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Choosing The Right Fulfilment Partner
Picking a fulfilment partner can be daunting. Whether you're looking for 3PL, eCommerce or GNFR fulfilment, there are many options to choose from.
Choosing an order fulfilment partner can be a daunting experience. You may be at a point where managing your stock and orders out of your spare bedroom is no longer sustainable, or perhaps you are considering a change from your current supplier. There are so many options to choose from, all with different services, specialities, and abilities.
So, what exactly should you take into consideration when choosing a fulfilment company?
The key is to find a fulfilment house who can not only design the perfect solution for your operational needs now, but also be able to scale up as your business grows and develops.
This blog will share our opinions and offer some top tips and expert advice on what questions you should be asking your future fulfilment centre.
Evaluate your needs
Before you start trying to find your new fulfilment partners, it's necessary for you to evaluate your specific needs. Once you have a detailed list, you can prioritise and look for partners who can meet the expectations of dealing with the products offered by your business.
At this point it's worth considering if you require a specialist fulfilment service and provider. If you are selling food, perishable items, hazardous or fragile goods – or any type of product that need specialist storage facilities – you need to ask any potential fulfilment or centre about this early on in discussions.
Even if you don’t consider your product as needing specialist storage requirements, you will still need to put some thought into whether the fulfilment centre and warehousing is geared up to your needs.
Do some research on your prospective partner. Your partner needs to have the resources to fulfil your requirements. A proper background check is highly important - your new partner should have experience managing businesses at a similar, and also larger scale, than yours. Do some due diligence by checking existing client references, and pay particular attention to comments about the fulfilment company’s track record for reliability and accountability.
You also need to consider what volume of orders the prospective fulfilment house specialises in. For example some might only deal with high-volume high street retailers, while others might be focussed on working with small startups. Ask your potential partner if they can cater to a business of your size – and, more importantly, how they will do it.
Look beyond experience when you are evaluating potential fulfilment partners. Explore and ask questions about the technology they use and how it will specifically benefit your company. You are about to entrust a critical business operation to the fulfilment partner and you should be confident that they will make a positive impact on your business. You need to make sure that the fulfilment partner's platform can seamlessly integrate with your current e-commerce store and, where possible, marketplace. Make sure you ask about their integrations and how their inventory tracking software can work with your business. Nothing will be more frustrating to you than finding out you don’t have the visibility or communication that you need with your fulfilment partner.
A good fulfilment partner will offer a real-time view of your inventory, plus give you complete control and valuable insights into your best-selling products, low stock alerts and return updates.
Pricing is one of the most important factors when you select a fulfilment partner. Transparency is extremely crucial for your business. Before committing, verify the costs involved in setup, shipping, fees, management, maintenance, etc. There can often be hidden charges that you might overlook at the beginning. You should have complete knowledge of the pricing structure.
One of the key advantages of using a third party logistics partner is the potential for savings on shipping costs, along with the ability to offer fast and free delivery options. Choosing a partner that makes delivery quick and affordable is extremely important – one of the highest reasons for purchase abandonments during checkout is the extra cost of shipping and other delivery fees. Make sure you ask about timings, how quickly the fulfilment centre can despatch your orders, and what the cut off times are for next-day delivery orders.
Financial benefits aside, think about your customers, too. If they expect an order to arrive the next day and it's late, you might've lost their trust in future. When choosing your fulfilment company, have a conversation with them about this, and get a feel for the value and reliability of their courier services and relationships.
Does the fulfilment company offer everything you need? You should only choose a fulfilment partner you feel confident in and that offers everything you need. This isn't the time to compromise your business!
When choosing a fulfilment company, the relationship needs to be a good fit for both parties. After all, their success is driven by your success. If you aren't on the same page, then this might not be the best for both businesses.
Beside the main fundamentals – the warehouse and delivery services – have a wish list of everything else you want to have covered. This could include:
- Customer Support – can they act as an extension of your team?
- Returns and Complaints – how will your fulfilment partner deal with returns?
- On-Site and Digital Security – your stock and data is important, especially if you have high value products. How will they make sure it's secure?
- Marketplace Support – can they offer additional services to help grow your sales opportunities?
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions when choosing your fulfilment partner – if they are a good match for you, they will have all the answers you need.
Really think about this decision – will they genuinely help you grow your business? Don’t just choose a fulfilment company who will help you right now – choose a partner who will help you grow in the long term.
This is key to forming a successful relationship with your fulfilment centre. During those early discussions, bring up your plans for growth and ask how they will support you with this. Maybe one of your goals is global expansion, a huge increase in product range, or you have a high target for year-on-year growth in 12 months' time.
Can the fulfilment house be adaptable to your changes? What if your volumes grows 10x over a short period, or you switch from B2C to B2B - will they be able to handle this? Do they have examples of clients they have done this with?
This is a vital question to ask – and, if your potential fulfilment partner has some strong responses, it’s a good sign you have found a suitable match.
Finally – do you trust them? This point is perhaps the most important, but the hardest to quantify. Trust is a HUGE factor when choosing a partner. And, sometimes, it comes down to that gut instinct.
Ask yourself the following:
- Do you feel like the company understands your needs?
- Have they answered your questions genuinely and honestly?
- Have they been transparent about their costs and services?
- Do they have case studies and reviews available for you to read?
If you sense red flags, now's the time to raise them. If you've ironed out any concerns and feel confident that this fulfilment partner suits your needs and is a good fit for your business – you may well have found the fulfilment company you are ready to choose!
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