Ecommerce fulfillment is the entire process of picking, packing, and shipping products to customers. It includes maintaining inventory, locating products within storage, packaging products, and managing the logistics of delivery.
Who would need e-commerce fulfillment partners?
- Businesses that run on a direct-to-consumer model and have no high street store or storage facilities
- Companies that have simply outgrown in-house fulfillment centre capabilities to the point they can no longer dispatch orders at scale
- Omni-channel businesses that are looking to add an e-commerce channel
Fulfillment providers have seen a great increase in business, with several new providers coming online. Picking the best one for your unique supply chain can be difficult, but considering these factors will help.
Worked with similar industries
Having a vendor that understands the needs of your products and customers will go a long way. If you’re shipping something with unique requirements, like perishable food or fragile goods, it’s important to have a shipping partner that fully understands how to handle them.
Has similar existing clients
If a company has a history of success with companies with fulfillment needs similar to yours, it’s reasonable to expect that they can do the same for you.
Has multiple warehouses
A robust warehouse management network with multiple geographic locations is ideal for reducing shipping times and costs. A healthy network of fulfillment centers is a sign that an order fulfillment company is prepared to cover inventory storage and make deliveries wherever the customer is.
Storage and fulfillment fees
Cost will always be a consideration. It is essential to understand how much is it to ship an order and how much is warehouse space per pallet? If you need to scale operations or introduce new SKUs, will there be a change in costs?
Data and analytics
What kind of data can the provider give you? How do they track packages and how are KPIs measured? Have a full understanding of what kind of metrics the vendor is able to provide.
Amazon Prime’s one/two-day delivery speeds are the new norm, which means modern consumers are expecting faster shipping speeds than ever before.
So, how can you align with these evolving expectations? By working with an order fulfillment company who can deliver on them. Top fulfillment companies should have efficient and effective fulfillment processes that enable them to get your products to your customers quickly. This becomes possible when they have numerous, strategically-located fulfillment warehouses and simplified order fulfillment software
Location of Fulfillment Warehouses
It’s clear that customers expect lightning-fast shipping speeds and, naturally, an important component of this process is the proximity of the fulfillment warehouse to the customer. It makes a ton of sense—the closer the order fulfillment center is to the end customer, the shorter the distance your products have to travel to get there, which means shorter shipping timelines (and lower shipping costs).
Features of Order Fulfillment Software
Different fulfillment companies use different order fulfillment software with various features and capabilities. It’s important to understand what your needs and goals truly are, and choose a fulfillment partner who leverages a software with features that can align. You also want to make sure their order fulfillment software is easy to implement and actually use throughout the day-to-day, and that it can seamlessly integrate with any other platforms and business apps you’re already using.
How well can your online store or app work with their API? What is onboarding like? Will there be issues with integrations? How will the shopping cart be impacted? Have a full understanding of what technology requirements there will be before committing to a vendor.
Transparency and Visibility
Your fulfillment process is a key component of this transparency – 88% of consumers say the ability to track shipments in real-time is important, and 69% say they are less likely to shop with a retailer in the future if a purchase is not delivered within two days of the date promised. A promise is a promise, and if you can’t fulfill it, you shouldn’t make it.
There’s millions of eCommerce businesses out there competing for consumers’ attention, so how can your brand stand out? Choosing an e-commerce fulfillment centre that provides branding options can help you build a brand and create a buzz for your business.
Along with branding, you want to choose an e-commerce fulfillment center with a wide variety of packaging options depending upon the product you are shipping. Not all boxes are created equal, so you want to be sure you have your pick of packaging
In addition to packaging be sure you have your pick of insulation materials too, whether that’s styrofoam peanuts, corrugated paper, foam rolls, shredded paper, bubble wrap, or air pillows.
You don’t want an online fulfillment center to be hands-off once they’ve shipped the product; after all, about 30% of all products ordered online are returned. Some returns are uncontrollable (a customer simply didn’t like the product), however a reputable fulfillment company will work with you on returns management to mitigate controllable returns – those that could potentially be reduced or eliminated through better forward logistics.
Order minimums are the number of orders your e-commerce fulfillment center must fulfill before they begin shipping them out.
This is important because some fulfillment centers have higher minimums than others, so you may need to adjust your inventory depending on their requirements or find another fulfillment center with lower minimums if necessary.
Policy for lost or damaged items?
It’s essential to know what are the policies and procedures that the fulfillment center of your choice has in case your products get damaged or lost in transit.
Whether you’re selling products of low or high value, having them damaged or lost can heavily impact your business and brand reputation.
Therefore, before signing up with an online fulfillment center, you’ll want to know what kind of compensation you’ll receive if any of your inventory is damaged or lost during transit.
Policy for shipping mistakes?
Knowing how your new fulfillment center will handle shipping mistakes should be another important factor in your decision-making process.
You want to know that if there’s a mistake with an order — like sending out the wrong product or wrong quantity — there will be no penalty or fee you’ll need to pay them to fix it. Or, if there is one, you’ll want to know how much.
It may be best to work with a company that offers free returns on all orders so that neither you nor your customers are charged if something goes wrong during the return process.