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1. What is international logistics?

International logistics for ecommerce: 6 things to consider

Scaling an ecommerce venture beyond local borders is a tempting prospect, but not without its complexities. Challenges in areas like shipping, customs, localization, and cost management often transform the exciting journey of global expansion into a complex labyrinth. For creators, artists, and entrepreneurs, these obstacles can hinder the path to reaching an expansive global audience and maximizing profit margins.

The solution lies in making strategic considerations about international logistics from the outset. Thinking through key factors such as localized production, automated customs handling, shipping optimization, and cost-efficient strategies can significantly alleviate the burdens of global ecommerce operations. Numerous successful businesses have navigated these complexities and achieved global reach by incorporating these considerations into their operations, underscoring the effectiveness of this approach.

In this article, we will explore six critical logistical considerations that have proven instrumental in the successful global expansion of ecommerce businesses.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Understanding international logistics: International supply chain and logistics involve the movement of goods and materials across international borders, which is crucial to business expansion and tapping into international opportunities.

  • Importance of logistics in international business: Efficient logistics is essential to expand market reach, provide reliable delivery options, optimize supply chain operations, and mitigate risks associated with international shipping.

  • Components of international logistics: Key components of an international logistical process include transportation, warehousing, inventory management, customs compliance, supplier collaboration, and last-mile delivery. Proper management of these components ensures efficient operations and timely delivery.

  • Six strategic considerations: To make international logistics more efficient, businesses should invest in technology, choose reliable partners, understand local regulations, optimize packaging, implement effective inventory management, and simplify the returns process.

  • Influencing factors & challenges: Customs regulations, import/export duties, language and cultural barriers, and shipping costs can influence your logistics operations in international markets. Challenges in these areas need to be navigated proactively.

  • Localized POD network for efficiency: Leverage solutions like localized print on demand networks (like Gelato) to print and deliver products locally, reducing shipping costs and transit times. This approach can help streamline international logistics operations.

What is international logistics?

02_What is international logistics

International logistics refers to the management and coordination of the movement of goods and materials across international borders. It encompasses the eplanning, implementation, and control of various activities, such as transportation, warehousing, inventory management, and customs compliance, to ensure the smooth flow of products from the supplier to the customer's doorstep.

International logistics plays a vital role in the global economy, enabling businesses to expand their reach beyond domestic markets and tap into international opportunities. It involves a complex network of interconnected processes and stakeholders working together to facilitate the efficient movement of goods across different countries and continents.

What is the importance of logistics in international business operations?

Logistics plays a pivotal role in the success of international businesses, especially in the ecommerce sector. The seamless movement of goods from production facilities to customers is essential to satisfy customers' expectations and maintain a competitive edge.

Effective logistics management enables operations managers to:

Expand market reach by selling products to customers worldwide.

One of the key reasons why logistics is crucial for international businesses is its ability to expand market reach. With the advent of the internet and the rise of ecommerce, businesses now have the opportunity of expanding internationally and selling their products to customers worldwide. However, without efficient logistics, this global expansion would not be possible. Logistics ensures that products can be shipped to different countries, allowing businesses to tap into new markets and reach a larger customer base.

Provide customers with reliable delivery options, ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Logistics also plays a vital role in providing customers with reliable delivery options. In today's fast-paced world, customers expect their orders to be delivered quickly and efficiently. By having effective logistics in place, businesses can offer various delivery options, such as express shipping or same-day delivery, ensuring that customers receive their orders in a timely manner. This reliability in delivery not only enhances customer satisfaction but also fosters loyalty, as customers are more likely to return to a business that consistently meets their expectations.

Optimize supply chain operations, reducing costs and improving overall efficiency.

Logistics is instrumental in optimizing supply chain operations. By carefully managing the flow of goods, logistics professionals can identify areas of improvement and implement strategies to reduce costs, increase profits and enhance efficiency. This includes streamlining transportation routes and tracking information, consolidating shipments, and implementing advanced inventory management systems. Through these optimization efforts, businesses can minimize wastage, increase productivity, and ultimately enhance their bottom line.

Mitigate risks associated with international shipping

Another critical aspect of logistics in international business is its ability to mitigate risks associated with international shipping. When conducting business across borders, your operations manager may face various challenges, such as customs delays, compliance issues, and transportation disruptions. However, by having a robust logistics framework in place, businesses can proactively address these risks and implement contingency plans. This includes working closely with customs authorities to ensure the smooth clearance of goods, staying up-to-date with international trade regulations, having all your documentation ready, and partnering with multiple carriers. By effectively managing these risks, businesses can stay competitive, minimize potential disruptions, and maintain a consistent supply of goods to their customers.

Logistics is of utmost importance to businesses operating at the international level, particularly in the ecommerce sector. It enables businesses to expand their market reach, provide reliable delivery options, optimize supply chain operations, and mitigate risks associated with international shipping.

What are the components of international logistics?

The components of international logistics encompass a wide range of activities and processes. Key components include:

  • Transportation: Selecting the appropriate mode of transportation, such as air, sea, or road, based on factors like speed, cost, and the nature of the products.

  • Warehousing: Managing inventory and storage facilities to ensure the availability of products for timely fulfillment.

  • Inventory management: Optimizing stock levels, reducing excess inventory, and implementing efficient order fulfillment processes.

  • Customs compliance: Understanding and adhering to the regulations and documentation requirements of each country to ensure smooth customs clearance.

  • Supplier collaboration: Establishing strong relationships and effective communication channels with suppliers to ensure timely delivery of goods.

  • Last-mile delivery: Coordinating the final stage of delivery to the customer's location is often the most critical and challenging part of the logistics process.

Efficient management of these components is essential to streamline international logistics operations and meet customer demands promptly and cost-effectively.

Six things to consider for making international logistics more efficient

03_Six things to consider for making international logistics more efficient

To enhance the efficiency of your international logistics, consider the following tips:

1. Invest in technology

Investing in technology is a pivotal strategy for optimizing international logistics. In particular, the utilization of advanced logistics management software can play a key role in the automation of various time-consuming processes, such as order processing, inventory management, and shipment tracking. This technology investment not only allows for efficient tracking of shipments but also optimizes routes for cost and time efficiency. As a result, you can save significant time and resources, ensuring that your logistics operations run smoothly and efficiently, thereby demonstrating the substantial benefits of embracing advanced technology in logistics management.

2. Choose reliable partners

Opting for reliable partners is a vital element in enhancing international logistics efficiency. By collaborating with trustworthy logistics providers, not only can you ensure your goods are handled meticulously and delivered punctually, but you can also forge strong relationships for better communication and coordination. This proactive approach towards partner selection and relationship building leads to smooth coordination, minimizes the risk of supply chain delays or disruptions, and guarantees the timely delivery of goods.

3. Understand local regulations

Grasping local regulations is indispensable for smoothly steering through the intricacies of international logistics. This includes becoming conversant with customs regulations, import/export duties, and documentation requirements specific to each country you operate in. Familiarity with these regulations enables you to sidestep unnecessary delays and penalties, ensuring that your operations continue unimpeded. Moreover, vigilance towards any alterations in these regulations is crucial, as it fosters continued compliance and aids in averting any potential disruptions in your business operations.

4. Optimize packaging

Optimizing packaging serves as a critical strategy in reducing shipping costs and minimizing wastage in international logistics. The key lies in utilizing materials that are both protective and lightweight, maximizing the efficiency of your shipments. This approach ensures that your goods remain intact during transportation, minimizing the overall weight and, consequently, the shipping costs. Furthermore, by choosing such efficient and environmentally-conscious packaging solutions, you contribute to reducing environmental impact, striking a balance between operational efficiency and sustainability. If it suits your brand image, you can even delight your customers with creative packaging inserts.

5. Implement effective inventory management

Putting into action effective inventory management practices is a significant aspect of efficient order fulfillment in the logistics realm. This involves adopting systems and techniques that streamline every process from receiving to storing and fulfilling orders. Such practices empower you to balance your inventory, minimizing stockouts and reducing excess, ensuring the right amount of stock is always available. The efficient management of inventory not only aids in cost reduction but also ensures customer satisfaction by consistently meeting their needs and expectations.

6. Simplify returns process

Simplifying the returns process is an integral part of enhancing customer satisfaction and mitigating return shipping costs in logistics operations. The key to achieving this lies in streamlining your returns process through the provision of clear instructions and efficient procedures. Such a well-organized system not only makes it more convenient for customers to return products but also enhances their overall experience with your service. Moreover, this simplified process plays a significant role in reducing the overall costs associated with return shipping, demonstrating the importance of a seamless return procedure in cost-effective logistics management.

Other factors influencing your international logistics operations

04_Other factors influencing your international logistics operations

Customs regulations

Customs regulations vary from country to country and play a critical role in international logistics. Compliance with these regulations is essential to avoid delays, penalties, and damage to your reputation. Key considerations include:

  • Documentation requirements: Ensure that all necessary documents, such as commercial invoices, packing lists, and certificates of origin, are accurate, complete, and readily available for customs inspections.

  • Tariffs and duties: Understand the applicable tariffs and duties for each product and country, and factor them into your pricing and cost calculations.

  • Restricted and prohibited items: Familiarize yourself with the specific regulations and restrictions on certain goods to avoid shipping prohibited items or violating import/export regulations.

By staying informed and working closely with customs brokers, you can navigate the complexities of customs regulations effectively and ensure a smooth flow of goods across borders.

Import and export duties

Import and export duties are essential considerations in international logistics. These charges are typically imposed by customs authorities and vary depending on the nature of the goods and the countries involved. Some key points to keep in mind include:

  • Duty calculation: Understand how import and export duties are calculated, including factors such as the product's value, quantity, and classification according to harmonized system codes.

  • Tariff classification: Determine the correct tariff classification for your products to ensure accurate duty assessment.

  • Harmonized system codes: Familiarize yourself with the harmonized system codes applicable to your products, as they impact duty rates and customs clearance processes.

  • Trade agreements: Explore the possibilities of leveraging preferential trade agreements to reduce or eliminate import duties in certain countries.

Having a clear understanding of import and export duties enables you to plan your pricing, evaluate profitability, and make informed decisions to optimize your international logistics operations.

Challenges in international logistics

05_Challenges in international logistics

International logistics poses various challenges that businesses must overcome to succeed in the global marketplace. These challenges include:

  • Language and cultural barriers: Communicating with suppliers, customers, and logistics partners in different countries can be challenging due to language and cultural differences.

  • Customs complexity: Navigating complex customs procedures, regulations, and paperwork requires expertise and careful attention to detail.

  • Supply chain disruptions: Disruptions such as natural disasters, labor strikes, and political instability can impact the smooth flow of goods and cause delays.

  • Logistics costs: International shipping costs, including transportation, customs, and handling fees, can significantly impact the overall profitability of ecommerce businesses.

To tackle these challenges, businesses must adopt proactive approaches, establish strong partnerships, and leverage technology to mitigate risks and enhance the efficiency of their international logistics operations.

Streamlining your international operations with Gelato’s localized POD network

To simplify and streamline your international logistics operations, consider leveraging Gelato's localized POD (print on demand) network. Gelato's network spans 34 countries, enabling you to print and deliver a wide range of products, such as t-shirts, wall art, mugs, photo books, phone cases, etc., locally, reducing shipping costs and transit times.

By partnering with Gelato, you can:

  • Print products closer to customers, eliminating long-distance shipping and customs delays.

  • Offer localized products and packaging, enhancing customer experience and reducing returns.

  • Optimize inventory management by reducing stock levels and avoiding excess inventory.

  • Save on shipping costs by delivering products from local printing facilities.

Gelato's integrated platform allows you to manage and monitor your international printing and logistics operations seamlessly, empowering you to focus on growing your ecommerce business.

So what are you waiting for? Sign up for Gelato today.

International logistics FAQs

What is international logistics management?

International logistics management involves planning, controlling, and implementing the effective forward and reverse flow of goods, services, and related information between the point of origin and point of consumption in different countries. This includes processes such as international transportation, warehousing, handling, packaging, and customs clearance, all to meet customer requirements.

What are examples of international logistics?

Examples of international logistics include shipping books from a printer in the U.S. to a bookstore in Germany, transporting fabrics from China to a clothing manufacturer in Italy, or delivering on-demand print products from a local print shop in Brazil to a customer's doorstep in Chile. In all these cases, efficient logistics management ensures timely delivery while minimizing costs.

What is the difference between global logistics and international logistics?

The difference between global logistics and international logistics largely lies in scope. International logistics typically refers to the movement of goods between two countries, whereas global logistics involves managing and coordinating these processes across multiple countries, considering the whole worldwide network. Therefore, global logistics has a broader perspective, dealing with a more complex system of international trade activities.

What are future trends in logistics?

Future trends in logistics include the increased use of AI and machine learning for demand forecasting and route optimization, a greater focus on sustainability with environmentally-conscious packaging and transportation methods, wider implementation of digital twin technology for process simulation and risk management, and the rise of automated warehouses and delivery systems using robotics and drones. These advancements aim to enhance efficiency, reduce costs, and minimize environmental impact.


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