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Retail Product Fulfillment Center Solutions

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5 Questions to ask a potential fulfillment and distribution partner

5 Questions to Ask a Potential Fulfillment and Distribution Partner

With an extensive global economy, fulfillment encompasses much more than shipping and receiving. A good fulfillment partner will help your business with a variety of operational tasks including customer service, billing and finance, warehousing and inventory tracking, internet marketing, analytics, technical support, and more.
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Handling B2C order fulfillment is an exercise in meeting customer expectations. They want to have a
certain type of delivery experience with their order, which is influenced by large companies such as
Amazon and other giants in the industry. You don’t have the same resources and infrastructure as these
organizations, but you still must live up to the expectations that they established with retail consumers.


It’s easy to stretch your company’s budget too thin when you try to do everything on your own. Scaling
your operations becomes difficult or impossible, depending on the demand that comes in and the
number of manual processes in place. If you find yourself featured in a viral campaign, you could end up
processing thousands or millions of orders. It’s all too easy to fall apart during this type of situation and
ending up with a lot of angry people rather than a massive influx to your customer base. Retail product
fulfillment services offer you exactly what you need to ensure a seamless experience for consumers,
from start to finish.

 

What is Retail Product Fulfillment?

 

A retail product fulfillment vendor, typically categorized as a third-party logistics company, has the
technology, staffing, and infrastructure in place to support retail order processing. They have the
capability to take on your order load and get it delivered efficiently and within your specifications.


They use an order fulfillment center for their operation. This center is more than just a warehouse for
your inventory. It also includes advanced systems for tracking an order as it comes through the location,
a variety of packaging materials, and highly skilled staff members whose duties revolve entirely around
order fulfillment. Your inventory management is completely handled, here.

 

Handling Retail Fulfillment In-House Versus Through a
Fulfillment Center

 

It’s common for a smaller ecommerce company to have people taking on multiple roles. You could end
up with the owner also doing packing and shipping duties. This type of inefficiency makes it difficult for
members of the leadership to make strategic decisions.


If you do have the resources to have dedicated employees and infrastructure for order fulfillment, you
often aren’t operating at the same scale as a 3PL company. Your warehouses may be in unfavorable
locations that add delivery time onto your orders, or you could be using a basic fulfillment solution that
doesn’t truly meet your needs.


When you work with a retail fulfillment business, you’re opening access to a range of specialized
solutions. If you have products that need particularly custom handling, then you would want to work
with the highly experienced members of this service provider.

 

The Importance of the Customer Experience

 

It can’t be overstated how important the customer experience is to your business. A poor customer
experience means that your shoppers end up being one-and-done, with no repeat customers or
referrals coming in.


When the customer experience exceeds their expectations, their social circle is going to hear all about it.
Not only do you get the opportunity to turn that shopper into a repeat buyer by getting their orders out
to them quickly, you also get to enjoy the word of mouth recommendations that they’ll bring in.
Online reviews can make or break a company, especially in a crowded marketplace. When you nail the
customer experience, you will see that reflected in the way people talk about you online.


What a Retail Product Fulfillment Center Can Do for You

 

The retail product fulfillment center will quickly become one of your most valuable partners. While they
handle all of the basic tasks that you would expect as part of your order processing workflow, such as
picking and packing from a warehouse, preparing the shipments, getting great shipping rates, and
sending them out for delivery, there are many other ways that a 3PL can assist you.

 

  • Product assembly: If you have products that need final assembly before going to their
    destination, it may make sense to send the individual parts to the order fulfillment center for
    the last part of the process.

  • Custom packaging requirements: Do you want to include special inserts, custom packing slips,
    and other materials into the orders? The product fulfillment center works with you to ensure
    that your branding is properly in place before the delivery happens.
  • Creating kits: Some products sell better as part of a kit, and the 3PL provider can make that
    happen with custom packaging and kitting ideas.
  • Sending out retail displays: If you’re distributing your products to retail storefronts, you may
    need an eye-catching retail display to go right along with it. The order fulfillment center can put
    these together and send them along with the store shipments, so everything is in place.

  • Preparing and fulfilling promotions: If you have large sales throughout the year to your B2C
    audience, you want to be prepared with extra shipping support. A common high-volume need
    concerns free samples, which get the attention of plenty of consumers.

  • Local, regional, national, and international retail product distribution: Get your products shipped
    all over the world with the best possible delivery options. The retail fulfillment center can
    connect you with bulk rates that are more favorable than your own negotiated rates.

  • Create and maintain SKU database: If keeping up with the product SKUs has been an issue, the
    center can also take over these duties. If they find a product without a corresponding SKU, then
    they can assign it one before it starts shipping.

  • Sync data with your retail inventory: Real-time data integration between the fulfillment center’s
    backend systems and your own shopping cart solutions means that you never have to worry
    about your inventory levels being reported inaccurately.

  • Centralize your inventory at key locations: Get your products closer to the people who buy them
    the most. You can go with a 3PL business that has warehouses and fulfillment centers near your
    shipping hubs or go with one that is centrally located to your common destinations.

  • Get expert eyes on every package going out of the fulfillment center: You don’t want the wrong
    products going out to your customers. Quality assurance and control gets expert eyes on
    everything that’s going on in the order fulfillment process to ensure that it’s a seamless and
    enjoyable experience for the customer.

 

Making the Decision to Work with a 3PL Provider

 

It may be difficult to decide whether you should enlist the services of a 3PL provider or continue
handling order processing in-house. It’s hard to give up that kind of control over your products and an
important part of the customer experience.


Ultimately, only you and the other leaders in your company can decide whether a retail fulfillment
center partnership makes sense for your current and future needs. Consider your growth rate, the
access to supply chain logistics infrastructure, and the cost of warehouse space in your area as you make
this decision.


You pay for the resources that you use, rather than investing in the infrastructure to support your
maximum order throughput. That alone is often a reason that organizations choose to outsource their
order processing and shipping duties to a 3PL provider. While the cost savings are excellent, the time
savings offer an even more compelling reason to choose this type of service.
Evaluate each retail product fulfillment center and see whether they have the functionality that you
need to grow your business. The right partner will empower your organization with support for rapid
growth and a lot of flexibility.