Once you have manufactured a fantastic range of products and have built yourself a user-friendly, inviting online store, it’s time to start thinking about how you’ll distribute any orders to your expectant customers. Attracting customers and getting them to pop items into an online basket is just one part of the eCommerce puzzle. A company’s downfall could lie in a fulfilment and delivery system that isn’t quite living up to the high expectations fostered by your online presence.
Sadly, many eCommerce businesses fail because of an outdated fulfilment process. If your company chooses to implement its own fulfilment, you may find that employees are spending more time servicing the business; time that could be better spent elsewhere. Outsourcing the fulfilment stage of an eCommerce operation is now becoming increasingly common, even for the smallest of online retailers.
Here are some top tips for finding the best eCommerce fulfilment centre for you and your online store:
1. Check for inventory status beforehand – Choose a fulfilment specialist who can provide you with accurate and timely feedback. There’s a lot of value to be had in knowing the status of your business and its orders in real time. ‘Intelligent reporting’ can show you up-to-the minute stock levels, allowing you to incorporate this data in your production and buying system. Scheduling, running and re-running inventory reports yourself is time-consuming and frustrating. A fulfilment specialist should integrate an intelligent reporting system within your eCommerce business in order to cut back your workload.
2. Ask them about their delivery workflow – Choose a fulfilment specialist with a good track record in delivery times. A fulfilment centre which uses their own in-house courier service or chooses to sub-contract to a reliable courier firm will have better delivery success rates than those who sub-contract to cheaper, but possibly more unreliable courier firms. While budgetary constraints may be a concern, especially for an eCommerce start-up, unreliability will have a knock-on effect on your reputation and may result in a lower rate of repeat orders. If you’re having to work hard to win business from the outset and are already experiencing a growing reputation for unreliability, things will only get tougher.
3. Packaging can’t be ignored – Choose a fulfilment specialist which guarantees packing accuracy. Incorrect orders result in more returns and a drop in customer satisfaction, both of which will cost you money in the long-run. Customers should feel confident in the accuracy of your batch management and picking and packing process.
4. Post-Services Support – Choose a fulfilment specialist who offers superior customer support. If all goes well, you shouldn’t need to contact your chosen fulfilment centre to flag up any concerns. However, should you run into any problems surrounding the ordering system, or even a specific order, getting it fixed quickly means you’ll be able to get back to your core business sooner, and your customers won’t be kept waiting for long.
Outsourcing your fulfilment may seem like an unnecessary expense at the outset. However, as your eCommerce business continues to grow, you may find yourself spending valuable time servicing your orders rather than managing and developing your business. Choosing to outsource your fulfilment to a reliable and accurate fulfilment specialist will not only prompt faster and more accurate business decisions but can also lead to increased sales and greater efficiency.