If you are a small business in California, your goal, most likely, is to become a big business.  If your business is selling products (as opposed to services), the way to grow in today’s business climate is to sell your products via ecommerce. And that means as a business owner, you’ll need to become an expert in logistics.  

The key to success in ecommerce is efficient fulfillment.  As the demand to buy products online continues to explode, businesses must embrace ecommerce to survive and grow.

In the days of brick-and-mortar stores, outbound shipments were rare.  Most sales were cash-and-carry, from store shelves, and you did most of your business within a five-mile radius of your store.  So, the emphasis was in receiving and warehousing goods.  But today, ecommerce is quickly taking over as the preferred method for buying products.  That makes outbound shipping a crucial aspect of your business. 

Once a business gains traction using ecommerce, the entire world becomes your service area.  You are no longer limited to your neighborhood, city, state, or even country.  You may have started out selling exclusively to the U.S. market, and were able to fulfill your orders in-house.  Many small businesses even start by inventorying products in their own garage and handle the pick, pack, and ship on their own.  But if you do it right, and grow your business, you’ll outgrow that system very quickly. 

The Tipping Point: Making Your Fulfillment Procedures World Class

Once you get the hang of online sales, expanding into international markets is the natural next step.  To expand, you’ll have to transition from a do-it-yourself fulfillment model to a professional model, using international shipping services.  Handling all of the intricate details of international shipping can be daunting … and extremely time-consuming, especially for a business expanding internationally for the first time. This is the time to enlist the help of a freight forwarder. 

The Role of a Freight Forwarder

A freight forwarder acts as a full-service travel agent for your product.  Here is a basic list of activities a freight forwarder can perform for you:

  • Moving goods from your warehouse to a secure, bonded warehouse. 
  • Scrutinizing the goods for legal compliance, such as packaging, special shipping requirements, special safety procedures for hazardous materials, and proper palletization for safe shipping.
  • Prepare export customs clearance documents and certificates of origin.
  • Prepare the shipping containers for origin handling.  Each party that handles the goods must do a full inspection to make sure the shipments are in full legal compliance.  The freight forwarder is the first of many different parties that will handle the goods, so they make sure everything is in order and ready for the many inspections the shipment will go through.
  • Handle the import customs clearance upon arrival of the product’s final port of entry. Handle all of the administration of the goods and prepare them to be shipped to the final warehouse location.
  • Arrange in-country transportation from the in-bound warehouse to the end user’s warehouse.

As you can see, there is a lot to do and a lot to know.  An error in any of the above procedures could cost your company a lot of money and could also slow down your shipments.  It could even cost you customers.  That is why using a freight forwarder for international shipments is worth the money.  You will just have to factor that into your profit margins.

Perry Goldstein
Perry Goldstein

Perry Goldstein has spent over 40 years in the electronics industry, in both the Consumer and Pro A/V sides of the industry. He is a pioneer of the ecommerce industry, working with ecommerce platforms since the advent of the channel in the mid-1990s. He has extensive experience working with Amazon since their entry into the electronics industry, as well as many of the biggest online retailers.