You’ve started your online business and it’s going better than you could have hoped for. Your products are selling like hotcakes and you can hardly keep them in stock. With this incredible success comes a downside – you’re now spending more than half of your day packing boxes and making post office runs to satisfy the orders, instead of growing your business.
Maybe it’s time to think about outsourcing your order fulfillment. But how do you find the right fulfillment company? They will be handling a major part of your business, from inventory storage to packing and shipping and everything in between, not to mention what a big part timely deliveries are for overall customer satisfaction.
The best way to chose is to A) decide what you need and B) research, research, RESEARCH. We’ve narrowed down some key points for you to look into when shopping for a fulfillment partner.
“There are two very important things to consider when choosing a fulfillment partner. One, first figure out what your needs are and find a place that can actually help you,” offers Fulfillrite co-founder Joe Brieger. “Do they specialize in dealing with the type of goods you sell? For example, if your company sells apparel, that category is known to have a high SKU count and 10% return rate. Does the company you’re looking at have experience in this area?”
The second point, Joe emphasizes, is “It’s not about saving money, it’s about a partnership. When choosing a fulfillment company, you are really bringing on a partner in your business. Choosing the right team can help your company grow; they care and want you to grow. Lots of companies out there are happy to just pack up your boxes and ship; Fulfillrite has the eCommerce experience to be able to share good advice and help build the relationship.”
The internet has made it very easy to look up companies and their reputations, but also easy enough for some to make false claims. Trust in what real people have to say via reviews found on sites like Google, the Shopify app store, TrustPilot, etc. It’s also a good practice to reach out to some of their customers for direct feedback.
Experience and Background Check
How long has the company you’re looking at been around? Are they a start-up or a dinosaur? While 20+ years of experience is good on paper, are they holding on to outdated processes could be a hindrance in today’s fast-paced eCommerce and crowdfunding world? On the flipside, a young startup may not yet have the maturity to be able to take on any complicated projects or unexpected issues your business may encounter.
Today’s eCommerce retailers expect – rightfully so – everything to be automated, with the latest e-commerce integrations to be available right “out of the box.” Does the company you’re looking into integrate easily with the shopping cart solution you’re using; is its technology on the forefront? Will you have access to real-time data?
Customer Service and Support
This is so important; we can’t tell you how many businesses call us with stories of bad customer service they’ve been subjected to with other companies. Forming a strong relationship with your order fulfillment partners is key. When shopping around, ask about dedicated account managers, what the turnaround time on a support ticket generally would be and whom to speak to if an urgent issue arises. You will trust your inventory, business and reputation to them; it’s critical to know that there will be someone to help you if you need it.
Choosing a fulfillment center by location depends on a variety of factors, one being your customer demographics. Do you have a mix of orders from all over the country/world, or is your product more location-centric? (You wouldn’t use a warehouse in Hawaii if your company sells, say, down jackets.) Our guide to using a company with multiple warehouses goes over some excellent points on the matter.
Once you’ve decided on a few possible candidates, look deeper into their physical locations on a local scale. Are they located near major highways and shipping hubs? Travel time to shipping partners can mean a difference of a few hours to a day’s delivery time.
This is another question we are asked often, what is your turnaround time? This applies not just to pick and pack and getting your products out the door but also to receiving and inventorying inbound goods. We process your inbound goods on the same business day they are received and orders same-day if the order is in our web portal by 12pm EST (Friday by 12pm EST.)
Costs and Transparency
Now the big question – pricing. Before signing anything, do your homework to uncover all the expenses – set-up, storage, pick & pack, account management fees, etc. Read the terms of service carefully so there are no surprises – transparency in pricing structure and fees is crucial (and is also a good indicator of the fulfillment company’s overall character.)
Once you have all the fees in a quote, you can do an estimate based on roughly a month’s worth of orders and come to a projection of what fulfillment would cost.
Outsourcing your order fulfillment is a big step, but keep in mind it’s one that will move your business towards growth. Use due diligence in your research, get feedback from others and the right partnership will come.