Mentorship

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How Milk Jar Became a Philanthropic Company
Business Growth
0
Min Read
How Milk Jar Became a Philanthropic Company

My love for candles began in my early 20s; I’d always loved their beautiful smells that filled my room and their glowing ambiance. I remember I couldn’t wait to move out of my parent’s house and go to University, just so I could finally decorate my own place. The Bohemian style of decor was very popular at the time – crafted candles and earthy smells were a must-have to create a natural and cozy atmosphere. They say that your 20s are about self-discovery. You try out different paths, interests and styles, with every year of getting older also getting to know yourself deeper and closer to your authentic self. It’s our way of finding your life’s purpose – and I found mine through candle making.

In my undergrad, I studied Kinesiology. Early on in my schooling, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but chose the degree based on my interests in sports and healthcare. I come from a family of healthcare professionals, so I always assumed that I’d end up working in that field as well. My parents taught me that a meaningful job is one where you can help others, and that’s what started me on my journey.

By the end of my degree, I had gained a lot of experience in sport therapy, exercise, rehabilitation, biology, etc., but the area that I became most passionate about was adaptations and accommodations for disabled people. I only had one class in my entire four-year degree that taught me about this, but when I took the class, I jumped at the opportunity to do a practicum with the Special Olympics and volunteered to facilitate a pool therapy program for a teen with Cerebral Palsy. That semester, I built a strong bond with the teen and his mother and we decided to keep swimming after my work experience contract was complete.

I was hired to swim once a week for 6-8 months of the year, and sometimes I visited their home to do some on-land therapy and stretching. We did this for 7 years, until he turned 20. Being a part of this family’s life and witnessing their dedication to making sure their son lived a full and rich life was a life-changing experience for me. In all the beautiful moments, I also saw the really hard ones: the exhaustion from medical visits, the back-and-forth for funding support, and the struggles of raising a child with a disability in a world that does not offer equal opportunities. This really opened my eyes to how hard this world can be for people living with disabilities, and their families, and it sparked my desire to find a career where I can help this community.

Milk Jar was not my first attempt at a job with my new-found passion. My original plan was to get my master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. Unfortunately, it was a competitive program and I wasn’t accepted. I was disappointed, but I still wouldn’t have traded those evenings in and out with friends for a few extra days of studying. I’m a strong advocate for living life to its fullest, so I have no regrets – and everything happens for a reason! Enter Milk Jar.

The idea of creating Milk Jar came to me, about four years after finishing school, during a time when I was feeling quite lost. I had worked a couple jobs that I cared very much about, but none of them made me feel like I was making the impact that I knew I was capable of. I was making candles in my home as a way to experiment with soy wax when I learned that burning common paraffin wax candles released carcinogens and soot into the air that could cause respiratory issues and other health concerns.

I mentioned before I loved burning candles and had them in every room in my home. Because of my family and background in Kinesiology, choosing healthy lifestyle options has always been important to me. I could’ve just started purchasing other candles made with natural waxes, but it seemed easy enough to make myself – and more fun! I quickly learned that it wasn’t that easy, but I enjoyed the process of learning how to blend fragrances, vessels, waxes, and wicks. And my favourite piece to candle making? Developing scents that capture a memory, place or feeling.

After a year of making candles and also feeling like I wasn’t connected to the disability community that I cared so much about, I decided in April 2016 that I’d start a business selling my candles that donated a portion of its profits to organizations that were doing amazing work that. I launched Milk Jar that November and reached out to the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing and offered to donate $1 from the sale of every candle to them that following year.

I was just as terrified as I was excited to launch into entrepreneurship. I had no idea what I was doing, let alone running a business, but I was passionate about creating a company that was more than just Milk Jar. By inserting a philanthropic purpose into Milk Jar from the start, all my nerves about whether it would succeed or fail didn’t matter. It would’ve already been a success even if I donated $50. That first year we donated $2000 to CADS Calgary.

Fast forward to today and Milk Jar has donated over $100,000 to various non-profits including: CADS Calgary, Between Friends, and PaceKids Programs. Last year, we became an inclusive employer, hiring people in our community living with disabilities to help hand craft the products we make. This has fundamentally changed the culture in our company, we experience more joy at work and everyone is more motivated. We are learning from each other everyday. It’s a beautiful atmosphere to be around people that may appear different from us but recognize that we all want similar things in life. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a little home-grown business could raise this much money and touch as many lives as Milk Jar has in 5 years. I finally found my purpose – and it wasn’t something I waited to find me – I created it.

I’ve learned a lot over the years of starting and running this business, and if there is one thing that you take away from reading this, it’s to ask yourself what else? What else does your business do besides its obvious sale of product or service? What does your company stand for value, and contribute to that gets you out of bed on those tough days? And believe me, you will have them. How have you added purpose into your company that you can speak to, are passionate about, and that every member of your team can be proud of?

A business that cares will be your greatest return on investment. Now more than ever, people want to know that their dollars are being spent on companies that care about economic and social sustainability. When you show that your company is more than just the business of sales, you will have lifelong supporters that’ll be dedicated to helping you succeed.

There’s a lot of inequity in this world. Supporting an important cause that elevates your community can come in many forms: donating, volunteering, advocating, befriending, etc., and it feels really good to give your time, energy and/or money to initiatives that need and benefit from it.

I believe it’s our duty to take care of each other and our planet, and it is the way to lead a purposeful life. Owning your own business is a privilege. A privilege that should be used to make this world better for others, not to make ourselves better than others. If we could all experience the same opportunities, access and treatment, then what a beautiful world we would be living in.

___________________________________________

About the Author

Holly Singer is a compassionate and inspirational 32-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist. She grew up in Victoria BC, moved to Calgary for university, and has since built Milk Jar to what it is today in what she now calls home. Holly enjoys relaxing at home with her dog Bowie and plans to do a diving trip in Indonesia sometime in the near future.

Learn more about Holly at milkjar.ca or on Instagram at @milkjarcandleco

10 Quick Wins to Improve Your Logistics
Going Global
0
Min Read
10 Quick Wins to Improve Your Logistics

So how can you optimize your logistics today? Here are 10 quick tips to turn logistical headaches into successful deliveries.

Efficient logistics operations can save your business time and money while ensuring timely delivery to your customers. While some improvements require investment and planning, there are simple changes you can make today to enhance efficiency. Here are 10 tips to supercharge your logistics:

  1. List your weaknesses and identify the changes
    Determine areas in your logistics operation that can be improved, such as inventory management, storage, picking, packing, or invoicing. Write down actions that could increase productivity and divide them into short-term and long-term changes.
  2. Measure performance
    Set specific KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to target and measure improvements. Speak to logistics experts, such as DHL, to find out what kind of metrics you should be tracking—and what the numbers mean. Are you hitting the industry averages or falling below?
  3. Ask your employees
    Your on-the-ground team members are on the front line and talking to customers and suppliers every day. That makes them a valuable resource for identifying areas of improvement. Gather their input and ideas, as they often have practical insights into inefficiencies and potential solutions. Consider implementing incentives to motivate and reward improved performance; did they deliver consistently on time or receive positive customer feedback? Make sure your people are recognized for great logistics work.
  4. Optimize warehouse layout
    Arrange your warehouse to prioritize popular items closer to the shipping station while minimizing bottlenecks. Consider vertical racking systems to maximize space utilization. Use inventory management software to forecast demand and plan stock accordingly.
  5. Streamline packing
    Simplify the packing process by allowing pickers to place items directly into pre-addressed boxes. Use mini mobile printers to generate address labels instantly. The upfront cost of the printers and software will pay for itself in just a few months.
  6. Offer green options
    Consumers increasingly want more sustainable e-commerce options, from green delivery options to recyclable packaging. In 2020, only 58% of consumers were willing to spend more for sustainable e-commerce options. Just two years later, nearly 90% of consumers said that they would be willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products1. You can read our guide to greener packaging here.
  7. Get external help for international shipping
    Ensure accurate and detailed descriptions of goods and correct Harmonized System (HS) codes to prevent customs delays. Explore resources like the DHL Express International Shipping Toolkit for guidance on global brand strategy and reducing cart abandonment
  8. Get smart about your delivery routes
    Some items just always seem to get damaged in transit. It’s worth analyzing which products get damaged—maybe there’s a pattern that means you can treat those packages differently. Evaluate different shipping providers for reliability—the cheapest option in the short term sometimes means more expensive over the long term once damaged items and lost customers are taken into account. Also, consider load planning software to optimize the way goods are loaded for safer transport.
  9. Embrace technology
    AI, analytics, and automation are making waves in the logistics sector. AI adoption in logistics is growing by 43%2 every year, so it makes sense to seriously consider your own AI strategy. Explore software solutions that automate and optimize elements of your logistics operations, such as stock analysis, staff scheduling, and inventory management. Route management and optimization—making sure drivers take the best route to make all drops quickly and economically—is a common application of AI and has been for a number of years.
  10. Focus on last-mile delivery
    Depending on which survey you pay attention to, the last mile of your logistics process—getting the product to your customer—is between 41%3 and 53%4 of the cost of the total logistics cycle. In other words, it’s the hardest part. Partnering with a reliable logistics expert like DHL can enhance the customer experience by integrating express, on-demand, and international shipping options into your checkout process. Ensure a positive final impression by delivering goods on time and in excellent condition and give customers regular tracking updates: 82% of consumers expect tracking updates.5

Implementing these changes can yield quick wins and improve your overall logistics operations. Ready to ship? Get essential market insights from the DHL Express International Shipping Toolkit, or talk to one of DHL's 160,000 logistics experts today.

References

1 – Forbes, March 2022

2 – Interactive AI – DHL - Global

3 – Statista, 2018

4 – Insider Intelligence, 2023

5 – My Customer, 2016

6 Principles of Marketing for Your Business
Business Growth
0
Min Read
6 Principles of Marketing for Your Business

What is marketing? Is it just a fancy word for selling?

It’s way more than that. While selling is mostly about the transaction of goods for cash, marketing concerns itself with the entire business process. It embraces product development, the people who are most likely to buy your product, your pricing structure, promotional techniques and more. If you see a pattern developing here, you’re right.

What are the 4 Ps of the marketing mix?

The 4 Ps of marketing are Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

It’s generally believed that there are four Ps in what people call ‘the marketing mix'. (Some stretch the term to include seven or even nine, but there are four main ones.) Whether you sit down and construct a formal five-year marketing strategy for your business, or tend to 'freestyle' things, you should always be thinking about the four Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

6 Basic Marketing Principles

At DHL, we always go the extra mile (excuse the pun). So rather than four, we focus on six marketing principles: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People and Packaging. That’s right, we’ve added People and Packaging into the mix. Let's take a closer look at each one:

1. Product

This is presumably why you’re here. You’ve got a good product and you want to sell it. For the sake of brevity, our use of ‘product’ also includes things like apps and services, and applies to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales. Right from the start, you need to forget that you’ve got anything to do with the product at all. Instead, examine it afresh from the perspective of a potential customer. Channel their thoughts like this:

  • Hey, that looks cool. I wonder what it does?
  • I could use something like this in my study/garage/kitchen
  • I wonder if it’s available in black?
  • Maybe there are cheaper versions elsewhere?
  • This would make me look good to my boss/partner/kids
  • Not sure about that name. How am I supposed to pronounce it?
  • Why all this packaging? Don’t they know plastic is the enemy?
  • It would make a great gift. Maybe it’s cheaper if I buy several
  • Ah, the instructions...‘Utilize’? ‘Enablement’? Who talks like this?

By forensically examining every aspect of your product – maybe asking impartial observers to do likewise – you’ll find ways to enhance it or make it more appealing to more people. You need to think ahead too. Just about everything for sale has a ‘product life cycle’, a period after which sales naturally decline. You must be ready for that, and plan to introduce new and/or improved versions of the product long before your sales curve starts to head south.

“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg, Author & Keynote Speaker

2. Price

Ever noticed anything odd about men’s grooming site, Dollar Shave Club? They’re wildly successful at what they do, but nobody’s ever bought a razor from them for a dollar. It can’t be done. Not once the cost of shipping is included. That’s just one example of how a clever pricing strategy (together with a catchy name) can reel the shoppers in. Determining the price of your product is a balancing act. Set it too low and you might appear cheap and inferior. Set it too high and people will quickly look elsewhere. There are exceptions, of course. A Dyson fan will blow the same air around your living room as a regular fan, but advanced technology and a unique design mean the company can command a cost per unit many times higher than other manufacturers.

Rather than going with your gut feeling, do some research. Look at what your competitors (if any) are charging and learn what your potential customers would be willing to pay. Consider offering bulk discounts or introductory offers, or adding value in other ways such as a user guide or club membership. Dive into the consumer psychology of pricing too – you can read more about nudge techniques around pricing, here. Then consider which pricing strategy you should implement. There’s a range of different strategies to suit different objectives and marketing environments. Some of the main ones are:

Market Penetration

This is where your initial price is set artificially low, then hiked once you’ve achieved a predetermined market share. New subscription services like TV or broadband providers typically use this model. As we’ve seen, the Dollar Shave Club is pretty much just the name on the door.

Price Skimming

Price skimming occurs when a first-to-the-market company can afford to charge a higher price, but then has to lower it when cut-price competitors arrive on the scene. Most hi-tech items are eye-wateringly expensive at launch.

Neutral Pricing

Here, you set the price to match whatever the bulk of your competitors are charging. It’s not a strategy to adopt if your products are demonstrably superior to others. Once you’ve settled on a price that brings the orders trickling in, turn your attention to how you can modify your pricing strategy so that the trickle becomes a stream, then a torrent, then a flood. Never stop testing, in other words. (But always have that other P word at the back of your mind – profit.)

3. Place

'Place' in a marketing mix context refers not to a single location but to several: where your business is located; where your customers are located; and any points in between such as warehouses, distributors and retailers. How you get your products from you to the end user is, as with most things in marketing, customer driven. You have to find out where your customers are, where they might look to find your product, where they’d feel most comfortable buying it, how long they’re prepared to wait for it to be delivered, how often they’re likely to place an order and so on. Knowing the answers will help you determine the best – i.e. quickest, simplest and most cost-efficient – method of getting your stuff out there.

Now, you could be lucky in that your business might thrive just through selling handmade watches to a handful of high net worth individuals every year. In which case, distribution is a pretty simple matter and your main concern is ensuring you have hefty insurance. But for most SMEs, a more structured system will be required. It’s no exaggeration to say that distribution can make or break a business. But help is at hand. Because when it comes to national or international logistics, whether for global corporations or bedroom-based start-ups, nobody can offer more hands-on experience or helpful advice than DHL. With offices in over 220 countries and territories, we’re the first name in crossing borders, reaching new markets and growing your business. And, as our software aligns with many e-commerce platforms, your customers can see shipping costs transparently.

4. Promotion

This is what most people think of when you talk about marketing, but promotion is just the communication aspect of the marketing process and is often one of the last steps you take.

Promotion can take many forms:

  • Advertising
  • TV and radio
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Posters
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising
  • Online banners
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media – including influencer marketing
  • Sales Promotion
  • Money-off coupons
  • Loyalty programs
  • Product sampling
  • Competitions
  • Point of salePublic Relations
  • Press releases
  • Exhibitions and events
  • Sponsorship  

5. People

It goes without saying that your customers should be at the heart of everything you do. After all, without them, there is no business. Ask yourself:

  • What do people want from your product or service?
  • Are they using it in ways you hadn’t envisaged?
  • How are they interacting with your brand?
  • What are they saying about you on social media or review sites?
  • Do you value your customers or feel they somehow ‘get in the way’?
  • How can you improve their experience of your website or products?
  • When was the last time you wrote a personal note to a customer?


And people doesn't just refer to your customers; the people who work for you are also vital to the success of your enterprise. A lot of companies claim to be people-centric, but this should always be more than a buzz phrase for your ‘about us’ page. If you’re passionate about your business, you’ll clearly want people who share at least some of your commitment. This shared idealism not only creates a happier working environment, it also helps gives you a competitive edge over less united rivals. This topic is explored in our article investigating how to build your team for success.

6. Packaging

Unlike traditional advertising like television or press ads, digital media lets you test the effectiveness of promotions very accurately. You can launch a marketing campaign online and immediately see how many people interacted with your ad, visited your website and bought a product. The trouble is, your competitors can do exactly the same thing – and their marketing budget might be bigger, meaning they can reach more people, more often. So it’s here that you balance the science of responsive marketing with creativity and impact, so that your advertising stands out from the crowd through the use of striking images or a distinctive ‘tone of voice’.

Incidentally, pay no heed to those who claim advertising doesn’t work on them. They’re often the ones who drive a VW ‘because it’s reliable’, wear Levis ‘because they’re hard-wearing’ or use Persil because it ‘washes whiter’. And finally...You may be a marketing whizz, but remember, no form of promotion has ever bettered the authenticity of word-of-mouth recommendations. But that takes time and continual investment in your product and customer service. In the meantime, focus on "the golden six"!

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6 Principles of Marketing for Your Business
Business Growth
0
Min Read
6 Principles of Marketing for Your Business

What is marketing? Is it just a fancy word for selling?

It’s way more than that. While selling is mostly about the transaction of goods for cash, marketing concerns itself with the entire business process. It embraces product development, the people who are most likely to buy your product, your pricing structure, promotional techniques and more. If you see a pattern developing here, you’re right.

What are the 4 Ps of the marketing mix?

The 4 Ps of marketing are Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

It’s generally believed that there are four Ps in what people call ‘the marketing mix'. (Some stretch the term to include seven or even nine, but there are four main ones.) Whether you sit down and construct a formal five-year marketing strategy for your business, or tend to 'freestyle' things, you should always be thinking about the four Ps: Product, Price, Place and Promotion.

6 Basic Marketing Principles

At DHL, we always go the extra mile (excuse the pun). So rather than four, we focus on six marketing principles: Product, Price, Place, Promotion, People and Packaging. That’s right, we’ve added People and Packaging into the mix. Let's take a closer look at each one:

1. Product

This is presumably why you’re here. You’ve got a good product and you want to sell it. For the sake of brevity, our use of ‘product’ also includes things like apps and services, and applies to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) sales. Right from the start, you need to forget that you’ve got anything to do with the product at all. Instead, examine it afresh from the perspective of a potential customer. Channel their thoughts like this:

  • Hey, that looks cool. I wonder what it does?
  • I could use something like this in my study/garage/kitchen
  • I wonder if it’s available in black?
  • Maybe there are cheaper versions elsewhere?
  • This would make me look good to my boss/partner/kids
  • Not sure about that name. How am I supposed to pronounce it?
  • Why all this packaging? Don’t they know plastic is the enemy?
  • It would make a great gift. Maybe it’s cheaper if I buy several
  • Ah, the instructions...‘Utilize’? ‘Enablement’? Who talks like this?

By forensically examining every aspect of your product – maybe asking impartial observers to do likewise – you’ll find ways to enhance it or make it more appealing to more people. You need to think ahead too. Just about everything for sale has a ‘product life cycle’, a period after which sales naturally decline. You must be ready for that, and plan to introduce new and/or improved versions of the product long before your sales curve starts to head south.

“Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them do so.” – Bryan Eisenberg, Author & Keynote Speaker

2. Price

Ever noticed anything odd about men’s grooming site, Dollar Shave Club? They’re wildly successful at what they do, but nobody’s ever bought a razor from them for a dollar. It can’t be done. Not once the cost of shipping is included. That’s just one example of how a clever pricing strategy (together with a catchy name) can reel the shoppers in. Determining the price of your product is a balancing act. Set it too low and you might appear cheap and inferior. Set it too high and people will quickly look elsewhere. There are exceptions, of course. A Dyson fan will blow the same air around your living room as a regular fan, but advanced technology and a unique design mean the company can command a cost per unit many times higher than other manufacturers.

Rather than going with your gut feeling, do some research. Look at what your competitors (if any) are charging and learn what your potential customers would be willing to pay. Consider offering bulk discounts or introductory offers, or adding value in other ways such as a user guide or club membership. Dive into the consumer psychology of pricing too – you can read more about nudge techniques around pricing, here. Then consider which pricing strategy you should implement. There’s a range of different strategies to suit different objectives and marketing environments. Some of the main ones are:

Market Penetration

This is where your initial price is set artificially low, then hiked once you’ve achieved a predetermined market share. New subscription services like TV or broadband providers typically use this model. As we’ve seen, the Dollar Shave Club is pretty much just the name on the door.

Price Skimming

Price skimming occurs when a first-to-the-market company can afford to charge a higher price, but then has to lower it when cut-price competitors arrive on the scene. Most hi-tech items are eye-wateringly expensive at launch.

Neutral Pricing

Here, you set the price to match whatever the bulk of your competitors are charging. It’s not a strategy to adopt if your products are demonstrably superior to others. Once you’ve settled on a price that brings the orders trickling in, turn your attention to how you can modify your pricing strategy so that the trickle becomes a stream, then a torrent, then a flood. Never stop testing, in other words. (But always have that other P word at the back of your mind – profit.)

3. Place

'Place' in a marketing mix context refers not to a single location but to several: where your business is located; where your customers are located; and any points in between such as warehouses, distributors and retailers. How you get your products from you to the end user is, as with most things in marketing, customer driven. You have to find out where your customers are, where they might look to find your product, where they’d feel most comfortable buying it, how long they’re prepared to wait for it to be delivered, how often they’re likely to place an order and so on. Knowing the answers will help you determine the best – i.e. quickest, simplest and most cost-efficient – method of getting your stuff out there.

Now, you could be lucky in that your business might thrive just through selling handmade watches to a handful of high net worth individuals every year. In which case, distribution is a pretty simple matter and your main concern is ensuring you have hefty insurance. But for most SMEs, a more structured system will be required. It’s no exaggeration to say that distribution can make or break a business. But help is at hand. Because when it comes to national or international logistics, whether for global corporations or bedroom-based start-ups, nobody can offer more hands-on experience or helpful advice than DHL. With offices in over 220 countries and territories, we’re the first name in crossing borders, reaching new markets and growing your business. And, as our software aligns with many e-commerce platforms, your customers can see shipping costs transparently.

4. Promotion

This is what most people think of when you talk about marketing, but promotion is just the communication aspect of the marketing process and is often one of the last steps you take.

Promotion can take many forms:

  • Advertising
  • TV and radio
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Posters
  • PPC (pay per click) advertising
  • Online banners
  • Email
  • Direct mail
  • Social media – including influencer marketing
  • Sales Promotion
  • Money-off coupons
  • Loyalty programs
  • Product sampling
  • Competitions
  • Point of salePublic Relations
  • Press releases
  • Exhibitions and events
  • Sponsorship  

5. People

It goes without saying that your customers should be at the heart of everything you do. After all, without them, there is no business. Ask yourself:

  • What do people want from your product or service?
  • Are they using it in ways you hadn’t envisaged?
  • How are they interacting with your brand?
  • What are they saying about you on social media or review sites?
  • Do you value your customers or feel they somehow ‘get in the way’?
  • How can you improve their experience of your website or products?
  • When was the last time you wrote a personal note to a customer?


And people doesn't just refer to your customers; the people who work for you are also vital to the success of your enterprise. A lot of companies claim to be people-centric, but this should always be more than a buzz phrase for your ‘about us’ page. If you’re passionate about your business, you’ll clearly want people who share at least some of your commitment. This shared idealism not only creates a happier working environment, it also helps gives you a competitive edge over less united rivals. This topic is explored in our article investigating how to build your team for success.

6. Packaging

Unlike traditional advertising like television or press ads, digital media lets you test the effectiveness of promotions very accurately. You can launch a marketing campaign online and immediately see how many people interacted with your ad, visited your website and bought a product. The trouble is, your competitors can do exactly the same thing – and their marketing budget might be bigger, meaning they can reach more people, more often. So it’s here that you balance the science of responsive marketing with creativity and impact, so that your advertising stands out from the crowd through the use of striking images or a distinctive ‘tone of voice’.

Incidentally, pay no heed to those who claim advertising doesn’t work on them. They’re often the ones who drive a VW ‘because it’s reliable’, wear Levis ‘because they’re hard-wearing’ or use Persil because it ‘washes whiter’. And finally...You may be a marketing whizz, but remember, no form of promotion has ever bettered the authenticity of word-of-mouth recommendations. But that takes time and continual investment in your product and customer service. In the meantime, focus on "the golden six"!

Exporting To China: How To Maximize Every Sales Opportunity
Going Global
0
Min Read
Exporting To China: How To Maximize Every Sales Opportunity

Export to China: market overview

It’s no secret that China is a thriving hotspot of global trade. Data from the DHL Trade Growth Atlas found that between 2016 and 2021, the country generated a staggering one-quarter of global trade growth. Whilst the West has long thought of China as the world’s manufacturing capital, it provides plenty of import opportunities for international brands, too.

The penetration rate of online shopping in China has grown rapidly over the last ten years, from 42.9% in 2002 to 79.2% in 20221, making it one of the key emerging markets for cross-border businesses to target. But what are consumers there buying? And from which countries?

China’s imports

Which countries do Chinese e-commerce users buy from the most?

Distribution of goods purchased by cross-border import e-commerce users in China as of January 2021, by region of origin:

Source: Statista2

For these countries, China is a huge cross-border e-commerce opportunity.

Exporting to China: understanding the Chinese market

To successfully sell to a new international market, you need to understand local buyers’ behaviors and preferences. These insights can inform your sales and marketing strategies.

What do Chinese online shoppers buy from cross-border brands?

Cross-border e-commerce retail imports by product (as share of total transaction value), 2021:

Source: Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China3

Mobile commerce

China is a mobile-first country, driven by the government’s prioritization of the development of 5G wireless technology. 64% of all e-commerce transactions in China are completed on a mobile device4, predominantly ‘super-apps’ (see below) where users can socialize, shop, and pay for products on a single platform. International brands wishing to attract these mobile buyers will need to invest heavily in a Chinese-language smartphone app.

Online marketplaces

Chinese consumers like shopping at online marketplaces as they allow them to browse and compare several products at once. The leading marketplaces in China are Alibaba, Taobao, Tmall and JD.com. Selling on these platforms is tricky for cross-border brands, as sellers have to be registered in mainland China to qualify. But, there is a way in – Tmall has a dedicated sister site, Tmall Global, specifically set up for foreign brands; you don’t need a physical entity in China or a Chinese business license to sell on the platform, and you can accept payment in your local currency. Discover the full pros and cons, here.

Customer service

“Guanxi” is a Chinese concept which describes how personal and business relationships are built on trust. It filters down to Chinese consumers’ expectations of exceptional customer service – with personalization, fast and reliable shipping, and a stress-free shopping experience cited as the top priorities. As customer reviews play an important part in Chinese buyers’ decision-making, underperforming on customer experience risks your business being named and shamed online.

Value and quality

Price is an important factor to Chinese consumers – they shop around for deals, coupons and discounts. Cross-border brands often struggle to compete with domestic brands’ pricing and product choice.

Yet, they can win over Chinese buyers through product quality. The Chinese counterfeit market has created distrust amongst many shoppers there, who instead look overseas for better quality. Position yourself as a trusted brand with authentic products, and consumers will respond well.

Social commerce

Social media and e-commerce go hand in hand in China. Popular video platform Douyin (the country’s version of TikTok) allows users to buy products they see streaming on the app simply by tapping the video. Unfortunately, it is hard for foreign businesses to set up a Douyin account unless they have a base in mainland China.

An easier route to the Chinese market is through WeChat, the country’s most popular messaging app – with a whopping 1.24 billion monthly active users5a  who spend an average of 2 hours per day on it5b. With WeChat for Business, you can set up an e-commerce storefront on the WeChat platform to sell directly to Chinese consumers. The app has an in-built payment service, WeChat Pay, making facilitating payments seamlessly for your business and your customers.

Live streaming

China is the world’s livestreaming capital, where the feature has been a mainstream part of e-commerce for years. There are countless livestream platforms where “KOLs” – key opinion leaders, the Chinese equivalents of influencers – show and demonstrate a product, and interact live with viewers who ask questions. The personal touch of this engagement makes promotional activities more convincing and boosts sales. If you want to tap into the Chinese market, you should seriously consider marketing through livestreaming.

Shopping holidays

Much like the West’s Amazon Prime Day, China has several of its own major shopping festivals when record numbers of consumers head online in search of bargains. Two of the most popular are Singles’ Day (11 November), and the 618 festival (June 18th). Do your research and plan your marketing strategy weeks in advance to cash in on every opportunity.

Major shopping dates for your calendar

Digital wallets

Unsurprisingly in a mobile-first market, digital wallets are the leading payment method for Chinese consumers – with Alipay and WeChat Pay taking the biggest market share of transactions6. Online shoppers are 70% more likely to finalize a purchase if their preferred payment method is displayed as an option at checkout7, so always do your research into local buyers’ preferences!

Challenges of exporting to China

Selling to China does not come without challenges. But don't worry, DHL's expert on China exports and shipping has provided you with the key strategies to overcome them, so read the below which will help you create actionable plans to export to China.

1. Navigating customs & import clearance

Shipping your products into China can be a complex and time-consuming operation:

  • The country has strict customs procedures – even more so since Covid – which require shippers to provide detailed documentation and comply with specific regulations. Any incorrect or missing paperwork can cause shipments to be held up.
  • Certain products, including food, electronics and medical devices will have extra regulations to comply with to avoid delays, fines, or even seizure of the shipment.

The solution              

It is important for businesses to work with a logistics provider that has experience and expertise with customs processes so that their shipments are cleared quickly and efficiently. By partnering with international logistics leader DHL, businesses will receive support navigating China’s customs regulations. This includes guidance on how to complete the process of customs clearance, so that shipments aren’t delayed. For DHL account holders, this is offered as a dedicated service.

2. The cost of shipping to China

China imposes import taxes and duties on many products. This, added to the cost of shipping and customs fees, will quickly add up for your business – and make it difficult for you to compete on price with domestic sellers.

The solution

  • DHL offers competitive shipping rates – with its estimated cost calculator, you can gain a quote quickly. You can then factor this cost into your pricing strategy and how you charge your customers for shipping.
  • DHL’s Duties & Taxes Paid (DTP) service charges import duties, taxes and other shipping fees back to your business, rather than your customers. It’s more convenient for your customers, ensuring a seamless experience that boosts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

3. Setting up a Chinese-facing website

Unfortunately, selling to Chinese consumers as a cross-border brand involves more than just changing the language of your website. To show up on Chinese search engines’ result pages, you need a site hosted in China. This involves several complex steps, including registering with the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, and obtaining relevant commercial licenses – all of which can take several months.

The solution: sell via an online marketplace

As previously mentioned, some of China’s leading marketplaces have dedicated “sister” sites for international brands to sell on – without the need for a legal entity or bank account in the country. These include Tmall Global and JD Worldwide. Take your time researching your options, factoring in fees, the type of products you sell (e.g. some platforms are more suited for luxury goods), and how long you may have to wait for approval.

4. Fast shipping

Chinese consumers expect fast delivery – even from overseas brands. The sheer size and scale of the country – plus poor infrastructure in rural areas – makes this a big task for cross-border businesses.

The solution: partner with DHL

DHL has a vast global network which means it can help your business reach customers in China quickly. DHL Express will deliver your shipment to China with full tracking so that you – and your customers – can check the delivery status of the shipment in real-time. Peace of mind for you, excellent service for your customers.

Market entry strategy: Steps to export to China

Preparing to export to China

1. Conduct market research

China is a vast country of over 1.4 billion consumers – but not all of them are prospects. You should have a clear idea of the demographic of your target audience – including age, budget, which online marketplaces they buy from the most, which social media platforms they engage with, their preferred payment method(s) etc. These insights will help you personalize your marketing segmentation strategy.

2. Localize your brand

Choosing a Chinese name for your business will help you appeal to consumers there. And of course, it’s important that your product listings/social media content/customer service are in the local language, too. Just be sure to use Chinese experts for this though – relying on online translators risks misinterpretations. Finally, ensure your business accepts payment in the local currency.

3. Select a suitable entry strategy

For many international small businesses and e-commerce startups, selling on a Chinese marketplace is the best entry strategy. You will benefit from these platforms’ vast customer base, local knowledge, and existing fulfilment services. Of course, there are some fees involved, but the time you save in dealing with administration will more than make up for it.

4. Know your Unique Selling Point

It may be tempting to go all in and adapt your products for Chinese buyers. But remember, many Chinese customers – particularly those of luxury goods – buy from foreign brands specifically because they offer something different. Knowing why customers want your products – whether it’s the quality or price, for example – will help you market them effectively. This is most probably something you will learn over time, using analytics data and customer feedback.

5. Plan logistics and shipping

For this, there really is no better route than partnering with an international logistics leader. With a presence in over 220 countries and territories, no carrier understands international shipping like DHL – and can help your business grow in China with ease.

Feeling inspired and ready to sell to China? First stop – open a DHL Express Business Account for expert international shipping advice and competitive rates.

References

1 – Statista, April 2023

2 – Statista, July 2022

3 – Mitsui & Co., November 2021

4 – J.P. Morgan, 2021

5a & 5b – Shopify, December 2022

6 – Statista, July 2022

7 – Verifone, June 2020

How To Sell To China On Singles' Day 2023
Business Growth
0
Min Read
How To Sell To China On Singles' Day 2023

WHAT IS SINGLES' DAY?

Move over Valentine’s Day, the singles want some fun, too! China’s Singles’ Day on 11 November (11/11 – all the singles!) was originally conceived by a group of college bachelors who wanted a dedicated holiday to celebrate their singledom. Then in 2009, spotting an opportunity, China’s leading e-commerce marketplace Alibaba began marketing Singles’ Day as a special sales event. Since then, it's become an annual shopping bonanza where it’s not unusual for sales to reach ten times that of an average shopping day in China.

So, how can your e-commerce business take a slice of this very lucrative pie?

Perhaps you’re already selling to Chinese buyers through an online marketplace such as Amazon or Alibaba, or maybe you ship internationally to customers there via your own e-commerce website. Either way now is the time to prepare. Here’s how…

SINGLES’ DAY 2023: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

It’s the world’s biggest shopping day

Singles’ Day sales are bigger than Amazon’s Prime Day and Black Friday combined!(1) In 2021, online sales on JD.com and Alibaba – the country’s leading e-commerce sites – reached US$139 billion(2), setting a new record.

It’s not just restricted to China

The shopping bonanza is gaining momentum across the world. One analysis tracked 290,000 brands from over 90 countries and regions participating in Tmall’s Singles’ Day sales in 2022(3). Of those, 70,000 were doing so for the first time. Will your business join them this year?

Tmall Global is your gateway to the Chinese market

As the largest e-commerce platform in China, you’ve probably heard of Alibaba4, a B2B business connecting wholesale exporters in China with countries around the world. The bit you should know about is Tmall Global5, Alibaba’s dedicated B2C platform specifically set up for foreign businesses. It allows cross-border sellers to build virtual storefronts and ship products to Chinese customers without the need for a physical entity in the country or a Chinese business license. You can also accept payments in your local currency.

There’s room for everyone

Singles’ Day isn’t just for the big retailers. In the first 28 hours of 2022’s sales, the transaction volumes of 50k small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and 70k SME merchants increased 100%(6).

Chinese shoppers like to buy from overseas brands

According to a survey of Tmall Global shoppers7, the leading reasons they buy from cross-border brands are:

Important information to consider when you’re planning your Singles’ Day marketing campaign!

Livestreaming is BIG business

Though relatively new in the West, livestreaming has been hugely popular in China for years. Customers enjoy being able to learn about a product in-depth, whilst for businesses, this engagement leads to greater conversions.

The challenge for overseas brands is to find a video hosting platform with the relevant clearance in China. Instead, they could focus on ensuring their product listings feature plenty of high-res photos, video tutorials and how-to guides, whilst being quick to respond to customer queries on social media.

Sustainability is entering the conversation

Despite Singles’ Day being associated with excessive consumption, in 2021, Alibaba turned its focus towards sustainability by partnering with 14 brands to promote greener production.

Consumers are embracing more considered choices, too: over 33 million of them purchased eco-friendly products on Tmall and Taobao during the 2022 Singles’ Day sales8. Meanwhile, keyword searches for green topics including “energy-saving” and “low carbon” surged on JD.com9.

Singles’ Day Strategies to Focus on This Year

  • Do your research

To appeal to Chinese consumers, you need to know their buying behaviors and preferences. Luckily, we’ve done the research for you: dive into our dedicated China country guide for all the local insights you’ll need.

  • Optimize your e-commerce website for mobile

Mobile commerce dominates Singles’ Day, so ensure your customers have an easy, fast and intuitive experience – otherwise they’ll abandon their carts.

  • Translate your content

Ensure your website copy and marketing messaging is converted into the local language for foreign browsers.

  • Offer payment in Yuan

Provide payment options and gateways where transactions can be done in the Chinese currency.

  • Use the number 11 as a hook

Offering a 11% discount on sale items, for example, will show your brand is joining in the fun!

  • Offer fast shipping

Chinese consumers may be deterred from buying from overseas brands as they think their orders will be delayed. By partnering with DHL, you can offer customers Express international delivery. Just be sure to highlight it on your homepage to incentivize shoppers.

  • Monitor your inventory closely

If something sells out, you need to be ready to quickly pivot to promote another item instead.

The fun doesn’t stop after Singles’ Day! Peak Season is upon us, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas still to come too. For advice to help you prepare, check out our dedicated holiday shipping tips.

References

1 – Forbes , November 2022

2 – CNBC, November 2021

3 - Queue.it, September 2023

4 - Alibaba

5 - Tmall Global

6 - Queue.it, September 2023

7 - Digital Commerce, June 2022

8 & 9 - Queue.it, September 2023

Peak Season 2023 - What Your Business Can Expect
Business Growth
0
Min Read
Peak Season 2023 - What Your Business Can Expect

Consumer shopping habits in peak 2023

1. Consumers’ budgets will shrink

With global inflation continuing to bite, shoppers are beginning their holiday shopping early to spread the costs out. In a survey of US adults by Jungle Sprout1, 42% of respondents said they intend to start shopping before October. Meanwhile, value for money will be a top priority for many consumers: half of UK shoppers say it will be their main consideration when searching for Christmas presents this year2.

What your business can do

  • Now’s the time to review your pricing strategy to ensure it’s competitive. Look at your competitors’ price points – can you match or go lower?
  • Be prepared for people taking their time before committing to buy. Provide value and inspiration – such as gift guides – but don’t be too pushy.
  • Highlight the quality and unique selling points of your products within the listings so customers know they’re getting something special!
  • Do you have some excess inventory lurking in a warehouse somewhere? It’s the perfect time to offer some discounts to help shift it.
  • Offer lots of flexible payment options – including a “Buy Now, Pay Later” solution – at checkout, so customers can find one which suits their needs.
  • Shoppers will be spending more time on marketplaces like Amazon where they can easily compare prices – here’s how to set up a store there.
  • Product bundling – offering multiple items together for a reduced price – will be appealing to shoppers looking for value, while giving you an opportunity to upsell.

2. Brand loyalty will wane

With price now a priority, consumers will become “brand promiscuous”, shopping around for the best deals. For e-commerce businesses already facing rising costs, there’s a dilemma: maintain current pricing but risk customers switching to lower-cost brands, or lower prices in the short term but see profits plummet.

What your business can do

Put the customer experience at the heart of your sales campaign this peak season to keep existing customers and attract new ones:

  • Think personalization – whether that’s sending customers personalized gift guides (you can use their browsing history to inform this), emailing loyal customers exclusive holiday discount codes, or little touches like addressing customers by their first name across communications.
  • Engage with customers on social media, and respond to questions quickly. Be an active presence – you are your brand’s best salesperson after all!
  • Consider adding a subscription model to your business. You’ll need to carefully consider how you can entice customers to sign up – value for money and discounts on your regular prices are big incentives. In turn, you’ll be rewarded with loyal customers and a guaranteed revenue stream. Here’s some tips to get it right.

3. Free shipping will be a priority

It’s no secret that online customers love free shipping, and, with people worried about their finances, it will be a high priority this holiday season. In fact, a consumer survey by Gartner3 found that free shipping will be one of the top drivers in influencing a purchasing decision, cited by 45% of respondents (behind only price.)

What your business can do

  • Look at where you could absorb the cost of offering free shipping elsewhere – such as incorporating it into your products’ price. On the surface, it may seem a worrying cost for your business to bare, but think of it as an investment that will more than pay off in the extra sales you will generate.
  • Alternatively, you could consider a “meet in the middle” solution, whereby you offer free shipping on orders over a certain sales value. This has the added bonus of encouraging customers to spend more.
  • Either way, be sure to offer lots of delivery options at checkout so that customers can choose one which suits their budget. For example, 65% of consumers are willing to pay more for expedited shipping4; others would be prepared to wait a little longer as long as it’s free.

4. Consumers will make greener choices

Sustainability is a big concern for consumers these days, and the peak period will be no different. Salesforce predicts 17% of gifts this holiday season will be resold items, as shoppers embrace eco-friendly ways to treat their loved ones5.

What your business can do

  • Can your brand introduce a “pre-loved” section? This reverse logistics strategy promotes businesses repairing and repurposing their customers’ product returns ready for resale on their website, giving visitors a more environmentally friendly way to shop.
  • What are your brand’s eco-credentials? Shout about them on your e-commerce website and integrate them into your marketing communications. Trust us, your customers are paying attention!
  • It may be ingrained in you that speed is the name of the game when it comes to delivery, but in DHL’s recent global shopper survey, almost half of respondents said they would be prepared to wait longer for their goods if it would help the environment. Be mindful of this when you’re choosing which delivery options to offer at checkout.
  • Discover how DHL's GoGreen Plus solution can help your business reduce the carbon emissions associated with its shipments through the use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel.
  • Remember the packaging. If your customer’s small order arrives swathed in layers of excessive packaging, they won’t be impressed – worse still, they might “package shame” your brand on social media! Here are some tips to get it right.
  • Dive into DHL’s Green Logistics Toolkit – it’s packed with tips to help your business introduce greener processes. Happier customers, happier planet – and you’ll optimize your business’s output, too!

5. Shoppers will turn to social media for product discovery

The online shopping journey has become an increasingly omnichannel experience. 7 in 10 shoppers worldwide now use social media for product inspiration and to discover new brands6. With consumers’ budgets strained this peak season, expect them to spend even more time on such platforms to carefully research and choose the best deals.

What your business can do

  • Get creative and create some buzz on your social media accounts – the holiday season is meant to be about fun after all! Offer special discounts and promotions to grab scrollers’ attention.
  • Make the path to purchase as seamless as possible for customers – allowing them to buy products from you without leaving the app will increase your conversion rate. Many of the leading platforms now have dedicated e-commerce tools to facilitate this for businesses. With Instagram Shop, for example, brands can create a unique digital storefront so that their customers can shop directly via their Instagram page.
  • Consider investing in paid social media ads. Research7 found that in the first quarter of 2023, traffic referrals from social media platforms grew 27% year over year, so it will be a worthwhile investment.

Navigating challenges

To fully prepare for this year’s peak season, it’s also important to be aware of some of the challenges your business may face – and how you can overcome them.

1. Standing out in a crowded market

You don’t need us to tell you that e-commerce is fiercely competitive. Whatever you’re selling, chances are there are thousands of other businesses out there doing the same – and they’re always just a click away to your prospective customers. To cash in this peak season, you’ll need to find a way to differentiate your offering…

What your business can do

  • Personalization is your secret weapon! Consumers shopping online want tailored experiences from brands – in fact, a recent survey found that 66% of people expect businesses to understand (and meet) their unique needs and expectations8.
  • To give your customers a personalized service, tap into AI (Artificial Intelligence.) The technology will analyze your data to create customer segments based on the similarities it finds. This means you can develop marketing promotions or devise sales strategies for specific segments, which will increase your conversions.
  • With AI, you can create product recommendations based on customers’ exact likes and browsing history. It can enhance chatbots to better understand customer sentient and deliver personalized responses. And it can build website visitors’ profiles based on what they’re searching for and deliver more specific results. These are just a few examples of its potential to transform your business’s user experiences…time to create an AI strategy?

2. Predicting demand

This is a big part of planning for the peak season rush. Overestimate demand and you risk being left with too much inventory; underestimate and you’ll lose valuable sales opportunities – both costly mistakes for your business.

What your business can do

  • Again, AI can help here. Inventory management software can tap into your previous sales data to help you forecast demand and automatically order new products from your suppliers when needed. In addition, it can determine the most optimal price for your products based on real-time demand.
  • Be flexible with your sales strategy. If something isn’t selling as well as you’d anticipated, be prepared to lower the price to shift it. Remember, the January sales present another opportunity to clear excess inventory, too.

3. Fulfilling customers’ orders

Peak season is the busiest time of year for many e-commerce businesses, and with customer expectations so high, they can’t afford to get anything wrong. For SMEs in particular, it can quickly become overwhelming managing all aspects of logistics and fulfillment.

What your business can do

  • Consider outsourcing your logistics to a 3PL (third-party logistics) provider, like DHL. They will manage the receiving, warehousing, packaging and shipping of your products, leaving you to concentrate on the business of selling.
  • Remember to be clear on your website about cut off times for pre-Christmas delivery so that customers place their orders in time and aren’t left disappointed.

For more tips to prepare your business for the peak season rush, check out our holiday shipping guide.

References

1 – Jungle Sprout, September 2023

2 – Retail Insights, September 2023

3 – Gartner, September 2023

4 – Business Wire, September 2021

5 & 7 – Salesforce, June 2023

6 – HubSpot, October 2022

8 –  Salesforce, October 2020

How to Scale Your Business Simply
Business Growth
0
Min Read
How to Scale Your Business Simply

What does it mean to scale a business?

Scaling a business can sometimes be confused with growing a business. Though there are similarities between the two, there are also key differences:

  • Growing a business is when a business adds/invests in new resources – such as team members or technology – and thus increases its revenue at the same rate.
  • Scaling a business is when an enterprise identifies ways to operate more efficiently so that it increases its revenue without substantial spend on new resources. It takes thoughtful and strategic planning to succeed; the goal is to create sustainable growth that doesn’t compromise the business’s quality or culture.

Common mistakes made by businesses trying to scale include doing so too fast or too early – such as when a new business is still establishing its core goals/product lines/customer profiles.

Practical steps and tips for scaling a business

1. Understand your market

Before diving in with an ambitious scaling plan, it’s important to really understand the market you’re operating in. Consider the current health of the economy: in times of recession, consumers watch their spending more closely which you should factor in when exploring new opportunities.

It’s also important to research your competitors. Knowing what they’re offering – and just as importantly, what they’re not – will help you identify where your business can meet gaps. A great place to start is with a competitor analysis. Our guide to conducting a competitor analysis (with free template) will show you how to uncover market trends that can influence your scale up strategy.

2. Identify target audience

You need to really understand your target customers to identify growth opportunities. A good place to start is by analyzing your current customers’ behaviors:

  • What are their key pain points and challenges?
  • How did they find your business?
  • Which of your current marketing strategies have been most effective in engaging them?
  • What feedback do they give you about your business?

These questions will help you identify the most effective route(s) to acquiring new customers.

3. Allocate resources

Though scaling up your business emphasizes increasing revenue with minimal investment in resources, there are some areas where you will need to spend. It’s about strategically allocating resources – time, money, technology – to where the biggest Return on Investment (ROI) will be achieved. Once you have defined your priorities for scaling, you can balance that with your budget – whilst not neglecting your existing core activities. Automating and outsourcing jobs are things to consider, too.

4. Invest in technology

Automating your logistics processes can support your business as it scales. For example, inventory management software uses predictive analytics to help you better forecast demand surges and automatically order new materials from your suppliers when needed. This means you’ll never face stock outs or missed sales opportunities. Meanwhile, automated picking technology in your warehouse can increase the number of products packed and shipped out to customers per hour.

From autonomous delivery vehicles to artificial intelligence, these are the technologies that can help your business meet demand as it scales.

5. Establish efficient workflow processes

A big part of scaling up your business involves improving existing processes. This includes:

6. Invest in employee development and efficiency

Turning your employees from good to great will have an impact on your business’ bottom line. As your business scales up, motivated and proficient employees will help you meet increased demand. You may identify skill gaps amongst your existing team which you will need to fill in order for your business to meet its growth goals.

Challenges of scaling your business

Scaling too early or too fast

It can be tempting to get carried away with plans for your new business, especially if it has enjoyed a successful start. But scaling too early or too fast comes with several risks – such as being unable to meet demand – which will impact the quality of the experience you give customers.

Solution

To know whether your business is truly ready to scale, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have the right resources – people, skills, tools, and money – in place to support your scaling goals?
  • Do you have an established and loyal customer base yet?
  • Is there enough long-term demand for your product or service? You may have been having robust sales so far, but is that due to short-term circumstances – such as a busy Christmas period?
  • Imagine a scenario where your business doubles or triples its sales overnight. Could it cope without sacrificing on customer service or your brand’s core values?

Remember, it’s better to do things slowly and get it right then rush ahead blindly! Scale in stages. You should create a detailed scaling plan, with small and measurable KPIs along the way.

Maintaining sustainable business growth

With attention and resources diverted to scale, it can be easy to get caught up in numbers, revenue and profit. Yet, sustainable business growth is about more than that…

Solution

The key to long-term success is:

  • A Unique Selling Proposition. What is your USP?  Is it a unique product, or perhaps the way you serve your audience?  Is it the original purpose behind your business?  What attracts your existing customers to you? Don’t lose sight of this, make sure you retain the sense of what makes your business special.
  • Clear – but flexible – goals. As you scale, you should be continually checking in with your KPIs. But remember too, that business is not always predictable; as challenges come your way, be willing to adapt your plans.
  • Customer retention. As the saying goes, the customer sits at the heart of every business. When scaling, always keep the customer experience in mind. Without them, you don’t have a business!

Feeling inspired to take your business to the next level? With a DHL Express Business Account, you’ll have dedicated advice and support from the small business experts.

What Is Subscription Marketing And How Can It Boost Your Sales?
Business Growth
0
Min Read
What Is Subscription Marketing And How Can It Boost Your Sales?

What is subscription marketing?

Subscription marketing is a strategy designed to help businesses acquire new customers and retain existing customers in the long-term. The most common way is via a subscription business model which involves customers paying a recurring fee to access a product or service.

How a subscription model works

A customer will sign up to be charged on a recurring basis for a product or service. They can choose how often they receive the offer – for example, weekly or monthly. When the contract is up, the customer can either renew or cancel the subscription. Some businesses give their customers the flexibility to cancel it at any time.

Types of subscription marketing

Chances are, you have several active subscriptions yourself. There are the obvious ones, of course, (hello Netflix), but lockdown encouraged people to explore niche services, too.

Broadly speaking, within e-commerce, there are three types of subscription business models:

Replenishment subscriptions. This is when a customer pays for a replacement of an essential item on a regular basis. The driver for this is usually convenience – the customer doesn’t have to remember to buy necessities like milk, dog food or deodorant; they’ll be delivered straight to their doorstep.

Curation subscriptions. A key example is subscription boxes which have grown in popularity in recent years. A business will choose several of their products they think the customer will like based on their previous buying history and send it out to them in a box each month. Customers enjoy the “surprise” element, whilst the personalization aspect fosters strong engagement with the brand. One such example is beauty brand Glossybox, which ships cosmetics samples to customers all over the world with DHL.

Access subscriptions. With this, customers pay for exclusive access to member-only perks such as discounts or early access to sales. The driver for customers to sign up is the exclusivity element, whilst brands can leverage the model to make customers feel really valued which in turn increases their loyalty.

Benefits of subscription marketing to your business

The sales model is growing in popularity: existing subscription brands grew their overall customer base by 31% in 2021 alone2. Time for your business to join in? These are the main benefits which might just tempt you to commit:

Steady revenue  

For e-commerce businesses, forecasting sales can be unpredictable. But with subscribers, you’ll have a more accurate idea of how much money will be coming into your business each month, which will help you make better financial decisions.

Cost effective  

Acquiring new customers is expensive. In fact, it’s five times cheaper to retain an existing customer than acquire a new one3. With a subscription service, you can foster long-term, loyal customers – providing you give them a great service, of course (more on that, later).

Improved demand forecasting

When you know how many subscribers you have, you can better plan your inventory needs. This will reduce excess inventory, which will save your business storage costs.

Less losses to competitors  

E-commerce is highly competitive; your rivals are always just a couple of clicks away to customers. Yet, subscribers to your business will be less tempted to stray to other brands if they’re already signed up to your service.

Increased customer satisfaction

Personalization is a huge influence on consumers’ buying decisions – in fact, 80% are more likely to purchase when businesses provide a personalized experience4.  With a curated subscription service – like a monthly box – you can send your customers a carefully-selected bundle of products based on their specific likes and dislikes.

Upselling and cross-selling opportunities  

Once you have established trust amongst your customers through a personalized subscription service, they’ll be more receptive to upsells and cross-sells that you promote to them – which means more sales for your business.

Challenges of subscription marketing

Churn rate

One study of B2C subscription companies over a 19-month period found the churn rate – how many customers cancelled their subscriptions – was, on average, 8.11%5. Many customers cancel their subscriptions after the initial excitement and sign-up freebies dry up. That’s why it’s important for businesses to have a long-term strategy in place for their subscription models if they are to increase their customer lifetime values.

Budget-conscious consumers

With global inflation and the cost-of-living crisis upon us, it’s no surprise that “reducing overall expenses” was the leading reason consumers cited for cancelling retail subscriptions in a recent survey6. If your business falls into the “luxury” rather than “essentials” category, you will need to put extra effort into creating a valuable offering.

How to create an effective subscription marketing strategy

It’s one thing getting a subscriber on board for a trial period, but how can you retain them in the long term?

Offer enticing discounts

Your customers will be looking for great value – they need to feel they’re getting a significant deal on your products by subscribing, otherwise they’ll look elsewhere.

Give perks

Beyond price reductions, there are plenty of other benefits you can offer to keep subscribers signed up. Examples include member-only wholesale pricing, priority service, and a special discount code on their birthday. Get creative to make the experience extra special. Look at what your competitors are offering, too.

Make it easy to join  

Signing up to a subscription with your business should be a quick and seamless process for new users. If they are an existing customer of yours, let them use the details they have already registered with your business (shipping address, card details etc.) to create a subscriber account.

Consider a freemium subscription model

Freemium pricing is an acquisition tool whereby you give new customers limited access to selected subscription features, for free, in the hope they will eventually sign up for the paid-for model. If you are unsure whether it is right for your business, you could trial it for a short period of time to see if the number of conversions it prompts makes it a worthwhile investment.

Use a tiered subscription model

A one-size-fits-all price is not the best approach for subscription models. Your customers are all different, so you should offer a range of subscription pricing tiers which they can choose from depending on their individual needs. Remember, choice equals sales!

Have a transparent cancellation policy

Many consumers are deterred by subscription packages by the worry of being locked into a long-term contract. So, the more flexibility you can offer in your cancellation policy, the better. If you allow subscribers to cancel immediately at any point (and with no fee), you’ll be on to a winner.

Adapt and tweak

Over time, you can use your customer data to improve your subscription service. Things to look out for include at what point in the subscription cycle most cancellations are happening. What is occurring at this point and how can you address it? Remember to invite customer feedback, too.

Use an automatic billing system

Choose a payment provider that offers a no-fuss recurring billing system so that you can process payments from your subscribers with ease. Keep the billing process simple for your customers, too.

Offer free shipping

In a global survey of consumers’ most desired subscription features, “free shipping” came out on top7. If you can afford to offer this, then do so – and be sure to shout about it on the subscription sign-up page.

Choose a reliable logistics carrier

Once you’ve curated the perfect subscription model, bursting with personalization and perks, it’s time to think about delivery. And for that, there’s no better logistics partner than DHL.

With DHL Express, you can offer your customers fast, reliable shipping, with full tracking and shipment status notifications. So, you can be sure they receive their subscriptions on time, every time.

Open a DHL Express Business Account, here.

References

1 – Sell Courses Online, March 2023

2 – Forbes, July 2022

3 – Outbound Engine, April 2022

4 – McKinsey & Company, April 2020

5 – GoCardless, April 2023

6 – PYMNTS, May 2022

Exporting To Germany: A Guide To Doing Business In Germany
Going Global
0
Min Read
Exporting To Germany: A Guide To Doing Business In Germany

The short answer is yes. Germany is one of the largest e-commerce markets in Europe, second only to the UK. With a huge number of e-commerce consumers (nearly 70 million by 2027), very high e-commerce penetration with 81% of the population bought online in 2023, and a high average spend per user (although less than two-thirds of the UK's), it presents a powerful proposition for businesses looking to export to a new market.1

Every country is experiencing unusual year-to-year e-commerce growth figures following the COVID-19 pandemic, but Germany's total e-commerce revenue is set for a steady upward path of 8% CAGR.2

80% of the German population uses a smartphone. And as of 2021, the smartphone has become the most popular device for online shopping in Germany, closely followed by the laptop.3,4

E-commerce sector market trends in Germany8

  • Smartphones are vital for online shopping, especially for those under 50. But for those over 50, smartphone usage decreases for online shopping.
  • The use of social networks has become an important step in the buying process to read reviews and comments about products for decision-making.
  • Luxury goods, especially luxury fashion, are growing in Germany.5
  • German consumers are increasingly willing to pay for green products: either products made from recycled materials or through carbon offsetting schemes or offers. Sustainability is becoming a bigger part of the decision-making process.
  • Express delivery services are in high demand – especially in the grocery & food market
  • The majority of e-commerce and online shopping is done on large international e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, eBay, etc. But local platforms have gained increasing popularity in recent years.

Germany's most popular e-commerce platforms6

1 amazon.de

2 ebay.de

3 kleinanzeigen.de

4 otto.de

5 idealo.de

53% research before buying

Just over half of Germans say they research on the internet before a major purchase, while 47% say online reviews are very important.7

Key shopping dates in Germany

Valentine's Day February 14th

Similar to other parts of the world, Valentine's Day has transformed into a more commercialized event in recent years. Many individuals tend to purchase gifts for their significant others or love interests, such as accessories, clothing, chocolates, or flowers. These items are readily accessible and are heavily promoted during the weeks leading up to February 14th.

Easter March/April

Easter is important in Germany for both religious and secular audiences. Before Easter, Germans are keen to show off and decorate their houses which leads to ordering various indoor decoration articles on one hand but also improving their outside appearance by buying outdoor furniture and gardening tools for the upcoming spring and summer season. As Easter has increasingly become a commercial event, parents in particular take part in the classic "Easter nest" shopping. Sales of products such as children's toys and sweets are likely to rise during this period.

Glamour Shopping Week April & October

Centred around the magazine Glamour, the Glamour shopping week takes place twice a year in Germany. The March and September version of the magazine includes a shopping card with an individual code for several brands. It is primarily for fashion and accessories, but over the past years, more and more luxury brands, cosmetics and electronics are also taking part.

Cyberweek & Black Friday October

Cyberweek and Black Friday are huge online shopping events that originated in the US but have become popular in Germany and elsewhere across Europe. During this period, many online platforms offer massive price reductions on electronic devices and other products. Shoppers can find great bargains and deals on items they want or need.

Christmas Holiday December 24th - 26th

Few countries celebrate Christmas in quite the way Germany does. It's an important and highly traditional holiday, celebrated with family and friends. People start preparing for the festive season in late November, by buying advent calendars, wreaths and candles. They also shop for Christmas gifts for their loved ones, choosing from various products, vouchers and services. However, this also means that there is a high rate of returns in the following weeks, as some gifts may not fit or suit the recipients.

Reading the regulations: German import regulations

When exporting to any country, it is important to comply with local import regulations.

  • Germany has strict customs procedures that can be time-consuming and complex. Shippers need to provide detailed documentation to comply with customs regulations to ensure the shipments can be cleared without delays. Germany imposes import taxes and duties on many products which will add to shipping costs.
  • If you want to pay customs duty instead of your consumer purchaser paying it, you need to state which account the duties and taxes should be billed to within the booking process on the Airwaybill.
  • Make sure you contact the German Customs authorities, a valuable partner in getting the information for proper importing to Germany. You can find more information on their website at www.Zoll.de

Products needing government approval

The following products may require additional documents or other governmental agency approvals prior to clearance:

The insider’s guide: DHL’s 3 tips for exporting to Germany

Understand the importance of reviews and research:

German consumers rely on research before buying, perhaps more so than consumers from other nations. German consumers are very well-informed and discerning when it comes to making purchase decisions. They do plenty of research before buying, comparing different products, prices and features. They also rely heavily on reviews and recommendations from other customers, experts and trusted sources. So it's crucial for exporters to Germany to provide accurate, detailed and transparent information about their products and services. Importers to Germany should also encourage and respond to customer feedback and reviews, as well as showcase any awards or certifications they have received.

Offer reasonable shipping costs and returns options:

Avoid charging high shipping costs and always communicate shipping prices transparently—before the checkout process begins. Set a threshold for free shipping: Considering the high order average order values, particularly among German online shoppers, it’s a great idea to offer a price threshold for free shipping. Free shipping on orders above a certain amount, such as €150. Convenient return shipping is slightly more important than free returns.

Find a local partner:

Consider partnering with a local distributor or retailer to help navigate the German market and reach customers more effectively. Exporting to Germany can be challenging if you do not have a local presence or network. You may benefit from partnering with a local distributor or retailer who can help you access the market and reach potential customers. A local partner can also provide you with valuable insights, feedback and support on various aspects of doing business in Germany, such as marketing, logistics, customer service and legal issues. You should choose a partner with experience and expertise in your industry and who shares your vision and values.

Export to Germany: Get started with DHL

You've learnt all about the German e-commerce market – you know it's a vibrant, growing sector. So how do you get your products to Germany? DHL's logistics and delivery experts are ready to help. Open a DHL Express Business Account today.

References

1 https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/ecommerce/germany

2 https://www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/ecommerce/germany

3 https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/germany-ecommerce

4 https://www.statista.com/statistics/1363060/online-shopping-device-germany/

5 https://www.statista.com/outlook/cmo/luxury-goods/germany

6 https://www.similarweb.com/top-websites/germany/e-commerce-and-shopping/

7 https://www.statista.com/forecasts/998723/attitudes-towards-online-shopping-in-germany

8 https://santandertrade.com/en/portal/analyse-markets/germany/reaching-the-consumers

Holiday Shipping Tips
Business Growth
0
Min Read
Holiday Shipping Tips

Tips to Prepare for Shipping in Time for Christmas

Know the shipping deadline for Christmas

Speak to your courier partner about the last day for Christmas delivery; if you miss the deadline, you’ll have some extremely disappointed – and angry – customers on your hands. Make sure the shipping deadline for guaranteed Christmas delivery is clear on your website too, so that customers place their orders in time.

Give your website a polish

Speaking of your e-commerce website, the lead up to a busy period is the perfect time to check everything is in order. Does it load quickly? Is navigation fast and intuitive? Is it optimized for mobile? Check out our complete 22 golden rules of e-commerce to ensure your customers have the best experience possible. Remember, happy browsing leads to greater purchasing!

Create some buzz on social media!

Running a Christmas sales campaign? Great – now you just need to let everyone know! 22% of consumers prefer to discover new products via social media (versus searching on Google1), so you need to ensure your social pages are packed full of gift ideas. You could even play around with a bit of live streaming – a great way to show your products off in more detail.

Come mid-December, there’s still plenty of time to nab some last-minute shoppers – in fact, it’s the perfect time to send your email subscribers a special discount code.

Shipping: think fast and free

Consumers love free shipping. In fact, 9 out of 10 said it is the leading incentive to shop online more2. It may seem an expensive cost to your business at first, but as online orders with free shipping average around 30% higher in value3, it’ll be a worthwhile investment.

Deliver unboxing magic

There’s a reason “unboxing” videos are a big hit on YouTube. Online shoppers are increasingly seeing the packaging of their purchases as a big part of the experience. Christmas is the perfect time to go all out and really wow your customers: invest in some beautiful festive packaging for your products, offer gift wrapping at checkout, and include a thank you note with orders. These personal touches will be appreciated by customers and increase the likelihood of them posting about your brand on social media. Bonus points for keeping it green – check out our guide to sustainable packaging.

Consider free returns and exchanges

67% of online consumers will check a brand’s returns policy before committing to buy4, so a “free returns for the holidays” offer can help you win customers. Furthermore, research shows that offering free online returns encourages a higher average basket spend amongst shoppers5.

Don’t forget the final mile!

You’ve smashed your Christmas campaign, shifted all your stock, and wrapped your orders beautifully – now you just need to get them to your customers’ doors on time and in one piece. And for that, there’s no better logistics partner than DHL. As e-commerce experts, we can help you manage the delivery rush and keep those all-important customer promises.

Christmas Shopping Trends

Knowing this year’s holiday shopping habits will help you plan your marketing strategy. Consumers’ budgets are still being squeezed, with 22% of “holiday celebrators” saying inflation concerns would have a “significant” impact on their spending this year6. They’ll be looking for discounts so be prepared to offer deals to incentivize them to buy.

Remember, though, that value doesn’t just mean the price of your products. In a global survey by Outbrain7, “cost of delivery” was considered to be the most important factor to adults shopping online. Offering free shipping over the holiday season might cost your business a little upfront but could be a worthy investment for the extra sales it generates.

Inflation will also impact when consumers begin their holiday shopping. Last year, a Google survey8 revealed “as of mid-October, holiday shoppers globally had on average 21% of their holiday shopping complete.” With inflation continuing, expect the trend to be repeated this year – which is why your holiday campaign should be ready to roll out soon.

Inventory and Supply Chain Management for Christmas Shipping

A big logistical challenge for your business will be managing your seasonal inventory. You probably placed your Christmas orders with suppliers months ago. However, with global supply chains so temperamental now, it’s important to maintain regular communication with your suppliers so that you can react quickly to any delays and minimize the impact on your end customers.

In 2021, a study by McKinsey9 found AI had helped businesses improve their inventory levels by 35%. An example is inventory management software which uses predictive analytics to help businesses better forecast demand surges and automatically order new materials from their suppliers when needed – a valuable system during the busy peak season.

Outsourcing your logistics to a third-party logistics (3PL) provider, like DHL Express, is another step to consider to help your business meet demand. A 3PL provider can manage procurement, warehousing, transportation of goods and order fulfilment for you, in addition to customs brokerage if you’re shipping internationally.

Best Practices for Customer Service during Holiday Season

Customer service should be a top priority for your business – after all, the peak season may bring new buyers through your online doors and you want to ensure they become repeat customers.

For e-commerce businesses, the role of chatbots and AI-driven customer support is evolving in new and exciting ways. Chatbots are now able to understand customer intent on a deeper, more accurate level. They can then suggest or upsell products the customer is more likely to buy.

AI can also be utilized to deliver personalized product lists to customers based on their previous buying history. Personalization is a big deal to customers so do your research to see how AI can help.

With a DHL Express Business Account, you’ll receive expert logistics support during the peak season – leaving you to focus on the business of selling.  

References

1 – LinkedIn, January 2023

2 & 3 - Invespcro, May 2022

4 - Ecommerce News, March 2019

5 – Klarna, 2019

6 - Practical Ecommerce, August 2023

7 – Outbrain, July 2023

8 – Big Commerce, 2023

9 – McKinsey & Company, April 2021

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