If you’re an entrepreneur, especially if you’re using the B2C model (simply put, you sell to customers rather than to fellow businesses or B2B), you have the golden opportunity to touch very wide markets – thanks to international trade. Your online store can sell to as many countries as you wish, and you can sell 24/7.
However, you have to keep in mind the way you deliver to your customers. One of the causes of the downfall of many online stores is simply the fact that they don’t deliver well – delayed shipments, broken products, wrong products, or worse, undelivered products.
When an online store has such a reputation of a bad shipping system, customers slowly turn away from that store and buy somewhere else. That’s why you, an online store owner or an aspiring one, should look out on these challenges.
We present to you the 5 main challenges every B2C stores face regarding international shipping fulfillment. More importantly, how you can deal with these challenges.
Here are the 5 challenges you’ll face:
- Delayed Shipping
- Poor Inventory Management
- Tracking of Order Status
- Warehouse Storage Facility
There are 9 reasons why your shipments are delayed:
- Bad weather
- Port Congestion
- Vessel changing route/s, causing additional stops
- Equipment or space shortage on the vessel
- Product sent to the wrong destination
- Port authorities cannot locate your container
- Container was stolen
- Pirate attack
- The vessel broke
On average, the cause of your shipment’s delay was on reasons 1-4. So when you heard that your shipment was delayed, don’t panic and immediately assume that pirates took over your vessel!
Unfortunately, you can’t do much when mishaps happen in the loading of your products and its vessel’s route. Sometimes, bad things just happen and you can’t do anything about it (what is often called in legal terms as fortuitous events).
Luckily, worse case scenarios (5-9) – and even other bad cases – don’t happen often due to advanced security and monitoring systems. As per the vessel, our ships are more advanced and won’t easily sink – in some cases, they can even recover from a hull breach!
When you heard that your shipment is delayed, what you can do is to contact your freight forwarder or transport carrier and patiently wait until things are resolved.
Ⅱ.Poor Inventory Management
Inventory management is a very subtle, yet crucial, task. The problems of inventory management usually is a matter of “too little” or “too much”. Here are the problems you can face based on two scenarios:
- Missed sales – If your inventory is too little, you can miss sales (and a lot of them!)
- Lost customers – If customers found out that your business can’t fulfill their orders, they’ll look for other stores which can fulfill their orders. This happens even to repeat customers – ever experienced buying to a certain store over time, until one day, it just became lousy and can’t deliver well? What did you do? You looked for other stores. Same case with your customers.
- Tied-up money – You inefficiently spend money which can be better spent on other expenses: salary/wage payment, debt payment, rent payment, etc. Or that can even be your profit!
- Excessive warehousing costs – Not just on warehousing, it’s an excessive expense overall. What’s worse? That can even be a loss since you don’t get to sell all those inventories.
The key to proper inventory management is knowing when demand rises and when it falls. One indicator of this is season: see which season your product’s demand goes up and when it goes down.
Also, have a yearly track record of your sales and see which months you can sell more and which months you sell less. That can tell something about your products’ demand.
Ⅲ.Tracking of Order Status
In these times, you should have a reliable tracking system of your orders. Some stores don’t even offer a tracking system! Be sure you have one.
But also, be sure your tracking system is reliable. If your tracking system isn’t accurate, you will suffer – both from a faulty tracking system and from angry customers.
Simply put, be sure your tracking system:
- Has correct delivery date estimates
- Is real-time (if possible, or make it a point it’s such)
- Monitors your products accurately (some tracking system updates late!
Ⅳ.Warehouse Storage Facility
Your customers most likely don’t care about your warehouse, but you do – or you should.
Warehousing, whether you realize it or not, affects most of your order management and shipping systems – how your orders are processed, if it’s placed on the proper carrier, speed and hence, if it will arrive on time or delayed.
So, if you want to make your order management and fulfillment systems more efficient, you should check out your warehousing system.
Ideally, your warehousing system must:
- Space must be big
- Workers should be experienced (they make or break your speed and product delivery)
- Time management
- Placing products to proper carriers (otherwise, they will go to wrong places!)
- Speed and communication
The more efficient your warehousing system is, the better your fulfillment system will be!
Let’s go back to the basics: sourcing. If you get from an unreliable supplier, your business is doomed right from the beginning – before you even reach warehousing problems, inventory problems, and fulfillment problems.
If you suspect your supplier is not good, you should make the effort to correct this.
Luckily, Fulfillmen can help you with all of these challenges. We will help you with sourcing, warehouse management, tracking systems and other fulfillment obligations.
These challenges are so far the main challenges every B2C entrepreneur faces or will face, especially if they sell internationally.