An online shopper’s experience does not end after he or she buys the product. It continues until it is delivered and even returns, which means a whole lot of meticulous work for SMEs in this space-creating trends like same-day delivery with some giants covering majority of the marketplace.
If you’re considering outsourcing fulfillment to a logistics company, here are some things to consider.
Although e-commerce fulfillment is a broad topic, it can be broken down into four main steps: receiving inventory, storing in the warehouse, picking and packing an order and finally shipping to the customer. Successful operations are crucial for providing customers with positive experiences. In many cases these tasks are outsourced to 3PL companies such as ProConnect Integrated Logistics because they have more experience than most businesses that specialize in only one area of fulfilment (i.e., storage or shipping).
One of our articles explains when you should actually start looking for a third party fulfillment partner.
Evaluating a Fulfillment Partner
If you’re considering using a third party fulfillment service provider, then it’s important that you choose the right one for your business. The best ones will be able to handle inventory and orders quickly so that there is no delay in turnaround time. They should also have reports available for sharing with clients who are interested in knowing about what goes on behind-the-scenes of their products’ delivery process – things like irregularities or order fluctuations, which can cause a problem if not managed properly.
Below we have listed some of the top questions you should ask your prospective fulfillment partner:
1) Where is your warehouse and fulfillment center located?
When choosing a fulfillment partner, it is important to think about your warehouse location. Warehouse locations near ports and strategically placed in markets where you want to distribute would be ideal.
2) Do you have experience in working with similar eCommerce businesses?
E-commerce can be found in various industries. You may want to find out if a fulfillment service provider has already worked with businesses like yours so that they have an idea of your needs and you know that the process will go smoothly.
3) Which products can you support for fulfillment?
Your online shipping partner should be knowledgeable about the product categories that you are involved in. In order to do this, they will need to know your special requirements as well (if any).
4) Is there a capacity limit?
If you are in a dynamic industry like e-commerce, and considering the time to scale your business while also keeping customer demands met, then you should have flexibility. A good fulfillment partner should be able to handle things smoothly when it comes to sales going up during peak seasons or discount periods. They should share real-time reports with their clients of what is happening as well.
5) What technology integrations do you have?
Technology can become your key to process efficiency. To achieve this, you need a logistics provider who is capable of integrating their system with the e-commerce platform and software that you work with. They should also have software that will provide visibility into your inventory and orders so that you can analyze market trends.
6) What is your turnaround time?
Fulfillment turnaround time is the amount of time it takes for your fulfillment partner to process, pick and pack, label and hand over an order. Knowing this will help you stay competitive or prompt in delivering orders.
7) How many inbound and outbound shipments can you handle?
E-commerce is a fast-changing industry, so are the order volumes. When considering market forecasts, you may want to increase or decrease your inbound and outbound shipments. Some fulfillment providers will mention base and cap capacities for these shipment types but they can easily increase as the company grows – plan accordingly!
8) Do you support COD?
COD (Cash on Delivery) is a must have for a flourishing e-com business, your fulfillment partner should be able to provide you with COD option and a process setup to manage this cash. Ask them if they have a COD process and how do they manage it.
9) Can you cater to returns?
Like COD, returns also play an integral part in the e-com business – but not many businesses provide this option. Ask your logistics provider if they manage returns and how do they ensure it is done effectively.
10) What if the terms of agreement are not met?
If you sign up for annual or monthly subscriptions, it is likely things will get delivered to your home. Common reasons why this does not happen are that their terms may have changed and they no longer mail paper catalogues.
ProConnect Logistics as your Fulfillment Partner
While we have outlined some of the top questions you should definitely ask your prospective fulfillment service provider, there are many more questions that need to be asked depending on the type of products, industry and customer segment you cater to. If you are looking for a warehousing and fulfillment company in UAE or Saudi Arabia, reach out to us and we will be happy to discuss more about your requirement. We are a full service 3PL company, offering end-to-end supply chain solutions, tailored to your specific need. Contact us today!