In the digital age, customer expectations are high. We’ve entered a time where no matter how relevant your message or how unique your product, your customers expect a streamlined delivery experience. Delays in shipping or products harmed along the way turns a loyal customer into a frustrated one. This is why fulfillment is a huge issue across the world during the pandemic. Manufacturing has slowed, carrier rates are on the rise, and ports are congested; resulting in packages getting lost or taking double the time to arrive. For many, investing in logistical infrastructure has become a high priority because efficient fulfillment processes are required for customer happiness and retention.
What is Order Fulfillment?
This is the process which allows you to get a product delivered to your customer after they order it online. Within the supply chain, this process includes inventory receiving, storing, processing, picking and packing, and transporting the items to the shipping destination of the customer. The efficiency of this is measured in the time it takes for an order to get to the customer’s porch once processed. These fulfillment services are complicated. They take a heavy chunk of change to get up and running and if you don’t do them right, they become costly to a business.
This is why many large multi-million dollar companies have their own supply chain infrastructure, but many smaller companies can’t afford to bring those services in house. Which is where a third party fulfillment center can help. They are decked out with the latest technology and streamlined processes so your company doesn’t have to invest in its infrastructure.
Types of Order Fulfillment
There are a few different order fulfillment strategies you can utilize.
This works great when you are small, or if you have millions to invest in a warehouse and the crew required to man it. But unless you have the money to invest in a fulfillment infrastructure and know how to do it well, this isn’t a great option.
Dropship Order Fulfillment
This is where you don’t keep the products you sell in stock. Instead you as the seller would purchase the inventory as needed from a manufacturer to fulfill orders. However this can be difficult due to manufacturing shortages and congestion in the ports. Now your product is stuck and you have any customers who haven’t received an order.
This is a great strategy which gives you control of your supply chain with the help of professionals who know the industry and how to navigate it. When using a third-party fulfillment company you contract them to store, pick, pack, and ship your product all while providing you with key strategies for your logistical needs.
Why Third-Party Fulfillment
Likely, you have already felt the major supply chain disruptions within your own company. So why go to third-party fulfillment? It drives revenue. Because in today’s world eCommerce companies will get ignored if they can’t offer 2-day shipping. This has become such a standard for customer satisfaction it is often highly annoying to clients if they have to wait longer.
You can fulfill your orders in house, but often, this only works for so long. Especially when order volumes become too high and force you to invest in high quality fulfillment infrastructure (staff, technology, warehouses, shipping) which gets pricey!
Often it’s better to work with a third-party provider because they scale up and down in order volume as you need, they have the tools in place to provide customers with a seamless and speedy delivery, and they provide your business with strategic insights. Some of the best fulfillment services help you elevate your eCommerce business with strategies to turn your fulfillment from a cost to a revenue driver.
When picking the best fulfillment center available to you, there are a slew of options. Especially with the continuous improvement of equipment and technology.
Top 10 Order Fulfillment Options for eCommerce
Let’s take a look at a few third-party order fulfillment companies.
If you want to dump the headache of running your own warehouse, or if you want to run your warehouse more efficiently, ShipHero has a solution. With both a stellar warehouse management system (WMS) and a fully outsourced fulfillment option their clients have peace of mind.
The warehouse management system (WMS) streamlines your warehouse’s entire processes and procedures to increase efficiency and make your team more effective. Plus, they offer 30% faster shipping times than many competitors and a highly rated Client Support team which provides you with a fulfillment expert to help you with any questions or concerns on your supply chain.
Overall ShipHero simplifies your picking, packing, and shipping in order to allow your team to pick and pack more in the same amount of time.
If you’re interested in learning more, here is a case study.
Amazon Fulfillment (FBA)
What is FBA? This fulfillment solution allows businesses to outsource their order fulfillment directly to Amazon. Meaning, your business would send its product to Amazon fulfillment centers, then as the customer purchases the product, Amazon will pick, pack, and ship it. And, when an item is sold you pay Amazon a small percentage of the total price (this includes item price, shipping cost, and gift-wrapping costs). The average seller typically pays about 15% of their product’s cost.
Due to their size, Amazon FBA has no maximum monthly order volume which makes it ideal for large operations. They also have more than 200 million Amazon Prime members who search Amazon.com frequently, which means your product gets in front of more people than usual. As Amazon grows it has become one of the fastest growing fulfillment companies for many multichannel sellers.
In their eCommerce fulfillment offering, RedStag has a few benefits worth highlighting. First they have the option of same-day shipping and fulfillment services with as late as a 5pm cut off. Second, their WMS helps you gain visibility into the different phases of your supply chain. Third, they offer eCommerce returns processing. Returns are a common part of the supply chain but unfortunately it can be difficult to have a solution for them. However RedStag offers a reverse logistics process to help you turn a lost sale into a good customer experience. They do this by offering a high speed return process which documents any damage done to the product then they can refurbish and restock the product for you.
They also offer custom packaging and help you source and test appropriate boxes for your product. And when doing this they take into consideration how best to consolidate the items within your packages to help clients lower their number of packages per order and become more eco-friendly as sustainability is top of mind for many eCommerce brands.
A third-party logistics provider who fulfills your eCommerce orders for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands. Meaning companies who don’t use a middleman like retailers or wholesalers to get their product in-front of a customer. ShipBob will determine where best your product fits in their fulfillment centers based on the most common order locations between their network of fulfillment centers. This way your inventory is strategically split across all their locations so your products are near your customers.
With their order management software they will also track your shipments from beginning to end so you get clarity into where exactly your product is at any time.
For those of you who want to do self-fulfillment, 3PL Central is a good option. They have a warehouse management software which automates many processes required within your fulfillment process. With this platform they help you optimize your warehouse workflow so your processes and operations are streamlined.
Their WMS is a cloud-based solution and it automates billing, integrates with API, EDI, shopping carts, retailers, and shipper connections. Above all they strive to eliminate manual errors, offer high quality reporting, and help you move to paperless operations. They also integrate seamlessly with your existing systems.
They offer both a cloud based inventory management software and fulfillment services. Their inventory portal gives you the ability to identify your best selling SKUs and blacklist old skus. What’s more you can track your inventory levels across multiple channels.
And with several fulfillment centers across the US they will split your inventory across locations and help you source the warehouse which offers the best price. They also boast a high performing customer team of “Happiness Engineers” who will spring into action and help when a problem arises.
This company is a single partner to fulfill your freight, warehousing, and fulfillment needs. Their goal is to make your supply chain a competitive advantage by helping you optimize everything from port to porch. They offer fulfillment, freight, and cloud based software. Their software connects all the programs you use within your supply chain in one place so you have one dashboard to see your entire supply chain process. In addition, it also helps you find shipping rates for different freight loads.
Their focus is a holistic approach to fool-proof your supply chain and they want to help you create a strategy so you can optimize your physical and technological solutions.
Here you get free two day shipping through platforms such as Wish, Facebook, Shopify, Walmart, Google, Ebay, and Instagram. They also have several freight options including drayage, transloading, and LTL services. Their mission is to let any company, regardless of size, offer their customers fast and cost effective fulfillment. Meaning they want to make sure companies who may not have huge order volumes have the same tools as a large company without the cost of the supply chain infrastructure.
In addition they want to provide eCommerce businesses with the tools they need to grow and understand their fulfillment costs so they easily compare fulfillment options.
You can utilize FlowSpace for eCommerce fulfillment, retail fulfillment, and warehouse storage. They offer both fulfillment services and a WMS which gives you the ability to track both inbound and outbound shipments and even give you real-time inventory management insights and recommendations. These data insights help you forecast your inventory. They have a fulfillment network which will connect to your brand, provide faster delivery, and help you identify key fulfillment centers to reach your customer quickly. Their warehouses are equipped to palletize your inventory and perform customer kitting services.
This is an on demand fulfillment and warehousing company owned by UPS. They are out to change the traditional 3PL model for companies of all sizes. They have a nationwide network of warehouses and their fulfillment processes are designed for scale so you never outgrow their ability to handle your product. They offer software to help you streamline both of your fulfillment, and sales channels as in this platform the algorithm learns your company’s sales patterns and gives you inventory and distribution insights based on those patterns.
This is their “FulfillmentVu” technology and it combines WMS, OMS, and TMS into one platform. Plus you can integrate your current marketplaces into the software as well.
Pick What Highlights Your Business
Overall there are many third-party order fulfillment options for eCommerce sellers to consider. And each one has unique options available for different business needs. No matter what fulfillment service you use for your eCommerce company, you should consider your options carefully. Especially because those you work with will affect your customers’ perception of your business as a whole. Your fulfillment partner should be one who you trust to have your company’s interests in mind. They should help you generate a strategy to improve your fulfillment as your business grows, and they should relieve the headache of tracking your fulfillment instead of adding to that headache. Because a streamlined order fulfillment process is key to standing it. It means you become a staple household brand by clients who want to repeat a great purchasing experience. Making your pick of a third-party order fulfillment provider a high impact decision.
If you need any help in this decision, we are always happy to discuss. Schedule a time to chat with us here.
Find Out More about Order Fulfillment Options
Check out these blogs that highlight the best order fulfillment options for 9 different eCommerce sellers.