When it comes to eCommerce, order fulfillment is a critical component of your overall business operations. If you are experiencing signs that reveal your current 3PL fulfillment company is failing to deliver, it’s time to get smart about your eCommerce fulfillment center.
However, any changes to your current processes should not be taken lightly. We’ve gathered some often overlooked tips to help you find the best fulfillment center for your business. Follow this guide to ensure your new eCommerce order fulfillment center exceeds your customers’ expectations.
1. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term eCommerce Goals
Do you need to find a fulfillment center because logistics needs have grown beyond what you can do in-house? Are you unhappy with the services your current 3PL company is providing? Evaluating your process and current eCommerce fulfillment center will help identify areas of improvement that can be accomplished both in the short-term and the long run.
To set yourself up for success, it’s essential to define your eCommerce goals before you find a fulfillment warehouse that is right for your business. These goals can help guide you in your search for the best order fulfillment center to serve your needs.
Short-term goals for your operations may include:
- Cutting down on shipping times with fast shipping solutions
- Lowering shipping costs with more shipping options
- Improving how you fulfill and ship orders with better accuracy and reduced returns
- Decreasing customer support response times
Some long-term goals for your eCommerce business may include:
- Lessening the strain on internal departments (accounting, customer service, and operations)
- Expanding fulfillment operations into multiple facilities (i.e., east coast and west coast)
- Expanding product line to allow for additional SKUs and inventory
Discuss these items with your potential order fulfillment center location to determine the timelines for implementing solutions that will best support your goals and continued business growth. Carefully evaluate their order processing, delivery options, order management software, reverse logistics, and other services before you outsource your fulfillment.
2. Evaluate the Fulfillment Provider’s Expertise Within Your Market Niche
Although eCommerce retailers often get lumped into one group, there is a huge range of diversity in the types of products sold over the internet and their fulfillment needs. Finding the best fulfillment center for your industry and product niche is key.
Before you choose a fulfillment center, ask your potential 3PL provider about the industry verticals they pick, pack, and ship. If you have a specialized product or need customized fulfillment processes, look for providers with similar clients. Many eCommerce fulfillment centers utilize robotics and equipment designed to handle specific types of products. Asking the right questions will help you identify both strengths and weaknesses of the 3PL service provider.
For example, Warehouse A works closely with clothing retailers, Warehouse B works closely with large, heavy goods, and Warehouse C works mostly with small electronics. Each of these eCommerce fulfillment centers will likely have greater know-how on the specific handling of their serviced market verticals.
Each warehouse will be better equipped to store the different types of products such as hanging storage for clothing, ample storage for large goods, or secured storage for high-value electronics. In addition, the employees will have experience with handling and packaging your products with greater efficiency than an inexperienced firm.
3. Select a Fulfillment Provider that Aligns with Your Vision & Values
The mission of a logistics company will often provide clues regarding the future success of your business partnership. When choosing an order fulfillment company, focus on creating a long-term partnership that will benefit both parties.
Research each logistics company carefully to understand its history, experience, leadership, and values. You can also look into client testimonials and reviews to see how they treat their clients and resolve issues that may come up. These things can tell you a lot about a company and whether or not it will align with your business.
Connect with an order fulfillment center that has a business model built around principles such as continuous advancement, professionalism, sustainability, and maximizing customer satisfaction. This can help confirm that your best interests will be looked out for and you can rely on them to represent your brand accurately.
4. Assess the Level of Flexibility and Personalization Available
This is important, especially for growing businesses whose business model evolves over time. Determine the extent to which accommodations can be made as your business evolves and your order fulfillment needs change. Not all online fulfillment centers are capable of accommodating changing needs or increased demand on short notices, something which is crucial for growing businesses.
Large-scale facilities with streamlined operations, abundant resources, and professional warehouse management can better handle fulfilling orders quickly and accurately, which will help your growing business succeed. You can trust the 3PL company can oversee your supply chain management and all of your logistics needs while you focus on growing your business.
5. Confirm the Provider's Levels of Client Support and Communication
Online business owners and eCommerce professionals have a lot to manage outside of logistics. That’s why it’s crucial to have the right level of support from your 3PL company. Your first interactions with a fulfillment provider will give you a glimpse as to what it will be like working with them further down the road. During your inquiry or quote, keep the following questions in mind:
- How quickly did you receive a response?
- How knowledgeable was the representative in answering your questions?
- Did the fulfillment provider take the time to get to know your business?
Open and proactive communication is key to a successful transition to a new 3PL and managing day-to-day operations. Having a dedicated and responsive client support team committed to providing services tailored to your business will make all the difference in a truly successful 3PL partnership.
It's Time to Get Smart About Fulfillment
If you're not sure how to find the best fulfillment center for your business, our eCommerce resources can lead you in the right direction. You want to make the right decision the first time for a smooth transition and clear expectations. Find a 3PL that aligns with your eCommerce goals and business values for the best partnership.
ShipNetwork makes it easy to get started with a free consultation from one of our expert eCommerce fulfillment advisors. With 20 years of logistics experience helping eCommerce retailers grow and scale their online stores, ShipNetwork has the eCommerce fulfillment solutions for your order fulfillment needs.
Don't settle for anything less than the best 3PL fulfillment services for your online business. Get Smart about fulfillment and take your business to new heights by partnering with ShipNetwork. Contact us today for a free quote.