Order fulfillment is the act of getting an order into the customer’s hands. For e-commerce retailers, especially those that are purely online, fulfilling sales orders is one of the most important parts of your business. A company skilled in order fulfillment will stand out as they can get packages to customers with less time and fewer complications. Being unskilled only increases customer dissatisfaction and raises the chance they’ll want a refund. In a sense, the quality of the order fulfillment can even rival the quality of the product itself.
There are multiple forms of fulfillment options available to your business. Being able to choose the proper one requires having all the information on-hand and an understanding of your business’s needs and functions. Here are the general forms of order fulfillment that you can select from.
Self-fulfillment is when you and your staff handle the packaging and shipping yourselves. It’s a highly affordable option since—because storage and packaging is handled in-house—you only pay for shipping. As an added bonus, you get the sense of security from knowing exactly what goes on during packaging since you either did it yourself or oversaw the process. You also have enhanced control over how your product and package is branded and are able to customize it in any way you see fit.
The downsides to self-fulfillment are, paradoxically enough, due to its positives. Since everything is done in-house, space and resources can become a problem. Self-fulfillment is easy to manage with low volume, but as business picks up and products expand, you may run into trouble finding a place to store everything. Furthermore, you and your employees have a business to grow and packaging large product volumes will cut into that time dramatically.
Drop shipping is best imagined as an “on-demand” type of e-commerce order fulfillment. When using drop shipping, the manufacturer creates and ships the products themselves, cutting out the middleman. This is a highly efficient option since you never have to worry about excess stock and it is hassle-free because you don’t do any packaging work. Depending on the manufacturer you use, you may also find that drop shipping lets you offer a much larger selection of products that would not otherwise be feasible.
On the flip side, you have less control over the packaging process. The manufacturer packages and brands the deliveries as they choose. If you use more than one drop shipper, they may have different terms or delivery standards that can cause confusion for customers who think your products have the same source. It is also costly—since the manufacturer is doing all the work, they are going to want to be compensated accordingly.
Outsourced fulfillment is exactly what it sounds like: a third party is contracted to handle your e-commerce sales fulfillment needs. Outsourcing provides a dedicated company for storage, packaging, and delivery. Since this is a business focus and not an added service (like in drop shipping), there is added incentive to provide higher quality services.
An effective e-commerce fulfillment company also has a number of different tools that can assist you. This can include things such as real-time stock or delivery tracking, letting you have a whole view of the supply chain. Proper agility means the e-commerce fulfillment company can respond to spikes or slumps in business, allowing you to scale their services to your business’s immediate needs.
APS Fulfillment, Inc. is a specialist in direct mail marketing and e-commerce product fulfillment. Visit our website for more tips on how to identify the best e-commerce, inventory management and shipping fulfillment strategies.