An aisle of a fulfillment center warehouse.
If you operate an eCommerce site or sell products online, you’ve probably dedicated some time to figuring out the quickest and most cost-effective shipping options. With the rising popularity of powerhouse online retailers like Amazon and Walmart, it’s important to make sure your business can compete. Big companies can offer fast, free shipping, which has set a new standard. Read on for some tips on choosing an eCommerce fulfillment service.

What is eCommerce fulfillment?

ECommerce fulfillment is the process through which an online retailer gets products to their customers. There are a few steps involved, including receiving and packaging, and shipping orders. Many companies use eCommerce fulfillment services to streamline this process.

The following are the general stages of eCommerce fulfillment:

  • You order your products from the manufacturer
  • Your products are shipped to your fulfillment warehouse
  • Your inventory is reviewed and shelved
  • Orders from your website go directly to the warehouse
  • Orders are prepared, packed, and shipped from the warehouse to customers

Why is it important?

In the digital world, retail is becoming faster and more streamlined. In order to compete, you need to be able to offer efficient, low-cost shipping. People expect to receive their online orders quickly. As a business owner, you’re undoubtedly very busy. Fulfilling and shipping orders takes time and labor. More and more businesses are enlisting the help of fulfillment services to make this process run smoothly.

Factors to Consider

Now that you’re ready to choose an eCommerce fulfillment service, you’re probably wondering where to start. There are lots of options out there, so it’s important to base your decision on the following factors:

Location

The most important thing to consider is location. You need a fulfillment provider that is geographically close to your customers. Think about where most of your online sales come from. For example, if a lot of your customers are in New York, choose one located in the Northeast region. If you specialize in beach gear, look for one on the coast. The closer your warehouse or fulfillment center is to your customers, the faster their orders can get to them.

Pricing

Finding out how a fulfillment service bills their clients is an important place to start. Avoid large annual or monthly retainers, especially if your business is seasonal. Flat-rate pricing structures ensure that you won’t see surges if your shipments increase. Be on the lookout for hidden fees, like extra charges for shipping materials and packing slips. If you also sell worldwide, make sure to choose a service that offers international shipping. Look for transparent pricing reporting and shipping cost data.

Most eCommerce couriers use the following criteria to calculate shipping costs:

  • Weight
  • Size
  • Country of origin
  • Country of destination
  • Insurance
  • Online order tracking system
Reputation

This may seem obvious, but it’s important to do your research before choosing a fulfillment service. Spend some time researching your options. If it has negative reviews or hasn’t been around very long, you might want to look elsewhere. Additionally, look for other businesses that use the service and what kind of shipping options they can offer.

Technological compatibility

Choose an eCommerce fulfillment provider that uses the most modern software. You want your business to be ahead of the curve, and technology is always changing. Make sure they can provide real-time inventory tracking and logistics software, and that they are mobile-friendly.

Communication

When you operate a business, it’s important to be prepared for anything. You are entrusting your products, and therefore your reputation, to your eCommerce provider. You should be able to communicate with them any time. Some fulfillment services offer 24/7 communication.

Fast, low-cost shipping

One of the most important things to consider is whether a fulfillment service can get your products to your customers fast. Many retail giants can get their products to their customers within two days without any extra charge. Since customers have this option, your business needs to be able to compete. If you can’t offer free shipping on every order, a free shipping minimum is also a great option.

Scalability

Make sure your fulfillment service allows for growth. There’s always a possibility that you’ll add more inventory, especially when sales increase. If you have a growing business, or predict adding products in the future, make sure you choose one that can accommodate this.

Security

Your products are your assets. You want a fulfillment service that will treat your inventory with respect, as well as ensure that your data and information are safe. Security systems are necessary in a warehouse setting.

Shipping materials

If you’re concerned about reducing packaging waste, make sure your fulfillment service uses materials that are eco-friendly. Biodegradable options are available and allow your business to brand itself as environmentally-conscious. You may also want to consider whether your fulfillment provider includes print invoices or return slips.

Inventory management

Your fulfillment company should offer tracking tools for sales and levels of inventory. The last thing you want is to find out you’ve sold out of a top-selling product that you can’t restock overnight. You should be able to expect advance knowledge of inventory, including recalls, returns, and damaged products, as well as customer satisfaction rates.

Lock-ins

Most reputable eCommerce fulfillment services allow you to cancel any time. This allows you to really test their services and ensure that you work well together. Avoid companies that ask you to sign a long-term contract.

Returns processing

If your returns policy includes printable return labels and collection by a carrier, make sure your company provides this. They should take the burden of handling the returns process off your shoulders.

Customer service

Above all, your fulfillment team represents your company. Make sure you choose one with good customer service feedback. Like returns processing, one of the major things they’re there for is taking the responsibility of customer service off of you.

The importance of streamlined shipping

The following are some fast facts about the importance of fast, low-cost, efficient shipping options:

  • 61% of shoppers abandon their carts if shipping and fees are too high.
  • 53% of shoppers say delivery speed is important to them when making online orders.
  • 38% of shoppers won’t shop with a retailer again if the delivery experience wasn’t good.
  • 25% of shoppers will cancel an order due to slow delivery speeds.

Contact Us

If you have questions about eCommerce fulfillment, contact Sologistx to speak to a shipping and distribution professional today.

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