When searching for a third party fulfillment (3PF) partner for your organization, you may find that pack and ship companies— those that can store, package and ship your inventory from one central location, in addition to traditional 3PF order management— offer more flexibility for your brand. And with a good fulfillment company at your back, you can better control the customer experience from order to delivery while controlling costs.
What is kitting?
Kitting is a process by which a pack and ship company pulls individual components of inventory together and packs them into one deliverable.
Think about Ikea— when their customers buy a bedframe, they needn't also run around the store and pick up the right type and numbers of screws, bolts, and tools. Everything needed to put the bed together is already included as part of the package.
Ikea, of course, closely controls the majority of its production from stem to stern and kits mostly in house. But what about smaller companies that aggregate components from several different suppliers?
A pack and ship company typically has the capability to fulfill this sort of function for manufacturing and retail partners. And it's not limited to parts, either.
Let's say that, for the holidays, your business wants to offer gift baskets, filled with a selection of products sourced from third party vendors.
A traditional 3PF company might require you to pre-package the gift baskets yourself then deliver them to the distribution hub, from whence your provider would take orders and ship. But a pack and ship company with flexible fulfillment options may be able to handle the whole process for you.
Your organization could source individual products to be delivered right to the warehouse, provide gift basket specs and branded packaging and then move on while your partner manages inventory and assembly.
A good pack and ship company can put those baskets together as needed, or pre-pack them and store in anticipation of peak delivery seasons, so that you won't have to, freeing resources on your end.
Do you gift wrap?
It's a common question heard around this time of year. Consumers are increasingly busy. The holiday shopping season is getting longer, but the time buyers have to spend shopping is ironically becoming shorter.
Consumers are always looking for ways to cut time down and save work for themselves.
Many e-commerce retailers now offer gift wrapping as part of their pre-delivery service suite. But again, gift wrapping takes time, energy and, ultimately, significant investment—labor, equipment, or both. Don't There’s no backroom where Santa's elves are sitting at benches wrapping presents. Most of that work is done by vendors.
Pack and ship companies often invest in the equipment and labor necessary to make this happen for their clients. The idea is that, in providing a centralized site, partnering businesses can take better advantage of the pack and ship company's economies of scale.
Often, the cost to hire a fulfillment provider to handle pre-ship gift wrapping is a fraction of the cost it would take your company to start up and maintain this service on its own.
This can be the real haymaker for a potential partnering business. Post-purchase returns are traditionally a perceived hassle for all involved— especially when it comes to e-commerce.
The consumer must take the time to repackage and mail the item (sometimes even front the shipping cost). The retailer must process the return, send out a replacement item or refund and pay to restock and reshelf the item.
If your third party fulfillment partner does not offer returns management as part of its service package, it can be a big headache.
Luckily, most pack and ship companies do offer returns management. And since they are typically managing their clients' inventory on site, the restocking fees are negligible. Simple, computerized inventory control. Easy tracking. No paying a third shift worker at a retail location to reshelf and face the product.
Is a pack and ship company right for your needs?
When searching for a fulfillment partner, ask yourself what are the most basic services your company needs to get your products efficiently to market. From there, brainstorm:
- What are the nice-to-haves?
- What are your branding visibility challenges?
- What wild ideas do you have for catching consumer attention, building customer loyalty or exceeding buyers' expectations?
Once you have identified those areas, sit down with a representative from your potential partner and hash out a plan. Identify your organization's budget up front and see if your needs and wants can be met within it.
With the right pack and ship company at your organization's side, providing out-of-the-box solutions for getting your products into the box and out the door, you can beat your competition to the most market share.