Black Cat is coming!!!

Entrepreneurs nowadays, regardless of the size of businesses, are entering the age of e-commerce and leaving the legacy brick-and-mortar retail concept behind.  This is because with e-commerce comes smaller investments and overheads, and larger savings; ipso facto, revenue margins. The fact that breakeven points are achieved much easier and faster, alone, makes the SWOT analysis more enticing with business survivability and opportunities from new windows being opened that did not and would not have, previously. If somehow the much lower breakeven point turns out to be unattainable, minimal harm is done. Brush off the sleeves and jump right back in the ring again. The reduction of costs such as space rental and wage/salary for sales staff can yield that kind of make-or-break difference. Besides, e-commerce can be profitable in so many ways as online transactions are feasible and safe 24/7 and round the clock, while online promotions are accessible by and large customers. Financial transactions are swift and convenient for both the buyer and the business operator. The generated Big data is used for further analysis of demand trends and/or consumption behavior to streamline marketing strategies and improve business models, operation processes and sales techniques.

Logistics service providers have thus become a pivotal factor as far as smooth e-commerce operations are concerned.  Concentrating solely on product and service differentiation no longer squares with requirements on the demand side. Adding upstream value (suppliers) for downstream receivers (customers) seems to be the development area with the greatest potential, where logistics service providers can be of most help.

Yamato Transport (Yamato Transport Co., Ltd.), otherwise commonly referred to as “Black Cat” (Kuroneko), is Japan’s largest door-to-door delivery service company that was founded in 1919 – an example of companies that made its claim to fame by concentrating on value creation at every stage of service provision as evident in the company’s unique logo, a black mother cat carrying her kitten in her mouth.  Albeit a very ordinary logo unlikely to be associated with a viable business model, it connotes the company’s profound promise to take care of the items entrusted to them as though the items were their own family.  You might think anyone can make such a statement, however, the way Yamato has persevered with the service has raised the bar in terms of what it takes and what it really means to do so.

Given the extremely convenient, facilitating communication network in Japan, people can lead their lives without having to rely too heavily on private cars.  All kinds of shops selling items necessary in people’s daily lives are visible in train and subway stations.  However, to shop a heavy load of household goods and carry them in public transport system is problematic but simultaneously opens up a business opportunity giving rise to the home delivery industry in Japan.

To be sure, opportunities attract logistics service providers, many of whom are trying to compete in the area of home delivery, including Fukuyama Transporting, Seino Transportation, Japan Post and Sagawa Express.  Numerous marketing strategies have been applied in the process to promote their services.  In 2013, Japanese women throughout the nation were waiting enthusiastically for the arrival of Sagawa Danshi, or Sagawa men, selected good-looking, sprightly men of Sagawa Express who became the company’s competitive advantage as far as their seemingly thriving nation-wide delivery services were concerned.

Be that as it may, what Sagawa Express’ business rivals such as Yamato Transport adopted as their competitive advantage to counter said Sagawa Express’ strategy turned out to be just as surprising.  Yamato introduced stylish gloves with cat tracks design worn by all Yamato delivery men which are daily seen and appreciated by customers – a proof that Yamato Transport knows firsthand that Japanese love all things ‘kawaii’ (カワイイ in Japanese means cute).  Besides, customers can also redeem Kuroneko points accumulated by using the company’s services for the stylish gloves.

There’s more to the equation.  In 2015, Yamato Transport launched yet another striking gimmick to create positive customer experience.  This time it was their delivery packaging.  When the customer opens the package, he/she will see cats walking in line along the length of the package, be it a box or an envelope.  Besides the success in creating a difference, the company received a truly positive feedback after the launch.

Tourists in Japan will have to admit that the logo depicting a black cat with her kitten in the mouth carries a conspicuous presence in every region of the country.  In addition, one of the highly impressive services appreciated by tourists can be no other than the airport-to-hotel transport of baggage (Airport TA-Q-BIN) or hotel-to-hotel transport of baggage or transport from Black Cat office or a convenience store to another hotel (TA-Q-BIN), designed to provide tourist convenience.  The entire process is very simple.  At the outset, the tourist finds out from the first hotel as well as the hotel of his/her destination whether they provide baggage pick-up and delivery services.  Most hotels do.  He/She proceeds then to fill in relating forms and give details about the sender and destination address, including the pick-up time.  After checking out related information and paying service charge as per baggage size and weight plus distance, he/she proceeds to notify the destination hotel.  That is all that needs to be done.  The tourist can relax and expect the baggage to be delivered at his/her destination.  (We are not going into details about restrictions involved in the process.)  At any rate, in case the hotel does not provide baggage pick-up and delivery services, the tourist can still drop off his/her baggage with a convenience store providing such services, which he/she can check out online.

There are other interesting aspects of Yamato Transport’s service dedication which has created value and impressed its customers.

  1. Yamato Transport provides delivery services to various destinations with no restrictions on whether they are snow-covered areas, archipelago accessed only by sea or not, even despite inaccurate address or the case where only the telephone number or postal code is available. Yamato Transport does not consider these shortcomings a problem because, if the first effort turns out to be fruitless, they continue with the second and third efforts until delivery is successful.
  2. Yamato Transport delivers items in perfect conditions regardless of whether they are boxes of books or highly fragile items.  The company promises “Soft touch in Purin” (pudding).  To elaborate, Yamato Transport guarantees that the pudding they deliver to the receiver remains in the same shape and condition at the starting point.          
  3. To reduce pollution and conserve the environment, Yamato Transport has come up with delivery by means of bicycle-driven carts which are quite visible in urban areas such as Tokyo.  Besides, to help customers save spending money on delivery service fee, Yamato Transport also provide delivery by public bus.
  4. Kuroneko delivery man helps his peers (i.e. delivery men working with other companies) regardless of whether such companies are Yamato’s business rivals, if it turns out that they need help while in transit.

Furthermore, as a means to respond to its customers’ needs and better access its customers, Yamato Transport launched an innovative marketing strategy in the form of a Vender Cat, a mega-sized e-delivery box shaped like a black cat installed at train stations in many cities. As such, the customers find that using the services provided by the black cat quite simple and amusing.

Yamato Transport’s dedication and attentiveness to the customers’ needs have led to service-based value creation as well as contributed to brand loyalty among its Japanese customers for more than four decades. 

It is essential that the company retains its service quality as the business thrives because this is equivalent to keeping its promise to the public and retaining the customers’ trust and confidence all through the years.  Business operators in the service provision circle should make an effort to look for a strategy befitting the nature of their business so as to be able to grab the potential opportunities essential for their continued and sustainable growth, Yamato Transport has been able to do. The Green Delivery option sure sounds like a great idea. A large portion of customers would willingly opt for a slower, and even slightly more expensive, delivery option as a trade-off for having imperishable goods or non-urgent packages transported by greener modes of transportation such as bicycles, motorcycles, natural gas based or hybrid vehicles and boats, as well as public transportation that yields smaller footprints on their delivery behalf. The future is in our hands.

Compiled by BLOG.SCGLogistics

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