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Amazon Prime
Amazon have announced that their UK FBA operations will split from the European Fulfilment Network (EFN) and Pan-European FBA inventory transfers between the UK and EU will end, as of 1st January 2021.

So, what does this mean for your business?

In plain English, if your business uses Amazon’s UK fulfilment centres for sending to customers in Europe you will need to split your inventory between Amazon’s UK and European fulfilment centres, to serve both markets. Otherwise risk missing out on 85% of your current customer base in Europe.

This is obviously not ideal and a headache for businesses who rely on trade across UK and European borders. However, at Virtual Logistics we have it covered. Regardless of Brexit and European borders, we will partner with you to manage the storage, packing and shipping of products worldwide, helping you negotiate customs and border control. You will continue to benefit from our competitive shipping rates and the benefits of our Amazon Seller- Fulfilled Prime distribution centre, therefore if this change will affect your business please give the Virtual Logistics team a call.

info@virtuallogistics.co.uk | 01254 918716

COVID-19 & Business

24th March 2020 | COVID-19 Updates, General News | No Comments

What businesses are effected by the latest covid-19 news

Last night the PM made an announcement imposing a new set of rules we must follow regarding our day to day lives. In fact, these rules are the most stringent the UK has ever been placed under. The idea is to combat the spread of the virus though social distancing after the death toll in the UK has hit 335 deaths. 

As a result, any shops or business’ selling non-essential goods or services have been told to shut and gatherings of more than 2 people who do not live together will be prohibited. In fact, police forces now have the power to enforce these new rules, either by dispersing gatherings and even issuing fines. 

It is very clear now that the pandemic we are facing grows increasingly more threatening day by day, as Boris Johnson has no labelled the Coronavirus a ‘moment of national emergency’ and staying at home is necessary to protect the NHS and save live.

Expect these restrictions to be in place for at least 3 weeks. 

The government guidance says people should only leave home for one of four reasons:

– Shopping for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Shopping trips should be as infrequent as possible.

– One form of exercise a day such as a run, walk, or cycle. This should be done alone or only with people you live with.

– Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person. This includes moving children under the age of 18 between their parents’ homes, where applicable. Key workers or those with children identified as vulnerable can continue to take their children to school.

– Travelling to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home.

Even with the following guidelines in place, people should minimise the amount of time spent away from home, and ensure you remain at least 2 meters away from people you do not live with.

The government is also stopping all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies – but funerals will be allowed.

 

businesses that will not need to close

– Restaurants, cafes and work canteens – but only for food delivery and takeaway services.

– Supermarkets and other premises selling food, including market stalls.

– “Health shops” such as pharmacies.

– Petrol stations, garages and car rental businesses.

– Bicycle shops.

– Home and hardware shops.

– Launderettes and dry cleaners.

– Pet shops.

– Corner shops, newsagents and post offices.

– Banks.

Other premises including libraries, non-essential shops, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship have been ordered to close.

Parks will remain open for exercise but people are not allowed to gather in groups.

Community centres can remain open but only for the purpose of “hosting essential voluntary or public services” such as food banks or service for homeless people, the guidance says.

Hotels, hostels, campsites and caravan parks must also close unless key workers need to stay there, or if other people staying there cannot return to their primary residence.

DPD have given us further updates regarding their services and COVID-19, this time covering Contact Free Delivery.

contact free delivery - update

We’ve improved our contact free delivery process to include photo capture proof of delivery. Your customers will not be asked to sign our handheld units and our drivers will take a photo of the parcel at the point of delivery.

See DPD’s new signature screen below.

dpd

This now forms our proof of delivery process for all deliveries until further notice.

mother's day

Over the Mother’s Day weekend we saw record-breaking service levels while delivering 280,000 parcels to happy mums throughout the UK.

our people

We are doing everything possible to support our people and we are sharing advice and updates with them on a daily basis in order to keep them as safe as possible.

We will continue to keep you informed via our daily bulletins and regular updates to our website. We have also updated all our app users regarding the new contact free delivery process.

UPS Europe – COVID-19

23rd March 2020 | Courier News, COVID-19 Updates | No Comments

UPS safeguards against covid-19

Last week we received a message from the president of UPS Europe highlighting the main priorities and safeguards put in place to help combat the current epidemic. See what was said below.

“Our highest priority is to maintain the health and safety of our people, customers and suppliers, while meeting our service commitments. UPS has implemented a range of measures in line with World Health Organization guidance to minimise the risks for employees and customers.

These include:

– Encouraging employees to familiarise themselves with information on COVID-19, and to consult with doctors immediately if they feel unwell

– Informing employees about its symptoms and methods of prevention and detection; in particular, reminding employees of good hygiene practices such as regular hand washing and strict adherence to our social distancing guidelines

– Expanding the use of home office and teleworking where operationally and technically feasible

– Implementing an isolation period for employees who have returned from high risk areas

– Advising against all non-essential travel

– Customers are no longer obliged to sign for deliveries, with the exception of some specialised deliveries where we have a contractual obligation to get a signature.

Despite the recent border closures in many countries, we are still able to fulfil shipments for our customers, except where we may be unable to deliver due to exceptional government restrictions. With 112 years of experience and a smart global logistics network that carries 3% of the world’s GDP every day, UPS has a strong track record of keeping deliveries moving in a crisis situation. In Europe, we have invested $2 billion in enhancing our network and services over the last four years. These enhancements give us the flexibility to mobilise dynamic contingency plans to manage and mitigate supply chain disruption”.

COVID-19 Safeguarding

20th March 2020 | COVID-19 Updates, General News | No Comments

important information - Covid-19

As Coronavirus becomes more of a threat in the UK, the chance of the virus spreading increases. Virtual Logistics have set up several safeguarding procedures In order to prevent the spread to our clients and staff. Any staff members who may come into contact with your products must follow a strict hygiene procedure, ensuring the warehouse, packing stations, offices (and hands) are cleaned consistently throughout the day.

We are committed to follow any guidelines put in place by the Government and the World Health Organisation and will be keeping a close eye on any updates following the current pandemic.

So far we have no reported cases of COVID-19 within the Virtual Logistics team, meaning any orders we fulfil for your business pose no threat of infection. If one of our team members becomes ill or show symptoms of illness, we will ensure they follow the guidelines provided by the Government and that they remain in isolation to protect us and yourselves. None of our team have recently traveled to or returned from any areas that pose a threat, meaning infection is unlikely.

Note: At the moment we have an unprecedented amount of orders to fulfil, but we are working as fast as humanly possible to get your orders to your customers. However, please bear with us if your order isn’t dispatched immediately.

If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to get in touch at info@virtuallogistics.co.uk or call us on 01254 918718.

For any information on Coronavirus please refer to the NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

We hope you stay in good health during this difficult time, thank you for your understanding.

Parcelforce COVID-19 Update

20th March 2020 | Courier News, COVID-19 Updates | No Comments

Changes to parcelforce's delivery procedure in relation to signing for and receiving items in the UK

In order to protect both their people and customers as much as possible, Parcelforce will not be handing over their hand-held devices to customers to capture electronic signatures.  Their drivers will instead log the first and last name of the person accepting the item, then put ‘XP1’ in the signature field, and then will record the geolocation of the delivery.  This will apply to all deliveries that normally require a signature. 

If recipients are unable to come to the door or are self-isolating, Parcelforce will post a customer contact card in the normal way, advising of other ways the recipient can arrange to get their item. For example, by getting a friend or family member (who is not resident with someone who is self-isolating) to collect the parcel from their local Parcelforce depot or Post Office branch, as specified on the card.  They will need to bring along the card that was left and a form of ID in the name of the person the item is addressed to.  Examples of suitable ID are specified on the card.

Suspension of UK service guarantee

Due to the current situation, there are significant impacts on Parcelforce’s ability to maintain all their usual service levels. They will continue offering their services, receiving and delivering parcels for their customers but there may be disruptions to some services under current conditions.

As a result, Parcelforce have now suspended their service guarantees but will seek to ensure ‘all reasonable endeavours’ to maintain service levels where they can.

The actions being taken are:

Same day ad hoc collections will be suspended, however you can still book an ad hoc collection for the next working day.  Parcelforce asks that parcels are immediately ready for collection so that they can be collected as efficiently as possible.  

Timed services will be reviewed and where possible maintained but you will be informed of restrictions. Changes may be staged as the situation evolves, keeping next working day morning services in place for now.

contingency plans

In the event Parcelforce need to close one of their sites, this decision would be made in line with Public Health England guidance. Parcelforce Worldwide has many years’ experience of contingency planning for a number of different scenarios. Parcelforce will follow the Government’s advice and work closely with the relevant authorities.

Not only that, but Parcelforce has extensive experience in being able to quickly deploy business contingency plans so they can continue to provide customers with access to their services.

signing for and receiving items

In order for Royal Mail to protect both their people and customers as much as possible, they are minimising contact during delivery.  We will not be handing over hand-held devices to customers to capture signatures but instead log the name of the person accepting the item.  Additionally, for all customers that need items delivering that won’t fit through your letterbox, Royal Mail will place your item at your door. Having knocked on your door, your Royal Mail delivery driver will then step aside to a safe distance while you retrieve your item. This will ensure your item is delivered securely rather than being left outside.

special delivery guaranteed by 1pm

For items posted from Thursday 19 March 2020 onwards, Royal Mail no longer guarantee deliveries by 1pm the next working day. They’ll still prioritise Special Delivery parcels and letters and will aim to deliver by 1pm or before the end of day. Resource implications of the latest coronavirus advice means we may not be able to meet the customer promise of guaranteed next day delivery in all locations at all times. 

Special Delivery Guaranteed by 9am service remains unchanged; we still guarantee to deliver by 9am.

We have recently received news from DPD regarding some updates to the current Coronavirus pandemic, which we would like to share;

DPD has implemented extra measures in response to COVID-19 to ensure extra protection for us, our clients, customers and DPD themselves. The latest update is below.

At present DPD can report that their parcel collection, sortation and delivery operations will continue as normal.

CONTACT FREE DELIVERY

Contact free delivery is now DPD’s standard process and customers will not be asked to sign any handheld units.

LATEST UPDATE

DPD have introduced a delivery wave program with drivers, creating a 10-minute gap to avoid too many drivers being together at critical times in the morning.

They are also implementing a Peak period5-6 day working structure that will give them maximum flexibility and allows for driver and warehouse absentees.

Cleaning has been increased throughout the business as a preventative measure.

Full home working is being undertaken across the business for all roles that can work from home.

Measures have been introduced to support self-employed drivers should they need to self-isolate.

LONDON UPDATE

On Wednesday Transport for London announced there would be a partial shutdown of 40 London Underground stations from Thursday morning.

Therefore DPD have immediately implemented a response plan – which involves car sharing and hiring minibuses to support people getting to work.

“We are doing everything possible to support our customers and our people so that we can minimise any disruption and continue giving you and your customers the best possible delivery experience” – DPD.

Returns – less pain, more gain

5th December 2018 | Returns and After sales | No Comments

Returns – that word can strike fear into even the most hardened retailer, especially as Christmas is firmly on the horizon. Balancing a customer-friendly returns policy with the additional cost that it entails, is no mean feat.

And that’s particularly true when it comes to online shopping. According to the 2017 UPS ‘Pulse of the Online Shopper’ (POS) research, 64% of customers check the returns policy before they purchase an item. Even more – 75% – declared free returns to be an important factor when choosing where to buy an item.

So to remain competitive, a liberal (and above all, free) policy is paramount. But that can really cut into your bottom line. Depending on the size of your business, it might mean employing staff to do nothing else other than process returns and repackage them, or repurpose them.

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong in investing in customer satisfaction. In fact, it’s imperative. Retailers offering free returns have been shown to benefit from a huge tenfold increase in Net Promoter Score, compared to those that don’t.1 But moreover, the impact on customer loyalty cannot be underestimated.

A quick and easy return process for the customer can exceed expectations and turn a negative customer contact into a positive. In recent research by Narvar, a staggering 96% of respondents said that a positive returns experience would encourage them to choose that retailer again.

We won’t go on. It’s clear that you as an online seller need to offer pain-free returns for your customers.

But how do you make it (relatively) pain-free for your business? That’s the tricky part. If you’re rushed off your feet trying to generate new sales and fulfil existing orders, it’s easy to deprioritise that pile of returns that aren’t going to make you any money (at least, not in the short-term).

The day-to-day processing of returns can quickly become overwhelming. None more than so than in the fashion sector where large numbers of returns are part and parcel of the business.

Even with the emergence of technology such as Metail’s MeModel ® (allowing customers the chance to see clothes on a digital version of themselves), ‘try before you buy’ has become the gold standard for online clothes shopping. ASOS, TopShop, H&M all offer this service and now Amazon has jumped on the bandwagon.

And where Amazon lead, most will follow. Because they simply have to in order to remain relevant.

However, it’s not only fashion where this trend of ‘bracketing’ – purchasing multiple versions of similar items – is becoming commonplace. Other sectors such as homewares and luxury goods are following suit. Meaning that all business owners need to have a clear plan in mind of how to deal with the ever-increasing demand that returns will place on them.

So back to the all-important question. How can you keep up with Amazon and deal with returns in an efficient but customer-friendly way? And, if you want to take advantage of the sales potential that Amazon Prime offers, how do you keep on top of their stringent returns policy?

There are 2 choices:

  1. Keep the process in-house and devise a plan to scale it
  2. Outsource returns to your order fulfilment company

The first works if you have sufficient cash flow. You’ll have to invest in technology and people. The overheads associated with in-house returns remain constant, even if your returns come in peaks and troughs (for example, following sales). However, there could be periods in the year when your staffing and infrastructure are not being used to full capacity.

To overcome this, outsourcing is a good option. It enables you to scale returns operations quickly, as and when you need them. Furthermore, an order fulfilment company such as Virtual Logistics may operate on a pay-as-you-go model. So you only pay for the resources that you use.

In addition, handing over returns to your fulfilment provider helps to streamline the whole process. The quicker the return is processed, the quicker it is back in your inventory ready for resale. If the customer returns an item to you, you then have to repackage it and ship it out to the fulfilment provider. This adds an extra step that delays the time available for reselling it.

Moreover, the goods may not even be in a fit state for resale at full price. Do you risk damaging your brand by reselling them as seconds?

As well as offering fast and efficient returns to keep your customers happy, Virtual Logistics have a handy solution for maintaining brand integrity. Our order fulfilment clients are able to sell their returned goods as seconds via our own high-performing eBay store. There need not ever be a mention of your brand, so this not only protects it, but also enables you to claw back some of that lost revenue.

But that’s not all. Virtual Logistics have Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime status so we are well versed in dealing with Amazon returns in a timely and efficient manner.

So that’s one headache off your list. Less pain, more gain.

 

 
1Tern Consultancy study commissioned by Rebound.

Are you ready for Black Friday?

18th September 2018 | General News | No Comments

Love it or hate it, Black Friday is looming large once again, with the date this year falling on 23 November 2018.

So as a business owner you need to decide whether you’re going to take up the Black Friday challenge or boycott it altogether.

Among the big-name boycottees in 2017 were IKEA, Primark and Asda, who had evidently learned their lesson after the chaos of 2014. Who can forget the images of shoppers clambering over each other in a desperate rush to get knock-down price TVs?

Fashion brand Christopher Raeburn went even further than that by running a Snow Leopard Workshop to highlight its distaste at the mass-consumerism of Black Friday.

There are also activist movements to encourage not only retailers, but also shoppers, to boycott Black Friday and they’re gaining notable traction.

Indeed, taking a stance like Christopher Raeburn can have a significant positive impact on your brand perception and customer loyalty. Conversely, the opposite is true of Black Friday where it’s all about the price, so service and company ethos rarely get a look in.

But the big question is, can you afford not to join in?

According to IMRG, last year’s Black Friday sales were up 11.7% on 2016, with a total of £1.39bn being spent. Indeed, online sales have increased year on year since Amazon first introduced the UK to the concept back in 2010 (though it passed relatively unnoticed).

If your competition are discounting, can you afford not to follow suit and risk losing out on sales (albeit at a lower margin)?

If you decide to go for Black Friday, you’ve got to go all in. Otherwise, it’ll be a waste of time, money and effort.

Here are some considerations to help you succeed:

  1. Ensure your pricing is competitive

This obviously goes without saying, but is easier said than done. Until the day of the sale (which in recent years has actually begun a few days before Black Friday for some retailers), you’ll have no real indicator of how low the competition are willing to go.

You’ll need to decide a pricing strategy that is low enough to attract attention, solid enough to protect your margin, but flexible enough to allow for mid-sale movement. Coupled with that are the staffing considerations of competitor price analyses and order fulfilment.

  1. Devise a marketing strategy

It’s all very well having the best price around, but your customers still need to be able to find it. Create interest in the weeks and days before the sale by distributing teaser email and social media campaigns. But be careful not to give too much of the game away, or your competition will be all over it.

  1. Ensure your website can cope

Poor website performance can be the difference between securing and losing a sale. As digital marketing guru Neil Patel explains, if your webpage doesn’t load within 4 seconds you’ll have lost up to 25% of your customers. This increases to over 30% for a 10-second load time.

There’s also nothing more frustrating than being half-way through a purchase to have the whole site crash around you, not knowing if your money’s been taken or not. For a Black Friday shopper, where speed is the key to a good deal, this is even more annoying.

So if you’re planning to offer Black Friday deals via your own platform, make sure that your servers will be able to cope with the increased demand.

  1. Promote your deals on marketplaces

One way of getting around the server capacity issue is to let someone else deal with it. Amazon accounted for an incredible 33.5% of UK ecommerce spend in 2017(1) and is the de facto place for a deals-savvy shopper to head on Black Friday.

So by offering your deals via Amazon or other marketplaces you can not only reach a greater audience, but also minimise your own overheads.

  1. Ensure your inventory is adequate

Having the right amount of stock is a tricky one to get right. You don’t want to have excess stock sitting around unsold, but at the same time, having too little stock means that you won’t be able to take the most advantage of Black Friday.

Bulk buying from suppliers can reduce your supply chain costs, but you do need to be confident in your ability to sell it. Otherwise storage costs will start to rack up.

One way around this is to negotiate a drop ship agreement with your suppliers, so that you order more from them as the orders come in. To make this succeed though, you’ll need a robust fulfilment process, as shoppers won’t want to hang around too long for their orders to be delivered. If your estimated delivery time is longer than your competitors, then the sale could be gone.

  1. Ensure you can cope with fulfilling orders

As with Christmas and any other sales, Black Friday is a peak that needs to be properly managed so as not to damage your brand. It’s all very well getting a vast increase in sales, but you need to be able to pack and ship them quickly enough to avoid cancellations.

So ensure that your staffing and order fulfilment infrastructure are appropriate for the amount of sales you’re forecasting.

How Virtual Logistics can help

If all that sounds a bit daunting, Virtual Logistics are here to help. Our order fulfilment process is so simple that, even if you’re not currently a customer, we could have you live within 24 hours. That still gives plenty of time for you to scale up ready for Black Friday.

In addition, our marketplace experience can help you maximise your sales via Amazon and others. Contact us today to find out more.