Timely order fulfillment can enhance customer satisfaction and retention and help you gain a competitive edge in the industry. Since in-house fulfillment can be time-consuming and overwhelming, you should consider outsourcing fulfillment. Outsourcing order fulfillment can give you time to focus on your business’s core competencies and reduce operating costs.
What Is Outsourced Order Fulfillment?
Outsourcing fulfillment involves hiring a third-party logistics provider (3PL) to handle e-commerce fulfillment processes. These processes might include processing orders, managing warehouses and inventory, packing and shipping orders, and handling order returns.
Full-service 3PLs have their own fulfillment centers, technology, and labor. Depending on your agreement, you may not need to be actively involved in any part of the fulfillment process. Entering a contract with a fulfillment company allows you to enjoy fulfillment capabilities that may be expensive to tackle alone. For example, you don’t have to worry about hiring more people to meet fluctuating customer needs.
How Do You Outsource Fulfillment Effectively?
Here are tips to help you outsource successfully:
Identify All Your Sales Channels
There are four main sales channels—wholesale, retail, business-to-business (B2B), and direct-to-consumer. You need a fulfillment partner experienced with your business’s sales channel since customers have varying needs. If yours is a B2B channel, your fulfillment partner should be able to handle large shipments at a time since businesses order items in large quantities.
Some businesses use multiple sales channels to capture larger audiences. Businesses with brick-and-mortar stores can use the direct-to-consumer channel for their walk-in clients and the retail channel for their online customers. If you run such businesses, consider a fulfillment partner who’s adept at meeting the distribution needs of both channels. They can provide the same experiences for all channels so your customers won’t feel like they’re buying from different companies when they change their preferred shopping mode.
Find a Reliable Fulfillment Partner
Choosing the right fulfillment partner can help you grow and retain your customer base. You need to vet every potential partner to find the one that suits your business needs.
One of the factors you need to assess is their fulfillment centers. You need a partner with multiple fulfillment centers if you ship your products across the country or internationally. The fulfillment centers should have adequate space to avoid inconveniences that may affect your delivery time guarantees.
You need to consider their technological infrastructure. The right partner will have a system that integrates with all your marketplaces for seamless order processing. They’ll also have inventory management systems that keep track of your inventory to avoid shortages and dead stock.
Take time to evaluate a fulfillment company’s returns management solutions. The right partner will take charge of returns management and offer your customers hassle-free experiences. They can conduct research to help you find out why your clients return products. This may help you improve your product or processes to avoid future returns.
Build a Strong Relationship With Your Fulfillment Partner
Build a solid partnership with your chosen company for successful order fulfillment. Here are tips to help you do so:
Communicate With the Company
Open lines of communication can help foster a seamless working relationship with your fulfillment company. Share your goals with them, give them access to sales data and ask for regular inventory and shipping reports. Proper communication can keep you on the same page with your partner and help you achieve your business’s goals and objectives.
Set Clear Goals Internally
Confirm all your company’s stakeholders have the same goals to avoid giving your 3PL partner conflicting information. For example, if making on-time deliveries is your goal, everyone in the company should work towards achieving it. Having one group focused on on-time deliveries and another on cost savings can confuse your fulfillment partner.
Outsource E-commerce Fulfillment
Outsourcing order fulfillment can save you money and allow you to focus on your core business operations. You need to outsource effectively to achieve your fulfillment goals and make your customers happy.
First, assess your sales channels to determine the ideal partner for your business. Then, vet all your options, paying attention to their fulfillment center capacities, technological infrastructure, and returns management solutions. Build a solid relationship through constant communication to avoid conflicting with your fulfillment partner.