From groceries to gadgets, corrugated boxes have always been the predominant shipping container trusted to transport all kinds of products. Cardboard boxes are being deposited on doorsteps across America in record numbers! But what about the consequences of all that packing material?
Well, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of e-commerce transactions increased by more than 15 percent in 2016, and the e-commerce industry has doubled in the last five years to $350 billion annually. This trend will only continue to rise as consumers continue to get addicted to the convenience and online retailers begin to streamline the process to get orders to the customer in record time. So you would think that this probably means the use of more cardboard. Or does it?
Most businesses start out small. While your e-commerce store is still at the beginning stages, you are probably taking care of most things yourself, including order fulfillment and shipping. But as your store grows and your customer base expands, choosing a fulfillment partner for your business becomes a critical decision that can help drive the success of your brand.
If your store sells physical goods, fulfilling orders and shipping them out yourself can spread your resources too thin between order fulfillment, marketing, customer support and all the other daily tasks that need to be performed. This may mean that it is time to trust certain tasks for your business to a third-party logistics (3PL) company.
But exactly how do you find a fulfillment company that you can trust and that fulfills the needs of your specific business? There are many companies that provide these services, and you can easily get lost in all their offers. Picking the right one can bring significant operational cost savings that will lead to your brand growth. Picking the wrong one can prove costly on many levels.
What is Order Fulfillment?
Order fulfillment is the process of storing goods, packing orders, and shipping products to buyers. In a broad sense, order fulfillment is everything that happens from the time a customer places an order up to the moment they receive that order. Businesses can handle fulfillment in-house, outsource to fulfillment partners, drop ship, or any combination of these methods.
For many small businesses, handling order fulfillment on your own is too expensive and too time-consuming. A successful retail order fulfillment strategy is vital for ecommerce businesses to stay competitive and build customer loyalty.
5 Steps for Choosing the Right Fulfillment Partner:
Choose an Experienced and Reputable Company
Your reputation is on the line when it comes to order fulfillment. Your customers expect a certain level of professionalism and choosing an inexperienced fulfillment company could tarnish your brand reputation. Instead, you want to partner with an established, reputable company that has years of proven experience and staff that is trained and knowledgeable in all areas of the business, from their call center specialists and fulfillment operators to their technical staff. Ask for customer references and testimonials to see what their clients value. You should also visit their facility and meet the entire team.
Choose a Company That Can Meet Your Needs
There are countless fulfillment companies out there – and most will claim to be able to meet your every need and will extend a promise to ship your products accurately and on time. But there is nothing more important than insights; do the math to make sure you choose a company that is knowledgeable about your industry, or ideally, already have several clients operating in the same field as you. They need to understand you, your brand and your business model. Make sure the skills they bring to the table meet what your brand.
Choose a Fulfillment Partner That Will Grow Your Business
3PLs will facilitate all the important aspects of your backend logistics and fulfillment, so that you can focus on marketing and sales – the biggest drivers in the growth of any business. They are also willing and able to adapt and grow with you as your business grows. The services they offer, from their integration technologies to their reporting systems, should be customizable and scalable. The warehouses should also be equipped to meet the various shipping requirements of each channel you will sell on – wholesale fulfillment, FBA, ecommerce channels each have different order flows and shipping volumes. You will want a partner that can deliver on each.
Make sure the 3PL selected is aligned with your plans and can accommodate your company roadmap for years to come.
Choose Someone That Offers a Wide Range of Shipping Solutions
Getting your product where it needs to be – on time, every time, accurately, and cost-effectively – is what provides your customers a great brand experience. To do this, you need to rely on major shipping carriers. Transportation costs have skyrocketed in recent years, but we can help keep those costs in check. Our multi-modal transportation capabilities offer an end-to-end (3PL) third-party logistics management solution for your supply chain and get you the most cost-effective, true transit times for your parcels.
Choose a Partner That Can Provide Seamless Integration
The key to getting fast and accurate delivery of your products lies in the fast and accurate processing of your orders. The best way to make that happen is to hire a fulfillment provider with technology that can integrate directly into your sales channels with visibility. Ensure the 3PL can integrate in any format (API, EDI, etc.) with your existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, webstore platform, accounting program or order management system (OMS). Integrating key points enables functions like Inbound Shipment receiving, pick/packing orders, shipping confirmations, and inventory levels to be communicated automatically between systems.
The FLEX Logistics Team is Here to Help!
The potential for companies to capitalize on this burgeoning market is high. It is imperative that companies consider the trends that will continue to influence the industry and the technologies that will help address them. With the right technology and approach, brands and retailers can stay ahead of competition, win consumer loyalty, and drive ongoing business success for years to come.
Our team understands the importance of getting your products to the market. That is why we aim to understand your business and build lasting relationships with you and your team. Whether you are looking to add a new warehouse to your existing operations, growing and need to increase your distribution efforts, or starting a new company, FLEX has the solutions to meet your supply chain needs.
Contact us today to discuss your current and future warehousing and logistics needs. We will work together with you to understand your requirements and develop a solution that will set you up for future success.