Great fulfillment providers have specialized software that is optimized for eCommerce order fulfillment. Even though there are hundreds of fulfillment companies out there, not all of them were built with eCommerce in mind. Traditional warehousing companies are not good fits for modern online stores. Ask your potential fulfillment partner what kind of technology solution they used to manage your order fulfillment. Does it allow you to see and manipulate your orders in real-time? Does it allow you to approve or disapprove orders? Is it cloud-based? Do you get low-inventory alerts so you’re on top of your fulfillment? These are essential questions you should ask, not just to see if they have the technological capability to enable you to compete in today’s market, but to see how much control they offer you over your fulfillment.
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Cost can vary widely between fulfillment companies. There is no single price that you can compare and contrast since fulfillment is very much based on what you are shipping and how much. For example, one company might charge you less per shipment, but might charge you for the technology solution they give you. Another might give you that same technology for free. Even if you do calculate the overall cost of your fulfillment, you'll need to be careful on the level and quality of the service they provide. One fulfillment company might charge more than another, but it might offer a 100% accuracy guarantee and shipping within one business day, whereas the other may not. Fulfillment is a vital part of any eCommerce operation, so don't skimp on quality order fulfillment: it will affect your sales in the future. Here are some questions to ask your potential partner. What is your average accuracy rate? What happens if you make a mistake? Do you own and operate your own warehouses? How quickly will you be able to get my product to various parts of the country? How responsive is your customer service? It's important to see the level of service they are offering so you can get the most bang for your buck.
The differences between a good fulfillment provider and a mediocre one can be vast, and if you understand those differences you'll have a better chance of choosing the right partner for your product. If your company has a quirky and unique culture that is evident through your website and your customer relations, for example, you might want a company that will let you brand your boxes or include marketing material. If your company ships pet supplies, you might want a fulfillment partner that has a lot of experience shipping pet supplies. Some fulfillment partners can offer ecommerce freight services at rates that are cheaper than you can find yourself, or specialize in international fulfillment. Any of these factors can make the difference between a strong business relationship and frustration with your service.
Have you considered outsourcing your order fulfillment?