The Demand for Free Shipping

warehouse workers preparing shipping

The demand for free shipping. Finding freight savings through 3PL.

One thing consumers have clearly communicated is that they do not like paying for shipping.  RetailMeNot surveyed consumers and found that 82 percent prefer free shipping over a fast shipping option with a fee.  Whether you are managing your own fulfillment or using a 3PL, freight will be a significant cost for you – likely the MOST significant.  Keeping up with the demand for free shipping can further increase your costs, and deserves your attention.  You may try to negotiate with your carrier for better rates, but you may not see sufficient savings.

So, what can you do to provide your customers what they want while still managing your costs?  Take advantage of a 3PL’s negotiated rates.  NRI takes freight opportunities even a step further through the addition of Rate Shopping logic.

NRI has a freight team that acts as a liaison between carriers and our clients to ensure our clients receive the best freight value-offering.  Due to our multiple clients’ business across both the US and Canada, we have a significant overall shipping volume.  This combined volume allows NRI to negotiate better rates than most individual brands, and thus we can offer enterprise level freight solutions to even developing brands.  Additionally, our large volumes allow us to support multiple carriers.  Where a brand may have enough volume alone to demand the services of just one carrier, NRI’s combined volume commands the support of multiple carriers.  We negotiate with many national and regional carriers in the US and Canada, bringing significant freight savings to our clients.

For an additional layer of savings opportunities, we utilize our Transportation Management System (TMS), Aspire, to automatically rate shop.  Rate shopping ensures that we provide the best service and rate on a per shipment basis.  No single carrier offers the best rate nation-wide to all points, so using multiple carriers and our TMS we can ensure each parcel is shipped the most cost-effective way possible.  Our systems provide flexibility to handle specific order-driven shipping requests, as well as the ability to set specific, permanent customer rules that will hold for every order to a specific address.  With rate shopping, you have more control over what, if anything, you charge your customers.

Want to discuss what we can save you on shipping with rate shopping?  Or perhaps how to best leverage our “Four Corners” strategy to ensure your product is positioned best in North America to satisfy your customers?  Let’s chat.

3PL and Your Success.

three logistics workers in a warehouse

3PL and your success. It takes a team.

You’ve trusted your 3PL with sending out orders in a timely manner so that your customers are happy and keep ordering from you. But issues sometimes arise. And when they do, you must be able to trust your 3PL with handling it quickly and effectively. At NRI, we partner with our clients to give them a full-scope solution for achieving their business goals. Each of our clients are partnered with dedicated order fulfillment teams, client service coordinators, and account managers – among others.

Order Fulfillment Teams

Our Order Fulfillment Teams are on the front lines – leading the charge on fulfilling orders. We operate a variety of shifts across all facilities to ensure total coverage for our clients’ business profiles, while also ensuring flexibility for our team members so that their health and welfare needs are met. NRI does not rely on temporary labor but rather operates with +95% full-time company employees across all facilities. These team members are extremely familiar with our clients’ product and businesses characteristics. Our proprietary WMS, Aspire, ensures the utmost in technology for our teams to ensure the most efficient and accurate processing of our clients’ orders.

Client Services Teams

NRI provides each client with an on-site, dedicated Client Services Coordinator (CSC). The CSCs are the frontline contacts for our clients, and liaison to our Operations Team. The CSCs manage our clients’ day-to-day requirements, as well as priority escalations. They work directly in-facility and are experts in helping our clients manage their needs, and their customers’ needs. Our CS teams have decades of combined experience in ecommerce and wholesale channels – coordinating internal resources to deliver excellence across them.

Operations and Accounts Teams

The Client Services Team is supported by our Operations and Accounts teams. These teams work in conjunction with our clients on forecast plans to ensure operational success at a high level. Our Accounts team supports our clients with strategic analyses, new service designs, and continued investment in developing our partner relationships.

We believe in partnership. Our goal is to be a key element in our clients’ success.

“Our success is directly connected to the positive, hard-working, and reliable team members at NRI” – Julia Fenwick, United by Blue

We want to work WITH you. We’d love to chat.

What You Can Save by Partnering with a 3PL

Recently we wrote about the reasons you may need a 3PL. You’re busy running a business and perhaps operations are the last thing on your mind. But most likely, financials are always at the top of your mind. We thought that writing about the financial benefits of partnering with a 3PL deserved its own spot at the table. Here are some ways partnering with a 3PL can help you save money.

Time

Would you benefit from utilizing your employees’ skills not related to picking, packing, and shipping product? Growing your business is likely the of great importance to you, and your employees potentially have other skills that can help you achieve that growth. Partnering with a 3PL can take some of the burden off you and your employees so you can focus those strengths and energy into brand building.

Or, do you have so many orders waiting to be picked, packed, and shipped that you need to hire more employees? Finding the right talent for your company is time consuming. 3PLs already have the talent that are more than capable of picking, packing, and shipping your products.

Shipping Costs

3PLs have built great relationships with most major carriers, such as UPS, FedEx, DHL, and the national postal networks. Due to our large shipment volumes and consistent business, we can leverage preferred rates with these carriers; rates most individual companies can’t match. At NRI, we have partnered with all major US and Canadian carriers and are working to partner with more regional carriers to not only diversify our offering, but also save our customers more money on shipping costs and reduced shipping times.

Technology

You may be considering an investment into a Warehouse Management System (WMS) to manage your inventory and track shipments and returns. Most 3PLs already have a robust WMS that will manage your inventory, track shipments, and so much more.

Space

Are your products crowding your office? Taking up space at home? Products need to be stored and prepared for shipping somewhere. Leasing a warehouse can get costly when you factor in all the overhead to simply keep the lights on, let alone to outfit it sufficiently and to staff it. 3PLs factor everything in when quoting you, so you only see one price. An added bonus: more space for other things!

There are many reasons to partner with a 3PL, and saving time, space, and most importantly, money, are all great examples. As a solutions-focused 3PL, NRI wants to work with you to reduce your costs, improve your customer experience, and scale your business.

Want to learn more? Contact us to discuss your 3PL needs.

Selecting a 3PL. When, Why, and How.

Are you a brand thinking about your logistics options? Is it a little too overwhelming weighing all your options and service needs? We’re here to help.

First, let’s start with what logistics companies do. The official definition of logistics is “the process of planning, implementing and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods including services and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption for the purpose of conforming to customer requirements …” That’s just a wordy way of saying that logistics companies specialize in helping you move product to your customers. Companies such as NRI work with their clients to build a strategy which will allow brands to focus on their core competencies such as product design, marketing, and sales – rather than on logistics.

When do you need a logistics company? Here are a few reasons you may consider when thinking about leveraging a 3PL:

1. Your team is overwhelmed

3PLs intimately know warehousing, shipping, and labor. They know how to leverage the finer points of these most effectively to receiving and house product, prepare shipments, and provide value-added services. We do this day in and day out. We have the labor capacity to put special touches on your orders on top of accurate pick, packing, and shipping that your employees may not have the time to do. We have a wide talent pool of employees and specialized departments who are able to provide total focus on your logistics and fulfillment needs. Partnering with a logistics company, such as NRI, will allow your employees to focus on other aspects of your business.

2. Your costs are increasing

If your costs are increasing, that may mean that your company is growing and growing fast – that’s amazing! But now, you have an increased over volume and increased costs in labor, materials, and other unexpected costs. You need to be able to focus on continuing to grow your brand, so partnering with a 3PL can decrease your costs and off-load the stress of shipping products.

3. Your inventory isn’t accurate

Does your company utilize an Inventory Management System (IMS)? Are you able to accurately keep up with your inventory? Logistics companies have IMSs that are vast and keep up with your ever-changing inventory. NRI, for example, has a proprietary software suite called Aspire that can manage not only your inventory, but forecasting and planning, labor, receipt, orders and returns, storage, invoices, freight services, and performance metrics. You’ll work with a team of NRI employees that can help with most anything you need assistance with.

4. You need a better solution

At the end of the day, in-house warehousing may not be the perfect solution for you. A 3PL will allow you to off-load your inventory management and order processing and focus on your customers. If your current solution isn’t working, here are a few considerations when choosing the right 3PL for you:

  • Does your prospective 3PL have a proven track record of success?
  • Who are their current and past clients?
  • Do they specialize in the fulfillment of your product categories? Markets?
  • Do they have the capacity to scale?
  • What does their technology look like and can they integrate with your current technology?

Whatever the reason is that you’re considering a logistics partner, it’s not as complicated nor scary as you may think. We’re experts in storing, picking, packing, and shipping products, as well as adding special touches to ensure that your brand promise and “feel” is not lost when you outsource fulfillment. We work with you on building the right solution for you and your brand.

NRI is a leader in fulfillment of apparel, footwear, accessories, and other select goods throughout North America. We tailor our solutions to your needs and provide a vast range of services. Contact us to learn more.

Shipping Times Matter to Your Customers

Shipping and delivery times are often hard to predict, particularly given the increase in carrier congestion as of late. Customers have become accustomed to receiving their packages almost instantly (thanks to a certain online retail giant) and it’s no surprise that they grow impatient when waiting for their delivery. In 2016, customers expected to receive their order about 5 days after they placed their order. Now, almost half of customers expect to receive their order within 2-3 days; that’s nearly 2 days sooner! The pressure is on all parts of the supply chain, since 83% of customers are less likely to make another purchase is there are shipping delays.

The million-dollar question is what can you do to reduce shipping times?  One of the benefits of NRI is we have a “4 Corners” strategy – facilities in Canada and the U.S. on both the east and west coasts of each country. For our clients with a heavily weighted east coast business, it may make sense to place inventory in the east. For those chasing the Pacific Coast customer base, place inventory in the west. NRI are experts in inventory management and can help you place inventory in all 4 corners if you wish – allowing you to ship your customers from the nearest facility. By placing your product in facilities on both of our coasts, in either Canada, the U.S., or both, NRI can help reduce shipping times significantly. We aim to help you in your success through geographical intelligence.

An added benefit to using our Canadian facilities is Section 321. Section 321 allows companies to import goods into the U.S. duty-free, so long as the retail value is below $800. Duties can often form a large portion of your product cost, and by finding ways to eliminate it your margins improve significantly. By placing your U.S.-destined ecommerce inventory in our Canadian facilities, you are set for even more savings!

Shipping times matter to your customers. NRI’s scalable solutions are designed thoughtfully to help you increase business, maintain customer satisfaction, and build lasting relationships.

For more information, contact us.

Celebrating Our Newest Clients

Vivobarefoot

The Calgary, AB based Canadian distributor for Vivobarefoot have recently signed on with NRI Canada.  Vivobarefoot is an innovative footwear company who offer a creative array of outdoor, active, and everyday footwear for men, women, and children.  Vivobarefoot footwear are uniquely designed in fit to be as close to barefoot as possible – bringing the wearer closer to nature.  B Corp certified, these guys hold their social and environmental values to the highest levels.

This new partnership with NRI will help in Vivobarefoot’s continued growth, with a focus on customer experience.  By placing inventory in Canada within NRI’s network, Vivobarefoot will ensure they reach their Canadian customers in the quickest and most cost-effective manner.

 

Palm Golf Co.

Palm Golf began a few years ago by a small group of friends having their weekly tee time at a local Orange County, CA course. With an eye for fun and fashion, they decided that they could improve golf’s style with a focus on the oft-overlooked glove.  With the goal of creating a high quality, comfortable, and fashionable glove, Palm Golf was created. However you dress up, they know they can cover your hand in style.

After three years of managing all aspects of the business themselves, the guys at Palm Golf Co. have decided to HAND the logistics over to NRI USA so they can focus on building their brand and continuing to increase their already incredible growth.

Whether you birdie or double bogey, always #swingandsmile

Better Together with NRI

At NRI, we view our clients as partners. We seek to partner with brands who seek a high level of touch and expertise, hold people and integrity close to their hearts, and approach business partnerships respectfully with an expectation on quality and success.

Freight Services

Freight Services NRI

It should come at no surprise that the major logistics trends for 2021 are based on the significant increase of ecommerce in 2020.  The estimate of U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2020 totaled $200.7 billion – an increase of roughly 37% from the first quarter of 2020!  Statistics like this are a driver of change and strategy at NRI.  This past peak season was the largest we’ve ever seen, and we expect the ecommerce trend to continue through 2021.  Late adopters, both brands and consumers, have now embraced ecommerce thus adding further to the already large number of online buyers and sellers.  As of May 2020, Baby Boomers increased their online spending by 47% and Gen X increased their online spending by 60%.  How are we keeping up with this new surge in demand for ecommerce?  Here are a few ways:

Carrier Diversification

Our large carriers such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, and Canada Post have seen capacity issues which they have struggled to catch up with, especially during the COVID19 pandemic which has been the impetus for the massive volume growth they have seen.  Through working with multiple carriers, NRI is able to adjust volumes between carriers to ensure that not all volume flows through one channel and overwhelms it.  We are also working to diversify volumes through regional carriers who will have the capability to deliver local/regional shipments at reduced transit times.  This will allow many of our clients to offer quicker shipping at reduced cost points.  Nimble management of multiple carriers, at scale, is not easy without strength in software.  Because of NRI’s proprietary Transportation Management System (TMS) we are able to handle this multi-carrier strategy with ease.

Transportation Management System (TMS)

NRI has developed our own TMS as a key component of our proprietary 3PL software suite – Aspire. Our system provides us the flexibility to continue to evolve and add partners at a much faster rate than otherwise possible.  Our TMS allows us to minimize additional touches and manual processes while ensuring we are able to process and ship with the optimal carrier of choice.

The system allows several layers of rules to be setup and maintained within the rate shopping process.  The logic supports our clients’ carrier preferences and requirements, service level preferences and requirements, and cost thresholds.  Rules can be created to upgrade ship methods automatically if cost differentials are within an acceptable tolerance and days-in-transit improvement is valid.  Our TMS is integrated with all major U.S. and Canadian carriers as well as select international carriers.

Strategic Geographic Locations

Being where your customers are is paramount to providing the best customer service possible.  With ever increasing consumers expecting faster shipping times, having product placed strategically will help with that.  We’ve implemented a “four corners” strategy that allows us to get orders out faster by being on both coasts of the U.S. and Canada.  By having inventory in either or all our facilities in these key regions, our clients save time and money on transportation costs.  This strategy, combined with implementing a Section 321 strategy for duty-free ecommerce fulfillment into the U.S., brings significant opportunity for savings.

For more information, contact us.

Investing in Our People and Operations

NRI Distribution Employees

Investing in Our People and Operations

One of our core values at NRI is “Relationships Are Worth Investing In”. Whether it be our clients or our team members, we believe that everyone has potential to be great, and we embrace the opportunity to nurture relationships and help bring out the greatness.

NRI has familial approach to supporting our teams. We are adamant about maintaining the highest percentage of full time NRI team members on the floor as possible and have a goal of +90%.  e do not encourage the usage of temporary labor, nor do we use it as a crutch to further profitability. We invest in our staff with tangible benefits, training and development programs, and furthering education.

NRI is a learning organization and embraces continued education with a focus on leadership. We believe that we all have an opportunity to lead at any level within the organization. An outside educator has been heavily engaged at NRI for over 10 years – providing guidance on topics such as Servant Leadership and Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and how these can play a key role in the success of our individuals, our teams, and NRI overall. This individual is now a full-time senior leader at NRI, illustrating our serious commitment to helping our people grow.

Throughout all our departments, we have team members at all levels with multiple years of experience working in the company. This allows them to provide significant experiential learning to others.

Employee experience is important to NRI, and we make decisions based on our values that promote a positive experience. We actively promote from within the organization; 82% of our positions were filled by internal promotions last year! Learning opportunities for our people, such as our Leadership Development Program and LinkedIn Learnings, are essential to the successes of our team members and NRI is happy to provide these tools to develop our them.

We understand that our team members have obligations outside of NRI and are happy to accommodate. We have provided a framework of accountability that allows flexibility and freedom.  We have provided specific part-time shifts to accommodate students and shifts for parents with school-aged children. In 2020, we allowed flexibility to work remotely due to COVID-19, as well as took considerable protective measures to ensure all our warehouse team members were safe on the job.

Our goal is to be a place where people want to come to work, and an organization that our team members are proud to be a part of. As a results-based organization, we understand that meaningful rewards and recognition are a mechanism for motivating employee performance and, as such, we offer our team members a wide range of rewards and recognition programs and employee perks to both promote performance, as well as maintain a positive working environment.

 

To learn more about our people, see our people page.

Logistics Trends for 2021

NRI warehouse fontana

Logistics Trends for 2021

It’s hard to believe that 2020 and all its craziness is now behind us.  No one saw COVID-19 coming, nor the global impact is has had.  If there is a silver lining or opportunity in this cloud for brands and the logistics industry, it is certainly the increase of ecommerce business.  In fact, the estimate of U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the second quarter of 2020 totaled $200.7 billion, an increase of 37.0 percent (±1.2%) from the first quarter of 2020.  And with how busy the holiday peak season was, we will likely keep seeing these increases.  Nonetheless, we need to learn from 2020 and think about 2021.  Here are some of our thoughts for 2021.

Going Green

There were more ecommerce orders in 2020 than ever before.  U.S. e-commerce sales will hit a projected $709.78 billion in 2020, or an increase of 18%.  With that comes an increase in deliveries which means more delivery trucks on the road.  Climate change is here and we need to drastically improve conditions to keep our planet thriving.  By nature, the logistics industry contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and we need to better ourselves.  There are eco-friendly warehouses, whose purpose is to reduce and monitor the use of electricity, heat, water, and gas.

What’s NRI doing about this?  One of our principles is “Creating Harmony and Sustainability for All”.  We work with our clients to reduce any excess waste and offer sustainable solutions.  Some of our clients, such as United by Blue, have opted to use recycled packaging for their orders.  Other clients, such as Tentree, do not use any plastic polybags, only recycled rope to keep items tidy.

Focus on the wellbeing of the environment plays a major role at NRI.  We work internally to identify and embrace opportunities for continuous improvement in sustainability, and we also work to share suggestions with our clients on how they too can make improvements.  We’ve embraced several opportunities including:

  • Storm water runoff management
  • Motion sensor and LED lighting in warehouses
  • Recycling program for all possible materials (paper/cardboard, plastics, wood, metals)
  • Low-flow plumbing
  • Working with clients to identify and remove waste in packaging i.e. straps on cartons, excessive and/or non-recyclable fill in cartons
  • Continuous education of our team members on opportunities to reduce or remove single-use items from their lives

We’re All Partners

Things are better when we’re (working) together!  Treating suppliers and logistics companies like partners is beneficial to everyone.  Good, clear communication around sales information, time-in-shipping data, and other KPIs can help you, your suppliers, and logistics partners be prepared for any increase or decrease in sale trends.  Working together makes it easier to achieve your goals, than you going at it alone.  Using big data and analytics will help you identify any actionable insights for any sales trends, pricing strategies, and utilization of logistical resources (such as NRI).

If you speak with any of our current clients, they’ll be the first to tell you that NRI puts a major focus on preparedness.  We partner with our clients on sales data, forecasting, shipping information, returns, and anything else we need to prepare from a facilities and labor perspective.  This past year has reinforced NRI’s believe that we need to be prepared for anything, and build in contingency plans for the unexpected.

Robots are Taking Over

Not really, however, in the constant effort to improve processes and automation, many supply chains and logistics companies are looking into the use of robotics.  During the first half of 2019, North American companies spent $869 million on more than 16,400 robots.  Even outside of warehouses, companies are investing in drones and self-driving car technology to free up manpower to be better used elsewhere.

We’re embracing these technologies at NRI and constantly looking to how we can automate certain tasks so that our human warehouse employees can become more efficient and apply additional focus on our value-added services like giftwrapping, tagging, and handling fragile items.  NRI has long been a leader in technology investment and development – operating on our proprietary 3PL software suite and with robust Technology and Engineering teams focused on the mindset of continuous improvement.

Dude, What’s My Budget?

No, seriously, what’s my budget?  Just like 2020, it’s hard to predict how much to allocate towards logistics partners because this year has been abnormal, and we don’t know what 2021 will look like.  Budgeting for 2021 will need mapping existing resources with strategy and a shift from the traditional inputs and standard approaches.  The need for more incredible speed and cost control spans across all industries, therefore making it a challenging task to achieve a perfect budget for 2021.  Another suggestion is just to treat your budget as a range.  In many ways budgeting will be a guessing game, and companies need to put together a plan based on contingencies.

Because we treat all our clients as partners, we work hand-in-hand to predict, as accurately as possible, any trends and forecasts.  This helps our clients set aside a budget for their fulfillment and freight budget.

With how ecommerce trends are continuing to grow, we hope 2020 can be a learning experience for all and that we make 2021 better.  We must think about the environment more than ever, become partners through the entire supply chain process, use technology to our advantage, and crunch numbers to create a budget that won’t break the bank.

We’re here to help. Let’s talk about scalable solutions for your business. Contact us here.