JUKI Small Business Seminar: Setting Up Your Logistics

You’ve finally started your small business and have a product ready to be sold, your website should be up and running, your budget and finances should be in order, and you have those customers prepared to buy. Now that you have a start-up, let’s discuss getting your product to the customer!

Logistics is how you move materials, components, and products between your suppliers, storage locations, and customers. There are three things you should keep in mind as a seller: speed of delivery, stock of a product, and logistics cost. So let’s dive into your business and review how you create your products and how you’re getting them to the customer.

Lead Times and You

When your business begins to grow in sales, you might be reconstructing your process on where you buy supplies. Buying supplies at your local craft store for a business can be pricey, and when your sales reach a larger scale, it’s not cost-effective anymore.

When you begin to set up your logistics, consider critical lead times. For example, how long will it take for a customer to review your product, how long will it take to process an order and ship it, and how long will it take for you to receive the supplies you need for your product? Asking yourself these questions can help you plan for the cost and speed of your orders and shipments.

Knowing the lead time on the processes in your business will allow you to have smoother communication and expectation within your business and with the customer.

Shipping Carriers

When it comes to your process, shipping time to your customers should be a priority, especially in today’s society we’re shipping the same day, and overnight has become the norm. Because of this, shipping companies will work with small businesses by assisting them in maintaining good relationships with their customers and offering reasonable rates. You can also inquire about assistance provided for small businesses like logistical assistance and managing inventory. Here are the top 5 shipping companies we recommend for small businesses.

  1. United States Postal Service
  2. Sendle
  3. UPS
  4. DHL
  5. FEDEX

United States Postal Service

Ships goods both domestically and internationally, offers discounts and loyalty credits to small businesses, and delivers goods within 2–8 days on average. In addition, it provides free application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow small businesses to add shipping tools to their websites easily.

USPS shipping costs vary based on package size, delivery location, and delivery speed.

TIP: Deliveries on Sundays and holidays typically come with an added cost.

Sendle

An Australia-based small business shipping company, Sendle is best for small packages because it guarantees the best price for domestic packages up to 20 pounds. Shipping is 100% carbon neutral, and there are no subscriptions or contracts involved. They are well known for beating the price charged by major carriers for packages under 20 pounds.

TIP: packages cannot pass 20 pounds, and international shipping is unavailable.

UPS

If you ship large products, UPS will be the best option for you. They offer competitive rates (large flat rate boxes start at $18.40) and have resources for small companies that can assist in preparing your packages and information on palletizing your products if needed. They also offer same-day delivery in some cases.

Small businesses can get discounted pricing from UPS, with shipping incentives ranging from 20% to 50%, depending on the desired shipping speed and the small business’s average weekly shipping volume.

TIP: Some APIs, application programming interfaces, can’t be used on customer-facing websites.

DHL

If your business has taken you overseas, DHL Express is the best for those international shipments. They have a long-lasting history in international shipping and offer resources for small businesses that engage in global trading.

Costs vary widely based on your package’s size, whether it’s an import or export, the shipping speed, surcharges, and any optional services you choose.

TIP: DHL is known for many surcharges and optional service fees, so keep a close eye on your shipping agreement to avoid cost surprises.

FEDEX

FedEx is known for everyday shipping, even weekends, which means your product is delivered faster. FedEx can assist in shipments domestically and internationally and has a shorter lead time than others. Shipments in the US are usually 1-5 days and 3-7 for Alaska and Hawaii.

Small businesses can also benefit from their small business program, offering discounts on shipping, printing, money management tools, and more. They also provide a yearly contest where small businesses can win funds.

CON: Small package shipping costs are higher than USPS. However, they can arrive faster.

Packaging

When it’s time to package, we know how important it is that your product arrives to the customer safe and on time. The first step to completing that goal is ensuring you have the suitable packaging material for your product. One of the things to keep in mind before buying your material is knowing that purchasing in bulk will save you money down the line and is worth the investment. So follow along as we share the top things you’ll need for your packaging process.

Boxes and Mailers

Begin with deciding how you’re going to ship your product to the customer. The most popular options are boxes and mailers.

Cardboard boxes can offer the best protection for many products. Whether your product is a perfect square or an odd-shaped size, a cardboard box with the correct dimensions is an excellent choice for shipping purposes. You can choose to personalize these boxes and find them in different styles, colors, and sizes. These can be bulked orders or found at your local shipping store.

Mailers are great for small or flat products and less prone to damage. You can personalize these to your company’s brand, like cardboard boxes, coming in various colors, styles, and sizes. You can also choose to purchase mailers that come with a form of protection, whether this is internal cushioning or outer material that can handle bad weather.

Depending on your products, you can choose to keep an assortment of shipping materials available to use. However, keep in mind your product when purchasing shipping material to not waste funds on unnecessary boxes or mailers.

Cushioning and Filler

Keep your items safe and secure by purchasing cushioning and filler material. When shipping, these are crucial key material pieces as you want the product to arrive to the customer exactly how it left you.

Cushioning material is used for fragile items like glass, porcelain, or ceramic. Think of bubble wrap, foam peanuts, paper as options to keep the product from shattering or breaking in its packaging.

Void Filler can be used for any product. With material options like craft paper, air pillows, shredded paper, and others, these pieces of material will keep the item from moving around or crashing into each other if you’re sending more than one product at a time.

Keep these materials on hand at all times, as you wouldn’t want to ship products out without some filler to avoid broken or chipped products on arrival.

Labeling and Tape

Once your package is well prepared and safe to be closed up, you’ll need to seal and address it before shipping. Using quality tape and labels is the best way to confirm your product arrives to the correct customer on time and safely.

You can even create personalized packaging tape to stand out from competitors since packaging tape comes in various colors and sizes. Having suitable tape will save your product from accidents in the shipment process. You can also choose to invest in a tape dispenser if your company sees a pickup in shipments, which can help the processing speed.

Labels are also created in different sizes and styles. Used mainly for addressing the customer, make sure to use good labels to ensure it won’t fall off in transport. Labels can also include your company logo, specialty stickers like “handle with care” and more. Keep in mind that you can personally create these labels and style them to fit your product and small business.

Get Ready to Ship!

Now that you have the basic information for shipping and handling logistics for your small business think of ways to make yourself stand out. Packaging and shipping don’t need to be boring and can be another way your company stands out from competitors!

Look into eco-friendly merchandise for shipping and packaging. Include thank you letters, promos, or small freebies to induce excitement and customer loyalty. Create an unboxing experience for customers by creating a process that showcases your brand when opening a package from you, like wrapped apparel in tissue paper with a sticker to open the merchandise.

Your package is a window into your business for customers, so make sure to focus on your packaging like you would your product!

JUKI Small Business Seminar: Creating Customer Loyalty 

It’s great to get new customers and introduce your brand to new people, but one of the best ways to succeed is to create those returning customers. You can cultivate the relationship from the first time they purchase and continue it through social media and other channels.

One of the ways you can do this is by GLUE marketing, a strategy we’ll dive into in this article, where you ‘Give Little Unexpected Extras’ to customers during their experience with you and help them feel a sense of gratitude. By going just a bit above your competitors with this tactic, you can build closer relationships with each sale. GLUE doesn’t have to break the bank but can be a small thank you note, freebie minis of your product, or fun advertising products like stickers.

GLUE doesn’t need to be used all the time, but it can be used as an assistant. So if you’re going to be doing a sales promotion, for example, you can go ahead and throw in those GLUE tricks you’ve been saving on surprising customers and building that bond.

Follow along as we go over other GLUE tactics on your marketing plans to encourage those repeat customers and bring in new ones.

Build a connection 

With marketing, you can also advertise your business and brand, so take the time to introduce yourself and the company’s story to build that bridge of connection with your customer base.

You can focus on your company’s guidelines, bring attention to how you create or source your products and materials, or share what you use for sustainable practices in your company. All these little things will open a door between the inside of your business and customers, creating a more personal feel to your work.

Honesty in marketing is one of the best ways to get your name out there. By sharing the behind-the-scenes, and showcasing how to use a product or how it’s made, you can bring in new customers, and they’ll feel closer to your brand.

Content in your packaging 

Receiving a package in the mail is one of our generation’s favorite feelings, which is why as an e-commerce shop owner, you’ll want to create a package that will engage the customer long after it’s been opened. Opening that package and seeing your product for the first time is what all your work has gone into, and you want to make sure your work was worth it.

Minor aspects like prints, including business cards or flyers, can bring those customers back to your business through blogs, social media, and your website.

While the GLUE tactic can take planning and work from you or your team, it can create a strong bond between customers and your brand and keep them interested in re-purchasing. That personal touch drives people to specific shops, so taking the time to add this to your marketing plan can be a successful tactic.

Branded Gifts 

You’ve probably shopped before and experienced this, like receiving a sticker with the brand name, for example. You have two options to consider when you decide to place branded gifts on your packages, ‘Value Add’s’ or an ‘Identity-based’ gift.

– Value Add: this is a small and economical gift that can help the customer get more experience with your products. Think of this as an opportunity for immediate use and a sample of a different product they can come back to purchase (creating that returning customer you want).

– Identity-based: this can be considered a form of free advertising while still a valuable gift for the customers. Think of identity-based gifts like branded stickers or pins that can be placed on apparel, cars, or more that will showcase your brand while showing off their interest. For example, every purchase with Vans shoes comes with a sticker of the vans logo, which a skater can add to their board. This is free advertising for Vans and is now a fun accessory for the customer.

Video 

During the onset of COVID-19, we saw an increase in brands using videos to get personal with their customers. With the removal of face-to-face shopping for some time, and many have switched over to preferring to shop online, creating that personal touch between the consumer and seller is essential.

Videos can bring that personal touch many have been feeling has gone missing. Follow along for a few ways you can take this and use it in your marketing plans.

  1. Try creating thank you videos during the holiday season! By posting a video thanking your buyers during the holidays and wishing them well on your social platforms, you can bring in that special touch. Create these in comfortable places like your kitchen or living room to take away the business side and showcase something homier.
  2. Use videos in your newsletters or other email campaigns! By including videos that showcase your products, how-to’s, project ideas, and more, you can share the uses of your product while bringing a face to your work. Many shoppers miss that face-to-face feeling when shopping, so creating a video can be the touch they need to purchase from you.
  3. Use video conferencing in your customer support cases! When it comes to online customer support, you want to create an experience that makes the customer happy. Use video conferencing for support calls to assist with questions, concerns, and more. You can even use screen share to help thoroughly when needed.
  4. Create videos for your products if they require assembly or directions to use. Walk the customer through and showcase tips you might have recommended if you had sold the product in person. Add the link on a business card or flyer in the packaging for easy access for the customer.

Customer Support

Customer support is one of the biggest deal-breakers when returning to a shop. No one wants to deal with poor customer support during their shopping, so look into ways to build a successful support plan or upgrade your current one.

Focus on shipping and handling policies, and establish how and where customers can reach you. By having a dedicated contact they can reach out to, customers will feel more comfortable when shopping with you if they have questions or need to handle a return/exchange.

This is still a GLUE version, even if it’s not a gift. Offering proper support and contact information can be the difference between you and another online retailer that doesn’t offer these options. Remember that this doesn’t mean you need to be available 24/7. Good support is setting and meeting reasonable expectations for you and the customer. This falls on you to respond promptly, assist where you can, offer support where you can’t, and be accountable for shop/item issues.

When handling customer support, some tips to keep in mind are setting up follow-up dates for issues and concerns or creating an FAQ for your shop that customers can easily access.

GLUE and You

In the end, using GLUE in your business is a tactic that can lead to success and assist you in creating a loyal customer base. For GLUE to work correctly, you need to ensure your product and customer service are up to level. Think about how you can make the customer’s experience special, and plan your customer approach from there. Remember, your product and service are the main focus, but the little extras sure help!

Guest Blog: Bag Trends Through the Decades with Kiki Kitty

Joining us on this month’s blog, is Kiki Kitty, JUKI Designer Ambassador, and well-known Fashion Designer. Kiki joins us by giving a view into her thoughts on bag trends through the decades! From the 80s to today, where looks have come and gone, follow along as she shares her thoughts on how bag styles have transformed over time.

Designs by Kiki Kitty

There are certain trends that will always remain classic due to their root of it. When a particular style becomes synonymous with a certain era we will always reminisce about it, so its return is inevitable. Style trends vary from city to city, even from hood to hood. You could tell where someone was from based on their style choices. The artists who create & rock dope style bring the flavor of their neighborhoods onto global platforms, thus influencing the style of those around the world. This is street style. This is culture.

Getting nostalgic about my bag choices through the decades I think about the world around me and what influenced me from a teen in the 80s to today.

The 80’s

Designs by Kiki Kitty

The 80s were a time in desperate need of artistic exploration and expression. Hip hop was in its infancy and brought about my first opportunity to see the style from city to city every week on Soul Train, Video Soul, Yo MTV Raps.

Dapper Dan gave us Logo Mania by taking materials from bags and creating custom jackets. We began to find new ways of inventing and upcycling. Anything to show off our personality and originality. But whatever you wore, having a giant designer was a must. It was so huge, that it wasn’t an accessory. It was part of the outfit.

The 90’s

Designs by Kiki Kitty

In the 90s, when I left Atlanta to begin my life as an NYC fashion designer. Andre Harrell introduced us to “Ghetto Fabulous”. This movement took ownership of the style trends we created in our everyday life and screamed it from the rooftops. Our favorite rap stars may have been shouting about the brands they wore but be clear, it was the artists themselves, the stylists, the team who altered those garments, added their originality to them and turned them into something entirely new that would influence generations of creators.

This movement brought about the rise of urban fashion. Looks we no longer had to alter to fit our dope style needs. What was once “Dungarees” that were the easiest to rip apart, remix, and put back together was now ripped denim, studded, painted, and patchworked available right from the rack. I remember looking through The Source Magazine and seeing this denim saddle bag. It’s no shock that a bag with those unique curves would be such a huge hit amongst a generation of originators.

The 2000’s

Designs by Kiki Kitty

By 2000 we all had “Carrie Fever” as Jay z rhymed in ’03 Bonnie & Clyde. Patricia Fields whose iconic 8th St shop offered a space for just dope style. Period. It was always less about the designer and more about giving us the vibe and the energy of the city, from the rappers to the club kids and beyond. Luckily for the rest of the world, ‘Sex n the City’ episodes brought the mashup of New York Street Style to everyone’s living rooms. Even if you weren’t a music lover or style hunter you were getting these trends!

The 2000s were all about that Aliyah belly button, that boyfriend style mix with the feminine baby tee, and that pop color pump. The perfect bag had to be small enough to not distract from the belly button ring but large enough for your 2-way pager. It was also the perfect way to add more color to your look, even adding a charm or 2 if you deemed it necessary to make the look more your own.

The 2010’s

Designs by Kiki Kitty

Before Insta-minute-to-minute fashion was available we counted on the “Us Weekly’s” to give us weekly updates on what all our favorite celebrities were wearing. Sure, my monthly fashion fix subscriptions remain something to anticipate, but these weekly tabloid mags brought us news of everyday style. Along with this came the rise of celebrity fashion couples and thus began my obsession with Kanye & Amber Rose.

Tracking Amber Rose and other fashionable tastemakers’ everyday styles offered us more bag trends than a typical fashion editorial would offer. So the possibilities became endless!! As a woman on the go, my go-to choice was the mini backpack. I could still get the trendy prints and the femininity of a purse but I could also carry my flats for a long day of running around the fashion district or hold my passport and travel necessities for a flight. The best of both worlds!

Today

Designs by Kiki Kitty

Girl on the go. 42% of small businesses are owned by Women. That, within itself, is a trend that grows year after year. All 12.3 million of us are busier than ever! With so much to manage all we really need in our bag is our phone and lipstick. The secret to not leaving your bag at that last investor meeting is… lean in, I’ll whisper it to you… cross shoulder bags! Why haven’t we done this all along!!! Even fanny packs are worn across the shoulder. Small is in and just like small business owners, great things come in small packages.

The bags we carry are very personal, it keeps what’s valuable to us safe, and it comes with us to more places than anything else in our wardrobe. Your bag is your shoe’s bestie, the thing that can make or break a whole outfit. When deciding what bag to rock; designer, vintage, or DIY, remember that trends come and go, style is what counts!

Written by: Kiki Kitty, JUKI Designer Ambassador