The time has come. Your online sales are exploding and you can barely keep your products in stock. It’s the very thing that you hoped for when you started selling online. But, all this great success comes with a catch – you are exhausted. You are packaging and shipping all of your orders and don’t have the time to keep the momentum going.
If you are living this scenario, it may be time for you to consider outsourcing your order fulfillment. But, how do you choose the right fulfillment company for your business? You will be handing over a major part of your operation including the storage of your inventory, packaging, and shipping. And, you know that customer satisfaction often hinges on the prompt delivery of orders.
There are two crucial considerations when searching for a fulfillment company:
- What do you need from a fulfillment partner?
Are they experienced in handling the types of products that you sell? For example, if you sell clothing, you know the product line has a large number of SKUs and a high return rate. Does the company have experience with this type of business? Do you need a 3PL or a 4PL?
- Are they a good partner for your business?
You will have to work closely with this company, so you have to think of them as a partner, not just a vendor. Find a company that is truly interested in helping you grow your business, rather than just packing and shipping your products.
To help you on your journey in finding that perfect partnership, we’ve put together a few key points to keep in mind while searching.
How long has the company been in business? Do they have a level of expertise that you are comfortable with? Do they fit your business model? While a start-up company may not have the experience you are looking for, a more established company may have antiquated processes that aren’t as efficient.
As an ecommerce seller, you probably expect automation in all of your systems. Finding a fulfillment center that easily integrates with an order management software is key to efficiency and customer satisfaction. Having the most up-to-date, accurate information will not only keep your customers happy, it will also prevent overselling.
Just as your customers rely on reviews written about your company, you should put some trust in the reviews that you read about fulfillment companies. Of course, not every review that is written about a company is accurate, so reaching out to some real customers for direct feedback is also a good idea. Try reaching out to a few in various seller forums.
Support and Customer Service
This is a very important consideration. A sign of a great company is not necessarily a lack of mistakes, but rather, how it handles complications when they come up – and they will come up. Forming a strong partnership with your fulfillment company is essential. Talk to account managers to find out what the typical turnaround time is for support tickets, and ask who you should contact should problems arise.
With everything being automated these days, it’s easy to forget that companies do actually have a physical location. They’re not just floating around in cyberspace. Think about your customer demographics. Is the fulfillment center in an area that can quickly and adequately serve your customers? Is shipping to and from the fulfillment center convenient? It can have a huge impact to your profits and customer satisfaction.
It’s important to know how long it takes for the fulfillment center to ship products to your customers. Will your incoming orders be processed on the same day they are received? It could make a significant impact on your sales if they are not processed promptly. Also, it’s equally important that you know what the turnaround time is for receiving inbound merchandise. If they are slow to process new inventory, you could be at risk for stock outs.
Here’s the big one. How much does outsourcing fulfillment cost? And, will you be getting what you pay for? Read the fulfillment center’s terms of service carefully so there are no surprises down the road. Ask for a detailed quote on their fees and create an estimate based on your sales orders to determine how much you will have to spend.
Outsourcing your order fulfillment is a major decision with both pros and cons. When you find a fulfillment company that genuinely wants to help your business, it will be a decision that helps keep the momentum going. Still don’t know if you’re ready? Check out our beginners guide to using a 3PL provider to see if it’s the best decision for your company. And when you’re searching for a 3PL, be sure to avoid any of these red flags.