For many online retailers, shipping and fulfillment is the most time-consuming part of running their businesses. However inconvenient it may be for business owners to handle this on their own, shipping and fulfillment are a critical part of day-to-day operations. eCommerce customers have high expectations for order accuracy and delivery times, and in-house fulfillment may not be a viable long-term solution for sellers to keep up with their customer’s demands. Once businesses outgrow their current capabilities, it’s time to start evaluating whether to continue using their current self-fulfillment method or switch to a more reliable outsourced partner.
Whether you are seeking to outsource or maintain your orders in-house, evaluating how your shipping and fulfillment is running is a necessity. Here are areas to look at when evaluating your fulfillment services.
Reducing waste is an important part of keeping your business on track. If your shipping and fulfillment strategy is wasting time, material, or money, you need to identify how you can make improvements. You can reduce waste in production, inventory, waiting times, transportation, and location of merchandise.
Overproduction refers to creating more of your product than can be used or sold. Overproducing merchandise wastes money, time, and space. You could be reducing your shipping and fulfillment efficiency if you have too many products to store and sort through. Your ideal strategy would be to store those items that will sell and help clean out the items that are not doing well.
Wait time on manufacturers can slow down the fulfillment and shipping process as well. Does your fulfillment center have employees waiting around because there is not enough equipment to store or pick products? Is customization slowing down the order process to get your merchandise pick, packed, and shipped to your customers? It’s imperative that time from purchase to delivery is as short as possible.
Transportation is another area where waste often occurs. Unreliable transportation can cost you excess money in the form of extended delivery times and damage to products that could be avoided with decreases touches. Your fulfillment strategy should identify the ideal amount of times your product should be “touched” throughout the lifecycle of your outsourced or in-house order fulfillment.
Product distances within the storage area can either help or hurt the fulfillment process. Are you running a sale on specific products? Those SKUs should be placed closer together to reduce pick time. Whether you’re pulling items from your garage or using a warehouse, limiting the amount of time it takes to pick your product is a key factor in achieving efficient fulfillment.
Old Inventory takes up valuable space in your storage unit or warehouse. If you have a product sitting around untouched for 6 months or more, it’s time to do some spring cleaning. It may be more obvious for eCommerce businesses using in-house fulfillment to see the slow-moving products, but it can be more difficult if you are not using a reliable 3PL. An experienced fulfillment partner will make you aware of any wasted storage and advise you on increasing inventory turnover.
Returns are an unfortunate reality for all eCommerce businesses. Successful returns can be measured by your return policy, how you handle and process returns, and the software you use to make the process as seamless as possible for your staff and your customers.
Return Policies are essential for successful shipping and fulfillment. Is your current policy scalable enough to handle an influx of returns? Can your current fulfillment strategy or 3PL partner support this policy? If not, you could be losing customers with every return made.
Handling and Processing Returns can be difficult, especially during the holiday rush. If you can’t handle intaking, processing, and completing returns for your customers during “normal” business seasons, it may be a good idea to outsource this to a 3PL. It’s also important to ensure that your fulfillment partner can process these returns quickly and properly manage damaged products.
Automated Returns Software helps expedite this return process as well. Do you have the systems in place for customers to file a claim online and print their own labels or provide a pre-printed return slip with every order? The easier it is for customers to return their unwanted product, the more likely they are to continue shopping from your store in the future.
Happy customers keep businesses growing. Does your shipping and fulfillment partner deliver an exceptional customer experience? You should be providing a positive customer experience by delivering in order accuracy, on-time delivery, order tracking, and low-cost shipping.
Order Accuracy is key to keeping customers happy. No customer wants to receive the wrong product, color, or size. Your in-house fulfillment or outsourced fulfillment partner needs to guarantee order accuracy every time to build a loyal customer base.
Delivery to your customers needs to be quick and efficient. Does your fulfillment strategy allow for 2-day ground shipping? Your customers expect their purchases to arrive on time, and if your in-house or outsourced fulfillment can’t achieve fast delivery, you could be losing sales.
Order Tracking is a great way to provide transparency for your customers. They can follow where their package is and know what date to expect their delivery. Are you able to offer tracking numbers for your customers through your current fulfillment strategy? Providing tracking information can reduce the number of customer inquiries about the status of their shipment, relieving your support staff of unnecessary calls and emails.
Low-Cost Shipping prevents your customers from shopping with a competitor that may provide a comparable product with a lower cost shipping option. Are your competitors offering free shipping? You want to be able to offer this too, without cutting into your bottom-line. The right fulfillment strategy can help you make free shipping a viable option, without increasing costs.
You should be regularly evaluating your current fulfillment strategy to ensure your business is running smoothly. If fulfilling orders doesn’t leave you time in your day for other important aspects of growing your business, it may be time to work with a reliable outsourced partner like Rakuten Super Logistics. The right partner can help cut your shipping costs, increase customer satisfaction, and help you scale your business.
Rakuten Super Logistics (RSL) is the leader in eCommerce order fulfillment services and freight brokerage. RSL offers national fulfillment services and a network of 15 US fulfillment centers located in Anaheim (CA), Atlanta (GA), Austin (TX), Chicago (IL), Denver (CO), Houston (TX), Las Vegas (NV), Olean (NY), Reno (NV), Salt Lake City (UT), and Scranton (PA). Their state-of-the-art technology allows for integration with popular shopping cart platforms and online marketplaces including Amazon, Big Commerce, Channel Advisor, eBay, Magento, ShipStation, Shopify, Volusion, Walmart Marketplace, and WooCommerce. RSL offers modern fulfillment solutions for leading eCommerce retailers focused on reducing shipping costs, improving order accuracy, decreasing shipping times, and increasing customer satisfaction. Contact us to request a quote and learn more about partnering with RSL to fulfill your eCommerce shipping needs.