In eCommerce, it’s easy to forget about your customer after they’ve clicked the Buy button. The rush of excitement from making another sale is great, but don’t forget that you still have work to do. The journey for your customer just started. Deliver your product on time, with stunning packaging that reflects your brand. This adds to the perceived value of your product. You are also more likely to get positive feedback and a good review. Disgruntled customers with their one-star reviews could really hurt your brand. Do it right and you won’t have to try and fix it with customer service.
How should I fulfill my orders?
Fulfilling your orders includes the warehousing of the product, picking it, packaging it, and sending it to the right address. When you first start your company, you might be doing all of this yourself. But as your company grows, the demand grows, and you will spend more and more of your time packaging orders. This is not sustainable if you wish to scale.
Due to spikes in sales during the holiday season and days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you are going to be overloaded with work during this time and might even fall behind on fulfilling all your orders. Making mistakes and making your customers wait longer is not something you can afford if you are trying to build a brand. Realize that you are now at a point where you need to start outsourcing.
Why 3rd party fulfillment?
There are several benefits to 3rd party fulfillment, and only a few drawbacks. If you know what to look out for, you can use this service to its utmost advantage.
Lower shipping costs
Your goal is to spend less money on shipping, and get your products shipped faster. With 3rd party fulfillment you can achieve that. Companies that specialize in fulfillment aggressively negotiate their shipping rates, and they succeed in driving the price down due to the large bulk of shipments that they move every day. Take advantage of these lower costs. Depending on what your fulfillment process was before, you will probably save on storage fees as well. Your inventory is stored in the fulfillment center warehouses for a minimal fee.
Quality packaging materials
You will have access to better quality packaging. Fulfillment centers have very professional packaging services and are often able to customize their packaging to show your brand and logo. You can also have them insert marketing materials or samples that you have decided to include in the customers’ purchase. Find out which services they offer and identify what you need to make your fulfillment a seamless operation.
Offer free shipping
Due to more affordable shipping costs, you may consider offering free shipping. This is especially important for eBay sellers since your seller rating automatically goes up according to eBay’s policies. You will also be eligible to get the eBay Fast ‘N Free logo on your listing, which gives your products more visibility and ensures fast shipping and handling to your customers.
Due to their tracking system, the fulfillment center serves as a point of contact for the buyer. Customers often want to know where their package is in the shipping process, and when they will receive it. The fulfillment center will update the tracking information and also respond to any inquiries from customers.
Returns and customer service
There are far less returns when a professional fulfillment center ships your orders, but they still happen. When using a third party to fulfill your orders, they will take care of the customer service required in the returns process. This gives you more time to grow your business and work on your next product, and none of the stress that goes along with returns. Depending on the fulfillment center, they might also handle customer service as a whole for you.
How it works
As soon as you get the order from your customer, you as the seller will send the order information, including the customer’s name and shipping address, to the fulfillment center.
The fulfillment center then pulls the product from their warehouse, packages it, and ships it out to the customer in the time-frame that you have stipulated in the contract. The fulfiller will then upload the tracking and shipping information so that you as a seller can track the package as it’s on its way to your customer.
Know the terms
There are several aspects of the process that should be stipulated in your contract with the fulfillment center. The most important being the time it takes to ship your product.
- The fulfillment center needs to stipulate what their lead time is to deliver a product from their warehouse to your customer, since this directly impacts your seller ranking on eBay. If there are delays, your ranking goes down
- What are the terms when an item gets damaged on the way to the center and is not sellable? Is there a reimbursement process?
- How does the fulfillment center handle damaged items delivered to customers?
- What happens when an item is lost in the mail?
- How do they handle returns?
- Do they handle some of the customer service?
From the terms it is clear that several things can go wrong with third-party fulfillment centers. But by interviewing the company and taking note of their processes, you can determine if they are a good company to work with. This way you can streamline your fulfillment process and scale quickly as demand for your products grow.