Always Look Beyond Cost
When growing an e-commerce business, we often look at warehousing and delivery as secondary issues and try to find the lowest cost provider. However, the conditions in which your goods are stored, packaged, and delivered to customers can have the most significant impact on how your digital brand is perceived.
The latest app or the most intuitive website can get you the first sale, but they can’t generate repeat sales if the product doesn’t arrive intact – and they can’t help you avoid returns either.
Choosing a fulfillment partner based solely on price might put you in a rough position. You might end up being forced to give discounts and rebates, or to figure out what to do with returned stock.
A fulfillment company is vital to your organization and should meet the intelligence and capability you demand from your manufacturer, marketer, or any other key partner.
Flexibility, scalability, and support are the key characteristics of a good fulfillment company. To help you evaluate your current partner on these, here are five things you should consider.
Inventory Tracking on Your Schedule
When do you want to check your inventory? For most business owners, the answer is: whenever I need to, like right now.
Your fulfillment partner should let you look at and track your inventory at any time on any day. This kind of 24/7 support will now come with an online management system that can automatically connect to your current fulfillment and order management software.
All Shipping Options Available
A fulfillment partner should provide you with a complete range of shipping options, including access to fast service or special controls.
You’ll want to check ahead of time if you have any specific requirements, such as hazardous materials or fragile items that need handling with care.
That said, a reliable fulfillment partner will be able to leverage relationships with expedited delivery services to support you if you need to get something moving quickly.
Help with Customer Intelligence
You’ve read it here before: customer intelligence is imperative to growing your e-commerce business. The more you know about your existing clients, the better you’re able to serve them and generate repeat business.
A fulfillment partner will collect and track a variety of shipment metrics, and they may have a better system for aggregating data or verifying the data you collect.
Constantly delivering to large apartment buildings may give you a lot of great marketing and targeting ideas, and your fulfillment partner may be able to share these and other insights you haven’t considered.
Answers to Tough Questions
Freight carriers are always reviewing their business tactics – from changing their distribution models and moving warehouse facilities to rethinking weight charges.
One recent change for many carriers is the shift to dimensional weight calculations on their shipments. This change increases costs for some packages which would not have been in the higher weight tiers before.
The specific, physical characteristics of your e-commerce goods will impact your costs of everything from storage and packaging to final deliveries and returns. The more you know about cost calculations the better prepared you’ll be, and the more your potential partner is willing to share, the easier it is to budget for the long term.
Look for External Reviews
Every fulfillment partner you speak with will tell you how great they are. Take all of that with a grain of salt. Look past the marketing pitch and try to find real reviews online, customer referrals, testimonials, and other information on the web.
Always look for order, inventory, and shipping accuracy guarantees, and then ask for existing clients who can verify these.
One of the best ways to start the research process is to ask potential partners for references and case studies. If they already work with businesses similar to yours, it’s easy to ask detailed questions that can help you estimate costs and service levels.
Your customers will likely never know that you aren’t the one packing and shipping your goods, so a fulfillment partner will act as an extension of your own brand. Pick smart and you’ll be making a partner choice that not only delivers on time but also improves how your customers see you.
These are just a few of the considerations and questions to ask your potential fulfillment partner. If you need more help on making one of the most important logistics and e-commerce decisions, Red Stag Fulfillment has created a free PDF questionnaire that you can use to evaluate your fulfillment choice. Get your free copy here.
This article was created in collaboration with Red Stag Fulfillment, a third-party fulfillment provider.