holiday shipping deadlines

Holiday Shipping Deadlines - Main Carriers

Holiday Shipping Deadlines

If you are an eCommerce business, you are probably well aware of the holiday shipping deadlines that are fast approaching. Merchants and consumers alike should be mindful of these shipping cutoffs. These are the last day(s) a package or letter can be shipped and still arrive in time for Christmas. You still have the opportunity to squeeze in a few more sales and meet these tight deadlines. Keep in mind these are not guarantees but merely estimates. The final delivery date can change based on where you are shipping from, weather, delays, and other unforeseen circumstances. However, these guidelines ensure you have the best chance of getting your packages delivered on time. Here are the main carrier holiday shipping deadlines for 2022.

USPS

Your local United States Postal Service is estimating the following deadlines for shipments within the 48 contiguous states:

 

 

  • Dec 17 – Deadline for USPS Retail Ground
  • Dec 17 – Deadline for First Class Mail
  • Dec 19 – Deadline for Priority Mail
  • Dec 23 – Deadline for Priority Mail Express

 

 

 

Here are the additional deadlines if you are shipping from/to Alaska or Hawaii.

  • Dec 2  for Retail Ground for Alaska, N/A for Hawaii
  • Dec 17 for First Class & Priority for Alaska and Hawaii
  • Dec 21 for Priority Mail Express for Alaska and Hawaii

FedEx

FedEx has the following holiday shipping deadlines for 2022. These are subject to change without notice. Check the FedEx holiday schedule for the most current announcements. These are for the 48 contiguous states only.

 

  • Dec 9 – FedEx SmartPost shipments (exclusions apply)
  • Dec 14 – FedEx Ground (scheduled pickup) and FedEx Home Delivery shipments
  • Dec 20 – FedEx Express Saver and 3Day Freight shipments
  • Dec 21 – FedEx 2Day Freight shipments
  • Dec 22 – FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, FedEx First Overnight, and 1Day Freight shipments
  • Dec 23 – FedEx SameDay shipments (additional fee may apply)

UPS

For UPS, you will want to use their online time and cost calculator to ensure you have the most up-to-date details, especially for their UPS® Ground services. Their expedited services are easier to add to your calendar and share with your customers. Here are the expedited deadlines for UPS services within the 48 contiguous states.

 

  • Dec 20 – Deadline for UPS 3-Day Select shipments
  • Dec 21 – Deadline for UPS 2nd Day Air shipments
  • Dec 22 – Deadline for UPS Next Day Air shipments
  • Dec 25 – No pickup or delivery service. UPS Express Critical services are available.

 

Holiday Shipping Deadline Calendar

If you are a visual person, this is a combined main carrier calendar noting the 2022 holiday shipping deadlines. Available for download below.

Holiday Shipping Deadline Calendar

No matter who you use for your holiday shipping needs, it is critical to know your final cutoff days/times to ensure packages arrive before Christmas. Every carrier has a slightly different policy and pricing structure. If you are an eCommerce business that has grown weary of trying to track deadlines and save money during peak season year over year, consider partnering with Falcon Fulfillment. Our relationships with a network of carriers and volume discounts could make your next holiday season a breeze. Contact one of our agents today if you want to find out more.

Get Started

 


Making Returns Easy - 4 Ways to Streamline Returns Management

Making Returns Easy

A seamless return process helps increase customer satisfaction and retention and minimize the negative impact they have on your business. Returns happen for various reasons, including; unmet expectations, damaged or defective products, and incorrect fit. Last year, an average of 8.1% of all purchased products were returned. The returns management process, or reverse logistics, involves customer service, inventory management, and shipping logistics. It requires intentional planning, clear communication, and staying customer focused. Here are some of the key aspects of making returns easy.

Communication

Simplifying and making returns trouble-free boils down to communication. Communication is at the center of straightforward returns, whether it is communicating with customers or updating internal staff and protocols.

Communicating with customers

The main focus of your returns management process should be to make your customer’s life easy. When a customer is dissatisfied with a purchase, making the process to return the item can save the relationship and even win a brand advocate. Start by outlining the process for shipping a product back and requesting a repair, refund, or exchange. Set expected timelines for each aspect of the returns process. Customers want regular updates on the status of their return and how long it will take to resolve it. Over-communicate with customers throughout the returns process. This builds trust and confidence in your brand. Clear and consistent communication can lead to the purchaser returning to your company despite a poor buying experience.

Streamline Internal Communication

Not only do your customers need regular updates regarding their return, but so do the staff that will receive the product, evaluate it, and adds them back into the inventory system when possible. Invest in developing a system of internal communications so that when returns arrive at your warehouse, they don’t overwhelm staff or clutter your storage area. A centralized method to receive, evaluate, and update inventory systems will ensure a seamless returns process. A few crucial parts of the internal returns process include:

  • The customer requests a return, and internal teams either approve or disapprove the request.
  • Approved requests will receive logistics instructions to return the item to the company.
  • The product is received in the warehouse. 
  • Staff determines if the product can be resold or need to be discarded, liquidated, or destroyed.
  • Depending on protocols for the product, staff approves a refund, packages a replacement product, and ships it. 
  • Products that can be resold are added back into the inventory management system and restocked

Returns Automation

One of the best ways to make returns effortless is to automate the returns management process. This includes implementing customer portals to begin the returns process without speaking with a customer service team. Furthermore, most aspects of communication with customers can be automated. There are several robust returns management software systems available. Here are a few of the highly reviewed options.

In addition to utilizing an automation software program, you can partner with your fulfillment teams to streamline the returns process. At Falcon Fulfillment, we specialize in eCommerce returns management. Working with a 3PL you trust can ease concerns about the returns process and help boost customer satisfaction. Plus, most 3PL companies already have a streamlined, efficient returns system refined over time with hundreds of returns. In other words, they have the expertise to do it right.

Integrated Technology

Integrating your POS systems with inventory management and returns management creates a streamlined process. Getting all the systems and software platforms to communicate with one another can be tricky. As you evaluate and set up your technology, ensure that integrations are “straightforward.”

While avoiding returns altogether isn’t always possible, it is possible to make returns easy. Ensure you have intentionally created a seamless process for your customers. Remember that making their life easy is the most crucial aspect of returns. If a customer has a good experience with getting a refund, replacement, or credit, they will be more likely to shop with your business again. If they have a poor product experience and a difficult return process, you have lost them for good and will likely also have to deal with poor customer reviews. Partnering with a 3PL specializing in returns management is another option when implementing a new returns process. Get in touch today if you want to learn more about how Falcon Fulfillment can help with your returns. 

Get Started

 


choosing a 3PL partner - factors to consider

Choosing a 3PL Partner - 11 Factors to Consider

Choosing a 3PL Partner - Factors to Consider

For eCommerce business owners, fulfilling orders in-house might be feasible for a short time. As sales increase and warehouse space become sparse, it might be time to outsource fulfillment. Choosing the right 3PL partner for your fulfillment needs can help your business become more strategic, increase customer satisfaction, and scale. Here’s what you need to understand about choosing a 3PL partner and factors to consider. 

Questions to Ask and Answer Before Selecting a 3PL Partner

  1. What are your company's shipping and packaging priorities?
  2. What are your company’s marketing priorities?
  3. How will these priorities change over the next 3-5 years? 
  4. What is the projected growth you expect over the next year or two? 
  5. What qualities do you expect your 3PL partner to have? 
  6. What services do you want your fulfillment partner to offer?
  7. Is sustainability important? 
  8. How communicative do you want your 3PL partner to be in the relationship? 
  9. Do you want your fulfillment team to handle returns and restocking? 
  10. Where are the majority of your customers? Countries, regions, towns, etc. 
  11. Is offering free shipping to your customers a priority?

11 Factors to Consider When Choosing a 3PL Partner

Capability

Almost every 3PL company will provide an expanded network of transportation carriers, warehousing, and expertise in the logistics industry. These are the foundational requirements. To understand which 3PL partner will work best with your company, you need to understand what other services they provide. Can they help you with kitting, pick and pack, and returns management? Selecting a 3PL provider that can offer various services will help you offload more logistics management as you grow. 

Stability

Don’t go with a newbie. Fulfillment companies popped up like dandelions during the COVID-19 pandemic and have subsequently withered just as fast. Choose a  3PL partner with an established track record for superior service and exceeding industry service standards. The supply chain continues to fluctuate rapidly. Selecting an experienced and stable 3PL partner can help you preempt shifts in the supply to ensure minimal disruptions to your business operations and inventory.

Reputation & Reviews

3PL partners that go above and beyond to care for their customers, carriers, staff, and vendors will have a solid reputation in the industry. Fulfillment companies leverage their relationships in transportation, manufacturing, and marketing to help their clients. Trust reviews from multiple sources to determine what you can expect working with them.

Safety & Security

Amazon lawsuits are multiplying daily from accounts of negligence and safety concerns. While no warehouse is perfect, it's vital to ensure your 3PL partner is demonstrating a high level of safety for staff and products. Look for providers that have PCI certification and a HAZMAT shipping certification. Furthermore, they should safeguard financial information. 

Customer Service

Excellent customer service is a vital part of running a successful business. When customers have a good experience with your company, they share it with others. 3PL companies that exhibit excellent customer service respond quickly to requests, provide clear and helpful communication, are adequately trained, speak with customers directly, and are present in the warehouse. When choosing a 3PL partner, evaluating their customer service offering and quality is crucial.

Scalability

One of the benefits of partnering with a 3PL is the ability to scale your business. The partnership allows you immediate access to flexible storage space, expertly trained fulfillment staff, and a broad network of transportation carriers. Most 3PL companies offer some level of scalability for your business. However, not all 3PLs are created equal. You don’t want to discover after you have onboarded that your plans to 10x are impossible. Ensure your fulfillment partner can provide storage, shipping, and fulfillment solutions for your business today and in the future. 

Accuracy

Inaccurate data, inventory, or tracking details can affect your bottom line and customer satisfaction. A solid 3PL partner will have a 99% or higher accuracy rate. This is the industry standard, so anything below that is a red flag. Most 3PL companies utilize high-tech inventory management systems and real-time tracking and delivery programs. This reduces human error and increases insight.

Responsiveness

One of the main complaints of customers about 3PL partners is the need for more responsiveness. Many fulfillment companies don’t have the human resources to provide a dedicated account manager. They correspond with customers “when they can.” With Falcon Fulfillment, you always have a dedicated account manager. This has enabled our customers to get the answers they need to make crucial business decisions and keep their clients happy. Ensure you are satisfied with the level and consistency of communication your 3PL offers.

Omnichannel Expertise

Retailers who desire to meet and exceed customer expectations strategically offer an omnichannel experience. Find a 3PL provider that has expertise in streamlining sales, inventory management, and fulfillment across all platforms. They can make recommendations to expand your sales funnel without jeopardizing brand continuity or diminishing customer service.

Multi-site Distribution

Unless you sell to customers in a single location, having a 3PL partner with multi-site distribution centers is a significant benefit. This allows you to offer your customers lower shipping costs and faster delivery. Multi-site distribution is essential when competing with the “Prime Effect,” of lightning-fast fulfillment.

Compatible Technology

Every 3PL partner will have slightly different integrations that are turnkey. Select a fulfillment company that already has compatibility with your systems or is willing to customize integrations. Disjointed systems are one of the significant causes of frustration and miscommunications in logistics and shipping so discuss this issue early in conversations. Here is a short list of the integrations Falcon currently offers:

  • Shopify
  • ShipStation
  • WooCommerce
  • Infusionsoft
  • ClickBank
  • OrderBot
  • Click Funnels
  • Zapier

In addition, our Shipstation partnership allows us to integrate with more eCommerce shopping carts like:

  • Amazon UK, Canada, Mexico, USA
  • UltraCart
  • eBay
  • Walmart
  • and more

Lastly, Falcon Fulfillment offers our API, allowing seamless custom integrations.

Selecting a 3PL partner doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does require strategy and intentional investigation. When choosing a 3PL partner, consider these factors to ensure a good fit. Remember that your fulfillment team is an extension of your business and should exhibit similar cultures, values, and quality. Cost is a driving factor, but it shouldn’t be the only factor. If you want to learn more about the Falcon Difference, contact one of our specialists today.

Get Started

 


Easy Ways to Thank Customers

9 Easy Ways to Thank Customers

9 Easy Ways to Thank Customers

Every business owner is thankful for their customers. Without them, the company ceases to exist. Businesses that actively thank their customers and show appreciation build loyal customers and stand to be more profitable than those that consider gratefulness an afterthought. Research shows that 68% of customers change brands because of “perceived indifference.” Having a quality product isn’t enough to build a loyal customer base. Businesses need to show a little love and care for the people responsible for keeping the company running! It is important to understand the benefits of thanking customers and selecting a few appreciation strategies to implement if you haven’t already! Here are 9 easy ways to thank customers.

Why thanking customers is essential!

Going above and beyond to thank customers cannot be undervalued. Here are the main reasons a business should implement a customer appreciation strategy.

  • It helps build strong customer relationships and trust
  • Increases retention
  • Creates brand advocates
  • Boosts long-term customer value

Easy Ways to Thank Customers

Offer expertise and education for free

Companies that readily share their expertise show their customers they want them to get the most out of their purchases. Sharing articles, posts, and videos with customers that help educate and equip them is customer appreciation gold! For example, if your business sells hand-poured candles. Share articles explaining how to get the most-even burn, reuse the candle container, or which scents are best for which moods. These things help customers love your product more and show that you don’t stop at the point of sale. Another excellent customer appreciation idea for a company that sells small appliances would be sending out reminders and informative emails to maintain the product, i.e., cleaning the filters.

Give back to the community

Nothing says you care more than supporting and getting involved in your community. Investing your time or resources to cause(s) your customers love shows you aren’t just out to get their money. The most successful example where this idea works is when the cause relates to the product or service the business offers. For example, a pet company that sells dog toys and gear donates 10% of its annual revenue to a local rescue shelter.

Create a personalized "thank you" video

With new AI technology, you could create a general thank you video with a code-based moment(s) where someone’s name is inserted. Before you think this is entirely unrealistic, consider the “Elf Yourself” videos! Here’s a sample script:

“Hey {Name},
Thank you so much for your recent {Brand name} purchase. We love what we do and know you will love your {product name}. You are the reason we do what we do. We would love to see you in action. Post a pic or video {wearing, using, etc.} and make sure to tag us!”

 

While this could take a little upfront design and planning, it makes the thank you more personal and fun! Customers love both.

Create a memorable unboxing experience

When a branded box arrives, it has a greater impact on consumer brand awareness. The customer gets the sense that your business cares deeply about your products arriving safely. Creating a memorable unboxing experience helps your brand tell its story in a way that drives customer loyalty.

Send thoughtful gifts

The key here is to ensure the gifts are thoughtful. Sending a branded pen is not an ideal representation of your business unless you sell paper goods. If that is the case, make sure the pen is extraordinary. The main idea around sending a thoughtful gift is to include something that is either personalized or practical. Some good examples of thoughtful gifts would be a travel-size hand cream included with the purchase of other skin care products. How about adding a glasses repair kit with a sunglass purchase? How about leather conditioner included when someone purchases a new handbag? Make sure to let your customers know they are a “bonus” so they don’t assume they came as part of the package.

Create a customer loyalty program

Rewarding your most loyal customers is always a good idea. The consumers who love your brand will share it even more, when they are recognized or rewarded for coming back repeatedly. According to Shopify,  as many as 84% of consumers say they’re more apt to stick with a brand that offers a loyalty program. And 66% of consumers say the ability to earn rewards changes their spending behavior. A million ways exist to develop a loyalty program, but the main idea is to keep your customers happy and engaged. Try a few different strategies and see what works well.

Handwritten notes

Handwritten notes are one of the easiest ways to show appreciation to customers. It isn’t expensive, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to throw in a handwritten note. It might be challenging at scale, but creating thoughtful notes that rotate within orders can make a difference. You can even pay to have a robot handwrite your thoughts and send the cards! Check these 25 examples of thank you note messages that can be easily modified for your business.

Host Giveaways

Everyone loves a good giveaway. Create a giveaway for previous customers and potential new customers. These are especially effective when they involve new product releases or high-value items. Allowing previous customers to have extra entries is another way to say thank you. Just be aware of “giveaway rules” that vary by state, so you don’t inadvertently get yourself in legal hot water.

Showcase a customer of the month

An easy way to thank your customers is to showcase them. Whether you share a remarkable story via email marketing or on your social channels, highlighting why you appreciate a customer is special. Not only will the customer being featured love it, but others will also see that you notice when a customer is exceptionally loyal, patient, or kind. You can use any criteria relevant to your industry to select your customer. Keep in mind that some may not want to participate because of privacy. You can use an alias for your uber private consumers.

There are many easy ways to thank your customers, but the most important thing is to do it! No matter how you decide to show appreciation, keep the customer at the center of your gratitude. Create a strategy that is personalized and practical. By implementing thankfulness, you will build stronger relationships and trust and increase long-term customer value. Ultimately, being a grateful company will translate to a healthier bottom line.

Falcon Fulfillment is in the business of helping companies get products into their customer's hands, but to do it with the highest level of excellence. We can help include personalized notes with our kitting services, and we specialize in branded packaging options. Get in touch with one of our specialists today, and thank you for being here. We are grateful to have the chance to serve your company!

Get Started

 


80/20 Inventory Management Rule

80/20 Inventory Management Rule

Determining how to prioritize inventory for maximum profits can take some trial and error. However, a mathematical theory has been successfully applied to multiple industries. It is known as the 80/20 rule. The rule suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of causes. In the case of inventory, it typically shows that 80% of profits come from 20% of products sold. The primary purpose of implementing the 80/20 inventory management rule is to maximize profits. Let’s understand what it is, its advantages and drawbacks, and how to implement it. 

80/20 Rule Definition and History

Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto first discovered the Pareto Principle in the early 1900s. He observed that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. The principle states that 80% of effects are derived from 20% of causes. Pareto originally applied the principle in the area of economics. The nature of the 80/20 rule is a power distribution law that can be used in many circumstances. It’s super cool, consistent, and profit-boosting math. The rule demonstrates that 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

Advantages of using the 80/20 inventory management rule

When the principle is effectively applied to inventory management, it can help maximize profitability and increase inventory efficiency. You'll increase sales when you accurately identify top performers and emphasize them over slower sellers. If you further sort to favor higher-margin products within that 20%, you optimize your inventory for both volume and profitability.

Drawbacks of the 80/20 inventory management rule

The main drawback of using the 80/20 inventory management rule is that it can obscure up-and-coming products that haven’t YET broken into the top 20% category. This is why it is essential to evaluate items against trend reports. Reviewing the products gaining traction will help keep future best sellers in the system long enough to prove their value.

Steps to implement the 80/20 inventory management rule

Integrate and utilize an inventory management system

A system of tracking inventory and sales is required to generate accurate reports of top sellers. The more high-tech your system, the more detail you can generate. Small business owners can run manual inventory reports so long as it is consistent in the type and timeframe. As SKUs and sales increase, implementing an automated inventory management system becomes crucial to success. Here are 7 types of inventory reports that can help implement the 80/20 inventory management rule.

  • Inventory performance report - includes sales performance hierarchy as well as year-over-year growth.
  • Inventory profitability report - includes SKU profitability, listing profitability, and trending profitability. 
  • Inventory value report - a quick snapshot of the value of goods stored in your warehouse; this report's modifications can determine product performance, sitting age, and inventory turnover ratios. 
  • Stock level report - includes critical levels to determine reordering patterns and prevent stockouts.
  • Inventory forecasting report - includes estimates of future sales based on historical data within a set timeframe.
  • Sales report - includes a holistic approach to revenue generated from each sales channel, customer, and product vertical.
  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) report - helps determine the bottom line on each product, necessary to identify the most profitable products.

Identify 20% of top sellers

To determine the top sellers in your inventory, you must decide what to track and which reports will give you the most accurate picture. At a minimum, it is necessary to consider the following data points:

ABC is a popular method to categorize inventory. Simply put, it is a way to prioritize product performance into three distinct buckets. Using the ABC method helps determine your top sellers' popularity and profitability.  

  • A items: Top 20% of your products that result in 70% of sales
  • B items: Middle 30% of your products that result in 20% of sales
  • C items: Bottom 50% of your products that result in 10% of sales

Refine mid-level performers

Once you discover your top performers, some products will be in the mid-level range. These are your “B category products” and can include your trending products. This information highlights an opportunity to explore how to make them profitable and change marketing efforts. If modifications don’t move them forward, it might be time to sunset.

Sunset slow or underperforming products

Once you have tiered your inventory according to profitability and performance, it is time to sunset or liquidate deadstock. Products that are taking up valuable storage space and are slow-moving despite efforts to modify marketing or sales efforts should be liquidated to free up capital for more profitable products. Letting go of slow-moving or deadstock can be difficult, but keeping a healthy bottom line is essential.

Retail and eCommerce business owners implementing data-driven methodologies like the 80/20 inventory management rule stand a better chance of success. Their decisions are not based on gut instinct, reacting to customer demand, or marketing trends but on statistical analysis, and the numbers don’t lie. If you want to learn more about how Falcon Fulfillment can help boost profitability and implement the 80/20 rule, get in touch with one of our specialists today. 

Get Started

 


dunnage what it is and why you need it

Dunnage - What it is and why you need it.

Dunnage - What it is and why you need it.

Protecting items during shipping is crucial to ensure they arrive undamaged. Statistics show that 20% of consumers return items because they received damaged products. Use the right mix of dunnage to satisfy consumers' growing expectations and safeguard your financial investment. Working with a fulfillment partner expert in shipping, packing, and returns will help determine what types to use. Let's uncover what dunnage is and why you need it. 

What is dunnage?

Dunnage is the packing material that protects items during shipping and handling. Dunnage isn’t a common word known to consumers, but it is an integral part of fulfillment. Companies spend a lot of money and time deciding what type and quantity of materials are needed for products to arrive safely at their intended destination. Dunnage can include packing peanuts, bubble wrap, paper, and even wooden crates affixed to large items and appliances.

Why is dunnage used in shipping?

  • To prevent damage - the main reason is to avoid damaging the shipped item. Imagine sending an antique vase from Europe in a box without bubble wrap, paper fill, or packing peanuts. It is not likely that the vase would arrive in one piece. 
  • To keep items dry - another reason dunnage is used in shipping is to keep the product from getting wet. Packages moving from shipping containers, warehouses, and trucks are often exposed to the elements. Therefore, dunnage ensures that the product doesn’t arrive in a soggy mess, even if the outer box gets wet. 
  • Shock absorption - parcels get dropped, pushed, bounced, and pressed during transport. Dunnage helps to absorb the vibration and minimize the jostling of the product in the package.

What types of dunnage are there?

Solid dunnage materials.

Solid dunnage materials are used for heavy, highly valuable, or oversized items. The type or combinations of materials used depends on the product material, shape, size, and shipping container. However, there are a few common solid materials used in shipping.

Wood

Wood is a heavyweight material. It is readily available, and it is a renewable resource. However, many ports and countries impose additional customs duties on wood dunnage, and others will not allow it all because of foreign pest concerns.

Solid Plastics

Solid plastic dunnage is one of the best materials for high-value goods, heavy items, or oddly shaped products. It can be formed into any shape and is made of high-density polyethylene (HDPE). This type of material is expensive compared to other options but is worth the investment when considering the replacement costs of high-value items and large machinery.

Steel

Steel is another solid option used for heavy goods or partitioning items within a single container. Steel dunnage is expensive, so it is typically used for high-value goods.

Soft Dunnage Materials

Soft dunnage is used when shipping lightweight and smaller items. A combination of solid and soft are often used when shipping freight. For example, a supplier might send a pallet of electronics using solid plastic pallets, containing each item in corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, and shrink-wrapped. Consider the size, shape, material, and value of the products shipped when deciding which type of dunnage best safeguards them in transit.

Bubble Wrap

Bubble wrap isn’t just your child’s favorite popping toy but also a favorite in the shipping industry. Bubble wrap is inexpensive and does a great job protecting fragile items like glass and china. Bubble wrap can also be reused many times, provided the bubbles haven’t been popped!

Air Pillows

Air pillows are an excellent solution, especially to fill gaps in a package. Air pillows are primarily used to create barriers to keep a product from shifting or sliding during transport. They are lightweight, so they don’t add much to the shipping costs.

Foam

Foam is often used to safeguard electronics or other items that have sharp edges. It also pads sharp, fragile, or sensitive things like medical supplies.

Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is a great option because it is a renewable resource, cheap, and works. Items that require strength and durability are often found packed in kraft paper. If you have ever received an item packed in crinkled paper, this was kraft paper packaging.

Corrugated Paper

Corrugated paper is one of the best and most commonly used forms of dunnage. Its high-tech construction allows it to carry a variety of weights, and it is excellent for keeping items dry and wicking away moisture.

Custom Dunnage

Some products require a custom solution. Working with a dunnage provider for a custom solution might be necessary. Alternatively, you want a custom packaging solution that includes branded packaging and creates a memorable unboxing experience. Falcon Fulfillment specializes in this. 

3PL fulfillment companies are experts in protecting items during shipping. No matter whether you are shipping forklifts or champagne flutes, dunnage will be used to protect those items. If you want to learn more about how partnering with Falcon Fulfillment can help you select the best packaging options for your business, get in touch today.

Get Started

 


Basics of Demand Forecasting

The Basics of Demand Forecasting

Basics of Demand Forecasting

Demand forecasting involves predicting future sales data using historical data, market research, and other influential factors. It allows businesses to create more precise sales predictions. There are many types and methods of creating a demand forecast for your business. Determining which will work best for your eCommerce business is challenging, but it is well worth the investment. Creating a demand forecast is not 100% accurate but will inform better business decisions, strategy, and cash flow. Let’s get into the basics of demand forecasting; the types, benefits, and steps to create one.

Demand Forecasting - What Is It?

In eCommerce, demand forecasting is a collection of techniques and the collation of multiple data points to help make educated guesses on future sales. The data typically includes; market research, historical sales, market trends, both historical and predicted, and internal and external factors. Creating an internal demand forecasting model is unique to each eCommerce business. Furthermore, different demand forecasting models will be required for various purposes. For example, you might use a micro-demand forecast to determine future sales for a specific seasonal item and a more extensive Delphi method when you launch a new product.

Benefits of Demand Forecasting

Why should eCommerce owners create and consistently refine their demand forecasts? To strike the right inventory balance and ordering cadence. To stabilize and plan for cash flow fluctuations, among others.

Optimize Inventory

Planning supply chain fluctuations through demand forecasting will help you order appropriate amounts of inventory to avoid out-of-stock situations and limit overstock. Both conditions create suboptimal profitability.

Optimize Pricing Strategy

Reviewing historical sales data will reveal seasonal spikes and dips in sales. This will allow you to make modifications to the pricing accordingly. For example, if you see a drop in sales every year after Labor Day, that might be a good time to offer a promotional discount to keep customers engaged.

Higher Customer Satisfaction Scores

A quick way to lose a customer is to run out of inventory. Reduce stockouts and maintain trust and reliability with proper demand forecasting.

Rationalize Cash Flow

A solid demand forecast model will help determine when and how much cash will be available to order new inventory, manage seasonal operating costs, scale the business, or launch a new product.

Required to Secure Business Funding

Every eCommerce business needs capital to expand. Whether that finance comes from existing profits or outside investment, accurate demand forecasting will allow key stakeholders to estimate the ROI and timeframe for success.

Types of Demand Forecasting

Passive

Passive forecasting is a review of objective historical facts and data. It uses past year’s sales data to predict future sales. (Great for companies that have solid sales data) Passive forecasting works well for companies looking to maintain stability. Many eCommerce brands will include this data in their overall demand forecast strategy.

Active

Active forecasting is a more objective strategy. This type of demand forecasting includes market research, focus group outcomes, global trends, and even emerging technologies or events to determine the sales potential of future products. Both startups and veteran eCommerce brands can utilize this type of forecast. It is an excellent choice for companies looking to grow or with very little historical sales data.

Micro

Micro-demand forecasting investigates a subset of data within an industry or customer segment. For example, you might evaluate the sales of a skincare product as a whole and benchmark it against sales tied to a celebrity influencer. This can help an organization make decisions about verticals within their product line, marketing effort expectations, etc.

Macro

Macro-demand forecasting looks at external elements that influence eCommerce sales. This can include economic trends, consumer trends, supply chain delays, and global events that impact market stability or growth. Understanding these external forces can help a business prepare for shifts in product availability, financial challenges, and vendor diversification.

Short-term

Short-term forecasting includes the next 3-12 months of potential sales. This is beneficial for companies with products that change frequently. A longer timeline is needed when considering growth potential, launching new markets, and entering new partnerships.

Long-term

Long-term forecasting makes predictions one to four years into the future. This aspirational model determines growth potential, marketing efforts, capital investment, and supply chain adjustments. Businesses that have expansion goals should consider using this type of model.

The Basic Steps of Demand Forecasting

Set Goals and Objectives

A demand forecast predicts product demand and sales in future cycles. The first thing to determine is the objectives of creating the estimates. Next, decide what data should be included to ensure the report will help accomplish the goal.

Collect and Record Data

It sounds obvious, but once you determine the goals of your demand forecast, you must then populate it with data. Because demand forecasting is customized, data collection is pulled from disparate sources. Having a software program or data hub can be helpful if you don’t have extensive forecast modeling in excel.

Analyze the Data

It is crucial to create and copy a standard analysis for predictive forecasting. The data in its raw form is unhelpful. Year-over-year reporting cannot be trusted if the way the model is interpreted changes. That is not to say adaptations shouldn’t be made (in fact, they should be made to improve accuracy), but it is vital to maintain an awareness of data sets and changes as you grow.

Set New Business Goals and Budget

Once you have a reliable demand forecast, it is time to consider new business goals, and choices are possible based on the evidence. Create a budget to meet or exceed past sales goals and determine growth trajectories for new products and sales channels. 

A reliable demand forecast helps eCommerce brands make educated decisions that affect everything from inventory planning to supply chain optimization. It is a crucial aspect of running a profitable eCommerce. While understanding the basics of demand forecasting is simple enough, creating them is more challenging. If you need a fulfillment partner to help you improve demand forecasting, learn more about how Falcon Fulfillment can improve inventory management, reduce stockouts, and even help manage returns. Get in touch with one of our helpful agents today.

Get Started

 


Minimizing the Risk of Lost and Stolen Packages

Minimizing the Risk of Lost and Stolen Packages

Minimizing the risk of lost and stolen packages

If you order many household goods online, you probably have experienced a lost or stolen package. 1.7 million lost or stolen packages are reported each day in the United States. About $5.4 billion in lost revenue is attributed to theft alone. A significant amount of money is being misplaced or taken from eCommerce businesses and consumers. There are a few things both the shipper and receiver can do to minimize the risk of lost and stolen packages.

eCommerce tips to minimize the risk of lost and stolen packages

Over Communicate

Ensuring the highest probability of successful package delivery requires over-communicating. At a minimum, consumers expect clear communication about the status of their deliveries. Nothing is more anxiety-inducing than waiting until the end of a two-hour delivery window only to receive no updates or package. When possible, automate the following delivery notifications:

  • The package leaves the warehouse 
  • Time updates on ETA for delivery
  • Pictures of where the package was left. 

These communication strategies will help thwart porch pirates and improve recovery efforts if a package is lost somewhere in between. 

Accurate Shipping Labels

Ensuring every package has an accurate shipping label is the first step in minimizing the risk of lost packages. It is too easy to miss a tiny detail that makes the parcel undeliverable. While each carrier has its specific label design and criteria, a label should contain the following information:

  • The package tracking number with a corresponding barcode
  • Destination address and return address, including postal code, street, city, state, or county, and any suite or apartment number
  • The shipping class
  • The package’s weight

Getting the information 100% accurate is the first part of compliant shipping labels. The second thing to make sure of is to print the labels with non-smear, weatherproof ink. The weather is not always sunny, and 70*, so make sure your packages end up in customers' hands in a downpour to ensure the label will remain clear if it gets wet.

Additionally, use high-quality adhesive on the back of your shipping labels to prevent them from getting ripped or torn off the package. When the carrier can't identify the package's destination, they'll send it to "over goods," essentially a shipping lost-and-found. The box will be photographed and opened, and the contents will be meticulously cataloged there. Adding an “in case found” document within the package can help in these situations.  This will allow a carrier to open a box if it has lost a label and have the necessary information to complete the delivery or return it to the supplier.

Address Verification

It is essential to double-check the delivery address to ensure the shipping label has all the necessary information to reach its final destination. Humans are prone to errors. Typos, missing numbers, and zip code errors are responsible for many packages being returned to the vendor. These returns cost eCommerce businesses money, and customer satisfaction scores can suffer even when the customer is responsible for the error. The USPS developed the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) to gauge the accuracy of addresses in the United States. This easily implemented software can minimize errors and maximize successful delivery completions.

Plain Packaging

Porch pirates are even more tempted by a brightly colored branded box. Even though a memorial unboxing experience can boost customer satisfaction, it can also be a beacon for thieves. If you want to maintain a fully branded experience, enclose your product in a plain outer box. Plain packaging helps parcels blend in with other packages and protects customer privacy.

Parcel Insurance

Parcel insurance can protect your business and consumer from replacement costs. When selecting insurance, consider whether free options will cover the value of your goods. Carriers like UPS and FedEx offer free insurance on goods valued up to $100. It increases modestly up to the $300 value. High-value products should have adequate parcel insurance purchased.

Partner with a Fulfillment Company

Partnering with a logistics expert can ease the burden of ensuring your packages are delivered quickly and accurately. If your business struggles to establish dependable delivery protocols, it might help to partner with a 3PL fulfillment partner. These companies are experts in final mile delivery, accurate address, and labeling; some even can manage returns. 

Consumer tips to minimize the risk of lost or stolen packages

Minimizing the risk of lost and stolen packages doesn’t lie solely with the shipping carrier. Consumers can take extra precautions to help thwart thieves and get their products on time.

Use a digital locker

A trend in eCommerce fulfillment is the use of digital lockers. Amazon lockers are popping up in convenience and grocery stores and traditional shipping locations. UPS has also implemented a digital locker system in some consumer stores. You can install one outside your home if a digital locker is unavailable through your carrier. Bench sentry has a few package lockers that are aesthetically pleasing and deter even the most motivated porch pirates.

Have packages delivered to your workplace

If you know that you are at your office nine times out of ten when deliveries occur, have them delivered where you will be. Most employers don’t mind receiving packages on behalf of staff. Check with your upline that this is acceptable. Also, ensure that whoever is receiving your delivery knows you are expecting it.

Install a security camera at your front door

Submitting a theft claim is far easier when you have footage of a package taken from your front door. Having documentation can also help authorities catch and prosecute perpetrators.

Require a signature on delivery

When a person has to receive a package personally, it is far less likely to be stolen. Adding the extra protection of a signature helps to ensure successful delivery.

Schedule delivery or reschedule if you will not be home

It is difficult to steal if you are home to receive your package. If you are notified that a package will arrive hours before you get home, contact the carrier to reschedule delivery. Sitting packages are easy pickings.

Purchase extra insurance

Purchase the additional protection of insurance, especially when purchasing high-value items. This is crucially important if you live in an area where package theft is high. Even though you might have to go through the hassle of submitting a claim, you won’t be out of money or the product if you purchase the additional insurance. Many carriers don’t have a policy that will replace stolen goods, which is why insurance can protect your purchase. 


Minimizing the risk of lost or stolen packages is a partnership between product shippers and consumers. When eCommerce businesses are intentional about taking steps to ensure successful delivery and consumers do what they can to reduce the likelihood of theft, everyone is happy-clappy. If you run an eCommerce business and want to learn more about how partnering with Falcon can help ensure delivery consistency, get in touch today.

Get Started

 


types of fulfillment costs

10 Types of Fulfillment Costs

Types of Fulfillment Costs

Fulfillment costs are any fees associated with storing inventory, processing orders, and delivering products to the end consumer. They include reverse logistics (returns processing), restocking fees, pick and pack, kitting, and receiving costs. Furthermore, fulfillment costs vary based on the company and the products being sold. Managing fulfillment in-house can be costly and time-consuming. It is crucial to be completely aware of all costs to maximize profitability and accurately calculate ROI. This article will focus on the ten types of fulfillment costs typically charged when working with a 3PL.

Initial Setup

The first step in working with a 3PL is the initial setup. This includes integrating your point-of-sale systems with their fulfillment software, inventory tracking, and order tracking programs. Most 3PL companies charge a flat fee for this service and provide initial training. Falcon Fulfillment includes a designated account manager to assist with the initial setup and throughout the relationship.

Account Management 

The account management fees cover the administrative costs of handling your order fulfillment. This can include customer service fees, technical support, and other ancillary activities to serve your business and clients.  

Inbound Shipping 

Inbound shipping is the cost of shipping your product to the fulfillment warehouse. Products can ship via land, air, sea, or a combination, depending on the location of the supplier or manufacturer. 

Receiving Cost

Receiving costs, also sometimes called intake fees, include every aspect of processing your product when it arrives. 3PL companies charge by the hour or flat rate (by the unit/item quantity). When your shipment arrives at the warehouse, the staff will review your order for accuracy in quantity and check for damages. Lastly, the receiving crew will scan your inventory into the system, so they are available to be sold.

Inventory Storage

Whether you fulfill in-house or you partner with a 3PL, there is a cost associated with storing inventory. Paying for warehouse space is calculated based on the size and quantity of the products being stored. Most fulfillment companies charge additional fees for large, irregular, or bulky items that require special equipment. The benefit of working with a 3PL for your inventory storage needs is that, typically, you have flexibility in how much storage you use. You can scale up or down based on your storage needs for seasonal sales or one-off promotions without being held to a long-term lease.

Pick-n-Pack

Picking and packing orders is another service that many 3PL fulfillment companies provide. After an order is placed, the notification is sent to your fulfillment partner, and a staff member selects the items from inventory storage and packages them for shipping. Typically costs are connected to the type and number of items and whether any special care is required for shipping.


Packaging 

Inbound shipping arrives in bulk. Therefore individual products are repackaged for individual resale. The total packaging cost is determined by size, the number of items, box dimensions, dunnage required, and whether standard or custom packaging is used. 

 

Kitting and Item Assembly

Some orders require light assembly or what is known as kitting. Kitting is a process where individual but related products are packaged and shipped together as a single product. This is where a product may contain several components to complete a set. Think about things like furniture or small appliances. While they arrive in a flat shipping box, they must be put together at home to function properly. Another example of things requiring kitting or assembly would be product bundles or subscription boxes.

Outbound Shipping

Outbound shipping is typically one of the highest types of fulfillment costs. Most 3PL companies offer some of the most cost-effective shipping options because they can extend their high-volume discounts to their clients. However, outbound shipping costs constantly fluctuate with fuel costs, seasons, and supply chain delays. Calculating shipping costs is complex. It includes variations based on dimensions, weight, speed of delivery, distance from the distribution center, and special instructions. Partnering with a multi-site 3PL can help minimize shipping costs and maximize shipping speed. 

Return Management Costs

Only some fulfillment companies offer a returns management service, but it is a valuable and desirable amenity. Managing your customer's unwanted or damaged goods requires good customer support. In addition, return management costs handle restocking inventory and adding it back into the inventory management system.

There is not a one size fits all pricing model for order fulfillment. There are several crucial types of fulfillment costs, such as inbound shipping, storage, inventory management, and outbound shipping. No matter how you plan to fulfill orders, these will be costs accrued. Calculating fulfillment costs can be confusing and complex, and not every 3PL is created equal. Falcon Fulfillment offers a high-quality “White-glove Fulfillment” experience. If you want to learn more about our pricing structure and how we can help your business scale, get in touch with one of our agents today.

Get Started

 


Dealing with eCommerce Inflation

Dealing with eCommerce Inflation

Dealing with eCommerce Inflation

Prices are going up on almost everything. This pattern began during the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued without many indications that the tides will turn soon. According to the Adobe Digital Economy Index, eCommerce prices as of July 2021 were up 3.1% year-over-year. Before this, eCommerce consumers enjoyed a deflationary environment, with prices declining at 3.9% YoY. eCommerce retailers have to pivot their strategies, pricing, and fulfillment to help minimize the impacts of inflation; as consumers’ discretionary spending dries up, the competition for the remaining dollars increases. Dealing strategically with eCommerce inflation is necessary to ensure survival.

What is causing eCommerce inflation?

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an imbalance in supply and demand. As consumers were quarantined and unable to spend money on experiences, they turned to physical products online. Demand for gym equipment, entertainment centers, and furniture soared as people were stuck at home—this overburdened suppliers.

The pandemic caused a massive shortage in the number of shipping containers. This was caused by the increased demand for goods and the lack of port staff, ships, and containers to transport products. Sea freight continues to cost more than pre-pandemic prices.

Lastly, Chinese suppliers are still struggling to meet production demand. Lockdowns and restrictive policies have led to significant delays in getting raw materials and manufactured goods out of the country. Many savvy eCommerce brands have diversified their supply chain by partnering with more local vendors. However, China is still the world’s largest manufacturing producer, responsible for just over 28% of the global output.

Effects of Inflation

An inflationary period is marked by an increase in the cost of goods and services that decreases the purchasing power of consumers and companies alike. In other words, a dollar doesn’t get you what it did yesterday. What specific price increases and reductions in spending are we experiencing?

Price Increases

Consumer Spending Changes

  • Overall spending reduction
  • Drop in discretionary spending 
  • Shift to generic brands
  • 75% of consumers are spending less due to inflation
  • The top three industries experiencing a drop in sales - Women’s apparel, Men’s apparel, and Electronics
  • Increase in recommerce

Solutions to deal with eCommerce Inflation

Raise prices

As prices rise for goods, services, labor, and shipping, one of the quickest and most obvious solutions is to pass the price increases to customers. It is vital to decide how and when to implement a price increase strategically. Consumers are not heartless, and most expect a fair price for their product and a reasonable profit for the seller. If you must increase your prices to maintain profitability, make sure you:

  • Communicate openly and honestly - let them know why your pricing needs to increase.
  • Determine fair pricing by researching competitors and checking for underpricing in existing price models
  • Cut costs where possible.
  • Consider offering a smaller amount for the same price. Some customers would rather have fewer products than have to pay more.

Keep a safety stock

Avoid stockouts and extended supply chain delays by overordering products that are consistent sellers. Work on building up safety stock and keep a six-month supply of goods. The quantities you can purchase today might be more than what you can get for the same price next year.

Manage cash flow

Small businesses with the most working capital at the end of an economic downturn end up on top. Prioritize revenue generating while cutting costs. Now is the time to apply for financing. Having a business line of credit available before you NEED it can make the difference between growing or drowning.

Diversify your supply chain with local vendors

Because Asia is still struggling with production and fulfillment, now is the time to find local vendors and suppliers. The closer a supplier is to your customer base, the less you will need to spend on shipping. Local manufacturers who were cost-prohibitive might be more competitive in this environment. Inflation has hit shipping carriers hard, and they are passing along the fees to customers through fuel surcharges and labor charges. When dealing with eCommerce inflation, every penny counts.

Partner with a 3PL

While it might not be an obvious strategy to deal with inflation, partnering with a 3PL can help. 3PLs can help negotiate better shipping costs and options due to their high-volume discounts with major carriers. Furthermore, if they are like Falcon Fulfillment, they can help implement an automated inventory management process to avoid stockouts. Lastly, with flexible warehousing available, you can store safety stock with ease. 

Inflation isn’t going to return to “normal” anytime soon. According to Business Insider, inflation is expected to improve in 2023, although gradually, and the first indicator of a more steady supply chain will be shipping prices. Traditionally, eCommerce businesses were immune to inflationary environments, but that isn’t the case anymore. To deal with eCommerce inflation well, implement the strategies listed in this article and consider partnering with Falcon Fulfillment. Contact one of our agents today if you’d like to learn more about how we can help you position your eCommerce well in this inflationary environment.

Get Started