The main focus in 2023 will be improving retention rates
Processes like pick, pack, ship, storage, returns etc are crucial to the success of business. It is here that Red Stag Fulfillment fits into the picture. The Knoxville, Tennessee, US-based company partners with businesses to design custom solutions and become their fulfilment partner. In an interview with Fibre2Fashion, Red Stag’s Vice President of Client Success Tony Runyan discusses logistics for e-commerce success.
What would be the main retail trend to follow in 2023? Why?
I don’t think there’s necessarily any specific practice or policy you’ll see that happens across all retail. The main focus in 2023 will be improving retention rates. One feature that customers seem to love is Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL), which will grow significantly in use and in the number of companies offering it. Beyond that, expect to see a lot of different tactics here — whether that’s email marketing and SEO personalisation or increasing rewards programmes and offering in-store-only deals.
One other area where I think the industry will spend more time on retention is in the partner space. Creating pipelines of referrals and lead sharing based on the customers who are most valuable to a business will see an uptick among companies willing to invest even during a downturn.
How can retailers optimise their e-commerce website for customer delight?
There are a lot of different avenues here, but I always suggest companies start by simplifying things. You want people to have a frictionless process where you automate or fill in as much for them as possible. That can start with ensuring your site is accurate and easy-to-use, while slimming down checkout pages and making curated content (like “birthday ideas of moms and dads”) easily accessible.
From there, you want to integrate with a great 3PL (third-party logistics) to ensure your orders are accurate and sent out on time. The website experience is just part of your sales and customer experience, and all the delight you can create there is lost if an order shows up late, wrong, or broken.
You also want to improve how you provide accurate, frequent updates to shoppers — either on your website or via email. Share details and updates when the order ships, will arrive, when a delay or exception occurs, etc. And, of course, give customers the ability to customise what messages they receive and how they receive them.
What are the supply chain challenges faced by online retailers?
After the past few years, it can feel like everything is a challenge. However, the one big piece most retailers are trying to understand is how much inventory to have and how to adjust their purchase cycles. Manufacturers often need more time to produce and deliver goods to warehouses, so there’s a need to increase buffer stock to account for the longer lead times.
The tricky part is balancing that against uncertain sales forecasts. Retailers need to look at their sales and the broader market to see if they should expect a slowdown in the economy or if they’re in a segment that will weather the storm well. Then, you adjust your inventory based on that data and updated forecasts. The inventory question is balanced by ongoing, simultaneous work on how you quickly respond if demand shifts up or down.
What are the five crucial things for smart packaging?
Start by defining what ‘smart’ means for your business. Are you creating something to support internal and supply chain tracking, or is it a consumer-facing issue designed to boost usage and sales? From there, choose affordable sensors and tech that meet your goal and aren’t likely to be damaged during shipping and use. If smart packaging breaks, it won’t help anyone. Keeping things easy and clear — so your target audience understands what the packaging does — is another big piece of the puzzle.
The last two crucial things are related. Start by picking something your partners can use, especially if you’re tracking goods throughout the supply chain. You want everyone to capture and share relevant data so you can make those changes in your next production batch or in real time if it’s something like a moisture sensor that warns you when a shipment could spoil. From there, you educate everyone who sees it.
Partners, drivers, team members, customers etc should be able to see the smart element and understand what it means. Don’t skimp on training if they need to respond when smart options generate an alert or make a change.
How can e-commerce retailers find the right third-party logistics solution?
The goal is to find a good fit for both companies. We do our best work when a company’s products, order volume, and approach fit both our facilities and the Red Stag culture. So, if you’re looking, try to find a company with the people and processes you like so much that you’d bring them in-house if you had an unlimited budget.
To get there, my biggest piece of advice is to find someone willing to help you learn more, even if you ultimately might choose a different 3PL. Red Stag Fulfillment has put together a free RFP template that anyone can use if they’re getting started or need a way to compare complex 3PL offers.
Clearly define your needs. Ask how potential partners can meet those needs and what they do when things go awry. Then ask how they’re growing and can help you grow together.
What is the size of the PLM market in the US?
Some great research firms have a good handle on this across a wider range of product lifecycle management. Globally, we hear it is worth more than $26 billion, and North America is around one-third of that in most estimates.
What is the size of the B2B and Retail logistics industry in the US?
Last year, estimates tended to put the industry size around $42 to $45 billion. A lot of growth was a spike in e-commerce that won’t maintain its high percentage increase but is also not expected to decline much in terms of dollars. The thing to watch for here is globalisation and the shifting supply chain development. There’s a chance more pieces of a global supply chain could near-shore or re-shore and bring a larger portion of existing spending back into the US.
Which are your major markets in terms of geography and industry type?
We serve the entire US and help our partners reach Canada and Mexico as needed. For industries, our specialty is heavy, large, and high-value goods. While we serve companies of all sizes and sales levels, we’re optimally engineered to support shipments that will use carriers’ DIM weight calculations.
What are the challenges that the American logistics industry encounter? What factors impact the B2B and B2C logistics and fulfilment industries?
These two questions go hand-in-hand with the current state of American supply chains. Everything is getting more complex, and the market is shifting rapidly. Look at press releases from the industry, and you’ll see a mix of big investments and scaling alongside large layoffs, company consolidation, and potential strikes. Each of these issues creates uncertainty, which makes it hard for logistics professionals to do their jobs.
B2B and B2C logistics and fulfilment are much more similar than it may initially appear, especially when you look at challenges. Today, the success of your supply chain is all about partnerships, data, and people. It would be best if you had the right companies and tools to keep orders and information flowing to respond quickly when trouble arises.
People, from your logistics leads to individual warehouse teams and pickers, will always be the backbone. Even as the industry tries to automate more functionality, people who know the products and processes and build positive relationships will always have the biggest impact on whether your logistics and fulfilment operations are a success.
What are the future plans at Red Stag Fulfillment?
We’re currently expanding our facilities in Sweetwater, Tennessee, adding more than one million square feet of warehouse space over the next year. Our future is a smart investment in growth and building up our professional roster to continue offering more services as e-commerce evolves. We want to remain the experts in shipping big, bulky, and high-value goods.
(Interviewer : Shilpi Panjabi)
DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.