Cracking the Logistics Code for Brands Selling in Asia

In today’s global market, the opportunity for brands to expand into Asia is immense. With its booming economies and growing middle class, Asia represents a goldmine for businesses. However, navigating the logistics landscape in this diverse region can be a daunting task. Understanding these challenges is crucial for ensuring smooth operations and keeping your customers satisfied. 

The Allure and Challenge of Asia’s Market 

Asia’s ecommerce market is exploding. According to Statista, online sales in the region have been growing at an unprecedented rate. Yet, selling in Asia comes with its unique set of hurdles, particularly in logistics. Here’s what you need to know so you can make the most of the opportunities. 

Transportation Infrastructure 

Diverse and Underdeveloped Networks 

One of the primary challenges you might face is the diverse and often underdeveloped transportation infrastructure across Asia. Unlike the seamless and advanced transport systems found in Western countries, many Asian nations grapple with a mix of modern and outdated infrastructure. This directly impacts delivery times and overall efficiency. 

Geographic and Traffic Considerations 

Countries like Indonesia and the Philippines are made up of thousands of islands, making road transport arduous and time-consuming. You’ll need to account for these delays and plan accordingly to ensure timely deliveries. You’ll also need to understand the variability in transportation networks so you can set realistic delivery expectations. 

Thailand’s congested roads and Vietnam’s urban traffic jams also pose significant challenges. In rural areas of India, poor road conditions can hinder last-mile delivery, affecting customer satisfaction. It is essential to understand these regional nuances and tailor your logistics strategies effectively. 

Supply Chain Visibility 

Importance of End-to-End Visibility 

In the realm of logistics, visibility is so important. Having a clear view of the entire supply chain lets you anticipate disruptions, manage inventory efficiently and meet customer expectations. However, achieving this in Asia can be challenging due to the fragmented nature of the region’s logistics networks. 

Technological Integration Challenges 

Integrating various technologies across different countries adds layers of complexity. Each nation might have its own set of approved technology systems and standards, making seamless integration difficult. Disparate data sources can lead to blind spots in the supply chain, making it hard to track shipments accurately. 

Enhancing Visibility 

To tackle these issues, some companies turn to advanced technologies like IoT, AI and blockchain. Another option is to engage a partner that has existing logistics networks and can provide you with the visibility you need but can’t get on your own. Such partners can make sure you have real-time tracking and can give your shoppers accurate delivery dates. 

Warehouse Space and Freight Rates 

High Demand for Storage Space 

Asia’s rapid growth has led to a high demand for storage space, driving up costs significantly. Warehousing in key locations can be prohibitively expensive, especially in major cities where space is at a premium. You will want to strategise carefully to balance cost and proximity to your customer base. 

Fluctuating Freight Rates 

Freight rates in Asia are notoriously volatile. Factors such as fuel prices, geopolitical tensions and seasonal demand can cause significant fluctuations. This unpredictability can strain budgets and disrupt financial planning, making it crucial for you to have flexible strategies in place. 

Mitigating Space and Rate Challenges 

Strategies like using shared warehousing facilities and leveraging freight rate management tools can help mitigate these challenges. Building strong relationships with providers can also offer more stable rates and better terms. Additionally, partnerships can let you take advantage of economies of scale, making it easier and more cost-effective to continue your global expansion. 

Consumer Behavior and Expectations 

Ecommerce Boom in Asia 

The ecommerce boom in Asia has reshaped consumer behaviour and expectations. Shoppers in the region are tech-savvy and demand convenience, flexibility and high-quality service. Meeting these expectations requires robust strategies that can handle high volumes and fast delivery times. 

Rising Expectations 

Consumers now expect same-day or next-day delivery, easy returns and constant updates on their order status. With giants like Amazon setting the bar high, you’ll be under pressure to step up your game. Failure to meet these expectations can lead to negative reviews and lost business. 

Adapting Logistics Strategies 

You can adapt by making sure you have the right delivery options – including omnichannel choices – in place so shoppers can receive and return orders more conveniently. A reliable partner can help you put localised strategies in place so you can meet customer demands from day one. In addition, providing real-time tracking and flexible delivery windows, can enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Unforeseen Instability 

Political, Economic and Natural Instabilities 

Asia’s diverse landscape also means dealing with various instabilities, from political upheavals and economic fluctuations to natural disasters. These unforeseen events can disrupt supply chains and affect delivery timelines. 

Importance of Contingency Plans 

Having robust, reliable contingency plans is crucial. This includes diversifying supply sources, maintaining buffer stocks, having alternative transport routes and redundant logistics options in Asia.

For example, during the 2011 floods in Thailand, many global brands faced massive disruptions. Those with contingency plans in place managed to reroute their logistics operations and minimise impact. Similarly, the political unrest in Hong Kong has caused some companies to shift their logistics hubs to more stable regions. 

Diversity of Markets 

Cultural, Regulatory and Economic Diversity 

Asia is not a monolith; it contains countries with distinct cultures, regulations and economic conditions. This diversity requires you to tailor your entire cross-border strategy – including logistics – to each individual market, considering local nuances and consumer preferences. 

Tailoring Logistics Strategies 

Japan’s consumers prioritise punctuality and high quality service, while in China, speed and efficiency are paramount. Understanding these differences and working with an experienced vendor, can help you align your strategies and plans with local expectations, enhancing customer satisfaction. 

Localised Logistics Approaches 

The most effective and efficient approach is to partner with an expert who has established relationships with reliable, local logistics providers. Additionally, such a partner should also understand regional regulations, and be able to customise packaging and delivery options. This flexibility can improve operational efficiency and build stronger connections with local customers. 

High Costs of Logistics in Asia

Cross-Border Ecommerce Costs 

Cross-border ecommerce faces high logistics costs in Asia, including tariffs, taxes and complex customs procedures. These costs can erode profit margins and make pricing competitive products challenging.  

Breaking Down Cost Components 

Logistics costs include transportation, warehousing, handling and customs duties. Understanding the breakdown of these costs can help you identify areas for cost optimisation.

Cost-Effective Management 

Managing the costs of doing business in Asia may require more resources than you have. But a lack of internal know-how or human resources doesn’t need to keep you out of this valuable market. Leaning on the experience and established relationships that a vendor provides not only reduces your internal resources burden, but also gets you to market faster and helps manage costs so you can maintain a healthy margin.  

Conclusion 

Expanding into Asian markets offers tremendous opportunities, but it comes with its unique set of logistics challenges. From navigating diverse transportation networks and ensuring supply chain visibility to managing high costs and adapting to local consumer expectations, you need to be prepared to overcome these hurdles. 

ESW has experience launching and growing brands in more than 200 global markets, including countries in Asia. Contact us to talk about your brand’s goals and the obstacles you’re facing. We’ll find solutions that expand your business and generate sustained revenue.