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4 Reasons Your Best Fulfillment Provider Might Not Be On Page One of Google

Google searchWhen you’re looking for a new fulfillment provider, you may find yourself turning straight to Google and checking out the search results to get a better idea of who you want to turn to. Around 33% of the search traffic on any given results page goes to the first site listed. Less than 10% of searchers make it past that first page. While Google has some great algorithms in place that help ensure that you’re getting excellent results in that first page, the best fulfillment provider for you might not be on page one of Google.

1. Page one is made up of the providers with the biggest ad budget. Google’s algorithm is based on a variety of factors, from links back to the page to the content created by a specific website. Building those things is part of a solid inbound marketing plan, but it takes both time and money to accomplish those things. Paid ads can also help boost organic search placement. That means that for the most part, the companies that you’ll find on Google’s first page are the companies with the biggest advertising budget–not necessarily the companies who will be best at handling your needs.

2. Page one is typically made up of the providers who have been established the longest. Established companies are great. They have a lot of experience in fulfillment and know how to handle plenty of the common problems that may arise throughout your experience. They’ve also had more time to create the content that improves their SEO, which is what gets them those great organic search rankings. The biggest fulfillment providers, however, aren’t always necessarily the best ones for your specific needs. With a smaller company, you’ll get more individualized attention. You’ll be more likely to deal with a single individual who knows all about your account, and when there is a problem, it will be less difficult to hunt down the person who knows the solution.

3. There are thousands of companies to choose from. Fulfillment companies come in a variety of shapes and sizes with many different offerings. There may be specific things that you want from your fulfillment provider, such as:

  • Full-service returns for customers
  • Comfort handling fragile items, food items, or other items that are, for whatever reason, more difficult to ship
  • A company that can handle your anticipated growth over the next several years

It may be difficult to find the company that you’re looking for through Google alone–especially if you’re basing your decision on that first page of search results, which will only hold around 10-15 companies out of the thousands that could potentially handle your fulfillment needs.

4. You’re looking for a company that specializes in fulfillment, not advertising. If you were looking for a marketing professional to handle your inbound marketing needs, finding a company that ranks on the first page of Google’s search results would be important. Being able to accomplish that, however, requires marketing expertise that many fulfillment companies simply don’t have. You want them to be focused on fulfillment, not on fixing up their latest marketing efforts!

There are plenty of hidden gems that will never appear on the first page of Google’s search results. Only a handful of the thousands of available companies can claim those key positions, and those aren’t necessarily the companies with the most experience or the greatest customer service. They just happen to be the ones that have the biggest marketing budget available, the largest content library, and the best ability to get themselves seen. When what you want is a fulfillment company that will go the extra mile for you and your customers, don’t turn to the first page of Google! Instead, contact us to learn more about how we can help you make the most of your fulfillment services.

Warning Signs You’re With the Wrong Third-Party Fulfillment Company

Warning signs you're with the wrong fulfillment providerWorking with a fulfillment company can become both a blessing and a curse, depending on how much you know about them. It’s why vetting is such an important process before you choose one, despite so many businesses skipping this process.

Even if you find one you think you can work with, the warehouse could have problems in the future. Sometimes it’s impossible to know whether a fulfillment warehouse is going to have issues until the time actually comes. They still usually show warning signs, which you can scope out in part during vetting. Then again, if you’ve already signed a warehouse contract in 2016, it pays to keep an eye on some red flags in the coming year. Conducting annual assessments with your warehouse usually helps find some of the most egregious issues.

Here’s some warning signs you’re with the wrong third-party fulfillment company so you can take heed and move on before becoming a bigger problem.

Lack of Communication

While this is a common issue, it’s something to still take seriously. Maybe you haven’t made an effort yourself to keep in contact with your warehouse for a while. Or, maybe you have, yet the fulfillment company hasn’t bothered to return your calls, emails, or texts.

If not, it’s an immediate sign they don’t take communicating with you seriously. When this happens, it’s a surefire sign your partnership isn’t going well. You can’t work with a warehouse and not have a good working relationship. They’re basically your other business half, and communicating every day is essential.

With this relationship, you need transparency, and any tendency to cover up things is an immediate sign to look elsewhere.

Improper Billing Procedures

Any lack of organization in the warehouse could lead to improper billing that creates constant confusion between you and customers. Much of this has to do with technology weaknesses and using paper-based systems. Digitizing documents is important now to prevent discrepancies.

All it takes is a mistake in charging too much on shipping, or not properly addressing your own bills, to create major downtime finding errors. Because you’re already busy keeping your business afloat, you don’t want to waste hours or days locating where a mistake occurred. Your warehouse might not cooperate either, making things worse.

Not Keeping Up With Your Growth Demands

Business growth could happen virtually overnight in your company. Can your fulfillment center keep up with those demands, or would they lag behind?

Doing thorough audits discerns whether the warehouse has ability to scale along with you. No willingness to invest in better technology is a major warning sign they won’t keep up.

They’re also maybe downsizing staff, which only places more pressures on other workers to keep up the slack. Not hiring talent to keep up with major demands is a sign mistakes may get made often down the road.

Too Many Cultural Gaps

Because your business may have unique products requiring specialized shipping and distribution, your warehouse might not possess enough capability to understand this. Maybe they did initially. Now they’ve slipped on keeping up with distribution changes, or on international shipping regulations.

In the coming year, you may have plans to expand to international markets. Your fulfillment center needs to keep up on the latest requirements in those foreign zones, including the latest bans on specific products.

Many countries don’t allow various items, and any mistake shipping them there could lead to major violations and fines. When your fulfillment center takes the brunt of blame, it could place them in financial jeopardy.

Contact us at insightQuote so we can help you find a fulfillment warehouse that continues to keep up with your business.

How Free Shipping and Free Returns are Now the Norm for Retailers

Free Shipping & ReturnsAs the holiday season winds down, one thing you’ve probably noticed from your competitors is that they now offer free shipping and free returns for their customers. It’s a service arguably started by Amazon years ago as part of their supreme attention to customer service. Since they started it, almost every other retailer began doing the same thing.

No wonder online shopping has taken off into the stratosphere over the last few years as a result. During the holidays, there isn’t any better peace of mind for consumers than being able to buy something without being smacked with a large shipping fee. The same goes for pain-free returns when gifts aren’t what they expect.

At one time, many stores balked at this until realizing it’s really good insurance for bringing in new customers and nurturing loyalty.

Here’s a look at how how free shipping and free returns are becoming the norm for retailers, and why you should consider it yourself.

Changing the Philosophy on Free Services

As maybe a startup, you realize shipping and returns policies can become major expenses when you’re adhering to a budget. Nevertheless, philosophies have begun to change on offering free services in order to attract more customers.

All consumers have more astute radars to what constitutes a good deal and what doesn’t during online shopping. When they see you’ve made an effort to give them free services like this, they’ll know you’re doing it for them and not thinking of yourself.

On the other hand, it’s a good psychological tactic drawing more customers to you from competitors who still feel tepid offering free shipping.

Much of this rests on forming long-term relationships with customers, which is imperative for the future of your business’s survival.

Why Free Shipping is So Important to Consumers

Recent statistics show 78% of shoppers find free shipping more important to them than expedited shipping. Only 38% of those surveyed found faster shipping more attractive over free shipping processes.

In this regard, you have some proof many customers have willingness to wait a little longer for their packages to save money. There isn’t anything that creates more abandonment of shopping carts than a customer seeing expensive shipping charges.

It’s something you’ve perhaps had to raise in recent years to keep yourself profitable. Offering free shipping (at least around the holidays) is going to give you a bigger rate of return thanks to the buying boost.

You can survive financial losses and steady your fulfillment costs from this by simply offering free shipping annually. Thanks to creating more loyal customers, you’ll have a full year ahead to keep yourself profitable through each quarter.

Free Returns Net Higher Profits

Don’t think not offering free returns hurts your profitability. You’ll find statistics showing when consumers see a free returns offer, it increases profits for the business by 25% six months after the returns occur.

Here you see another example of how offering free now helps pay off in coming months and years. Now you see the secret to why the big retail stores offer free returns not only during the holidays, but other times of the year as well.

Since the future is what truly matters in your business, knowing you’ll have more loyal customers as a result of free shipping and returns gives you solid insurance.

First, though, you need to work closely with a “fulfillment center near me” so they can provide top-tier shipping and returns to make free worth the price.

At insightQuote, we offer our FulfillmentCompanies.net site to search for the right warehouse suiting your company. With thorough vetting, you’ll find a fulfillment center willing to take on the biggest shipping challenges.

Contact us to find out more about our services for the coming year.

Best Practices for E-commerce Packaging that Impacts the Consumer Experience

e-commerce packagingE-commerce fulfillment continues to surpass expectations for consumer preference and sales projections, yet customer feedback indicates there is room for improvement. Many e-retailers fail to consider that packaging can have a positive or negative effect on the customer experience. Everything from the material, color, wording, and design can give retailers a margin above the competition.

Statistics show that claim resolutions for products shipped have risen. The leading complaints are, ‘concealed or invisible damage to product’ and ‘visible damage or loss’. Packaging and shipping offer an opportunity e-retailers to create loyal customers, by exceeding customer expectations and using effective branding strategies.

The following trends and best practices for E-commerce packaging can help ensure your customers will enjoy receiving and opening a package from your business:

  1. Consumers love eco-friendly packaging that is either sustainable, recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. It is important to let the consumer know your business has instigated a ‘zero waste’ shipping program that reduces the carbon impact on the environment. Moisture resistant options for earth-friendly packaging are available with excellent crush protection for shipped goods, such as post-consumer waste (PCW) corrugated boxes, Kraft and newsprint paper, and biodegradable cellophane wrap.
  2. Package inserts are a low-cost way to target loyal customers and can yield high returns, as the cost of delivery is already covered. It is much easier to keep an existing customer than it is to generate new business. If customer retention is a prime objective for your e-commerce business, a packaging insert can be an opportunity to launch a new product, offer additional discounts on future purchases, or to simply include a personalized ‘thank you’ note.
  3. Packaging design moves the shipping container from a brown box or plain bag to a distinct and specialized branding opportunity. This trend is increasing in popularity with high-end and luxury goods retailers. E-retailers that make the packaging design an extension of their corporate brand, that is incorporating the brand color palette, company logo, and text fonts, create an opportunity for the consumer to value the consumer experience as these containers are more apt to be retained for future uses.
  4. No-Fuss packaging follows the ‘less is more’ rule, and seek to provide frustration-free, stripped down packaging independent of plastic-welded clamshells or blister packs. Viable alternatives for protective shipping which eliminates the ‘unwrap-rage’ of clamshell packaging includes fiber-based or bamboo trays that are not only sustainable but easier to open.
  5. Multi-purpose packaging serves the dual role as a shipping container and product storage or presentation medium. This option has traditionally been aimed towards the B2B market rather than B2C, as the shipping package can be immediately converted into retail-ready displays. Yet, as consumers are buying more household dry goods online and in bulk, marketing of the shipping package as a convenient and efficient storage container will appeal to the orderly sensibilities of shoppers.
  6. Space-efficient packaging has become a notable request from consumers who don’t understand why small items are shipped in oversized boxes and filled with any variety of dunnage materials. Ensuring the shipping container is sized properly for its contents is economically reasonable throughout the logistical chain. Unused or vacuous space within packages contributes to environmental waste, reduces useable cargo space for carriers, and increases shipping costs. Solve this issue and improve your fulfillment costs by increasing the variety of box sizes your company keeps in stock for shipping to reduce the amount of unused space per shipment.

Reducing shipping costs, gaining loyal customers in an increasingly competitive environment, and sustaining a high level of customer satisfaction and review feedback, are just a few areas where any e-commerce business can gain improvements by modifying their e-commerce packaging.

Contact us for quick, convenient, and efficient delivery from fulfillment to the customer as your e-commerce shipping expert.

Shipping Speed vs. Fulfillment Time

shipping and fulfillment speedAt first glance, the difference between shipping speed and fulfillment time might not seem significant. However, when the two different terms are explored in further detail, it is obvious that the chasm between the two time frames is certainly pronounced.

Shipping speed is fairly straightforward: it is the time that a product takes to reach the end user after being sent out from the vendor. Common examples of shipping speeds are same day (think Amazon.com), next day, and 2nd day. However, fulfillment time is by definition the amount of time the that elapses from when a customer places an order to the time that the customer has the product in hand.

After establishing the different meaning of the two disparate terms, it should come as no surprise that fulfillment time is the more important metric to a consumer. The rationale behind this is simple: if Customer Doe places an order on January 1st with 2nd day shipping and the order doesn’t ship out from the vendor until February 10th, that 2nd day shipping doesn’t hold much value, given that five weeks has elapsed from the time that the order is placed until the customer receives the order. The fulfillment time in this case would be the five weeks — plus the two days for shipping.

Now take the scenario where a business promises a two-week order fulfillment time. The same Customer Doe would get their order by January 15th, assuming he put the order in on the same day (January 1st).

Striving to shorten fulfillment times is a top priority for businesses that depend on shipping as the medium to facilitate sales to their customers. In this age of exponential online growth and the concurring downsizing of brick and mortar setups, this translates into significantly more businesses looking to minimize their fulfillment numbers.

What are some solid practices and measures that businesses should utilize to cut down on their fulfillment times? Let’s take a look at three of the top tips for saving valuable fulfillment time.

START TO FINISH ORDER TRACKING

Although employing the same order management system as your suppliers is important, this by itself won’t suffice. What is more valuable is the visibility that your business has into the inventory and processes of the suppliers that you work with. Perhaps one of your suppliers is experiencing an issue with their inventory? Ideally, you should be privy to that knowledge so that your own website reflects that factor. Hiccups known ahead of time are invaluable in keeping your own customer apprised of possible issues that could delay the time it takes to fulfill their order, resulting in a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Maintaining the capability to track supplier orders and convey that information to your customers assists in managing customer expectations and generally improves the credibility of your company across the board. In addition, a second upside of order and inventory visibility is that this information can be showcased to shoppers on your company’s website. This recent UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study reveals that 58% of shoppers are of the opinion that being able to view if the product that they are shopping for is available is crucial to their ending purchase decision.

USE THE BEST SHIPPING METHOD

Customers that are shopping online have come to expect rapid shipping times. Obviously, shipping time is a component of the total fulfillment time. However, assuming that the fastest shipping method is always the best method is not the answer. Other factors that can and do come into play when deciding on a shipping method include the location of the customer, where the product is in relation to that customer’s location, and the length of time that the order is going to take to prepare for shipment.

The answer to selecting the best shipping method can be found with smart shipping algorithms. Many cloud-based software programs make real-time ordering possible. Having the ability to select the optimal shipping method ensures that your organization delivers your offerings in a timely manner, and also automatically keeps an eye on your bottom line by preventing shipping upgrades that are not necessary.

CONSISTENT CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION

Business that operate in the e-commerce environment must account for the fact that the order fulfillment clock starts ticking the moment that your customer consummates their transaction. What this translates into is a customer waiting as your company completes each and every step of the process.

Because you are dealing with a customer who is expecting speed, it is imperative that you keep your customer informed and up-to-date by forwarding salient details regarding their order with them all along the way. That’s why a superior order management system will allow for updates such as when the order was received by your supplier, the date and time that the order has been dispatched, and where it is in the transit process. By sending this information along via email notifications, you are effectively keeping your customer satisfied — resulting in a happy customer and repeat business.

Order fulfillment time carries more weight with a customer than merely the time that the product takes to ship. By utilizing constant tracking, choosing the best shipping method for the situation, and keeping your customer in the know, you can minimize fulfillment time and increase customer satisfaction.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us today!

Top Places Companies are Searching for Fulfillment Services: Regions, States, and Cities

U.s. Population - Map Of Most Populated StatesHow fast you get your products out to targeted customers all hinges on fulfillment center location. While the best facilities usually move products quickly across the country, being closer to customers helps deliver packages hours earlier.

Even so, it’s worth keeping in mind a good location isn’t always about delivery. Having your fulfillment center closer to your business makes it easier to visit them and keep communication going. Far too many businesses think fulfillment can work autonomously without interaction, but it only leads to confusion.

Here at insightQuote, we recently studied the top places companies search for fulfillment services. We found most of the searches became segmented by region, state, and city.

Searching by Region

We get many requests through our site for where the best fulfillment centers are, and we strive to provide answers based on our expert research. You’ll find some interesting results on which regions many businesses prefer.

In many cases, we pinpointed the East Coast as the top place, seemingly because of the higher populations there. However, when you look at east coast based fulfillment facilities, they mention the Port of New York/New Jersey as being the second largest port in the nation. This automatically gives you access to the world’s biggest consumer markets.

Beyond the east coast, though, we found the Central U.S. being the second choice. As much as you might think the central portion of the U.S. is too far away from ports, consider many major highways connecting to the west and east originate in the Midwest.

The last regional choice was the West Coast, despite the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach being the busiest in the entire country.

Most telling: the largest percentage of businesses indicated they had no special preference for region and would consider any place.

Searching By State

CaliforniaIt turns out California is the top state searched for in finding fulfillment centers. Mention of the top ports above are obviously a major factor, though also consider highways like I-5 extend the entire length of the west coast. This allows fast deliveries by truck up to Oregon and Washington State.

New Jersey is second with proximity to the #2 port mentioned above. Plus, being close to New York opens a huge market without having to reside directly in the state.

We found Florida as the third most searched state, most likely because it’s a direct conduit to Central America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Texas was fourth thanks to being centrally located within the country, and being close to Mexico for cornering more outside markets.

Searching By City

fulfillment services companies near los angeles californiaIt’s no surprise that Los Angeles turned up as #1 in our studies on city searches. As one of the most thriving fulfillment cities on the entire west coast, it’s within close distance to the most important California ports.

Chicago is second with direct routing right into the Midwest, while not being far from major east coast markets (as well as Canada)/.

Dallas/Fort Worth is third as an example of how popular Texas is for being so centrally located.

Then you have Miami at #4. It’s a major hub for the entire east coast and the other Americas without obstructions to reaching those markets quickly.

With all this information available to you, it gives you some guideposts to go on when searching for a fulfillment center now or in the coming year. Contact us at insightQuote where we connect businesses with thoroughly screened warehouses and fulfillment facilities meeting specific company needs.

The Advantages of Omni-Channel Fulfillment

Omni-Channel FulfillmentIt is no secret that retailing has changed in the age of the internet. Customers are no longer content to go into a store and just buy what is on the shelf. Today, a consumer now checks prices and shipping options through websites and smartphone apps. They may want to buy an item online and pick it up in the store. Next, they may choose to exchange the item through a website. That sounds like a stock management headache, but working with omni-channel fulfillment makes accommodating customers easier and more efficient.

In the past, retailers commonly shipped from two warehouses. One was strictly for e-commerce and the other was only for retail stores. Traditionally on the east or west coast, customers in Middle America had a longer time to wait for their goods. As e-commerce grew, retailers had to find new fulfillment methods. Businesses such as Toys ‘R’ Us, offered ship-from-store options to meet the demand.

The Rise of Online Shopping

With the rise of smartphones, retailing grew even more complex. According to Internet Retailer, 91% of consumers research and buy products on a laptop or desktop. But, 56% research and 41% purchase on smartphones. This is because social media like Facebook and Snapchat are now in the retailing mix. Some consumers do not even visit the company’s website before they buy. The focus of omni-channel fulfillment is on the consumer and the product, but there are endless ways for them to get together.

Omni-channel fulfillment is simpler than it looks. A consumer makes a purchase from a concession, mobile app, website, catalogue, franchise or store. The retailer continues with the process and handles ordering, stock management, fulfillment and sales. The center of this method is always the stock pool. It includes stock from all sources, such as stores, kiosks and warehouses. To view an infographic on this, see RetailAssist.

Consumers make purchases in any way they want but the retailer maintains full control over the stock, even if it is in many places. Omni-channel fulfillment ensures efficient and accurate delivery of the correct product.  Suppliers see the stock as a whole, not fragmented through different channels.

The Advantages of Omni-Channel Fulfillment

With omni-channel fulfillment businesses can offer:

  • same day shipping or on demand delivery
  • shipping for items bought in a retail store to the consumer’s home.
  • in-store pickup for items bought online
  • lower costs due to fully automated distribution.

Other advantages include real-time reporting, adjustment to seasonal demand, and accurate inventory management. Omni-channel fulfillment leads to new sales opportunities as retailers discover different ways to market items through different channels.  Streamlined warehouse operations get the product to the consumer quickly and with less cost. Satisfied customers are more likely to come back, and this makes your brand look better than a company that doesn’t use this fulfillment method.

Consumers’ Expectations are High

Due to the “Amazon effect” consumers now expect options that were impossible in the days before e-commerce. They expect faster, easier and less expensive shipping. According to an article on retailTouchPoints, Amazon pioneered fast shipping and versatile stock options, but this now means that consumers expect the same from most other retailers. Speed and accurate delivery through an omni-channel supply chain allows your business to compete with big companies such as Amazon. During the record holiday sales season of 2014, retailers such as Macy’s Target and Best Buy greatly improved delivery with omni-channel fulfillment .

Considering the variety in modern e-commerce, omni-channel fulfillment allows companies to look consistent across all of their retail channels. The consumer sees the same shipping policies, prices and product availability on Facebook as they do in the retail store or on the web site. These areas are more consistently and accurately updated.

Using omni-channel fulfillment not only brings your company up to date, but it allows for speed, accuracy and efficiency. For more information about fulfillment options, please contact us.

PCI Compliant Fulfillment Companies: The Requirements Needed for Secure E-Commerce

PCI Compliant Fulfillment CompaniesPerhaps you’ve been researching PCI compliant fulfillment companies lately because you’re planning to use an e-commerce shopping cart for your online business. Since you want the fulfillment center to take responsibility for this, you know they’ll have to adhere to strict regulations.

During your research, you likely found out that not all fulfillment centers have PCI compliance, simply because they don’t want to deal with payment processing regulations. If you want them to take control in your business’s e-commerce, though, the fulfillment center has to prove their PCI adherence.

PCI, incidentally, is short for “PCI DSS”, which stands for Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard.

As with all regulations, PCI requirements are strict and varied. While we always stress the importance in vetting warehouses before you work with them, it’s necessary to check whether they’re adhering to proper principles.

Let’s look at what’s required for PCI regulations and why you need thorough vetting to make sure your fulfillment center takes each aspect seriously.

A Strong and Maintained Network

One of the first major requirements is having a network that’s built strong and regularly maintained. This means having protective tools in place to prevent unexpected shutdowns or chances for hacking. Technology like firewalls are mandatory to protect personal financial information from customers.

Also mandated is the fulfillment center can’t use defaults for passwords and other areas of security. With strong passwords a major element in keeping workplaces secure lately, you have to make sure your warehouse isn’t lax in online security.

Since PCI compliance protects against fraud, securing a network is just the starting place for what’s needed.

Further Protecting Cardholder Data

Other requirements for protecting cardholders include developing security methods on all stored card data. Whether it means using the cloud with secure monitoring, the warehouse has to show proof their cardholder information isn’t easily accessible by anyone.

Encryption is mandatory as well, especially when transmitting cardholder data across public networks.

Vulnerability Management Programs

PCI compliance means your fulfillment center has to audit their vulnerabilities and find ways to keep those things from bringing downtime. Disasters can always happen, but proper planning and technology keeps the warehouse running for the sake of your brand’s reputation.

Some of this entails using anti-virus protection to protect against online threats. It additionally means creating secure systems and applications that aren’t just sitting ducks to the myriad cyber threats potentially shutting businesses down in an instant.

Control Measures

Do you really know who has access to cardholder data in your fulfillment center? PCI compliance demands they have control measures in place to assure physical access so private data stays limited. In addition, each employee who’s allowed access needs to carry unique ID so there isn’t any attempt at sabotage or theft.

Monitoring and Testing Their Network

Without regular monitoring and testing, situations could occur at the worst possible times. Regular monitoring of the fulfillment center’s network is essential to catch problems as they occur. It’s the same with recurring testing to check for further potential issues and prepare for natural disasters (and disaster response) when the unexpected happens.

A Policy on Information Security

When you’re considering working with a warehouse, ask them to show you their information security policy in writing. They’re supposed to do this based on PCI rules, and it needs updating at least once a year to prove they’re aren’t getting too complacent.

Since you’ll be working with your fulfillment center for likely years, you don’t want any angle becoming overlooked with assumption everything can keep running on automatic pilot.

Contact us here at insightQuote to learn more about fulfillment center duties, PCI compliance, and other elements to look for in warehouse duties.

Is Your Fulfillment Running Smoothly? Questions to Ask Your Fulfillment Warehouse

Questions to Ask Your Fulfillment WarehouseFinding a fulfillment center that can take on the challenges of your business is something requiring extensive vetting. However, once you find one, it’s easy to become complacent to the warehouse’s basic operations. You may think it’s going to run on automatic pilot forever without developing a close working relationship.

Holding Your Fulfillment Warehouse Accountable

As noted by many logistics experts, you shouldn’t treat your fulfillment center like a commodity. When you nurture a better relationship with them, things can run the way you expect to keep your brand intact.

With that in mind, is your fulfillment running smoothly? Perhaps you haven’t checked in with your fulfillment center for a while after becoming complacent to their procedures. If you’re starting to notice a few things slipping in maintaining your delivery services, it’s time to visit the warehouse and ask some serious questions.

After you address these questions head-on, it’s important to maintain a good relationship to avoid having to seek another 3PL warehouse for logistics improvement.

Are Orders Shipping Out Accurately?

Statistics show that 39% of all retail companies face problems with accuracy in delivering products to their customers. This falls squarely on the fulfillment center you work with, and you may notice too many errors lately.

After several order errors, it can quickly start to erode trust with the customers you’ve worked hard to acquire. While you’ve already invested a huge percentage of your budget into labor expenses, this extra cost is essential to make sure the fulfillment center gets things right.

It’s time to do an audit of the warehouse you work with if you see too many inaccuracies in orders lately. More than several in a week’s time should become a red flag.

Is Cart Inventory Matching Your On-Hand Inventory?

Not being able to fulfill an order becomes even more of a frustration for your customers. The job of your fulfillment center is to make sure they relay what your inventory is so your cart inventory matches your on-hand inventory. Having to suddenly tell a customer your product is out-of-stock after they’ve placed an order is true retail anathema.

Keep daily communication going with your fulfillment center to get on the same page since they can’t operate at your level without your input.

Are Customers Receiving Orders On Time?

Maybe you’ve solved the inventory problems, but what about the method of getting your products to customers? Are customers starting to receive those items later than intended? If so, it’s time to look into what’s happening on the delivery end of your fulfillment center.

Location is everything in the 3PL warehouse you choose. Perhaps they’re in a geographic spot that isn’t conducive to the regions you need to target. Being closer to interstate highways and ports can help shave off time getting packages faster to your intended customer bases.

Do You Receive Products from Suppliers in a Timely Manner?

Getting your products sent to the warehouse from suppliers and manufacturers is another problem that might start to lag. Call your suppliers and find out what’s possibly occurring to slow down deliveries. Having constant low inventory immediately sends a message to consumers you’re not keeping your operations running optimally.

Are Returns Being Processed Quickly and Timely?

You always need a good return policy if you’re dealing in e-commerce. Your fulfillment center should deal in reverse logistics to make sure all returns go smoothly. The only way to make this happen is to assure the warehouse has the best technology to track information on inventory levels and to liquidate items.

Making sure fulfillment communicates this information to you helps you save money and time having unsaleable products stack up in the warehouse.

Managing Metrics

Reading metrics is essential for any company to get a 360-degree view of what’s happening. Don’t ignore the analytics in your fulfillment center since it can tell you so much. Especially look at their KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) where you’ll see some clarity on what the warehouse is doing and what their performance outlook is.

Contact us here at FulfillmentCompanies.net so we can help you find a fulfillment warehouse right for your industry.

Pros and Cons of Multi-State and Multi-National Fulfillment Companies

Multi-location Fulfillment WarehousesLogistics firms are trying to serve their clients the best they can by providing the most reach, the best price and the highest quality service.  Sometimes that means having eyes and ears on the products themselves.  Other times it means working with trusted partners.  However, more companies are seeking to become  multi state and multi national fulfillment companies to meet all of their clients needs.

The Pros of Multi-Location Fulfillment Companies

The top benefit of having a multi-location company is that you can control more parts of the value chain.  You are shipping between your own locations and you have your people handling goods.  If clients have questions about packing, shipping or handling, you can answer immediately.

Next, you can have a more unified technological infrastructure.  You track packages and know exactly when they arrive at each location.  You anticipate the movement of goods from one place to the next with much greater accuracy.  Your ERP system has more data inputs which creates more accurate predictions in the future.

The third benefit is that you can manage inventory much better with many different locations.  While demand is low, you can keep inventory in low-cost locations or not order it at all.  When demand is high, move the goods much closer to the end customer for faster turnaround.  That increases cash flow and ultimately gets to the bottom line.  If carefully managed, your debt will also be lower as a percentage of the overall business.

The Cons of Multi-Location Fulfillment Companies

The drawbacks of a multi-national or multi-state fulfillment companies are many.  Firstly, fixed costs are much greater.  Each location has its own contract for rent, it’s own general manager, it’s own staff and it’s own equipment.  These require a large upfront and ongoing cost.  Without sufficient business to cover these expenses, the business will face grave difficulties.

The second issue is bridging the cultural gaps between the locations.  If your two warehouses are in Illinois and Indiana, this won’t be a huge problem.  However, if they are in Oregon and Ohio you may have different work cultures.  If they locations are in Maryland and Mexico you are sure to have language, legal and financial challenges that are tough to bridge.  Management must place special emphasis on common, shared goals and east to understand principles for everyone in the organization to follow.

The last issue is logistical.  As mentioned earlier, more locations improves the capability of your ERP system.  However, that also mean putting effort, manpower and attention to the back-end coordination.  Without careful coordination, responsibilities may be lost as managers in different locations expect their counterparts to take care. Similarly, customers are putting greater trust in you to move goods from one location within your firm to another one.  At a minimum, you will have a much larger web of relationships to manage with logistics firms, distributors, manufacturers etc. that will all have to be managed.

The unifying feature is that the more capital you have, the more you can expand and the less it will impact your business.  On the other hand, if you are like most businesses and have a limit to your capital, you will have to weigh the trade-offs of growing to many different locations.  Ambitious companies that want to grow their revenue eventually will have to expand to more locations in order to acquire more customers and better serve existing ones.

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