Understand your process
During the current e-commerce driven climate, more than ever a company’s bottom line is impacted by its logistics; all those crucial steps between the inception of a great product/service and physically delivering it to the customer. Close consideration to process will optimize supply chain management and lower a business’ overall costs. This is particularly true for Canadian companies exporting their products to the United States. (Related: Doing Business in the USA).
With the onset of the coronavirus health pandemic, online shopping demands skyrocketed throughout North America and the world. In the United States, to meet consumer demands such as curbside pick-up or next day delivery, Big-Box retailers and large fulfillment centers have instituted new shipping requirements and restrictions. These new rules, if not managed properly, have potential to increase supply chain risk exposure for exporters.
In addition to federal and state level requirements like certificates of origin and labelling, vendor stipulations like required delivery dates/times, kitting and packaging all complicate an already complex process. Logistics professionals familiar with these types of obligations can be a priceless partner in the fulfillment, packing, shipping, delivery and return processes of your supply chain management.
Supply chain can’t be an afterthought
For your cross-border sales to be profitable, seamless supply chain management is critical. Accurate, timely order fulfillment, on-time deliveries and easy return policies lead to positive online reviews and happy, returning customers.
Consider these tips to ensure your U.S. shipments arrive intact and as promised.
#1 Know Your Processes
Begin with an entire overview and identify the ‘key processes’ in your supply chain. Then do a ‘deep dive’ into each of those processes to discern what’s working and where you’re falling short. Measure the progress, then rinse and repeat.
Samples of ‘key processes’ might be:
- Order Entry/Shipping Communications
- Special Handling/Packaging Processes
- Product storage locations
- Cargo consolidations
- Carrier requirements
- Shipment scheduling
- Repair and return policy
#2 Eliminate the Border Barrier
British Columbia business owners can take advantage of many free services like the Export Navigator program and/or contact the trade commissioner in their target markets. These are Canadians who live and work where you’ll be selling your products. They can assist in your research and discovery and help familiarize you with the export process.
It’s advantageous to connect with reputable cross-border immigration, business and tax attorneys to understand your business structure as well as your obligations to Canada-USA government agencies. Connect with a customs broker to work out border documentation requirements and partner with a well-managed, reliable third-party logistics (3PL) provider to be an extension of your business in the USA. These specialists become an integral part of your supply chain process. Establishing a business identity in the USA and using reliable trade partners can eliminate unnecessary border crossings, clearance expenses, freight costs and time delays while providing your American customer base with the reliable, quick turnarounds they’re after.
#3 Return Policies
Even for U.S. e-commerce retailers it’s a struggle to find balance between often unanticipated reverse logistics (returns) costs and satisfying their customers’ high expectations for a seamless shopping experience – often without any “brick and mortar” involved. This can be especially difficult for Canadian exporters without a US presence. Canadians benefit by having a return address IN the USA – near the border, rather than discourage possible sales with a Canadian return address.
While each return is unique, some suggest including a pre-addressed, self-adhering ‘return label’ with each original shipment for easy return to your U.S. address with a suggestion to reuse the original packaging. Recycling the original shipping box w/packing materials for reverse logistics purposes can reduce damage and shipping costs since most carriers ‘charge by dimensional weight standards.’ Returns also play a huge role in a buyer’s decision process. Structuring a flexible policy to provide online shoppers with free, fast and easy returns helps make a consumer feel much more comfortable buying something sight unseen.
Is it worth it?
Yes! Streamlining your supply chain to expand your business into the US can be very profitable due to exchange rate, market size and consumer demand. With the cross-border culture and language similarities along with proximity and history, the United States remains a perfect ‘launch pad’ for Canadian exporters to expand into other economies around the globe.
Whatever stage you’re in, we’d love to hear from you – please reach out using our “Service Quote” form.