Several providers offer a suite of e-commerce fulfillment services, including fulfillment, order management, customer care, value-adding services (kitting and assembly), shopping cart (or integration with a third-party cart) and reverse logistics (returns and refurbishment). You might have a need for several of these functions and can create a custom package with one supplier, simplifying your management efforts.
What you will need to determine are the fulfillment services necessary for your business and if you’d like to bundle those together with one vendor. A great e-commerce fulfillment provider will be flexible to its customers’ needs and provide recommendations for a solution. When it comes to fulfillment services, there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” approach.
Below, we’ve taken some time to outline the typical e-commerce fulfillment services you can expect and a few things to think about as you discuss your options with providers:
In general terms, Order Fulfillment is the full process from point of sale inquiry to the delivery of product to customer. It can be large business-to-business orders or individual direct-to-consumer orders. The product you sell and who you sell it to largely dictates the best fit as far as e-commerce fulfillment providers go.
E-commerce fulfillment continues to maintain impressive growth. Consumer expectations are constantly becoming more challenging to meet. Speed and cost are critical factors to delivering an exceptional customer experience, along with accuracy, presentation and communication. The consequences of under-performing will be felt in near real time as today’s e-commerce consumer is quick to share their experiences on social media and online reviews.
Options are endless for marketers to reach the consumer. Fulfilling orders from multiple channels (web, TV, radio, phone, mail, affiliates, etc.) to the consumer in multiple ways (residential, commercial, etc.) requires highly specialized technology that is flexible and adaptable to change. Not every provider can support this level of sophistication.
Every retailer has a unique set of guidelines to adhere to, including pallet specifications, labeling requirements, transportation guidelines and integration via Electronic Data Interchange (EDI). Does the e-commerce fulfillment center have experience and a successful track record adhering to these guidelines and requirements in order to avoid expensive chargebacks? Do they have processes in place to help defend against inaccurately levied penalties by retailers? How do they approach EDI and do they make this process easy for you?
Shipping on behalf of the retailer is serious business, since the order must represent the retailer well. Does the e-commerce fulfillment center know the guidelines for drop shipping, including packaging, presentation, speed of fulfillment, shipment carrier and service? How experienced are they in feeding data back to the retailer?
Does the e-commerce fulfillment center have customer service capabilities? How many seats? What call volume can they handle? What functions are supported: inbound, outbound, email, interactive voice response (IVR), chat, save-the-sale? Think about your customers and anticipate their needs. Then work to create an environment for those needs. Will it be a boutique center that’s high touch or a collection of self-serve tools on the web and via IVR?
Value-Added Services complement the storage and order processing functions of a warehouse. Services include kitting and assembly, returns and refurbishment, retail preparation, point of sale build and load and promotional roll outs. If you have a need for these, ask the fulfillment provider if they can offer these value-added services.
Finding the right fulfillment partner for your business is a big decision to make. We’d encourage you to download our Ultimate Guide to learn more about the questions you should ask as you look for potential providers for your business. We also welcome you to reach out to us directly with any questions you have relative to e-commerce fulfillment.