2015 in Review for the Logistics and Transportation Industry
Another year is in the books, and we’re now deep in the first quarter of 2016. While it’s evident that the logistics and transportation industry experienced a rapid pace of change in 2015, there were many other strong trends that resonated above typical predictions for the year, such as plummeting fuel prices and more. Click here to read Logistic Management’s list of the top stories and themes of 2015.
Smoothing out the Lags, Delays and Capacity Shortages
Full-service 3PL solutions can steady the business to meet the challenge
Every business deals with countless moving parts that are both within and outside of its control. Anything that can help you predict what’s coming, or even just a piece of the business you can count on from day-to-day, feels like a break from the storm.
If you had to move products through the northeast last winter, you know that nothing was going to arrive on time – record snowfall pounded the area! Add to that a spike in energy costs in the same area, and you were left with manufacturing companies who had to shut down.
This all created some nasty gaps for retailers looking to make a strong product push or simply supply the popular items that customers were looking to buy.
Careful planning and a long-term view
The time to seek the assistance of a third-party logistics provider (3PL) is not after a problem arises. While that provider can probably do something to ease the pain, it’s still just a short-term fix, and it will likely rear its ugly head again.
The time to begin a partnership and solidify your logistics function is right now so you can build a cushion for your business, giving it the ability to withstand the unforeseen. (And the unforeseen always comes.) Most businesses know what pains them or what could potentially cause discomfort. You will not stop the problem from happening, but a business can at least lay the foundation for a great partnership while putting tools in place to respond to a bad situation.
This changes the conversation from one business trying to take advantage of another in a tough situation. Both sides will benefit from this type of preparation.
So what can a 3PL do to close production or other gaps in the supply chain?
With weather, labor shortages, equipment failures, production lags and everything else that can go wrong, the only real question to answer is “Can our logistics function withstand a crisis?”
Whether it’s a shortage of shipping capacity, production lags or rising costs that limit your ability to deliver product where it is needed, a full-service 3PL company has the resources to help whether the storm. Solutions could include a simple addition of capacity; streamlining processes; improved buying power; more efficient transactions or improved software that connects the entire company.
You will notice most of those solutions can be put in place well before anything nasty happens.
When times get tough or you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed, you will more than likely turn to a friend. That’s what you need from a 3PL provider — a good relationship with someone you can count on to help with any situation. You don’t need a business that immediately wants to start cranking up the extra charges.
Learn how STC Logistics springs to action in a tough situation. If you’ve been considering adding a complete logistics and supply chain management service to your operations, take a look at our services.
5 Logistics Outlooks for the Retail Industry for 2016
The time of year when budgets are finalized and all eyes turn toward the future has arrived. Predictions will spew from those ‘in the know’ with logistics. Here’s our take on the retail logistics industry in 2016 – some are “bold predictions,” while others remain steady:
1) Retailer organization charts may take on a new look
Many folks in the retail segment are predicting a big shift in the way organizations are structured; the goal is to completely deliver on the omni-channel vision. There’s less of a need for a boundary between the e-commerce function and the remaining pieces of the organization.
The people running the “traditional retail piece” of the business are learning more and becoming savvier in the digital marketplace. Bringing the two sides together will make sense for many corporate headquarters in retail. The two must complement each other well, and companies will realize this in 2016.
2) Omni-channel becomes an expectation
The number of shoppers buying from multiple devices and through multiple channels will surpass the traditional in-person buyers. Omni-channel interfaces are no longer a nifty trick, but an expectation from your customers.
Retailers and their logistics partners will continue to prime themselves for this shift while still presenting a unified face for the business. (Remember that reorganization thing we talked about above?)
3) Lack of workers in distribution
As e-commerce continues to balloon, a number of larger retailers have invested heavily in new distribution facilities across the country in an effort to meet the demand and deliver products quickly, according to the Wall Street Journal.
For the smaller distributors in the world, this creates a squeeze on resources including trucks, space on trains and a shrinking pool of people willing to work at the warehouse. It can be challenging to find workers in distribution; this could gum up the works even in the smoothest running logistics business.
4) Last-mile fulfillment meets the Jetsons
Undaunted by the squeeze on resources, retailers will strive to compete with giant online sellers by using their stores as fulfillment centers. Some bleeding-edge retailers will attempt to use self-driving cars in hopes of averting the expense of free shipping and returns.
5) Unify within your business and with your partners
Retailers, distributors and logistics providers will continue to find better ways to simplify their services and streamline scheduling. It will no longer be good enough to have the employees working in shipping handle all distribution to stores. Sales, marketing, supply chain and store managers will all need to have a say in decision making when it comes to logistics.
The squeeze on resources, management, new technologies — it’s all changing and moving ahead at light speed. Preparing for change, constantly improving and staying flexible in 2016. A logistics provider with a wide-range of services will serve as a great partner for your business.
For more information about the services we provide, click here or call us at 1-800-547-4324!
10 Tips for Streamlining Warehouse Efficiency
Shipping is the number one cost in the fulfillment arena, and without a comprehensive plan for cost monitoring and optimization, retailers can easily end up being charged much more than anticipated. Fortunately, there are many ways that retailers can improve warehouse efficiency to reduce costs; one way is to control inbound and outbound freight. Click here to read the rest of the article on MultichannelMerchant.com.
Selecting the Best Freight Forwarding Software in 2016
The freight forwarding industry must deliver quality services at narrow profit margins. A large part of this requires companies to choose the most cutting-edge and updated technology and software to ensure operations are as streamlined as possible. Click here to find out the 10 questions you should ask when selecting the best freight forwarding software for your business.
As Retailers Look to Add Value, 3PL Solutions Meet the Need
Smart retailers leverage numerous channels to provide the best possible experience for customers. It’s not a new idea anymore, and to meet the needs of today’s consumer, you need to understand where they live both online and in-person.
Research tells retailers what messages are needed for online shoppers versus brick-and-mortar guests, but at some point, the store needs to acquire the ability to deliver product where the customers live in their own little shopping worlds. So while your marketing spreads out to all the places where customer hangs out, the logistics function needs to be equally as agile.
The role of the 3PL in this diverse supply chain
More channels and delivery methods means a more complicated process that needs to be managed. This can lead to added costs and potentially expensive mistakes if the supply chain management is not reliable.
Strategically, the execution of the supply chain function is the heart of the retail business. If the business can’t deliver, it can’t collect the money on the product.
Make the investment! – If the heart of your business needs attention, don’t cut corners. You wouldn’t look for a do-it-yourself option for your own heart and you shouldn’t try to pull that off the heart of your business.
Who is there if something goes wrong? Considering all the responsibilities put on your staff already, time for fixing supplier issues just doesn’t exist. Enlisting the help of a resourceful 3PL partner can certainly lighten this load and put it back where it belongs — with the supplier. Many times the supplier and 3PL can anticipate an issue and make it disappear before anyone involved with the retail business is even aware. A vanishing issue is best kind of issue.
This illustrates a role the 3PL can assume and become a true partner of the business.
One eye on costs – Shipping and final delivery costs are anything but static and, for many retailers, the cost of shipping can even exceed the cost of the product being shipped. A well-established 3PL service can analyze into the future, anticipate a rise in shipping charges due to outside pressures and make decisions to mitigate the increase. They actually bring expertise in contract negotiation and management to your team.
At the very least, the 3PL provider can give some advanced warning in time to make a price adjustment or shift to another delivery method.
Complete services – The white glove 3PL can add as much service or as little as needed. When new stores open or capital improvements are being made , it’s well worth the cost to have a logistics provider deliver, set up and haul away waste from the shop so store managers and employees can move right to sales.
A wealth of service from a single provider is exactly what STC Logistics can bring to your business. If you’ve been considering adding a complete logistics and supply chain management service to your operations, take a look at our specialties today by clicking below!
What a Successful Retail Procurement Team Looks Like
Continuously finding ways to improve and run a business more efficiently doesn’t apply only to those in manufacturing or logistics. Retail companies need to consistently look for more ways to innovate how they procure and work with suppliers, in addition to keeping stores full of the items customers want the most.
Optimizing expenditures, both direct and indirect, can help retailers reduce costs and improve services offered by suppliers.
The successful procurement team and their habits
- Support company strategy – The leadership team works to create a strategy that can be followed by everyone in the company, from the CEO to the newest employee. A great procurement team will use that strategy to drive decisions and support the organization. Pushing the strategy forward unifies the procurement team and the entire company.
- Implement continuous improvement strategies – No strategy is worth following if it doesn’t somehow emphasize continuous improvement. The procurement team should work toward improving the quality of products while reducing costs. It’s that simple.
- Ensure better service – Procurement teams can improve quality and cut costs, even if the products themselves continue to be more expensive, by negotiating for improvements in services offered by the supplier. As the cost of goods increases, prices for the consumer can be maintained if services such as shipment tracking work efficiently or if the goods consistently reach store shelves without damage. Often procurement teams can find room for improvement in last-mile deliveries. Suppliers help the retail company reduce costs and customers benefit from better prices.
- Test the market – As much as relationships matter, a great procurement won’t simply accept that their current supplier is the best for the business. Consistently researching vendors and making changes if necessary is crucial to an efficient procurement organization. A supplier that just didn’t fit a few years ago may be the best for the business today. Staying on top of development within the industry and supplier infrastructure enhancements can make a big difference. It’s up the procurement team to stay on top of changes with suppliers. We all know the business world moves fast and procurement teams need to be nimble and ready for change when an opportunity presents itself.
Keeping the customer first
Sitting in an office and constantly working to improve the bottom line can make it all too easy to forget what matters most to a retail business – the customer. Hopefully, the company strategy focuses everyone on the customer, but if not, it is essential for procurement teams to base decisions on how they will affect the end customer. If changing the way products are delivered to stores only helps the team working from the corporate office and not the folks working at the store, you could be damaging customer relationships or product availability.
A few pennies saved from the bottom line won’t matter if the change drives customers away. Great procurement teams can see the effect of changes all the way through the supply chain and into the store. The customer is still king – that much about business hasn’t changed.
Working with a 3PL Provider
Successful procurement teams work with logistics management providers who implement the latest technology and offer services that are a complete turnkey solution. The latest technology supplies your procurement department with the vital information needed when organizing build outs or remodels, whether for one store or hundreds.
STC Logistics will work directly with your procurement department or with your individual vendors. As a complete turnkey solution, in addition to our direct logistic management and supply chain management services, we also provide white glove service, sort & segregate fulfillment and installation services nationwide. To learn more about our 3PL retail logistics services and expedited shipping, click below!
Using Social Media to Boost Fragrance and Cosmetics Retail Sales
The cosmetics and fragrance industry enjoys success with a well-established foundation built over decades. As other well-established businesses struggle through the internet age, cosmetics and fragrances can take advantage of the opportunity to actually thrive. And they are thriving.
Cosmetics and fragrances typically enjoy high margins and low ship-to-weight ratios, making this a great industry for e-commerce and that’s the end of the funnel as companies work to pass customers through social media, right?
Retail fragrance and cosmetic companies are aware of the value of social media and must continue to evolve with the ever-changing platforms to keep ahead of competition.
Social media, research and decision making
Don’t think about research in the same boring way a scientist in a lab might approach the topic. Buyer research in the cosmetics industry (and many others) takes place in the form of simple conversations. The ability of a cosmetics or fragrance company to provide and respond to a channel can have a huge affect on sales.
Feedback forums and social platforms offer customers a place to go if something is not right or if they have a question. While this may not be directly transactional, customers who use responsive forums will feel more secure with their purchase knowing they can ask questions. This can play a critical role in shaping the transactions going forward.
Extending reach with product endorsements
Another age-old and successful strategy for the cosmetics industry involves the product endorsement. Long ago movie stars, singers and other beauties have endorsed makeup and fragrance to boost sales. This strategy continues to work well.
Social media only serves to amplify the product endorsement as now the company can leverage their own media channels in addition to the channels owned and updated by the superstar endorser. The online audience can quickly expand by millions with the addition of the right person.
Those imminently recognizable figures have also helped extend reach through video channels such as YouTube. Those classic television spots still matter, but again, successful companies such as L’Oreal see no reason to stop with traditional commercials when they can keep extending their reach and start a conversation with potential customers while they watch videos.
As annoying as it may be to some, there’s even the potential to gain the endorsement of the “social media celebrity.” Yep, we’re touting the value of the Kardashians and it makes sense. Celebrities with an excess of 16 million followers on their social media channels offer an attractive endorsement. Kendall Jenner and her famous sisters give big companies the chance to simply buy followers (and a lot of them) rather than jumping in and competing in the same crowded space. It could take years for a cosmetics brand to drum up that type of following.
Utilizing Paid Advertising Opportunties
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter offer user-friendly paid advertising opportunities to businesses of all types—but these opportunities are especially effective for the retail world. Fragrance and cosmetics retailers can use paid ads to increase their following on social platforms, drive traffic to their websites, build buzz about a product or sale. These platforms allow you to run ads based on detailed demographic information to ensure the ads are reaching the right audience—and then gives you insight as to how ads are performing to continuously improve campaigns.
STC Logistics specializes in logistics services for retailers such as fragrance and cosmetics companies. To learn more about our retail logistics services, click below!
Expedited Freight and Shipping in the Pharmaceutical Industry: How 3PL Companies Contribute to Success
In the pharmaceutical industry, few factors matter more than a backing of solid, reliable, flexible logistics. Knowing that you can trust expedited freight to arrive in the hands of the manufacturers, medical professionals, and researchers is key to the business, yet many manufacturers settle for sub-par solutions—and suffering for it on their bottom line. Working with a 3PL company familiar with the myriad necessities of the pharmaceutical industry, capable of delivering expedited freight and shipping anywhere you need it to be, with all the appropriate precautions, isn’t just a good idea; it’s a game-changer.
What 3PL Companies Bring to Logistics
To understand the advantages a pharmaceutical company might see in its logistics by working with a 3PL, consider the nature of such a company: Experts specializing in the singular task of getting things where they need to be, undistracted by other concerns except as they interfere with the issue at hand. Most companies simply cannot afford the upkeep of a dedicated staff focused entirely on this single issue, but by utilizing a 3PL, you get that expertise sans the associated capital costs of hiring, training, and maintaining such a team with the latest in tools and software.
Expedited Freight without Error
By working with a 3PL to handle expedited freight, a pharmaceutical business gains the benefits of speed without error—the practiced familiarity of a specialist in logistics cannot be underestimated as a benefit for this reason alone. A familiarity with regulations, regional laws, changes in shipping expectations, and myriad other details which might slip by a non-specialist logistics officer will be caught and compensated for by a company specializing solely in offering top-notch freight and shipping options. It doesn’t matter, after all, how quickly you’re expedited freight should reach its destination, if a mistake makes it arrive much later.
Flexibility and Increased Security
A 3PL inherently offers flexibility in all forms of expedited freight and day-to-day shipping solutions, because such a company needs to be equipped and ready to meet the needs of very different client corporations. This means that unlike an in-house logistics team, a 3PL never runs into unfamiliar situations, needs to rush to arrange something they’ve never worked on before, or finds itself caught up by issues of scalability and general flexibility. When pharmaceutical reps receive goods, clients can have peace of mind with scheduled appointment times and restricted signatures. By working with a 3PL, pharmaceutical businesses can confidently adjust to the market and know they have a reliable logistics solution ready to keep up.
Meeting Special Situations
Ultimately, the biggest trap in pharmaceutical industry logistics lay in unusual situations, unanticipated by anyone. The regulations at hand, the expectations of customers and business partners, the limitations of even the most expedited freight system, these come together to produce scenarios with no clear ‘win’ in sight. By working with a 3PL, however, you gain access to the single trait most valuable in resolving unusual circumstances: experience. The varied logistical experience of a 3PL’s staff, combined with the myriad tools and data such a company keeps at hand, mean you’re far more likely to develop workable solutions to the messiest expedited freight situations when you engage the services of one.
Ultimately, it falls to each individual company to determine the benefits it might see from working with a 3PL—if you’re confident in your in-house solutions and rarely encounter problems, you may consider the expenditure unnecessary. Just keep in mind that even well-established systems can be streamlined and perfected with the assistance of an extra set of eyes and the application of specialized tools—and when you perfect your logistics, streamlining expedited freight and cutting wasteful spending in the process, you’re certain to see an improvement on the bottom line.
STC Logistics specializes in expedited freight logistics solutions, including ground shipping, for the pharmaceutical industry. We are one of the top trusted pharmaceutical logistics companies in NJ. To learn more about our pharmaceutical logistics, click below!
How to Avoid Last-Minute Retail Logistics Mishaps
A misstep with your retail logistics can cause dramatic profit losses even when you see it coming from a mile away–when you’re blindsided by last-minute mishap, those losses become nearly inevitable. With that hard fact in mind, it behooves a retailer content to protect its profitability by working out flexible, reliable, trustworthy logistics solutions. For most businesses, there’s one simple way to manage this: the services of a reputable Third-Party Logistics (3PL) provider. Wondering how a 3PL can empower retail logistics, improve bottom lines, and insulate companies from last-minute mishaps? Read on.
What a 3PL Offers
At its core, what a 3PL offers is the experience and efficacy of an advanced in-house logistics team without the associated costs of hiring, training, outfitting, and maintaining such a team full time. By leveraging that level of experience and familiarity with retail logistics on a part-time basis, you can achieve much greater efficiency in every aspect of your supply chain—which means big savings and big profits, in the long term.
And unlike an in-house team, a 3PL has zero issues with scalability, myriad tools which may only see use in unusual circumstances, and many other advantages of adaptability which a savvy retailer can leverage to their benefit. Few retail logistics solutions offer as much.
Avoiding Retail Logistics Mishaps
By working together with a 3PL to develop flexible retail logistics strategies, you can minimize or even eliminate the opportunity for most mishaps to arise. When regulations change, or a particular shipping route becomes less effective and thus less profitable, a 3PL will be far more likely to spot that change and adapt accordingly—saving you from wasteful shipping, delays, and other retail logistics nightmares.
But even the greatest plan and greatest analysis can’t offer 100% coverage from all mistakes and unexpected occurrences. That’s where the other great strength of a 3PL comes to the rescue: the nature of a 3PL means a much greater agility in developing workaround solutions and last-minute logistical fixes than anything an in-house retail logistics team working with mainstream shipping services could provide.
Turn Logistical Traps into Opportunities
The savviest businesses will take their logistics one step further than safe, by turning the same events which become mishaps for their competitors into opportunities. By being the first business in your market to adapt to changing logistical situations, and thus maintaining lower prices or better offers than those competitors which took the shift’s full brunt, you can turn yesterday’s pitfalls into today’s grand opportunities. All it takes is flexibility and a willingness to act quickly to capitalize on such chances.
If you take the reliability of your logistics at all seriously, investing in the services of a 3PL provider may be the best option for your business—a cost-effective way to maximize the efficiency of your supply chains, avoid mishaps as they arise, and adapt to changes in the way you receive your retail goods. STC Logistics has several years of experience working in the retail procurement industry, providing reliable logistics solutions for new store openings, POP display campaigns, rollouts and distributions, and much more. Click below to learn more about our retail logistics services!