The Importance of Logistics in the Import and Export Business

The Importance of Logistics in the Import and Export Business

The most valuable and irreplaceable commodity in your life is your time.  This means there is no practical or logical reason why you should waste it trying to figure out the safest, most efficient, and affordable way to ship your products, whether it be across state lines or oceans. Your time should be spent doing what you do best – providing exceptional service and products to your customers.

The importance of logistics in the import and export business is irrefutable and can arguably be one of the most important aspects to the success of your company. Often times the best way to ensure efficient, accurate, and robust supply of your products on time and in the same condition as they left either domestically or internationally, is to hire a third-party logistics company.  Hiring a 3PL provider will not only give you back some of your sacred time, but it also gives you assurance that you will have the resources to promise consistent deliveries to your customer and real-time oversight of the entire process.

Need a few more reasons?

Multi-faceted 3PL companies have a lot to offer under one roof.

From designing customized freight spend management services, supply chain consulting, and providing both domestic and international transportation options, established third-party logistics companies can seamlessly manage all of your logistics needs. This can also include value-added services such as warehousing, fulfillment, and distribution. Experienced providers have also invested the capital to streamline their entire process, which would be cost prohibitive and require an immense level of expertise to try to replicate within your own company.

Land, Sea, and Air: 3PL service providers find the best way to get it there

Working collaboratively with airline, ship, rail, and trucking companies, a 3PL can work with their network to determine the most efficient, safe, and cost-effective way to get your product to the desired destination. Whether it needs to be transported via land, sea, or air, the right service provider can professionally handle, coordinate, and manage the port-to-port and door-to-door pick-up, tracking, delivery, and storage of your goods.

A combination of strengths creates the best 3PL company

To be a top logistics company in the market today, companies must consistently demonstrate certain strengths. This includes: exceptional communication and organizational skills, an ability to foresee (and eliminate) potentially-problematic areas of concern, investment in the right technology, and a zero tolerance for mistakes with a “no-excuses” mindset.

Success is in the details

While it is impossible to micro-manage every aspect of every individual (and their companies) involved in the shipment of your products, it is possible to demand nothing less than professional service every step of the way. Successful logistics companies establish and maintain open and ongoing communication with their clients, their providers, and the buyers’ representatives receiving the deliveries. This should give you peace-of-mind and ensure that you don’t have to waste energy worrying about where a shipment is, if it’s safe, and that it will be delivered on time.

Your product is important to you and getting it to its destination – on time, within budget, and undamaged – is critical. Focus on manufacturing and creating top-notch products and the best service possible for your customers. Let an established, quality-oriented logistics company handle the rest.

Understanding LTL: How to Save on Shipping

Deciding how to ship products can be challenging. There are many options, and there are many carriers from which to choose. When making this decision, keep in mind that all companies and carriers are not created equal, and a little research can save money in the long run.

Less-Than-Truckload (LTL) shipping is for shipments that are too large to be shipped as parcel but not large enough to fill up a truck. There is often a discount given by LTL carriers, beginning at 150 pounds on a pallet and going up to 6,000 pounds on six pallets. Large shipments can be sent via LTL shipping, but do not get the discount that light loads receive.
Another benefit in choosing LTL shipping is that many carriers will allow companies to combine their shipment with other companies’ shipments. The freight is transported through a hub-and-spoke system, which means it is passed between trucks and freight centers until it arrives at its destination.
Although there are many benefits to this method of shipping freight, it can be difficult to understand how LTL rates are charged. There are several factors that determine the rate, and depending on those factors, the total shipping cost may be significantly affected.
What you should know about LTL rates
All LTL carriers set their own independent base rates. The base rate of the LTL is quoted per 100 pounds, and there are several Weight Brackets. The rate calculation depends on the following factors: Weight, Origin and Destination, Total Distance, and Freight Classification.
Weight: The more a shipment weighs, the LESS it will cost per hundred pounds. As the weight of a shipment approaches the next higher Weight Bracket, the carrier will make the calculation to see if adding a small amount of weight to the actual shipping weight and moving the shipment into the next Weight Bracket may, in fact, reduce the total cost of the shipment. If so, that is what he will do.
Origin and Destination: Many Zip Codes are served directly by each carrier. However, if the destination Zip Code is outside the carrier’s region, the shipment will be transferred to a different carrier, which could lead to a higher cost. 
Total Distance: As expected, in general, the further the shipment has to travel, the higher the base rate will be.
Freight Classification: In freight classifications, the higher the class (the larger the number), the higher the base rate will be. The factors which make up each classification are: Stowability, Handling and Liability, and Density of the product. The lower the number, the lower the risk for the freight.

As with any purchase, one should understand the hidden factors and benefits. LTL shipping is a good option for loads of an in-between size. Understanding how base rates are calculated make it easier to decide which path to choose.

5 Things You Need to Know about Expedited Freight

In the fast-paced, global economy of today, prompt, reliable freight shipping is more important than ever for businesses. No matter where one is shipping goods, consumers and business partners expect delivery more quickly than ever before. This is especially true for urgent, time-sensitive deliveries.

When one needs something delivered on a set time-frame, there is no time to waste on trucks making multiple delivery stops along inefficient routes. Due to the time-sensitive and often long distance shipping needs of the modern economy, expedited freight services have become a very popular method of shipping. Here are five things which the user of freight services should know:
What is expedited freight?
The basic goal of expedited freight shipping is to cut out all wasted time and get the goods where they need to go on a time-sensitive delivery basis. There are multiple methods used to accomplish this. For one, trucks shipping expedited freight rarely stop along the way. The precious cargo being delivered is the keystone of the route. Expedited freight services streamline the shipping process to get goods delivered in the timeliest manner possible.
Who uses expedited freight services?
Anyone who needs a package delivered by a certain time can employ the use of expedited freight. Shipments can be both large and small, from a few letters to a few pallets to a full truckload. Some common users of expedited freight are: Medical facilities in need of emergency supplies; Factories in need of timely inventory replenishment or to meet a manufacturing schedule; and Operators of oil drilling or mining facilities who need vital parts to keep their operation going when important machinery breaks down. These are prime examples, but anyone can use expedited freight services when they have a shipment needing extremely urgent delivery.
How do logistics plan into expedited freight?
As anyone who ships goods knows, logistics play a key role in an efficient, effective shipping process. With expedited freight services, the person shipping the goods can track their shipment at any time. This gives the shipper peace of mind by knowing his urgent shipment is “on track”. In addition, a good expedited freight company will assist in the logistics of shipping from start to finish, helping the shipper develop a headache-free plan to get his goods where they need to go.
What distances does expedited freight shipping cover?
There is no limit on the distance that an expedited shipment can cover. Whether the shipper needs goods shipped across town or across the country, an expedited freight company can plan and execute that delivery in a timely manner. This is another area in which logistics come into play. When coordinating a long-distance delivery, there are many factors involved which a reputable expedited freight company will effectively manage and streamline.
Are expedited freight services just for big businesses?
No. Any business or individual can use expedited freight services to get their goods where they need to go. An experienced expedited freight company will work to deliver loads of any size, coordinating all of the necessary elements of an urgent shipment.

With expedited freight services, including the shipment of goods and logistical coordination, anyone making an urgent shipment can have the confidence and peace of mind that their shipment will arrive on time. No matter the size of the load or the type of goods being shipped, an experienced expedited freight company will be ready and willing to handle the job.

Planes, Trains, and Truckloads: Essential Strategies for Managing Your Supply Chain

Logistics and supply chain management are major industries in Indiana. The state’s central location provides ready access to national and international markets. One factor in a business’ success is its ability to expertly and economically move goods around the state, the nation, and the world. Businesses are challenged to competitively move and store raw materials, optimize inventory, analyze consumer demand, and transport finished goods from production to distribution centers and the end customer. Supply chain/logistics experts use technology and information systems to trace produce, improve efficiency and productivity, and provide businesses with the skills and visibility to plan, execute, and monitor every aspect of the transportation process.

Freight Spend Management Programs
Supply chains are becoming increasingly complex. Companies may have offices and plants in remote countries, as well as suppliers and customers. Freight costs and regulations vary by country. Businesses face local freight assessment and payment requirements unrelated to other financial management costs. Most businesses do not have a centralized freight spend management platform capable of reciprocal connectivity with other, related information systems. When businesses operate without this connectivity, controlling freight cost is impossible and expenses soar.
Freight management programs offered by strategic 3PLs provide global solutions to businesses that allow them to manage freight execution and cost. Businesses should consider programs that offer accurate local regulations and logistics information, multi-currency and multi-lingual competencies, and have the ability to access all pertinent data and correlate it with other significant information such as currencies and exchange rates.
A good freight spend management program lets businesses calculate and modify shipment costs while planning loads to make the most of available capacity. Payment options are streamlined, and businesses can proactively monitor the movement of their goods from origin to destination.
Supply Chain Consulting
Mismanaged supply chains result in profit erosion. Global supply chains are exceedingly difficult to manage due to constantly changing demands for products with shorter life cycles, supply chain bottlenecks, and inability to make good use of developing technologies. Supply chain makeovers can result in increased fill rates, reduced inventories, and improved customer satisfaction. Expert supply chain consultants offer valuable information about network design services which produce these results.
Supply chain consultants conduct in-depth analyses, including measurement of damaged product, delays, and returns. They identify shifts in demand, production, and other expense considerations. Global opportunities are identified and support staff is provided to help with detailed or complicated initiatives.
Domestic and International Transportation Management
Transportation management allows businesses to manage the flow of domestic and international freight by connecting with hundreds of operators of aircraft, railroads, ocean vessels, and trucks. Management system platforms are available that incorporate both private and for-hire transportation methods and integrate cross-border custom requirements and other transportation factors. A transportation management platform allows businesses to:
  • Manage carriers and necessary contracts
  • Design route instructions with quote/rate shipments
  • Calculate the best mode and carrier combinations
  • Improve warehousing procedures with specific dock appointment scheduling
  • Track shipments.
Warehouse Management System
Warehouse management systems use technology to monitor the flow of product in and out of storage facilities. Efficient systems provide the data which enable businesses to cut expenses by minimizing the quantity of products in storage while assuring that there is enough product on hand to meet demand.
The fulfillment goals of businesses and supply chain management experts are to deliver the right quantity, of the right product, to the right location, at the right time, in the right condition, for the right price. Accomplishing these goals can definitely help a business to be more successful.

Supply Chain Risk Management: Are you prepared for tomorrow?

Business owners and managers must always keep one eye on the future. Today’s profitability means little if risk management plans are not in place. An effective supply chain management plan includes a set of strategies designed to manage everyday risks, as well as those unpredictable catastrophes.
Many business models include a long, somewhat convoluted supply chain. A good risk management plan will shorten it and keep it running smoothly under any circumstances. There are several things which this plan must include to be effective:
 A good supply chain management plan starts by assessing the movement of supplies and goods to identify areas that can be improved and determine the areas most likely to encounter problems. The supply chain should be kept as direct as possible while allowing for quick and reliable switches to back-up plans. It is vital to focus beyond the problems which the chain is currently encountering and try to envision other risks.
Create A Thorough Plan
Once the risks have been assessed, a set of strategies is created to deal with these issues. Often this requires the implementation of redundant methods of transport, particularly for those links in the chain which are most “at risk” of failure. The need for these redundancies must be carefully determined, and they should only be implemented when there is a great risk of supply chain failure, since each will increase cost.
Keep It Flexible
 The supply chain management plan must be as flexible as possible. It is impossible to prepare for every risk. Allowing the links of the chain the flexibility to adapt to a wide variety of situations may prevent the chain from breaking entirely.
Reassess Regularly
 It is possible that some points are missed in the initial assessment. Also, in a constantly changing marketplace, it is important to stay on top of all new developments which may affect supply and demand. The effectiveness of the supply chain should be monitored continuously and new situations addressed immediately.

Supply chain risk management, when done properly, can help to reduce the chances of an interruption in the smooth transport of goods. By properly managing these risks, a company can increase the probability of maintaining a steady flow of goods to their customers. This, in turn, enables the business to generate a steady profit.

4 Discussions You Should Have Had with Your Freight Forwarder By Now

When you choose a partner to handle your freight management, you’re putting more than your product on the line– you’re trusting them with your reputation.

Choose the wrong freight forwarder and you could pay for more than just the cost of shipping. You could wind up wasting a lot of time trying to navigate your way through layers of “dispatchers and managers” to get information, answers, and assurances that your goals are top priority. The key to finding a freight forwarder that fits your values is to ask four simple questions–and see if the company’s answers lineup.

Here are 4 talks you should have had with your freight forwarder by now:

Talk One: How flat is your org chart? 
If you’ve never met or spoken to the president or CEO of your freight management partner, can you really trust that your company is a top priority?

Strong leadership matters, but what matters more is a culture of coordination and cooperation. You want to work with a freight forwarder that has a flat hierarchy. That way if there is a problem, you can rest assured that you can go straight to the top to get it fixed– not simply rely on the word of a middle management person who may have your best interests in mind but not the authority or knowledge to fix problems quickly.

The best freight management companies are lean; yet redundancies of expertise are built in to their organizational charts. Everyone in the company understands the complexities of moving freight across the globe, while many times their customer approach is “Midwestern”; they take pride in the seriousness of their responsibility, and treat your shipment as if it were their own.

Talk Two: How do you ensure supply chain control? 
Your freight matters, and when it’s being shipped across the country or around the world you want to know with precision where it is, how it’s being cared for and, most importantly, when it will arrive.

In this global environment of uncertainty, regulatory change, geo-political upheaval, and terrorism can put your freight at risk.  You must have absolute reassurance that it is safe every mile along the way.

Don’t settle for a freight management company that doesn’t invest in the latest technology. Ask specific questions about material control, packing list visibility, and distribution. Can you, whenever you feel like it, get in touch with a real, live person who can tell you the location of your freight at any given moment? If not, it might be time to look for a new freight forwarder.

Talk Three: How do you define “partnership?”
If your freight management company is more concerned with getting paid than growing your business, you’ve got a problem.

A true partnership exists when both companies are working with the best interest of the other in mind. That means goals are shared, information flows both ways, best practices are developed between the two organizations, and growth is the number one priority. This can only be accomplished through discipline and shared vision, which only comes about when both companies agree to aligned goals, quarterly updates, in-person meetings, and frequent conference calls.

If your freight management company doesn’t commit to these best practices, they may not be a committed partner.

Talk Four: How do you like your coffee?
Even in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world of virtual meetings and endless emails, the best relationships are forged over a cup of coffee.

Ask your freight forwarder if they make frequent visits to their business partners’ headquarters. Ask if they provide relevant newsletters and other communication to help the two of you work together more efficiently, and ask how they like their coffee. If they say they won’t be stopping by, it’s time to find a new partner.

4 Reasons Why a Third Party Logistics Company (3PL) is Critical to your Long Term Business Strategy

4 Reasons Why a Third Party Logistics Company (3PL) is Critical to your Long Term Business Strategy

The marketplace is overflowing with 3PL, distribution, fulfillment, and supply chain providers. This abundance of options causes the partner selection process to be quite confusing and complex. Regardless of the abundance of choices, one fact is indisputable:  3PL providers are a powerful extension of your business. These companies provide more than just a quick solution to your immediate shipping needs, they can offer expertise and innovation that fulfill not only your tactical logistics needs, but also help you reach your long term company goals by providing visibility and supply chain services that boost your bottom line.
Let’s take a look at how a 3PL can become a major asset to your business.
Industry Virtuosos
Practice makes perfect. 3PL companies often have not just years of experience, but decades. They have dedicated themselves and their businesses to solving supply chain and shipping problems by building tailored solutions to the ever changing complications of their customers business. Having this expert focus allows you to maximize your business’s resources, time and money in particular, to focus on your core competencies and goals.
Resources & Capabilities
Established 3PL, those that have been in the industry for over 20 years, have the distinct advantage of long term global partnerships.  They have access to high-quality resources and unique capabilities and expertise because they have spent many years building these relationships, which provide opportunities for lean solutions and cost savings. They can lower your overhead and help you avoid the pitfalls that are common in logistics and supply chain management.
Flexibility & Adaptability
In order to have a successful and manageable supply chain, it’s imperative to be flexible enough to adapt to a constantly changing marketplace and your client’s business fluctuations. From seasonal volume instabilities to expanding or tightening deadlines, a 3PL can help by streamlining the supply chain and making it more efficient and effective. Many 3PL providers also offer 24/7 access along with on-site staffing so help smooth the ebbs and flows of product volume and seasonality.  When the going gets tough; your 3PL will get going.
3PLs are known for innovation and creativity. By having the latest technology and keeping up on industry-standard practices and trends, they can bring data and leading edge solutions to your team, reducing your need for internal staffing to be focused on this. As a result, your business moves faster. From delivery to distribution to returns, everything is streamlined, resulting in much more robust and effective process.

Since the beginning of the industrial age, strong and trusting partnerships have been an essential strategy that have helped many businesses be successful, especially in a global economy. Whether it is Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, or you and your 3PL––the effort that is put into building a lasting business relationship can lead you and your business to greatness.

5 Actions to Boost your E-Commerce Sales

Statistics are showing that e-commerce sales are beginning to match, and in some cases, surpass brick and mortar retail store sales. However, even with these statistics, many online retailers are still struggling to remain competitive with online sales while still earning a profit on their products. Though online price wars are nothing new, many larger online retailers are hiring companies to implement dynamic pricing into their sales strategy. That means that a price you see online for a specific product can change as much as 27 times in just one day.

According to Mike Fridge, CEO of, a Seattle-based price comparison website, “In the age of the internet, a fixed price is a thing of the past and that’s just the reality.”

So how are small or new online businesses able to compete and keep up with the fluctuating costs of daily price wars?

It’s not enough to just have an e-commerce website

If you are one of the online retailers struggling to remain competitive, or are having a hard time making sales with a higher profit margin because of constant price slashing, read on. There are ways to attract customers through online user experience that can keep them coming back.

We’ve curated a simple list of strategies that can help your e-commerce business boost sales and give those potential customers that are always scouring the internet for the best prices an experience they won’t receive from other online retailers.

1. Simplify, Design & Test
There is nothing worse than trying to navigate a site for several minutes just to purchase and browse through a few items. More often than not, e-commerce sites, especially those newly launched are cluttered, mismatched, and even glitch. Having a website that isn’t easy to use gives reasons for customers to find their items elsewhere. After all, it’s probably easier to just click the ‘x’ button and move on to the next website then to navigate an inefficient website. It is vitally important to spend time designing your website, testing it, and making sure that your customer has a user-friendly experience. Think of how your customer will be looking at your website. Is it mobile? Have you actually tested from numerous smart phones and browsers to make sure that it’s as easy to use as you think? Have others test your website as well. Look for feedback and make continuous improvements.

2. Invest in a Professional, Commercial Photographer
One major reason why some shoppers prefer the in-store experience is because you can actually touch, examine and compare items. With an online store, photos are everything. Invest your time and resources into making this portion perfect. Far too often, we’ve seen photos on websites that aren’t consistent, contain camera flashes reflecting on surfaces of the product or packaging, and have image poor resolution. The photos are the pinnacles of your business, and if they are sub-par, chances are the customer will not buy and may not return in the future.

3. Reviews, Recommendations and Related Products
Reviews and recommendations are great to have on a website. These give buyers a chance to rave about your products and provide feedback. Most companies are hesitant to put reviews on their website. However, being transparent and having the confidence to display them on your site shows buyers that you believe in what you’re selling. When customers are searching your website, it’s also nice to show them what related products are available using their search history. This is a great way to up-sell your customer while they are already on your website.

4.  Social Media Presence
If your business is online, you should also be on social media; it’s just common sense. It is the easiest way to market and spread the word about your products and promotions, along with being able to access and build a loyal following. Proceed with caution, however. Do research and understand exactly who your target audience is and what platforms they utilize. For example, if you are a clothing company, chances are your customers are on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, but they may not be on LinkedIn and Google Plus. Be sure to build your buyer personas and formulate all of your marketing to your specified audience.

5. Perks & Exclusives
Implementing a way to reward your frequent shoppers is a wide-open opportunity to give back and keep your customers happy and loyal. E-commerce is extremely competitive, especially when your produ cts are similar to other sites. Even if your prices aren’t the lowest online, you can be assured that your frequent customers, if rewarded with free shipping or 10% off around the holidays, will keep coming back.
As the retail world becomes more digitalized and businesses begin to strategically build their online e-commerce websites, the need to innovate and market becomes increasingly important. These tips and tricks are some of the many strategies that your business can implement without having a large budget. Remember, the importance of constantly improving your online business for your customer is vitally important to keep on top of your competitors and help combat the constant need for price slashing. Continuously build your following, reward your frequent shoppers, and keep refining their online experience.

Why Having a Niche Can Simplify Your Supply Chain

There are many articles written about why it is important to segment your company and find your niche. However, the focus tends to be solely on finding that niche and how it will affect your company, without regard to how it will affect your partnered services. We’ve seen that niche segmentation can both benefit your company’s bottom line, customer satisfaction, and drive overall growth in a measured and sustainable way. It can also affect other attached services, such as company’s 3PL partner, and the resources you allot towards those services. There are countless reasons and benefits to refining your niche market, but it’s dependent on your particular business plan and long term strategy.

Here is a list of 9 potential outcomes to more focus:
1. Provides value
Value to both yourself, your employees, and especially to your buying market, will be amplified. Being in a specified niche allows you to explore, innovate, and generate content without spreading yourself too thin. It is difficult to generate unique and quality products, content, and engagement when you are using “shot gun” approach.
2. Limits competition
Being in a niche market makes the competitive pool much smaller. This allows you to have easier connectivity with those working or looking for help within that niche. However be cautious, if your competition is already a commodity or monopoly, aim yourself toward emerging and growing markets.
3. Slow yet steady growth
Like small-scale logistics companies, growth is often slow, but steady. This may seem like a negative at first, but in the long term, it will allow your company to adjust, strategize, and grow stronger. Companies that try to grow too quickly often find themselves bloated and consequently thin on expertise and unable to be agile when something changes. The results can be devastating.
4. Develop and capture tribe markets
Tribes are small groups of people, often filled with influencers that can help boost your company’s success. They share their experiences, promote your business and can give you quality feedback. Having a segmented tribe that loves what you sell or do can keep sales steady and growing with little effort on your part.
5. Lower warehousing costs and space
Think about it. Fewer products and potentially less inventory could mean lower warehousing costs. If you are just starting your business, or if you want to cut back, reducing your product variety is a common-sense approach. Not using a 3PL provider yet? No worries, choosing a strong 3PL will give you the flexibility to adjust as your market segment changes and even lower your initial overhead costs.
6. Lower excess inventory
There is nothing worse than having too much of a product, especially when it isn’t selling. That’s the equivalent of throwing money out the window. Narrowing your selling market will allow you to buy in bulk, but only with the product you know is selling.
7. Potential to be an industry leader
Who doesn’t want to be one of those? Since competition is low, being in a niche can allow you the potential to be at the top of the hill. It’s all about seeing an opportunity and running with it. This is how major companies like Google and Skype have become so big. They saw an opening and became the best within it.
8. Smarter and more efficient business purchases
Similar to lowering excess inventory, as a business owner, you can make more thoughtful decisions when it comes to selecting your 3PL providers or in assessing your fulfillment and shipping needs. If you choose the 3PL route, it will allow you the flexibility to define your specific needs. However, if you decide to maintain shipping and fulfillment in-house, the choice to focus on a niche will lessen the specialized packing and shipping that will be required. You can buy packaging and shipping materials in bulk and reduce your overall costs.
9. More efficient supply-chain
The most important benefit to niching your business is that it will streamline your supply chain. Having more than a handful of products can make your supply chain complex and complicated, which can hurt business. From manufacturing to shipping and distribution, all methods vary and can create a very expensive supply chain and a massive headache.

From this list, we hope to have shared the benefits of maximizing your business by finding your target and product markets within a niche. It may be uncomfortable to put yourself into one specific market, yet in terms of resources, generating value, customer service, and efficiency, it can be a great step toward making your company a lasting and legendary success.

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!