A customer’s online shopping experience does not finish after they have successfully bought the products. It goes on till the point of delivery and even returns. With some of the giants covering majority of the e-commerce space, creating trends like same-day or next-day delivery – it has become extremely meticulous for SMEs in this space to look for a right fulfillment partner. This would not only determine their delivery speed, but also have an impact on their customer satisfaction.
Consider Outsourcing Fulfillment to a Logistics Company
E-commerce fulfillment operation ranges from receiving inbound inventory, storage of these in a warehouse, receiving orders, picking, packing, labelling, shipping to the end customer as well as processing returns, if any. This entire process alone can impact a customer’s experience, therefore, ensuring efficiency in fulfillment operations should be considered a priority. Many e-commerce companies find it suitable to outsource fulfilment to a 3PL company like ProConnect Integrated Logistics. One of our articles explains when you should actually start looking for a third party fulfillment partner.
Evaluating a Fulfillment Partner
If you are considering a third party fulfillment service provider, then you must know how to choose the most suitable one for your business. They must be able to streamline and manage inventory, fulfill orders with a quick turnaround time and share reports with you. They must be capable to handle irregularities in the inventory and order flow, specially in cases where order volumes tend to fluctuate.
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?
Warehouse location plays an important role in the fulfillment process. Choosing a fulfillment partner who has strategically located warehouses near important ports and are not too far away from your target market would be ideal.
2) Do you have experience in working with similar eCommerce businesses?
E-commerce spans across various industries – retail, apparel, food, furniture, pharma, to name a few. Understand if a fulfillment service provider has already worked with a business similar to yours. This makes it easier for them to understand your needs, and for you to rely on their expertise. Additionally, they would already have an order fulfillment process in place, which would make it easier for you to start.
3) Which products can you support for fulfillment?
As there are numerous industries engaging in online selling, there are numerous product types as well. These could be dry goods, furniture, perishable items, temperature sensitive products, batteries or other hazardous goods. Logistics providers may have special licenses and expertise in handling specific kind of products; they could have a fulfillment process in place for some of the product categories. Vet your fulfillment partner options based on your special product requirements, if any.
4) Is there a capacity limit?
Being in a dynamic industry like e-commerce, you should always consider flexibility to scale, and your fulfillment provider should be able to handle this well. Customer demands go up during peak seasons, discount periods and can drop at other times. An ideal fulfillment partner should be able to handle a spike in sales smoothly and share reports of the same in real-time.
5) What technology integrations do you have?
Technology has become the key to achieving and monitoring process efficiency. Your logistics provider should be capable of integrating their system with the e-commerce platform and software you work with. They should also have software, like a WMS (warehouse management system), that will give you visibility into your inventory and orders so that you can analyze the market trend and take next steps in your business growth.
6) What is your turnaround time?
Fulfillment turnaround time is the time required for your fulfillment partner to process the order, pick and pack, label, and hand it over to the last mile carrier for dispatch. Knowing their TAT will help you determine whether they fit your ideal delivery time span or not. This will help you stay competitive and prompt.
7) How many inbound and outbound shipments can you handle?
Like we mentioned earlier, e-commerce market is dynamic and so are the order volumes. Based on the market forecast, you may want to increase or reduce the number of inbound and outbound shipments. Many fulfillment providers will mention a base and cap capacity for inbound and outbound shipments, based on the requirements you express. However, these can easily increase as you grow – therefore ensure that your fulfillment provider’s capacity to handle inbound and outbound shipments aligns with your growth plan.
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?
Practically speaking, it is easy for things to get damaged or lost in order fulfillment process. There are also times when your delivery commitments may not be met, reasons could be many. It is important you understand their terms, clearly state who takes responsibility under such circumstances, and work out a way to clearly point out how this can be handled.
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!