Step by Step Season 7 Episode 4
March 24, 2022

[Step by Step] How Does Cross-Border Commerce Impact Supply Chain?

For our 4th episode of Step by Step Season 7, we’re covering the question, “How Does Cross-Border Commerce Impact Supply Chain?” John Huelskamp from Flexport is here today to chat about technology, software implications, and how having the right people and partners is important. Tune in now!

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this episode sponsored by

Launching the Crawl, Walk, Run

  • As companies scale their operations into new markets, it's important to have the people, partners, and processes to scale efficiently. 
  • “We need technology to help us manage exceeding our own capacities and limits.” -Phillip
  • It’s about the relationships on the other side and how we relate to them, in order to make all things come together and bring product to the hands of the person trying to order from us.
  • “Once you've launched that crawl, walk, run process, if you've done that once in a new market, the next market you enter your tolerance for complexities up dramatically.” -John
  • When figuring out inefficiencies in your supply chain, go to your front-line workers and ask them about their days and where they feel the most inefficient. They’ll help you uncover the issues in your processes.
  • “Every person's capacity for change management is wildly different.” -John 

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Brian: [00:00:10] Hello and welcome to Step by Step, a podcast by Future Commerce, presented by Avalara. I'm Brian.

Phillip: [00:00:15] And I'm Phillip, and this is Season 7 a Step by Step. You're on episode [00:00:20] four of five. It's been a long journey, but if you're just joining us here right nearing toward the end, it might do you a whole lot of good to go back and get in from the beginning, go back to that first episode and jump in from there. I realize that you are probably a lot like me. You probably think you know a whole lot about cross-border. What I've [00:00:40] learned, Brian, is that I thought I knew a lot about cross-border. I knew nothing about cross-border until this series started.

Brian: [00:00:46] I know me neither.

Phillip: [00:00:48] Oh my gosh. I was like, "I know exactly how we're going to cover this. I know all the things that we could... We're going to come up with a list of gotchas. We're going to talk about all the things." I think that first planning meeting, we said [00:01:00] it's the what to expect when you're expecting guide. But for selling overseas.

Brian: [00:01:05] It turned out to be a 301 look. It turned out to be a master's level look at cross-border.

Phillip: [00:01:13] It's a master class. It has been and it's been a long journey. And I'm realizing now how naive [00:01:20] I was when we set out on this journey. I've never carried a child. So the what to expect when you're expecting, that's a completely terrible analogy. I've also never launched cross-border directly at a brand in the modern era, and there is so much more [00:01:40] tooling and technology to consider today than ever before. And that kind of brings us to where we are for Season 7, Episode 4. We're going to get deep into it today around supply chain.

Brian: [00:01:52] Yeah, supply chain is so important because the how you get your products manufactured [00:02:00] even impacts cross-border. Where they are coming from, who's manufacturing them. There are tax implications. There are duties implications.

Phillip: [00:02:10] Software implications.

Brian: [00:02:12] Software applications. There are brands that manufacture the tongue of their shoe in one country versus another [00:02:20] to make sure that they were meeting certain specifications.

Phillip: [00:02:24] Tariffs engineering. Supply chain. Supply chain impacts from cross-border due to tariffs. I mean, cross-border, we're learning on this journey so far now four episodes in, has both upstream [00:02:40] and downstream effects in your business, and you have to have not just the people, but also the processes and the software, the platforms that can drive it. So OK, we are here. We're jumping into it. Why don't we just get right into the content?

Brian: [00:02:57] Let's go.

Phillip: [00:02:58] We're all good friends now. This is going to [00:03:00] be an amazing episode. And today we are joined by John Huelskamp, who is the sales leader at Flexport, one of the most fascinating companies who are at the forefront of a supply chain crisis that we're having in the United States right now, at the time of this recording. Flexport is one of the largest companies helping to innovate and modernize supply chain [00:03:20] all over the world, but specifically here in the United States. And John is going to break it down to us the things that will need to go cross-border step by step. Let's take a listen. Today, we are back here in our fourth episode as we are making our way to understanding the world of cross-border here in the seventh season of Step by Step, and [00:03:40] we are joined by John Huelskamp, who is the Sales Leader at Flexport. Welcome, John. You are working for one of the fastest-growing and most exciting companies in a critical part of our nation's supply chain. Tell us a little bit about yourself and a little bit about Flexport.

John: [00:03:59] Well, first and [00:04:00] foremost, thank you for having me on. This is a lot of fun. So excited to be here. Yeah, it's been an interesting few months for those in the supply chain and increasingly, I think everybody is starting to realize that. So hopefully we'll see some improvement here in the months ahead. But quick background.  [00:04:20]I joined Flexport almost seven years ago, so that's quite a while, but certainly has flown by. I started as an account executive in the sales team and have managed a few different teams over the years and currently manage our North American enterprise team, which is our largest segment. And [00:04:40] I also work very closely with our product team, shaping the product roadmap, converting problems and challenges and ideas that our customers have to drive more efficiency in their supply chain, converting that into product vision and ultimately with the goal of building the platform for global logistics. So it's been [00:05:00] a phenomenal ride. We are so early, so early in this journey. But yeah, it's certainly exciting times in this particular industry.

Brian: [00:05:12] Wow, that's so cool. What a fun thing to be building and sounds challenging.  [00:05:20]It's such an important part of what we've been talking about during this season of Step by Step, focused on cross-border commerce. And so just to kind of get things kicked off, what are some of the technology and supply chain questions that a merchant needs to consider before [00:05:40] jumping into cross-border?

John: [00:05:42] Yeah, that's a really good question.  [00:05:44]When you think about companies, as they scale their operations and launch in new markets, when I kind of look at what leads to success, it really starts with making sure you have the people, the partners, the processes, [00:06:00] the systems to scale efficiently. [00:06:05] And most businesses, I think, have a really good handle on some of the core business systems that are needed to be successful, whether that's their ERP or warehouse management system, something that helps them [00:06:20] manage inventory. Obviously, Shopify is a piece of technology that a lot of direct to consumer brands use. So there's a lot, but I think one area that has lacked investment and has been, I don't want to say, taken for granted, but maybe underappreciated is the supply chain, and that's something [00:06:40] that's been really exposed over the last 18 to 24 months, as you've seen just how much unpredictability can exist and what that does to a modern supply chain that perhaps was optimized for cost or optimized for other things, or maybe [00:07:00] not given the attention it deserves. So I think that's one big thing that is on a lot of folks' minds as they think about how they scale their business into new markets and just in general.

Phillip: [00:07:12] When you're thinking about expanding into new markets, we've said this a couple of times on this show already, but I never considered [00:07:20] the upstream effects that international expansion can have in the way that you source materials or the way that you pull products together or even the merchandising effects and what you may decide to actually expose into new markets. Maybe tell us from the Flexport perspective, since you have such clarity and insight [00:07:40] into supply chain, what are some of those upstream effects that merchants often don't really think about before they look at expanding overseas?

John: [00:07:50] Yeah. So I think a really good example is just exposed when you think about the lifecycle of a purchase order, right? So a purchase order [00:08:00] is the document that memorializes what you're buying from your supplier or your contract manufacturer or vendor, whoever is producing your product. And that document is typically downloaded out of an ERP, saved as a PDF, emailed to [00:08:20] a supplier or a vendor overseas and that initiates the production process, and more companies than you probably would think are managing that entirely via email and Excel. That document and all of the key details [00:08:40] that are on that document starts the process of having supply chain visibility. And if you think about what that looks like when you're sourcing from one product from one supplier and selling in one market, you might be able to get away with that type of process, [00:09:00] but as soon as you start increasing that product library, launching new adjacent categories, products, styles, seasons, colors, you start sourcing from more and more suppliers in different regions: China, southern China, northern China, Vietnam, India, and then you start distributing [00:09:20] or shipping to multiple distribution centers: East Coast, West Coast, Hebron, Kentucky. Launching in a new market, that process will break down, and you will have, especially in this market, you will have a very, very tough time being able to understand [00:09:40] where inventory is, make smart decisions about when to list items as in stock and sellable on your website, answering customer questions about where their products are or when that key order that's going into Nordstrom's is going to arrive. That causes real, real pain [00:10:00] for supply chain teams. And now more increasingly, all of the adjacent teams all the way up to the boardroom. So that's the process that I think is being exposed right now. And there's obviously a lot that we're doing to try to solve that and a lot that the industry needs to do to solve that because that [00:10:20] is the common workflow.

Phillip: [00:10:21] I have never thought of a Dunbar's number. But for a number of supplier relationships or the number of unique technology relationships like we have so many of these types of... For those that aren't familiar, Dunbar's number is a sociology and anthropology theorized [00:10:40] limit that the cognitive, the human can maintain 150 max cognitive human connections. After that, we tend to do very poorly in balancing how everybody interacts with each other. I've never thought about that, and that just blew my mind. We need technology [00:11:00] to help us manage exceeding our own capacities and own limits, not just in the fact that these are a lot of things are broken over Excel and CSV files and PDFs. But well beyond that. It's about the relationships on the other side and how we're relating to the people that are helping make [00:11:20] all of this come to pass how we bring product in and how we get it to the hands of a person who is ultimately trying to purchase from us.

John: [00:11:29] Yeah. Reminds me of I read something recently, I was talking about how machine learning or just software, automated software decision-making [00:11:40] compares with the human brain. It's like the human brain can only store so much data right? It becomes an input and cataloging of information, which leads to a decision-making process. And humans are really good if you're working with limited amounts of data and limited inputs. But as soon as you increase those [00:12:00] that's where software shines, right? Software can not only categorize or catalog and store that data and access it more efficiently, but it can take in more inputs to automate a response or an action.

Brian: [00:12:13] Hmm. So getting inside the mind of someone that's about to launch internationally, what's [00:12:20] sort of the typical thought process of someone who does this right? So they're thinking through which markets they want to go into. They're thinking about how they want to get there. Tell us about the internal monologue of a merchant that's going to go to this.

John: [00:12:39] Yeah. [00:12:40] Yeah, it's an important process to think through. I think it starts with understanding which items, which SKUs are your top sellers. I think probably makes a lot more sense to launch in a new market with a limited SKU count so you can be efficient and controlled [00:13:00] in how you enter and then build process efficiency around that and get it up and running before you start introducing more complexity into that system. It also gives you a chance to test out the partners you're working with. You're probably working with a new warehouse, a new 3PL partner in that market, right? And so  [00:13:20]you've got to get all those elements down. That's not where my expertise is, but you can imagine the complexity that goes into receiving inventory, pick, pack, and ship, dealing with exchanges, customer service in a new market. There's a lot that goes into that, and I think, you're better off if you limit the [00:13:40] complexity that you can until you get that process, those partners, the people involved, the systems involved dialed in, and then you can start to gradually expand, whether that's more products, more specific, more 3PLs, more countries, what have you.

Phillip: [00:14:00] If [00:14:00] you're a small, direct to consumer brand, you have a limited SKU count or you're a branded manufacturer that's known for a hero product or, you know, small product line extension. Great, that makes perfect sense to me. If you're a large marketplace or retailer that has a very large SKU count, [00:14:20] is there a difference in the strategy there, and how often do operators get hung up on the progress over perfection? Because I feel like that's really what you're suggesting here is that you have to crawl, walk, run. I [00:14:40] have worked for 20 years with various brands of various sizes, I have a hard time believing there are certain retailers that I've worked with. I can hear them already kind of saying, "But my brand is nothing. My store is nothing if I don't have everything."

John: [00:14:53] Yeah, yeah, that's a good point. That's a good point. I think I'm probably not the expert there, [00:15:00] but I would imagine that [00:15:01] once you've launched that crawl, walk, run process, if you've done that once in a new market, the next market you enter your tolerance for complexities up dramatically. You've done it, and so you can follow that playbook. So I think to some extent that [00:15:20] step from one market to the second market really preps you to launch in the third and the fourth and beyond that [00:15:28] with a larger SKU count or with all the other elements of complexity that I mentioned. I think that's definitely, probably the case.

Phillip: [00:15:39] There's [00:15:40] a sense here of we talked about upstream effects, you know, the other is how do you plan on launching into a new market for the kind of demand that will be required? I'm assuming that most listening here are North America-centric. Most of them are looking to expand to EMEA or APAC or [00:16:00] South America. They're trying to think about what they're going to do. That adds even more lead time and more sort of unknowns in forecasting. What are the most successful brands that are working with you at Flexport doing to try to build in some elements of comfort in being able to accurately forecast and get products to a customer uninterrupted? [00:16:20]

John: [00:16:21] Yeah, yeah. Planning and forecasting is hard. I mean, that is hard for companies of all shapes and sizes in this market. That's one of the reasons why supply chain, a lack of supply chain technology is now rising to the surface as a major issue. There's a role for software to play in allowing [00:16:40] more accurate demand planning and forecasting and whatnot. I don't think I'm an expert when it comes to what the best brands are doing. I think I have a fairly limited view on where we're adding a ton of value. But I can imagine that when you launch in a new market, you're going to build up inventory in that region. [00:17:00] You're going to leverage data and historical sales and other signals from your core market to inform what you put in stock, how much runway you think that's going to allow you to have and you're going to launch in that market with some inventory built up in that area. Then once things get [00:17:20] up and running, you're going to start to move, you're going to hopefully move more and more towards probably just in time or close to it to keep those inventory costs down. You don't want to have a ton of working capital tied up in a supply chain, right? So that's my gut tells me that's what  [00:17:40]companies are doing, but I actually wouldn't know that with certainty, since we're not quite involved in that way.

Phillip: [00:17:49] Are you considering selling to international customers? I think you are because you are listening to this season of Step by Step. We have partnered with Avalara to create a 40 page merchant's [00:18:00] guide to cross-border commerce. This new Step by Step guide will take you through all of the things that you need to consider when putting people, processes, and platforms into place to have a winning cross-border strategy. Cross-border sales are a great way to increase your customer base and drive revenue and position your brand for the future. But it's not [00:18:20] without complexity. You have to consider the customer experience, you have to have a comprehensive timeline. You have to understand compliance, custom duties, and tax requirements, and you have to work with a wealth of partners. Our eight-step 40 page guide will help you to do that and create a winning cross-border strategy. Download [00:18:40] the guide for free right now at FutureCommerce.fm/Crossborder.

Phillip: [00:19:02] Flexport [00:19:00] in particular is very concerned in helping companies that are going cross-border manage supply chain. And that's, I think is such an interesting part of this conversation. Again, there are so many unintended consequences [00:19:20] of this decision to be able to... You can't just wake up one day and say, "Oh, I want to go cross-border. It's going to give deliver all this incremental revenue. It's going to help me grow my brand." Those are true. There are so many effects that you have to consider software to supply chain. Brian, [00:19:40] I'm sorry. I think you were about to jump in there.

Brian: [00:19:43] Yeah, no. I just found that to be really, really interesting. Actually, it's a build on what you were just saying, Phillip. The supply chain component also has this complexity to it that  [00:20:00]it seems that all of cross-border has complexity like tax, duties, et cetera, things that we've talked about in the past three episodes. There's a level of complexity here that's sort of I mean, it can feel overwhelming if you don't know what you're doing. It's a [00:20:20] lot of like manual research, a lot of things you have to go look up and figure out, "Oh, should I source from here? Oh, should I? What do duties look like when it gets to the customer?" There are all these things that sort of all add up. And I [00:20:40] certainly don't think I could launch in a new country, end to end myself, even having like been on this whole season. Now, I feel ill-equipped to do that myself. And some of the brands that are listening here might have some of these pieces in-house. But it also [00:21:00] feels to me like, and what I hear you saying, John, is that you're going to need a level of partnership and software involved in order to be able to do this at scale, even to do what you talked about, sort of that MVP. Just get [00:21:20] into the market in a small way. When thinking about that, how would you recommend that the merchant listeners evaluate those partners and start to think through, OK, like this might be the tool that I need, especially on the supply chain side?

John: [00:21:39] Yeah, [00:21:40] I think you brought up a great point. Expertise right? [00:21:43] You need to have partners that have the necessary expertise to allow you to make good decisions, whether that's trade advisory and trade compliance, tariff engineering, all these things that go into specific aspects of building [00:22:00] and managing a supply chain. Sourcing. If you're launching a new market, what is that going to do to your sales? Is it going to double your sales? Does your current supplier have that much capacity? Do you need to look at dual sourcing? Does the duty rate out of the specific country that you're manufacturing in for the US, does that have [00:22:20] a different duty rate when you go into a new market? These are all things that hopefully you can model in, [00:22:25] and I would imagine vetting some partners is an important part of that process, just like any other major decision, right? But hopefully, you've found partners early on for other aspects that you've [00:22:40] built up that relationship, you have that level of trust. They operate as an extension of your team and they've got the global reach to start to support in all these different areas so that you don't feel like you're constantly having to find a new partner for each new product [00:23:00] or each new country that you go into or each new supplier that you're sourcing from. And I think that's something that's obviously valuable as you scale.

Phillip: [00:23:10]  But [00:23:20] how often do you find that there's a ton of room for improvement when you begin working with a new brand who's coming on to Flexport? They're probably already doing some cross-border to some degree. How often are you able to come in and say, "Oh wow, there's so much room for improvement?" And [00:23:40] what often are those things that they could be addressing, but they're overlooking?

John: [00:23:45] So for the back room, for the audience, at Flexport we work with companies of all shapes and sizes everywhere, from brand new startup direct to consumer eCommerce companies all the way up to Fortune One Hundred Brands, some of the larger [00:24:00] shippers in the world. That early segment, those young companies that are building their business, these are entrepreneurs that have put their blood, sweat, and tears into this company. They're taking a huge risk. They're building their baby if you will, and they look at the solutions in the market, particularly [00:24:20] the freight forwarding partners, and it's very easy for them to see why Flexport is the partner of choice. They are so used to intuitive, delightful software in every capacity in their life, ordering a burrito, going on a dating app, delivering [00:24:40] Amazon groceries from Whole Foods. Everything is so easy and intuitive and delightful. And then they go to managing their supply chain and moving millions and millions of dollars of their inventory around the world, and it's two decades archaic. That is the state of the market that [00:25:00] Flexport launched our company in. And as we've grown up and obviously the industry around us has progressed a lot. So it's not like our competitors aren't investing as well, but that's where we had a lot of success with those early-stage companies. So we get to start [00:25:20] that journey with them at various stages. Sometimes it's their first shipment of inventory in from their contract manufacturers. In other cases, we joined that journey a little bit later, and they've already launched in two different markets. To get back to your question, everybody's at a different state, [00:25:40] and it is quite common, though, that when I have conversations with companies, they they are a little bit insecure and we're embarrassed about their process. They know it's not working. They feel it. Their employees feel it. They've got individuals manually aggregating Excel data and then manually typing it back [00:26:00] into an ERP just to keep other business stakeholders up to date with where cargo is. And the unfortunate message that I have, fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your point of view that I tell them, it's like you're not alone. Everybody's going through this and everybody's struggling with the same workflow. So, yeah, it can vary. But [00:26:20] I've talked to very young companies that are several years into their launch that have much more sophisticated supply chains and use of software than companies that have been operating for 30 years. And so it just completely depends on the [00:26:40] specific nature of the company. Some companies don't need to invest in software quite as dramatically as others do, and that's just a function of a lot of different things. How many suppliers, how many SKUs, how complicated your purchase orders are. All those things.

Brian: [00:26:59] Yeah. You [00:27:00] got to what I was going to ask you, which is what are some of the questions that retailers and brands should be asking themselves as they go to set up the right processes. And I think you kind of just hit on a little bit. It probably depends on the industry there, and it probably depends on the [00:27:20] mix of products that they have. But were there any other existential questions that they should ask themselves in regard to the processes that they're going to use? Maybe what are some of the common questions that you would go in and when you're consulting with a client of yours that [00:27:40] you would help them think through?

John: [00:27:42] Well, I think my recommendation to folks that are maybe higher up in the org is to go talk to your employees. Go ask them what their day-to-day workflow looks like. Ask them where they feel like they are wasting time or doing something inefficiently. [00:28:00] And whether it's the purchasing team or the finance team. Buyers who are managing vendors and dealing with the purchasing or the logistics team that is managing and responsible for overseeing the transportation of goods... You'll learn a lot from those folks, and I think it starts with them. [00:28:19] If you're going to [00:28:20] figure out where you have inefficiencies in your supply chain, whether it's process or partners, you're going to hear it from the front lines. And I think that's one thing that I always start with when I talk to a company is you want to get those stakeholders in the room and let's process map. Let's talk through the specific workflow that takes place from [00:28:40] the moment you're cutting a purchase order all the way till that inventory is received into inventory and just go through that flow. And it's a really enlightening process, and it's going to more often than not surface really easy opportunities where you can drive significant improvement, whether [00:29:00] that's workflow efficiency, visibility into the supply chain, communication, and collaboration, really making sure that that you're doing all those things efficiently. [00:29:13]

Brian: [00:29:14] Hmm, interesting.

Phillip: [00:29:16] You know what's amazing is when you're trying to break down a really [00:29:20] complicated topic like we are here and there are so many areas that it touches, a lot of the conversations tend to come to a point of, well, it depends. And that's because it really does depend. It depends so much on what you're trying to do. We have a good friend of ours, a [00:29:40] frequent contributor to Future Commerce, Alex Greifeld, whose mantra is "no best practices" because there is no one piece of advice that fits everybody's situation. It's highly dependent on the goods you're selling, where you're located, what you're trying to accomplish, how mature you are as a business, the software [00:30:00] that you have in place. All of those things are dependent factors. And even then, there's no saying that this is going to be easy. The journey is not going to be easy.

John: [00:30:09] Yeah. Every person's capacity for change management is wildly different.

Phillip: [00:30:16] Oh, go deeper on that. I think that that speaks to organization, not just [00:30:20] organizational maturity, but the maturity of the operators in the role. How often do you sort of feel like there's an upskilling that's happening in the company as you're engaging with your clients?

John: [00:30:34] I think there's a little bit of that happening for sure, and I would say it's probably happening broadly across [00:30:40] our industry. And I think that's just the nature of probably any industry, but particularly one that's going through quite a dramatic transformation given the events out there. But yeah, I think change management is an interesting topic. The topic of adoption software. Any time you're talking about complex software solutions, adoption is an issue, [00:31:00] right? And I think there's the added complexity of software like what we're building is it's not just the users that my team is selling to our customer base, but you're talking about supplier adoption in different countries. So are you building software that renders [00:31:20] in Mandarin when a company's suppliers are opening it up in China? And so there are a lot of interesting software adoption questions that we try to wrestle with to make sure that we're building something that's not just easy and impactful [00:31:40] and full of insight for the modern direct to consumer and eCommerce brands. Maybe it's one segment that we do really well with, but it's also for their suppliers. And so it's an added challenge, I think, for us as we build software. And that's the same thing for truck [00:32:00] drivers and warehouse staff, right? Everybody's got different roles and responsibilities, and you've got to really build for all these different user personas.

Brian: [00:32:09] Wow. Its complexity upon complexity. It's a lot to think through and alas, a lot of self-assessment, a lot of being realistic, and a lot of having [00:32:20] the right partner. One other question that I have for you. So if you're a merchant and you're looking at going cross-border from the supply chain side, what would you consider minimum? And let's say it's a relatively simple jump, maybe the US to maybe another [00:32:40] western country, maybe even another English-speaking country, what's some minimum rolls and software that kind of need to be in place in the company in order to make a jump like that?

John: [00:32:54] Yeah. So I think you have to have a top-tier ERP. I think just in general, that's [00:33:00] number one. I think most companies really should invest in that. If you don't have a solid ERP to begin with. Once you start opening in a new market, let's say you're not ready to go sign a lease and manage fulfillment yourself. So you've got to find a great fulfillment partner that's going to be able to manage the pick, [00:33:20] pack, and ship or the white glove delivery if you're talking about some high, high-priced consumer product. You've got to find the right fulfillment partner. And more often than not, that's going to require a new piece of software. So maybe it's a fulfillment partner that's already got the WMS or the inventory management system that you've deployed here in the States. They've got that available [00:33:40] over there. Maybe they've got their own piece of software and you've got to get comfortable with the idea now of having two different pieces of software. But maybe that's OK because it's all integrated with your ERP anyways. So I would say you've got your ERP, you've got warehouse management and fulfillment software is potentially [00:34:00] new. Hopefully, your freight forwarder is going to expand with you. And that's one of the reasons people partner with Flexport is we're easily able to extend the partnership that we already have and help them launch in that new market. And so you don't necessarily need any software there because you've already got that [00:34:20] supply chain, software backbone in place. I'm trying to think if there's anything else I would say hopefully you're already using the same kind of eCommerce infrastructure. Maybe you have to have a conversation about headless commerce and some of that stuff, which is a hot topic. And by no means am I an expert [00:34:40] there. But yeah, I think [00:34:43] you're basically looking at new warehouse management and inventory management and fulfillment software. And if you don't have the right freight forwarding partner, you're probably looking at a piece of software there. If you've got the right freight forwarding partner hopefully they've got [00:35:00] the platform that just extends with you into that new market. [00:35:02]

Phillip: [00:35:04] Yeah, that is extremely comprehensive and I think exactly what we were looking for and sort of an expert's perspective on the kinds of things there's like a mental checklist of the things you need to have in place as like the [00:35:20] what to expect when you're expecting for cross-border because there are so many, especially today, where you can effectively turn on and demand channel. You can buy ads. You can probably aggregate a lot of demand in a given market [00:35:40] and you're probably eager to test. You're eager to just ship from domestic to international. You know, let's just test. And the problem is that a test rarely turns out to be what gives you the kinds of results that will give you any confidence of what all the other pieces that need to be put into [00:36:00] place would bear out, including the organizational shift. So that's just brilliant. Thank you so much, John.

John: [00:36:07] Yeah, it's interesting to think about just the marketing element. Like I don't think about all these things all that often. But yeah, imagine how much easier it is today to market and build demand for a sexy direct to consumer eCommerce [00:36:20] product relative to 20 years ago. You just do some ad buys on Instagram or whatever and you've already extended your reach with limited effort, and I think that's something that is a huge boon for modern brands these days, as you can build up that demand quickly.

Phillip: [00:36:40] Something [00:36:40] that Brian, I'm hoping we can work into our series opener, but we've all been on the receiving end of that when it's done poorly. I know in particular, Wish.com, and those sorts of companies. They catch me out a lot of times on marketplaces where [00:37:00] I'll order something, I didn't realize I was doing business with an offshore company and everything beyond the purchase becomes painful. Now imagine if you are the consumer and that's all of your transactions with a lot of these US-based domestic bougie brands. That is the exact opposite of the [00:37:20] experience that you're hoping to project, especially for the brand that you're trying to build.

John: [00:37:24] And returns and exchanges. I'm glad you brought that up. I didn't even mention that. Yeah, I can think of countless examples where I've inadvertently bought a product and didn't realize it was shipping from the UK, only to realize like this isn't the right size or whatever. And then  [00:37:40]the return itself is more expensive than the product.

Phillip: [00:37:44] Exactly, exactly. It's such a salient point. So yeah, pitfalls abound, but I think we all understand if you can do it right and if you put the right pieces in place, the [00:38:00] opportunity that is in front of you to reach a global audience is unbelievable and is worth the investment. Let's say that a growing brand is listening to this and they're looking forward to trying to modernize their supply chain operations. How [00:38:20] do they get in touch with Flexport?

John: [00:38:23] Well, Phillip, I wasn't going to come on here and use this as a sales opportunity, but I appreciate that lay-up question.

Phillip: [00:38:29] Good service is good selling.

John: [00:38:31] I promise the audience that I did not just Venmo Phillip for that. I would say the quickest way [00:38:40] is if you get on our website, there's a way to get in touch with our sales team directly on the website. If you're listening to this, find me on LinkedIn. Shoot me a message. I'm probably opening myself up here. But yeah, yeah, I would say go to our website. That's the quickest way. We have an awesome sales team who gets in touch really [00:39:00] quickly, and then we love to just dive in and understand your business, the current state of your supply chain. Where you're trying to drive growth, where you're trying to improve process. And we just want to be a resource. And in some cases, that leads to a conversation with helping manage some portion of the freight. [00:39:20] Maybe it's a brokerage relationship, or maybe it's more focused on the software and visibility solutions that we can provide. But yeah, absolutely. Looking forward to connecting with anyone in the audience today.

Phillip: [00:39:32] Well, thank you so much, John, and thank you all for listening to this Episode 4 of our seventh season. We have one more left. Make sure that [00:39:40] you tune in tomorrow for Episode 5 as we wrap up this series on going cross-border.

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