your selection down.

Information to ask for in your RFI include:

  • Size and location of facility(s)
  • Number of employees
  • What is their disaster recovery plan?
  • Number of current clients
  • Brief history of company
  • List of coverage services they provide
  • Insurance
  • Industry expertise
  • Whether they are an asset based, management based, or an integrated provider
  • EDI and RFID capabilities
  • Case studies of problem solving within similar industries to yours
  • Do they have 24/7 coverage?
  • Financials

Narrow and Develop a RFP
Next, develop a RFP. Spend time on this, and be as specific and detailed as possible. In some ways, this is the first draft of a contract and will allow you to weigh the pros and cons of each service provider.

Here is a short list of what you should include:

  • Scope of the contract (timetables, locations, and facilities)
  • Information on what you will be shipping and the amount (include seasonality and product variables)
  • Tasks you will need performed
  • Any special tasks needed (fulfillment, value added, security)
  • Rate quote

Once you send out your RFPs, create a checklist of how you want to compare the results. Sit down with a small team from all departments in order to create a well-rounded list that covers all areas of this potential relationship with the new 3PL provider. What does everyone want from this relationship? How will it help internal departments develop and grow? What value will this 3PL provider bring to your company? Ask lots of questions and get lots of feedback.

Meet with the Final Candidates
The next step in the 3PL selection is to sit down face to face with a few of your chosen finalists and interview them. Ask them about their company history, philosophy, client satisfaction, technology, and problems that they have helped solved for clients. Take a tour of the facility and talk to the different departments. Look at their equipment and make sure it will meet your needs. Ask about their quality processes and how they handle problems.

Always choose a provider that can give your company the best experience and service. It’s best not to focus on cost as your main criteria in the selection process. Focus on what is going to bring the most value to your company, customers, and new 3PL partnership. You get what you pay for, and at the end of the day, your 3PL provider will be the last touch before your product arrives at your customer.


Inbound Logistics

Inbound logistics: If you are not controlling it, the fact that you are probably being overcharged on transportation should be just one of many of your worries.
Many Purchasing people buy products “delivered”, which means that the cost of the transportation is rolled into the cost of the product. The advantage to Purchasing is that they do not have to worry about choosing the carrier. They can “blame the vendor” if there are any problems (late delivery, damage, loss, etc.) with the shipment. This is the easier path to take.
The challenges with this decision are several:
  • You don’t know when the product is shipped
  • You don’t know the mode of transportation
  • You don’t know the name of the carrier
  • You don’t have the tracking information
  • You can’t schedule receiving
  • You can’t schedule production
  • You can’t tell your boss, or the customer, exactly when the product will be manufactured or delivered to them
  • You don’t know what it costs
Unbundling and controlling transportation costs with regards to inbound shipments solves these challenges. Some of the largest companies in the world count the success of this unbundling process as one of the biggest changes they can make in their businesses to impact profit. The difficulty is that it takes rigor and teamwork to accomplish.

In an ideal situation:

  • The transportation team needs to be able to articulate and measure the labor savings and transportation cost savings of controlling inbound freight.
  • Purchasing must review their vendor contracts to understand how they can separate transportation costs from the product costs. Understanding these costs provides a benchmark for hard dollar savings.
  • Receiving must be able to articulate and measure the labor and inventory cost savings of having accurate visibility to inbound shipments.
  • Manufacturing must be able to articulate and measure the labor cost savings of having an accurate production material schedule.
  • Then, the team must align with the right partner (3PL and/or Transportation Company) to help manage this whole process and realize the savings.
Some of the savings can be realized without the “ideal situation”, but it is more difficult to measure.
Managing inbound transportation is a complex process, but the hard and soft cost savings of controlling it far outweigh the cost of not doing it.

Langham Logistics Celebrates 25 Years Today!

It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago today in 1988, that we opened our doors for business. This milestone provides us with an opportunity to both reflect on our past and look forward to what the future holds. We are delighted to send a short message to recognize and thank all of you: our clients, co-workers, business partners and friends, both past and present. We would also like to thank our families for having the patience and the indulgence that allow us to invest the time and energy necessary to work diligently to build this organization into what it is today. Without all of you, the past 25 years would not have been possible.

Although we have come a long way, we know that the logistics industry will continue to evolve, and we are already looking ahead to the opportunities and challenges that will exist in the next 25 years. We believe that our culture of passion for delivering customer solutions will continue to be a differentiator for us. It is this very passion, and our relationship with you, our clients, customers, and friends, that will remain the foundation for our future. For this, we thank you and look forward to many more years together.

Please save the date of September 12th, 2013 to come and celebrate with us at our headquarters office in Indianapolis!

Thank you for a great 25 years. Here’s to the next 25!
The Langham Team


How Visibility Has Changed the Supply Chain Game

Visibility in a supply chain is simply a streamlined series of links, internal and external communication, and data exchange that allow multiple parties including suppliers, clients, customers, 3PL providers, etc. the ability to track, manage and control their shipping and deliveries. As always in the logistics world, these processes are extremely complex and require a proactive approach on all fronts to execute successfully. However once implemented, having increased visibility makes your company’s processes transparent; thus more efficient.

Today’s technology and society have created a world filled with instant gratification. From our phones to our food, almost all aspects of our life can be solved in a matter of seconds. This trend also sets a new expectation in shipping, especially to those who are well versed in e-commerce.
If our society were aiming towards immediate satisfaction and streamlined technology, then would it be safe to say that supply chain visibility is crucial for success?
Let’s look at some of the potential benefits:
  • Ability to measure, track, and improve performance with tangible data
  • Reduce lead times
  • Improve accuracy on predicted arrival times
  • Improved client to service provider relationships
  • Better and more trusting customer service and satisfaction
  • Lowering of in-process mistakes and the ability to fix them in real-time
  • Decreasing inventory costs and avoiding bottlenecks
  • More accurate budgets and estimates at fixed and variable costs
  • Ability to update customers on shipments with precision
  • Ease of mind; sleep at night with confidence
Choosing a 3PL provider that can help establish a way to make your supply chain more efficient is an important tool and benefit for any fledgling or existing business. Technology will continue to push the speed in which life moves and further develop ways to make all processes easier and more precise. Those not adapting to or utilizing the latest advances in technology will be left behind. In a world of instant gratification where customers expect to receive their packages on time and damage free, how can you afford not to have your supply chain efficient?

Why a Distribution Service Can Help Wake You From Costly Nightmares

Distribution is often linked or made synonymous with the word logistics. In everyday jargon, these two terms are often interchanged and replace one another in some form, but they are in fact quite different. Distribution is essentially the movement of relocation of sold goods. It is the processes, routes, and techniques it takes to get a product from point A to point B, C, D, and however many in between. Logistics, on the other hand, focuses on the bigger picture, the entire story of a product’s life from manufacturing to consumption. Logistics in itself can include distribution alongside fulfillment, warehousing, transportation, supply chain, etc.

In this post, we will focus on how a distribution service can help your company lower overhead costs, manage variables, and better predict future outcomes.
Many companies within the logistics and distribution industry say that besides the initial sale of an item, the biggest challenge retailers face is one that is hidden. That challenge is known as routing guides. If you are a retailer reading this, that term probably sends shivers down your spine because it can easily become a spider web of nightmares. For those not in the midst, essentially a routing guide is a system of steps and procedures a distributor must take in order to distribute and sell its goods in compliance with retailer contracts. That includes the packaging, labeling, and shipping methods. Where problems occur is when you sell to more than one store because routing guides differ from retailer to retailer. Thus, it is up to you as the supplier to alter your shipping methods to fit their standards.
This can be a major setback for companies, especially for those growing quickly because there is little time and few resources when it comes to avoiding mistakes and missed opportunities. In the past, suppliers would ship their goods any way they saw fit and retailers would accept them even though it went against their guide. When enough was enough, retailers began enforcing the guides by implementing potential chargebacks, which meant that companies could be fined for not abiding. The costs of the fines could be thousands of dollars a year and potentially create problems within stores such as empty shelves or shipments that are lost or damaged.
So how do companies get out of this downward spiral?
The answer is an outsourced distribution service. Many 3PLs that offer distribution services have professionals that know each major retailers guidelines and can easily implement a streamlined solution to help ensure your bottom line isn’t riddled with fines.
The potential benefits a 3PL distribution service can bring to your company:
  • Little to no fines due to routing guide chargebacks
  • Streamlined fulfillment of orders and correct shipping processes
  • Less overhead costs of hiring your own distribution team
  • More room for growth and better profits
  • Wider range of retailer outreach as a result of distribution and warehousing capacity
  • Happier and more trusting customers because they can rely on their packages or products to be in stock and arrive on time
  • Less stress on your company, thus allowing more creative freedom to build your business
Though logistics and routing guides can seem complex, it is the systems that keep things moving efficiently. By partnering with a 3PL and distribution company, you can rest assured that your product will get to its destination on time and without hidden penalties.

Expedited Shipping: When Time is Not Your Friend

Expedited Shipping: When Time is Not Your Friend

Many third party logistic companies, including us, offer a shipping service known as “expedited shipping”. What does that mean, and more importantly, how can it help your business? In it’s simplest terms, it basically means to speed up progress. That sounds easy, right? However, the truth behind expedited shipping is that it’s actually a very complex system built around many aspects that have to be operating at full potential.

Understanding Expedited Shipping and What Makes it Work
Expedited shipping requires extreme precision, but also exceptional communication. Regular standard shipping is taking all the standardized steps in order for the end person to receive their package at a low rate. This can typically range anywhere between 5 and 21 business days. On the other hand, with expedited shipping, everything is sped up and bypasses the standard steps and procedures. Trucks are on standby; airport freight is NFO (next flight out), and everything is visible and kept at maximum performance in order to meet strict deadlines. Innovations in data interchange, warehousing management, supply chain visibility, and airport logistics have allowed for late shipments and missed deadlines to be something of the past.

Getting Your Product Out In Time Means Everything
The benefits of expedited shipping, especially through a great 3PL service provider, are priceless. Why? Because we have all had the 2 A.M. feeling of anxiety and worry that something won’t be shipped out in time. Having the option and choosing expedited shipping ensures that this streamlined process gets your items to their destination as planned. Whether it is life saving medicine or components for the huge project starting tomorrow, Langham provides that confidence, piece of mind and even Zzz’s at night.

To Langham a happy customer equals a repeat customer. If you want to avoid anxiety over not getting your products there on time, be sure to visit our website and learn about our expedited services and how we can help.


What can Langham do for you?

At Langham Logistics, we like to partner with companies who share a similar mind-set and use forward thinking as part of their innovative strategies. The clients that work with us know that while we provide supply chain management solutions that save time and money, also know and understand that we don’t rely on off-the-shelf solutions. At Langham, we like to do it our own way by allowing our clients to be part of the process while customizing and tailoring our systems to meet their needs. Intrigued? Read on.

Understanding Langham Logistics
Before you can truly understand how we can help you, let us introduce you to our company. We have been around since 1988. We’re known in our industry as a global leader in domestic and international transportation, freight management, fulfillment, warehousing and distribution. Our customers love us and trust that we can help provide them with supply chain and logistics solutions. We have built our name on trust, integrity, and honest communication, and strive everyday to distinguish ourselves from the market clutter.

Why Our Custom Solutions Work
Our philosophy is simple. We listen to our clients, ask the right questions and provide impactful solutions. Our client’s challenges are our own, and we take full responsibility to ensure that we are answering those requests. We frequently offer perspectives, ideas and innovations to the most complex client’s processes.

Going Beyond the Traditional 3PL Role
We aren’t just another 3PL. We love what we do and built this company on doing whatever it takes to get the job done. We value our relationships with our clients and know that when they choose Langham, they are choosing a partner that can help make their business successful.

Calm. Cool. Delivered.
We understand that things don’t always go as planned. Whether you need your shipment to Denver by dawn or your pharma to Philly by 5, our team will work to make sure that your products get where they need when they need to be there. Accountable, controlled, and secure for your piece-of-mind.  If your in panic mode, visit our transportation 911 site and let us know how we can help you sleep a little more soundly tonight.

Need more reasons to work with Langham? Our multidisciplinary team of experts is empowered to always work in the best interest of our clients, using best-in-class logistics technology, tactical operations support, accurate data collection, and a centralized communication hub. Visit our website or give us a call at 855-214-2844 and see what it is that Langham Logistics can do for you.


Langham’s New Hire

Dan Straus joins the leadership team and brings 30 years of regional sales and operations experience in the LTL transportation industry.  As Director of LTL Business Development Dan will develop quality partnerships with clients as well as carriers.  The segment of the business will give Langham Logistics a complete service offering to our customers.