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
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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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Packaging Goods For Shipping : The Basics
Business Growth
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Min Read
Packaging Goods For Shipping : The Basics

Assessing your product

How much does your product weigh? How fragile is it? How valuable is it? Does it need controlled conditions, like regulated humidity? Are there any special packaging regulations around it, as with foodstuffs? How much have you factored into the cost of your product for packaging (this will influence your packaging budget)? Did you know that quite innocuous products like perfume or electronics, for example, can be classified as Dangerous Goods and need to be packaged accordingly? All these are things to consider when deciding how to package your items.

Choosing appropriate packaging materials

There are basically two types of packaging – external and internal. Unless your product requires specialized packaging, like liquids or powders, the external packaging is usually some form of cardboard box. Always choose a high-quality corrugated cardboard box and avoid re-using old boxes as they lose their rigidity.

Internal packaging is used to cushion your product and fill gaps inside the box, to stop the goods moving around. Styrofoam used to be a favorite, but this has now been banned in many countries as it’s so damaging to the environment. There are many different types of internal packaging which have different levels of suitability for cushioning, filling gaps or voids, protection, or as dividers when you’re shipping multiple products in the same box.

Here is a simple chart showing some of your packaging options and what they are best used for.

Protecting your goods

Not all cardboard boxes are the same, and you need to choose the right type for your external packaging. For heavier or more fragile items, double or triple-wall boxes are more appropriate. There should be a manufacturer stamp which tells you more about the strength and durability of the box or, failing that, consult your box supplier.

For internal protection, biodegradable air peanuts are a greener alternative to styrofoam. Bubble wrap also does a good job of cushioning and protecting your product but, again, this is a traditional plastic-based packaging material and corrugated bubble wrap is a lot greener. Foam wrap, air pillows, crumpled paper, corrugated inserts and shredded cardboard are all other alternatives for protecting your goods – you just need to decide which is most suitable

Top tips:

Wrap items individually – for maximum protection from shocks and vibrations.

Use dividers – to prevent goods knocking into each other and causing damage.

Keep items from moving around – secure them in place to reduce the risk of breaking.

Place items in middle of box – so they don’t tilt during transit. Use plenty of padding to secure them in place.

Marketing and personalized packaging

While packaging’s primary purpose is to protect your product so it can be safely delivered to your Customer, it can also do so much more.

Packaging can be a powerful marketing tool, allowing communication with your Customer when they’re feeling most positive towards your brand – when their order arrives. At its most basic, you can use packaging to bolster your brand image using consistent colors, logos, messaging, typography and other brand elements. While your outer packaging may be a cardboard box, it needn’t just be plain brown! Consider using packing tape in your brand colors and custom-designed labels.

You can also synergize your packaging with your advertising. For example, if you’re running a social media campaign using a particular headline, why not look into adding it to your packaging? You can also cross-promote your social media campaign by adding a hashtag.

Other opportunities include: tying in your packaging with particular events – for example, Valentine’s Day or Christmas; including a personalized, handwritten thank-you card (perhaps with a personal discount code); and adding free samples of related products.

Creative packaging, personalization, free samples and discounts are all powerful ways of encouraging Customer loyalty and repeat purchases.

Packaging for quick and easy returns

Returns are a fact of life in the age of e-commerce. While offering free returns has cost implications for your business, many Customers will only shop from retailers who operate a free returns policy. It’s a dilemma you have to weigh up and make a decision about.

Whatever you decide, strangely enough, a return is actually another opportunity for your business. By making it as hassle-free and simple as possible, you will encourage the Customer to buy from you again, even though this particular purchase hasn’t worked out. So always include clear instructions and a returns label. And in terms of the packaging itself, choose a box that is easy to open –perforated for example – and easy to re-use and re-seal, maybe including an adhesive strip.

By putting some thought into it, you can make the returns process a positive customer experience and a way of differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Sustainable packaging

Make no mistake, sustainability is a huge issue among consumers now, and using sustainable packaging could be crucial to the popularity of your brand.

Sustainable, green or eco-friendly packaging are terms that mean the same thing: packaging that has the lowest possible impact on the environment. This low impact is achieved in three basic ways: by limiting packaging waste; by using materials that are recyclable or biodegradable; and by the use of renewable energy in the production of the packaging.

So, what can you do? Most obviously, cut back on waste by using packaging that’s the right size for whatever product you’re sending. Sending a small product in a big box annoys recipients so much that, in the past, they’ve taken to social media to shame companies who do so.

As for packaging materials, new alternatives are being developed all the time. As mentioned above, biodegradable packaging peanuts can be used instead of styrofoam and corrugated cardboard bubble wrap instead of traditional plastic-based bubble wrap. Air pillows made from recycled or biodegradable materials are another alternative. Corn starch could be used instead of plastic. And if only plastic will do, there are now biodegradable and recycled plastics available. Organic ecological textiles are also becoming more popular, includingorganic cotton wool for cushioning, linen and poplin anti-scratch covers, and tape made from hemp.

And finally, try to source cardboard boxes and paper that have been recycled or certified to support sustainably managed forests.

For more details, read our article on green packaging.

Other considerations when shipping overseas

Of course, packaging is important. But, no matter how much thought you put into it, it could end up pointless if Customers are disappointed by a needless delay to their shipment or annoyed by surprise additional costs.

We can help you navigate international trade by enabling you to calculate your customs duty, tax and other fees, so you can pay them up front. Plus, you can get the correct HS (Harmonized System) codes and check your shipment’s compliance with any country’s import and export regulations.

You can do it all, using our free Global Trade Services toolkit.

Packaging Basics Checklist

• Assess your product

• Choose appropriate packaging materials

• Ensure your goods are protected

• Use your packaging as a marketing tool

• Make sure it’s returns-friendly

• Choose green packaging alternatives

• Navigate customs with our Global Trade Services toolkit

So, your packaging will ensure your shipment arrives at its destination in one piece, but what about on time? That’s where DHL has you covered. With a DHL Express Business Account, you’ll have access to a range of expedited shipping solutions to help you meet your customers’ expectations.

Green Packaging And Why It's Important To Your Business
Green Logistic
0
Min Read
Green Packaging And Why It's Important To Your Business

The next time you unwrap a parcel, observe how many layers of packaging material you need to tear through to finally get your item. It is estimated that up to seven types1 of packaging material go into a single parcel: tape, cardboard boxes, styrofoam padding, and bubble wrap are some common examples that protect goods during transport. Before a parcel arrives safely at the consumer’s door, it has already left a trail of environmental destruction in its wake. And all too often, this excess packaging ends up in the bin.

Packaging itself takes up almost a third of all plastics production, but only 14 percent of it will be recycled, according to a joint report by the World Economic Forum and Ellen MacArthur Foundation. And this plastic waste problem is escalating with the rise of e-commerce, which is expanding at an average rate of 20 percent a year worldwide. Global retail e-commerce sales were valued at US$2.29 trillion (€2.01 trillion) in 2017.

What is Green Packaging?

Green packaging, sustainable packaging and eco-friendly packaging are terms which all mean the same thing: packaging that has the lowest possible impact on the environment.

This low impact is achieved in several ways: by limiting the packaging waste created; by using materials which are recyclable or biodegradable; and by using renewable energy during production.

Why is sustainable packaging important for businesses?

There are two main reasons. Firstly, because sustainability is now such a big issue among consumers that being seen to be green is crucial to the popularity of your brand and the longevity of your business. And secondly, because of the global impact traditional packaging has on the environment.

How product packaging impacts your business

Most consumers want green packaging. As far back as 2020, in research by Trivium Packaging1, 74% of those surveyed in the US, Europe and South America were willing to pay more for it. It’s become even more of a trend since then.

Studies have shown there is a positive correlation between green packaging and positive branding, with many consumer advocacy groups promoting companies that use sustainable packaging. And recent data reveals that 44% of customers choose to buy from brands with a clear commitment to sustainability2.

As a result, more and more businesses are realizing how a green packaging strategy makes sense, in terms of customer acquisition, retention and long-term loyalty. And in today’s ultra-competitive commercial environment, it’s more important than ever to your bottom line that your business adopts sustainable practices.

The impact of packaging on the environment

We’ve all been irritated by parcels with the item packaged in a box that’s far too large for it, and the void filled with padding. Excessive packaging is very obviously wasteful.

And, whether or not the packaging is of the appropriate size, several types of materials have traditionally been used for a single parcel: for example, tape, cardboard boxes, styrofoam padding and bubble wrap. Many of these packaging materials are composed of plastics. In fact, according to the United Nations Environment Programme3, around 36% of all plastics produced are used in packaging. And packaging is the largest generator of single-use plastic waste in the world.

Plastic production is also one of the most energy-intensive manufacturing processes in the world. So, before a traditionally packaged parcel arrives at a consumer’s door, it has already contributed seriously to the climate crisis.

Then, all too often, this packaging ends up in landfill or becomes litter. Plastic can take up to 1,000 years to break down, so it builds up in the environment, damaging soil, poisoning groundwater, and choking marine wildlife. Microplastics enter the human body, with the potential to cause serious health impacts – and have even been found in the placentas of newborn babies.

The impact of plastic waste on the environment

According to The Ellen Macarthur Foundation4, the root cause of all this waste is the current structure of the economy: we take materials from the earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste. The foundation advocates a transition from this so-called linear economy to a circular economy, in which we stop waste being produced in the first place.

The circular economy is based on three principles: eliminate waste and pollution; circulate products and materials (at their highest value); and regenerate nature. It is underpinned by a transition to renewable energy and materials, and decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. The foundation claims the system is resilient, and good for business, people and the environment.

Clearly, sustainable packaging solutions are an important element of any transition to a circular economy.

Sustainable Packaging Solutions

Below is a range of green packaging options5 to consider. The question is, which are appropriate for your particular business?

Biodegradable packaging peanuts

These are a more sustainable alternative to styrofoam, which is also known as EPS (expanded polystyrene foam). Styrofoam has now been banned in many countries due to its environmental impact. One of the traditional packaging materials, it cushions against shocks and helps prevent products moving while in transit. But it’s neither biodegradable nor can it be recycled economically, and it’s often found in our rivers and oceans.

While cushioning just as well as styrofoam, biodegradable air peanuts made from natural materials are both more sustainable and cheaper.

Harts of Stur, a UK kitchen appliance and homeware retailer, is one company which has switched to this form of packaging from Greenlight Packaging – to the delight of their customers6.

“The reaction to our eco-friendly packaging has been nothing short of overwhelming. Customers are so pleased that we use an environmentally friendly alternative to polystyrene!” Harts of Stur

Corrugated bubble wrap

A traditional packaging favorite, bubble wrap helps protect fragile items during shipping. However, being plastic based, it’s definitely not green packaging.

One sustainable alternative is a wrap made from up-cycled corrugated cardboard. Rather than disposing of or recycling post-consumer cardboard waste, the material is given an additional life as a cushioning agent. Small cuts are made to produce a concertina-type effect that protects against shocks just like bubble wrap.

Air pillows made of recyled materials

Inflatable air pillows are another sustainable packaging solution for use instead of styrofoam or bubble wrap. Available in a variety of sizes, they’re ideal for filling voids in boxes or providing cushioning around packed items.

Air pillows are small bags that can be inflated, so consist mainly of air. This cuts down on the plastic used in their production and transport compared to other cushioning materials. While they can be re-used and recycled, it’s important to choose versions made from 100% recycled and biodegradable materials.

Recycled cardboard

Cardboard boxes are ubiquitous as outer packaging. Compared to plastic, a cardboard box reduces oil and CO2 emissions by 60%7. And, as an organic material, cardboard is 100% biodegradable and can be recycled several times over.

Even so, while cardboard definitely counts as green packaging, it has environmental drawbacks. When it’s dumped into landfill sites, its biodegradation emits methane gas, creating a substantial carbon footprint. Moreover, it’s made of tree fibres, so adds to the risk of deforestation. To mitigate this, try to source post-consumer or post-industrial recycled paper and cardboard, and look for materials that are certified to support sustainably managed forests.

Corn starch packaging

Corn starch is an organic material, made from the corn or maize plant. It has similar properties to plastic, making it an effective and more sustainable plastic alternative in many guises, from bottles to loose-film packaging.

However, as corn starch is derived from the grains of corn, it competes with human and animal food supply systems, possibly making corn more expensive. So, while it has excellent properties for packaging, you might still prefer to opt for a different plastic substitute.

Biodegradable and recycled plastics

If the nature of your product means you have to use plastic packaging, at least you can choose 100% recycled or biodegradable options – although plastic can only be recycled a limited number of times before it ends up in landfill. A greener alternative would be to source biodegradable plastic materials, which can be decomposed by living microorganisms.

While there are some bioplastics which compete with human food supplies, such as those made from corn starch, sugar cane and wheat, there are also microbial polyesters, or polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA). PHAs are polyesters that are synthesized and stored by various microorganisms. The only downside is the cost of the additional carbon needed for the microorganisms to metabolize and produce these biodegradable polyesters – although waste cooking oils and animal oils are promising, cost-effective, and sustainable options. Companies who have introduced PHA plastic into their supply chain include Nestle, Pepsico and Bacardi.

Organic ecological textiles

Ecological textile packaging reduces waste, as it’s made from multi-use, durable materials such as organic hemp, organic or recycled cotton, tapioca, or palm leaves. All are biodegradable, so take less time to decompose naturally. Examples of usage include organic cotton wool for cushioning, linen and poplin as anti-scratch wrap covers or bags, and hemp tape to bundle products together.

Sustainable packaging innovations

While green packaging is a global trend in itself, and the sustainable packaging solutions discussed above are part of it, here are three other kinds of innovative packaging that could emerge as key options in the future.

Mushroom packaging

Mushroom packaging really is made from mushrooms. It uses a process that combines pre-cleaned agricultural waste with mushroom roots. This raw material is moulded into the shape required, dried and used as packaging. Agricultural waste can’t be used for food, so mushroom packaging avoids the ethical dilemma corn starch packaging brings with it. It also degrades naturally at a very rapid rate. Even so, despite its suitability as sustainable packaging, it is currently only feasible for smaller items.

Seaweed packaging

Seaweed is a sustainable packaging solution made from agar – a gelatinous substance found in many seaweeds and algae. The agar is extracted and dehydrated to produce a material appropriate for packaging. Being made from a plentiful, sustainable raw material, seaweed packaging could become one of the big new trends in green packaging.

Edible films

Edible film is a cutting-edge sustainable packaging solution, most appropriate for food products, with a global market expected to reach $4.2 billion by 20288. Potentially, it could curb food and packaging waste, while also reducing chemical leaching from plastic.

Different natural products can be used to create edible packaging, but the most effective and widely used is chitosan, a sugar made from the chitin shells of crustaceans. This makes chitosan one of the most plentiful biopolymers – and edible packaging a much greener alternative to plastics.

Green packaging solutions checklist

Here are six ways to make your packaging more sustainable. See which could work for you:

  1. Insist on sustainable packaging materials that can be re-used
  2. Use biodegradable and compostable packaging
  3. Reduce the size of your packaging
  4. Adapt product packaging to be shipping-friendly
  5. Enable customers to return and re-use empty product containers
  6. Ship items in bulk

For advice on other ways to make your shipping greener, contact your DHL sales representative.

References

1 Trivium Packaging Global Buying Green Report

2 Ecoenclose

3 United Nations Environment Programme

4 The Ellen Macarthur Foundation

5 Green Business Bureau

6 Greenlight Packaging

7 Primepac

8 Yahoo! Finance

Strategies For Managing Customer Expectations
Business Growth
0
Min Read
Strategies For Managing Customer Expectations

Customer expectations in 2023

In a DHL survey, only 38% of B2B business owners and 31% of B2C owners said they had been able to fully implement their e-commerce strategy. The main reason? Having to manage customer expectations that are changing considerably.

But what are these expectations that have rocketed so rapidly? The 900 respondents – all decision-makers and in key industries – had very clear ideas.


Customer service tops the list of expectations

The graph shows key customer-facing considerations for businesses in B2C and B2B sectors. Over 50% of survey respondents in each sector said customer service was extremely important.

Customers now expect their purchases to be painless – a seamless experience with excellent service. Assuming you offer the same goods for the same price as many competitors, meeting customers’ demands could be the reason they choose your business. Demands that not too long ago may have been inconceivable – next-day or even same-day delivery, real-time tracking, flexible ordering, and simple returns.


Delivery rates highly for B2B and B2C customers

44% of both B2B and B2C respondents said time-specific delivery was a key customer expectation – whether within two hours, same day or next day.

Offering multiple delivery options is also very important, though slightly more so for B2C businesses (41%) than B2B businesses (36%). Around 30% in each sector said it was also very important that shipping was free of charge.


Over one third say returns are important

Offering multiple return channels to customers – for example, to a service point, a locker, or back to a bricks-and-mortar store – was rated as important by over one third of respondents in both B2C (37%) and B2B (39%) sectors. A hassle-free returns process was also key to meeting customer expectations, for 37% and 34% respectively.

Product availability and support an important factor

In addition to customer service and time-specific delivery, product availability was reported as one of the most important customer expectations. Over 40% of B2C respondents said it was very important and just under 40% of B2B respondents. Understandably, technical product support was more important in the B2B sector, with 45% rating it highly compared with 36% in B2C.


Types of customer expectations

Customers expect many things of an e-commerce business, but most can be broken down into the following categories.

Explicit expectations

Explicit expectations are specific targets customers have when they seek out a product or service – for example, quality, price and/or performance. They are “must haves.”

Implicit expectations

Implicit expectations are those that customers rarely voice but assume will be met – for example, in e-commerce, implicit expectations might be that the product arrives undamaged, complete, and matches the description on the website. Implicit customer expectations are often the base standard you expect.

Technological expectations

Technological expectations are influenced by how a product category evolves. For example, mobile phones are constantly updated with new features and innovations, so customers’ technological expectations of this category grow too.

Static performance expectations

These relate to the overall performance and quality of your brand. Accessibility, customization, reliability, punctuality and user experience are just some of the elements influencing customers’ perception of it.

Dynamic performance expectations

These relate to how a product or service is expected to change over time. To exceed dynamic expectations, such as changes in customers’ needs or their business goals, you’ll need to monitor these as they evolve and adapt accordingly.

Digital expectations

These are what customers expect when interacting with your brand online – and they have changed following the pandemic. Customers now expect a mobile-optimized website, product transparency, a personalized user experience, and the ability to purchase on social channels, among other things.

Interpersonal expectations

Interpersonal expectations are what customers expect during person-to-person interactions – for example, with customer services. They expect customer service assistants to be expert, friendly, and courteous. While interpersonal expectations are independent of the product purchased, they are important in building customer loyalty.

Situational expectations

These are influenced by a customer’s experience pre- and post-purchase. Customers may form situational expectations based on imagery they’ve seen or an experience they’ve had. They are the least predictable expectations and the hardest to manage, and can also evolve over time.


How to manage customer expectations: six strategies

Managing customer expectations isn’t easy. Here are top six strategies to help you.

1. Prioritize service

Great customer service can differentiate you from your competitors, even if your products are almost identical, and gives you a real advantage. In the past, companies would cut back on service when they reached a certain size, in order to reduce costs. But now, especially in e-commerce, competition is so high that if you don’t deliver on service, customers will simply go elsewhere.

2. Be where your customers are

With people increasingly shopping on smartphones rather than laptops and desktops, and social media platforms becoming accepted places to buy, you need to ensure your business is in tune with these new customer behaviors. They will expect your site to be mobile-optimized, and expect you to have a presence and interact on social channels, so make sure you don’t disappoint. Work out where your customers are engaging most and be there – and be aware that this can change, too.

3. Listen to customer feedback

According to HubSpot’s Annual State of Service in 2022 report, 42% of businesses do not survey their customers1.

Yet, with so many survey solutions available – plus chatbots, social media, email, and customer reviews – there are now a multitude of ways to get feedback from your customers. It’s the best strategy to both understand and manage their expectations, as well as identify any pain points before they escalate.

4. Be honest with them

By being open and honest with your customers, you can earn their trust and loyalty to your brand.

For a start, set realistic expectations. For example, don’t promise next-day delivery unless you can fulfil that expectation. And if issues develop that mean you may not meet your usual high service standards, let your customers know and keep them updated on the situation. Being honest will help keep them on your side.

5. Keep communicating

The after-sales service you offer is extremely important. A simple thank-you to a customer, or a discount for their next purchase goes a long way, especially if personalized. Newsletters with relevant offers are another great way to maintain communication – but don’t send too many.

6. Make your logistics a priority

Delivery and returns have become key areas of concern for e-commerce customers. To keep up with their increasing demands, consider partnering with a third-party logistics provider (3PL).

You’ll benefit from their supply chain expertise and flexible distribution network, which means you’ll have a simpler, faster and more cost-effective way of getting your products to customers. This will leave you with more time to focus on other aspects of your e-commerce business.

Discover more about outsourcing your logistics, here.

The future: customer expectations will only increase

Like e-commerce itself, customer expectations will continue to grow in the years ahead. As a result, customer service will become a major battleground for e-commerce businesses in both the B2C and B2B sectors. Only those which prioritize and invest in this area will succeed in meeting customer expectations and building loyalty.

Partner with the experts: open a DHL Express Business Account to ensure your customers’ expectations are met – every time.

References

1 Hubspot

How To Prepare For Black Friday
Business Growth
0
Min Read
How To Prepare For Black Friday

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the Friday after Thanksgiving in the US and traditionally marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Retailers offer huge discounts and promotional deals, and some extend their opening hours. The day has become a global phenomenon, attracting record numbers of shoppers looking for bargains.

Why is Black Friday good for business?

The sheer scale of the event means there are plenty of sales to go round – for businesses of all sizes. It’s a great opportunity to shift any overstock inventory you may have with some enticing deals and discounts.

79% of consumers typically discover a new online store on Black Friday1, which means there’s a good chance your business will have some new customers through its online doors on the day. And new customers can be converted to repeat customers – providing you deliver a great experience.

Planning for your Black Friday marketing campaign

You’re running a Black Friday sale? Great! Now you just need to let all your customers know. It’s never too early to start – many Black Friday bargain hunters will be browsing social media on the days before to plan their purchases. In response, some retailers offer “Black Friday Daily Deals” to nab some extra sales.

Stand out from competitors using these Black Friday marketing strategies

Create a Black Friday landing page

Visitors to your website should know immediately that you’re running a Black Friday campaign. Put your best deals front and center of your homepage, use bold headlines, high-res photos and strong call to actions. A countdown timer is a great way to instil a sense of urgency on your deals.

Ensure your deals are competitive

Look at what price points your competitors are selling their products at – can you price match? Or, even better, go lower? Perhaps you can throw in some freebies or samples with every order – anything that can give your business a competitive edge.

Keep new customers happy…

Attracting new customers through your online stores this Black Friday is key, but so is ensuring they come back again and again. Criteo asked consumers: “What would make you return to a brand or retailer that you discovered on Black Friday?” The leading answers? Beyond the obvious “great deals”, free and fast shipping scored highly2. Consider if you can absorb the cost of free shipping elsewhere in your business – it’ll be worth it if it secures you extra sales. As for fast shipping, DHL Express has you covered!

…and remember to reward the loyal ones

Drop your existing customers an email with an extra Black Friday discount code. Use engaging copy to thank them for supporting your business – they’ll appreciate the personal touch. Just remember to use the phrase “Black Friday” in the subject line – emails containing this phrase have a +64% Click Through Rate3.

Create a Black Friday gift guide

You can tap into AI to build unique and personalized gift guides for your customers based on their previous browsing and buying history. Email these out to them a few days before Black Friday so you’re on their radar.

Monitor your inventory closely

If something sells out, you can quickly switch to push other products on your homepage, and if something is not selling as well as you’d anticipated, be ready to offer further discounts.

Ship internationally

Of the world's 195 countries, it’s estimated that approximately 50-60% celebrate Black Friday in some form or another4. That makes it the ideal time for you to think about shipping internationally – if you don’t already do so. DHL Express can help your business sell cross-border, taking care of all the hassle around customs regulations, duties and taxes, so that your customers receive their orders without delay – wherever they are.

With a DHL Express Business Account, you’ll receive logistics support from the experts to help your business manage the peak season rush.

___________________________________________

References

1 & 2 - Criteo, October 2021

3 - DotDigital, September 2022

4 - Invespcro, May 2022

Asian Heritage Month: How a Small Business Came to be with Immigrant Values
Business Growth
0
Min Read
Asian Heritage Month: How a Small Business Came to be with Immigrant Values

Asian Heritage Month is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Asian-Canadians who have made Canada into the country we know and love.

As a child of Vietnamese immigrants, and a small business owner, I’m celebrating this month by sharing my personal story of growing up with my parents, how my experiences have shaped who I am, and how my business, Freon Collective came to be.

Freon Collective is a low-waste, eco-friendly lifestyle brand that I started in early 2019. It wasn’t meant to be anything more than a hobby (you’ll come to learn that I have too many hobbies). I approached Freon Collective as a hobby, but my parents always instilled the value of hard work in me. With that thought in mind, that’s how I’ve grown it to be the nationwide brand it is today.

At 18 years old, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, my mom left her family, her country, and all she had ever known. She fled Vietnam alongside hundreds of thousands of people between the 1970s and 1990s in a mass migration known as The Boat People. These vessels were small, cramped, and there were constant threats of starvation, sinking, pirates, and more. When she reached Malaysia, where she was reunited with my uncle (who had made the same journey earlier), she met my dad and eventually had me.

During this time, my parents went through many struggles while they were seeking resettlement in more developed countries. They were separated for a year and a half when my mom left for Canada with a six-month-old-me in her arms. She worked day and night jobs to support the both of us and raised enough funds to sponsor my dad to come to Canada.

As immigrant parents who did not want their child to go through the same struggles they did, my parents actively encouraged a more traditionally “safe” route: focus on academics with the hopes it would lead to a stable career. Despite this push, they never discouraged my creative pursuits. When I was interested in learning piano and violin, they worked music lessons into the family budget. When I became interested in photography, they purchased a camera for me for my birthday. When I eventually became interested in sewing and design, they helped me buy a sewing machine — so long as I continued to pursue academics — they were content knowing I was also taking sewing courses in high school.

When it was time to choose a post-secondary option, I knew I wanted to study fashion and design. My parents were never able to receive higher education — I would be the first in the family to go to university. They wanted to support me, but naturally, my parents had reservations. Likely because I would have to move across Canada and my choice was so different from what they had in mind. After all, what kind of jobs would there be in the fashion industry, besides the obvious one of fashion designer? Still, I was determined and I packed my bags and moved across the country to attend fashion school.

While I was studying for my undergrad, I worked part-time as a sewing instructor at a local business in Toronto. My mom worked actively to support me, even though she had doubts about my career choice. At this point in her life, she had gotten her GED, worked several jobs from hotel housekeeping to factory jobs, serving, and eventually becoming a nail technician and opening her own nail salon. As soon as I graduated, I landed a job with a local children’s clothing brand, where I honed my sewing skills and continued to work as a sewing instructor on the weekends.

As if a full and part-time job wasn’t enough, I started a lifestyle and beauty blog on the side. This began as a creative outlet for me to continue my photography and writing passions, but it eventually became a third job. I would wake up in the morning and edit photos, write posts, and then do the same in the evenings after work. When my blog gained more traffic, I started attending events, growing my network, and learning more about the marketing and advertising world. Like my parents who had worked several jobs when they started their lives in Canada, I found myself doing the same.

A major hurdle (and blessing in disguise) came when I was just two years out of my undergrad. The clothing manufacturer I had been working for was going out of business. Despite still having my part-time teaching position and blog, I had no idea what I was going to be doing next. I felt like I had failed — a fear that many children of immigrants know all too well. I thought, “I should have listened to my parents.” After all, my parents worked day and night when they were reunited in Canada to support their families back in Vietnam. Like most immigrants, they didn’t have safety nets to fall back on in times of crisis. It was common for my parents to take the overtime shifts, working twice as hard to counterbalance their language deficiencies. They saved every penny to buy their first house, bring my mom’s family over, and provide a comfortable life for myself and my siblings. They worked so hard to give me a life where I wouldn’t have to worry, and here I was, practically going to be jobless in a few weeks.

When my parents came to Canada, they took any opportunities that came to them and never said no. They knew that nothing was going to be handed to them in this white-dominated country and lived with a mindset of work and survival. I witnessed this firsthand, so when the opportunity came up for me to take over the manufacturing side of the company I was working for, I decided to go for it. After that company closed, I moved everything I would need into my 500 square feet condo and opened Freon Collective. I was now self-employed and starting a business with no formal business background.

Freon Collective began as a small-batch production company. I would work with other businesses to sew their products, produce patterns, design samples, and more. A few months into this, I started Freon Collective’s in-house brand. I made a few sets of reusable cotton rounds, opened an Etsy shop and was completely blown away when they sold out within the first few hours.

The colleagues I had met in the blogging industry were incredibly supportive and instrumental in helping Freon Collective grow in those first few months. Before long, I found myself taking product shots by day and editing photos by night. I was sewing every day, shipping out orders, fulfilling wholesale accounts, and participating in my first local markets. You could say all of the creative pursuits (photography, writing, sewing, etc) that I had when I was younger came full circle.

When I started Freon Collective, I had no idea this brand would become what it is today. Let’s be honest, running a business is hard. It’s unstable at times, it’s 10x more work than anyone thinks it is, and you — yourself — are responsible for all of the decisions. As overwhelming as the past few years have been since opening a small business though, I know this is where I was meant to end up after all.

As I reflect on Asian Heritage Month, I can see the parallels between my mom’s life and mine. When we were both 18 years old, we left our families and hometown. We worked, went to school, and eventually opened our own businesses. My mom worked to support her family, and as I’ve grown older, I find myself wanting to work to continue my parents’ Canadian dream. I want to make my parents proud, and for them to know that everything they’ve done to come to Canada and build a life here wasn’t in vain.

If you’d like to learn more about Asian Heritage Month and Vietnamese Boat People, please visit the following resources:

___________________________________________

About the Author:

Nancy Mac is the owner of Freon Collective, a Toronto-based low-waste lifestyle brand. She is passionate about design, sustainability, and supporting local businesses. Her products have been featured in several publications including Chatelaine, Buzzfeed, and Who What Wear.

Learn more about Nancy and Freon Collective at freoncollective.ca and @freoncollective

How To Create A Return Policy
Business Growth
0
Min Read
How To Create A Return Policy

What is a small business return policy?

A small business return policy is a set of rules laying out for what reasons and within what timeframe a retailer will accept returns. Customers may want to return a product to your business for many reasons, including if it is damaged, if it doesn’t fit them, or simply because they’ve changed their mind.

Why your small business needs a return policy

As much of a pain as they are to deal with, there’s no escaping returns. Around 30% of all products ordered online are returned to the sender2 (for some sectors, like apparel, the rate is even higher!) Whatever your business is selling, you’re likely going to have to deal with a fair few returns, so it’s important to make the issue a key part of your business plan.

The advantages of a robust return policy

  • Increase sales – around two thirds of visitors to your website will check your policy before buying anything3. A generous return policy may just be the reason a new customer chooses you over a close competitor.
  • Build trust with customers – a return policy on your website creates a sense of professionalism.
  • Less admin and stress – a clear and thorough return policy will reduce the number of customers contacting you with questions, saving your business time. And in business, time equals money!
  • Legal compliance – depending on which country you’re selling from, it may be a legal requirement to have a return policy. For example, in the UK, trading regulations forbid sellers from saying they don’t accept returns.

The dangers of a poor return policy

If a customer has to read through a complex return policy on your website – or worse, have to take the time to contact your business with a question that isn’t answered already – they will become frustrated and may abandon your site altogether. Remember, a competitor’s website is always just a couple of clicks away!

84% of consumers will not shop again with a retailer after a bad returns experience4. Can you afford to lose that many return customers?

How to create a return policy

So, what should you consider when creating your business’s return policy?

Time

Some retailers offer a standard 14-day timeframe for customers to return their items, whilst others are more generous – IKEA, for example, allows a whopping 365-day window!

A consumer survey by ReBound found that 63% of shoppers expect a return policy to be at least 30 days5, giving them an adequate amount of time to try on/experience the product. Really, though, it’s an individual decision for each retailer, depending on their products’ Lifecyle and their inventory levels. Some need to get stock returned and back on the shelves as soon as possible. Just always weigh this up against the value of having happy customers.

Cost

Research from Statista found that free returns are a leading motivator for online shoppers to buy directly from brands6. Yet, recently a host of well-known brands have had to begin charging customers for returns due to the sheer number they receive.

Returns can be extremely expensive for businesses to process, and for some SMEs, it’s simply not doable. You will need to carefully consider whether the cost of offering free returns is exceeded by the extra sales you generate. You could trial a free service for a short time to find the answer.

Competitors’ return policies

It’s time to do a little research. How long do your competitors allow their customers to return items? Do they charge for returns? If so, how much? If you can match, or even better, beat, their offering, you will attract these customers through your digital doors.

Return form

You may wish to take the opportunity to learn a little more about why your customers are returning their items. When they initiate a return, you could ask them to say why they are returning the item [not as described on website/doesn’t suit me/found it cheaper elsewhere etc.] Over time, this data will allow you to address these pain points and ultimately reduce your returns rate.

Small Business Return Policy Template

There’s a lot to consider, so we’ve laid out an example return policy below, which you can edit and tailor to your business’s needs.

Return policy

Returns must be sent back to us within [X] days of the purchase date. Products must be unused, in their original packaging and with tags attached.

How to generate a return

To return an item, process a [free*] return label here. We will send you your shipping label via email. Print it off and stick it to the front of the package. Take the package to [a post office/DHL Service Point etc.] and retain a proof of purchase receipt for your records. [$XX will be taken off your refund to pay for the shipping.]

*With DHL, you can offer a free, pre-paid shipping label to customers. You, as the receiver, will then be charged for the shipment.

Refunds

Once we have received your item, we will initiate a return. Please allow at least [X] days from our receipt of the return for the refund to be processed. Money will be sent to your original method of payment. We will email you once your return has been processed.

Damaged goods

In the event a product arrived to you damaged, please contact our customer service team at [email address]. A full refund will be issued, including the cost of shipping.

Restrictions

We cannot accept returns of [e.g. food/make-up/earrings] due to safety/hygiene reasons.

Return Policy FAQs

What is a reasonable return policy?

Consumers would love to always be offered a free return service with a generous window of time in which to make the return. But – this is not always feasible for retailers. You may wish to trial different return models to find a middle ground that keeps your customers happy and your bottom line healthy! Be sure to gather customer feedback about the service to help you improve it where you can.

Where should I put a return policy on my website?

As returns are such an incentive to buyers, be sure to put your return policy in several places throughout your website, including the footer and the FAQ page. If you are offering the golden free returns, it’s worth displaying a FREE RETURNS banner on each product listings page, too. It will reassure indecisive buyers and push them to buy.

What should I avoid in a return policy?

Ditch the legal jargon. Keep your policy clear – but be thorough. This will save customers contacting you with extra questions, too.

Should I pay the shipping cost for my return policy?

This is an individual choice depending on your business and how many returns you receive. Whatever you decide, be sure to be clear about costs throughout the buyer’s journey – hidden fees are a sure way to break trust with your customers.

Are you allowed to have a no refund policy?

The legalities around consumer returns vary by country. Do some research around your market’s laws to ensure you comply. A quick search on Google will find you the answer.

For further advice and one-to-one guidance on ensuring a smooth return process for your customers, open a DHL Business Account.

References

1, 2, 3 – Invespcro, accessed January 2023

4 – Internet Retailing, May 2021

5 – ReBound, accessed January 2023

Mobile Commerce - Small Screen, Big Sales
Digital Marketing
0
Min Read
Mobile Commerce - Small Screen, Big Sales

What is mobile commerce?

Mobile commerce is the buying and selling of goods and services using wireless handheld devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

It’s estimated that 86% of people in the world currently own a smartphone2, whilst the amount of time they spend online is increasing all the time too. So, it’s not surprising that m-commerce is growing rapidly, with more and more people choosing the convenience and ease of shopping on mobile versus desktop.

M-commerce vs e-commerce

M-commerce is a form of e-commerce. Whereas e-commerce is simply the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet, m-commerce is a more specific part of that.

What is the difference between m-commerce and e-commerce?

The most obvious difference between the two is mobility. M-commerce uses only handheld mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets – so customers can buy whilst “on the go”, so long as there is a wireless internet connection available.  

E-commerce covers all commercial transactions that take place digitally, so it adds computers into the mix. Buying from a laptop or desktop computer counts as e-commerce but not m-commerce.

There are less obvious differences between m-commerce and e-commerce too. Customers using a desktop computer can only be tracked using their IP address, while those using their mobile device can be tracked using Wi-Fi and GPS-based technologies, which are more precise. That means brands can target mobile users more precisely with location-related advertising, such as sending coupons or discounts for nearby stores.

Security is another difference. Most fixed device e-commerce is carried out using credit cards, which carry an element of risk. M-commerce is more secure, thanks to biometric authentication, mobile wallets, and QR codes.

Finally, mobile apps are more convenient, making the buying experience easier and quicker.

Types and examples of m-commerce

There are three basic types of m-commerce: mobile shopping, mobile banking and mobile payments.

  • Mobile shopping allows customers to buy goods or services using a web app. This can either be via a retail app, for example from a fashion brand, or a virtual marketplace app such as Amazon. Taxi booking, ticketing, and digital content purchase apps (such as Netflix) are other examples of m-commerce of this type. Mobile shopping can also take place on social media platforms, such as TikTok or Instagram.
  • Mobile banking is online banking designed for mobile technology. Banking transactions such as paying bills are usually carried out through a secure app provided by the bank.
  • Mobile payments are an alternative to traditional payments. They include digital wallets such as Apple Pay, mobile payment apps such as PayPal, or using QR codes to pay for items using a mobile device.

M-commerce trends

Who is leading the m-commerce boom? As you might expect, the answer is Gen Z and Millennials, who have grown up with mobile technology. According to a global consumer survey by payment service Klarna3, 48% of Millennials shop at least once a week using their mobile phone – with Gen Z not far behind.

Although Millennials are, at the moment, considerably more likely than older shoppers to buy using their smartphones, over time it will no doubt become the norm for all.

References

  1. Statista, published May 2022
  2. BankMyCell, March 2023
  3. Klarna, 2021
  4. Drip, May 2022
  5. Business of Apps, March 2021
  6. Oberlo, September 2022
Emotional Profit: 
The Essential Ingredient To Sustained Motivation, Meaning, And Impact In Business
Business Growth
0
Min Read
Emotional Profit: The Essential Ingredient To Sustained Motivation, Meaning, And Impact In Business

My name is Emily O’Brien. I’m the founder of Comeback Snacks — a popcorn company I started while inside a Canadian federal prison.

My entrepreneurial journey began because I made mistakes, and I believed that I could do more — in my life, and for the world — than what my prison sentence did for me. My business began in a prison kitchen with popcorn kernels, creativity, and a relentless drive to create a new lease on life for myself and others.

Today, our popcorn is in 700+ stores across Canada and helping others make their comeback by leading efforts to reduce the stigma against incarcerated persons. We’re helping shape policy at various levels of government to help give people a second chance at life and the opportunity to grasp it.

Since starting Comeback Snacks, I have what feels like limitless energy: I’ll drive to multiple cities in a day, engage customers, and clients, speak publicly about my experience, and keep my foot on the gas pedal.

Why? Because as Comeback Snacks grew and developed, so did its impact: financially, socially, and personally. An unanticipated byproduct of this business was how much the constructive, empowering component of entrepreneurship materialized. I didn’t know that was going to happen until I felt it. I realized it was the core essence of my business, my mission, and my journey. This is why I do what I do, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

This awareness —  or the heart of my business journey — is what I call emotional profit. For me, it’s the sense of satisfaction and meaning that my business contributes to the world and helps my employees and others grow and succeed. Emotional profit is achieved when, as we build our business, its positive impact on the world then shapes and builds us in return.

What does emotional profit look like? It takes many shapes.

An email from a stranger saying how my story helped them make positive changes in their own life. A social media post ‘share’ or comment. A text message or a simple phone call describing my own path has helped others to find and navigate their own.

You never know how your own life story will be discovered, when, or by whom. It’s the positive interactions with unexpected audiences that remind you of your efforts in making a difference — that’s where you’ll find emotional profit. It’s not financial gain, per se. But studies have shown that once we have enough money for food and shelter, human beings crave more than money. We crave meaning.

For Comeback Snacks to function, I need to make more money than I spend. That’s the bottom line for business owners. When I started, my goal was to make money and break down stigmas and help others. I share these accomplishments with the amazing people I’ve hired that respect my organization, work hard, and share its purpose and vision.

My real ‘profit’ doesn’t come from the bank, but from how I’ve reconciled my difficult past with my positive visions for the future. In doing so, now I can help others in need of a ‘comeback’ and have a second chance at life — like me.

Sure, you need financial profit to keep your business afloat, but you need an emotional connection, too — an emotional profit — to sustain yourself along the way. The financial profit from my business comes from a product that I love; the emotional profit comes from the fact that the business behind this product changes the world in ways that I always wanted to.

The truest sign of entrepreneurial success is not simply making money, but making meaning — and this can be far more impactful and sustaining for yourself, and for your business. It takes growth, reflection, and time. If you embrace these qualities, emotional profit is what your business can achieve for you if you are willing to grow as a human being and find meaning outside of yourself that your business helps to sustain.

I hope you discover your own pathway to emotional profit, whatever you find your own wellspring to be.

Four ways to find emotional profit:

  1. We can never escape our past. Stop running from mistakes, own them, and use the lessons derived from them — even if they’re painful — to build a better future for yourself and others around you.
  2. We never know where or when our best ideas will emerge, so adopt an attitude of openness to embrace the new and unexpected in life. The idea of a lifetime might emerge when and where you least expect it.
  3. Hindsight is always 20/20. Forgive yourself and others for mistakes in the past. The energy you previously spent on your memories can be re-directed and harnessed toward your future, and your business!
  4. Strive to help others connected to your life and business, and believe in the power of giving people in need a second chance.

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About the Author

Emily O’Brien is the founder of Comeback Snacks — a popcorn company that changes the status quo. A formerly incarcerated individual, Emily made it her mission to create a platform to fight for fair chances of those that have been impacted by the justice system. The recognition of her efforts led her to being awarded with the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Community Service Award from the House of Commons and the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2022, as well as the Woman of Distinction Award in 2020 from the YWCA.

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