7 Tips for Choosing a Fulfillment Partner
Are you an ecommerce business attempting to scale up your operations? If so, chances are that finding a reliable fulfillment center is on your list of things to do. Organizations of all sizes have found that outsourcing fulfillment operations can be a game-changer, offering advantages that are key to achieving sustainable growth. How do you find the provider that’s right for you? In this article, our experts weigh in on choosing a 3PL fulfillment partner.
1. Put together your list of must-haves
Before you begin your search in earnest, think about what you’re hoping to achieve using an ecommerce fulfillment service. Different businesses will have different needs. Retail replenishment is different from international fulfillment, for example. Food items require special certifications and routine inspections. It’s important to be clear about your specifications, and you can’t do that unless you’ve defined your goals thoroughly.
2. Consider locationsLocation should be an important part of your decision process. Where is your product manufactured? Where are your customers located? Consider whether it makes sense for your warehousing fulfillment to be closer to the production facility, your home offices, or your core customers. If you have a geographically diverse customer base, multiple fulfillment locations can reduce transportation times and offer discounted shipping rates. Multiple locations are also helpful if splitting inventory is part of your business.
3. Understand the real value
Your budget is likely to be the deciding factor in choosing a fulfillment partner. However, while taking price into consideration is crucial, you need to make sure you run the real numbers so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. Look for hidden costs as well as missed opportunities for additional value. “You get what you pay for” is an accurate bit of common sense to keep in mind, too. Make sure the least expensive option isn’t keeping prices low by using outdated technology or skimping on customer service.
4. Obtain (and call) references
Once you’ve compiled a short list of options, take the time to ask for references, which any reputable company should be able to provide. Focus on learning what you can about the customer service performance. Did they work with one individual, or an entire team? Was communication clear? Were issues resolved quickly? Any company can talk about their “superior” service—references are the best way to confirm if they really deliver.
5. Visit the warehouse, physically or otherwise
Seeing the actual space for yourself and meeting the staff who will play key roles in your customers’ fulfillment experience are important, but you don’t only have to consider fulfillment partners close enough for an in-person visit; you can always ask for a virtual tour instead. Pay special attention to the warehouse’s condition, especially if your product is perishable, sensitive to temperature, or requires other special consideration, and be sure to ask about any environmental controls or special certificates that are on your “must-haves” list.
6. Evaluate industry experience
Does the fulfillment firm claim to specialize in any certain sector? If they don’t work with your industry specifically, have they worked with clients like you or met similar packing and shipping needs? The right partner will have the expertise—or the ability to quickly gain the expertise—to offer strategies and tactics that will lead to supply chain success.
7. Read the fine print
Whether you are looking for ecommerce fulfillment, international fulfillment, a subscription-box build, or custom packaging, potential fulfillment partners will always promise innovative solutions. Just strive to understand the details before your sign the paperwork. Make sure you are crystal clear on what will be billed, how shipping rates or volume restrictions are established, whether product minimums or quantity requirements are in place, and which carriers will be used.
If you’re ready to get started on the road to ecommerce fulfillment success, start your search with Rocket Shippers. We’re prepared to integrate our state-of-the-art systems with your internal processes so that you can focus on scalable growth instead of getting stuck in the logistics weeds. Reach out to us now for a custom quote.