Starting your own eCommerce venture is a labor of love. Beginning with conceptualizing and designing products to building a marketing strategy, and finally packing and shipping your products to customers – each step gets you closer to running a successful eCommerce enterprise. As your business expands, there will be lots to do, leaving you with little time to devote to the eCommerce fulfillment process. This is where a fulfillment partner can ease your burden, ensuring you stay on top of the packaging, shipping and delivery service. If you are considering outsourcing the order fulfillment process to a vendor, here are the top questions to ask a shipping company. Also, take a look at what you need to determine yourself before selecting an order fulfillment service provider.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Here are some of the top things to keep in mind when you’re planning your shipping and fulfillment and are considering whether to join hands with a logistics and shipping provider.
Do You Need a Fulfillment Partner at All?
Before you zero in on a potential vendor, you must evaluate your business needs. The foremost question to ask yourself is whether your business is growing rapidly enough to outsource your fulfillment needs. Remember that most fulfillment centers will levy a series of charges for their services, which can quickly add up. If your business is in a fledgling stage, you may be better off managing the order fulfillment process on your own. However, if your venture is growing exponentially or if you are running out of inventory space to store your goods, it may be a smart move to tie up with a fulfillment service.
Are You Willing to Invest In a Warehouse?
If you are running out of physical space to store inventory, buying or renting a warehouse might be a strategic idea. But, this can cost an astronomical sum and there may there are several additional costs required to operate a warehouse. Instead of making this risky investment, using the services of a fulfillment company will be a smart business decision. Offering storage, packing, shipping and more as a bundled service, e-commerce warehousing and order fulfillment vendors simplify shipping and delivery needs without you having to make a large-scale investment.
Top Questions to Ask a Potential Fulfillment Service Provider
Once you decide to use a provider, the questions should reveal what to look for in a 3PL or fulfillment services provider heading into a service level agreement.
Do You Have Experience Working With eCommerce Businesses Similar to Mine?
When you are outsourcing your fulfillment and delivery service, you must ensure that the vendor has significant experience working with a business similar to yours. This means they must be able to scale up operations as you grow, and be flexible enough to deal with irregular inventory flows associated with a startup. Also, check if the service provider can package, handle and ship the specific items you are selling.
Where Are Your Warehouses?
Timely shipment and delivery are key to a successful eCommerce shipping strategy. When selecting a 3PL fulfillment provider, confirm they have warehouses and inventory units in geographical areas where you sell the most. This will ensure your products get to customers quickly, so they will be more likely to be satisfied with your service. If you sell nationwide, it is a good idea to look for providers with warehouses at key locations around the country.
What Is Your Pricing?
Understanding fulfillment costs is the key to a successful partnership with your logistics vendor. Ask them about all their fees and charges, so there are no surprises when you actually receive your bill. While most fulfillment companies levy standard fees such as storage, packaging and shipping costs, some also charge less obvious tariffs, which can bump up your expenses. Before you sign a contract, ask the vendor for a complete breakdown of their charges so you know exactly how much you will be spending. If your business ships globally, ascertain if the fulfillment company has an international distribution network and check their overseas shipping prices.
How Do You Guarantee Accuracy of Orders?
When you are trusting an important aspect of your customer service component to a vendor, you want to know they do their job accurately. Inquire what automated systems and processes they have in place to guarantee their own quality when dispatching orders. Opt for a service provider with stringent controls such as barcode scanners and efficient warehouse tracking technologies, facilitating accurate order management and execution.
Will You Pass On Shipping Discounts?
Since fulfillment companies ship large consignments, they get substantial rebates. Some of them pass on these discounts to eCommerce customers, which can help you save significant costs. Ask your provider if they are willing to pass on these discounts to you.
What Happens If There is an Error or Delay in Delivery?
Delayed or damaged shipments occur commonly in an eCommerce setting. Most logistics providers will have a robust insurance policy that addresses these mishaps. Find out how you can raise disputes or make claims so you do not incur losses. Checking their insurance policy also helps you offer improved customer service, so you can make assurances to customers with confidence and overcome financial losses if your goods get lost in transit.