When it comes to your company’s e-commerce fulfillment services, there are many downsides to handling shipping in-house. Packaging, labeling, sorting, and shipping are best carried out by dedicated distribution centres rather than employees who are taking time away from other duties. Furthermore, large numbers of shipments may exceed the capacity of your own staff; in fact, such volume should be the goal of any ambitious business. While it is understandable to be reluctant about letting an outside firm handle a value-added service like e-commerce order fulfillment, doing so can provide a net benefit to both you and your customers. We at APS Fulfillment know how to manage a successful e-commerce fulfillment service and would like to share some tips to anyone looking to outsource their own product deliveries.
Information is Key
When you outsource your e-commerce fulfillment to an outside firm, you want to be able to stay on top of matters just as easily as if they were a part of your own company. Any competent shipper will offer access to inventory and case-management information, ideally in real time. Such information should be easily accessible and simple to navigate and also include alerts if stock is running low. Transparency on costs is also important. Ultimately, any charges the outsourced firm makes should be clearly stated and ready to be explained.
Check for Typical Shipment Type and Volume
Look at the type of merchandise your prospective e-commerce order fulfillment company delivers and see if it matches your own business. Some companies specialize in delivering large, bulky items a few dozen times per month while others are used to shipping out thousands of t-shirts in the same time period. Making sure your volume and type of merchandise shipments match the fulfillment company is an important consideration.
For instance, if you expect to need more deliveries than the company is used to, that will only strain their resources and create headaches for all parties involved. Conversely, if you expect to need far fewer deliveries than the company typically handles (such as using the t-shirt company for under a hundred shirts per month) then you run the risk of not receiving adequate care or consideration by the employees who see you as “minor.” Some companies offer better rates for e-commerce order fulfillment services that fall within specific product or volume ranges, so look out for that as well.
Flexibility for Future Plans
Any future needs should also be taken into account when choosing an e-commerce fulfillment service. If you run promotions, will they be able to handle the increased number of deliveries? How about if you plan to expand overseas; are they equipped to handle deliveries by plane? If you regularly change or add new merchandise, are their systems able to quickly adapt and adjust? Make sure to get a clear answer about these questions and establish plans for what to do when your fulfillment requirements change.
Look at Customer Service
A competent e-commerce order fulfillment service is one that’s responsive to both customer needs and your own. Check to see if they have any guarantees for delivery length and whether they operate during holidays or weekends. If a mistake occurs (and one inevitably will, for any number of reasons), will they compensate you and/or the customer and take responsibility? Remember that the e-commerce fulfillment company is going to be the one physically interacting with your customer and how they act will reflect on you.