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The Shopify Fulfillment Guide

3PL, Blog, Fulfillment

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Thinking of growing your existing Shopify store? If you said yes, consider looking at your fulfillment process. Fulfillment is one of the most under-appreciated channels for growing a Shopify business. Customers today expect fast delivery times and a slow fulfillment process can result in abandoned carts and lost sales.

Planning your logistics operations and order fulfillment process out can be daunting, especially if you’re new to the game. Fortunately, there are many fulfillment service providers helping Shopify businesses expand their reach every day.

So, what exactly is fulfillment and how can you partner up with these mysterious ‘fulfillment providers’ to grow your Shopify store? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered – this guide will answer all the questions that we just posted, and more!

What is Shopify Fulfillment?

Fulfillment for Shopify stores includes all the processes involved starting from when an order is placed, to when the products are delivered at the customer’s doorstep. The operations involved include storing the products in warehouses typically owned and operated by the Shopify store. Once an order is confirmed, the right products are picked from the warehouse, packed, and sent for shipment by putting appropriate shipping labels on the package.

For larger Shopify stores, Shopify offers the Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN) service. The Shopify Fulfillment Network is a network of fulfillment centers in the United States and all around the world. Shopify provides fulfillment services at many locations across the globe. This is possible thanks to the optimal planning and execution of logistics processes and the integration of technology into the whole setup to maximize efficiency.

How to Work with a 3PL for Your Shopify Store

Are you a Shopify store owner with a brand that’s growing fast? Are you looking to free yourself from the hassles of the order fulfillment process, but are concerned about maintaining high customer satisfaction? Then a fulfillment provider is exactly what you need.

A fulfillment provider (aka 3PL) is an end-to-end solution for your fulfillment needs. They begin with inventory storage when you send your products over to them, and they’re stored in the 3PL’s warehouses. Depending on your business set up and where your customers are located, 3PLs use inventory distribution to minimize logistics costs and maximize efficiency. Upon order placements, they pick, pack, and ship out your orders. 

3PLs often team up with the best carrier services to provide you with the best rates, and your customers with the fastest shipping times. Ultimately, they help you build stronger relationships with your customers by optimizing the order fulfillment process for your Shopify store.

Send Your Products to the 3PL

The fulfillment process starts with merchants sending their products to be stored in the warehouses and fulfillment centers by the fulfillment service providers. Some 3PLs host a large network of fulfillment centers around the world so that you can choose to store your products at locations nearest to your customers.

Having a network of fulfillment centers at many locations gives Shopify users a geographical advantage as it saves on transportation costs and restocking is done more efficiently upon need. Your products are stored at warehouses that comply with industry standards.

3PLs Leverage Inventory Distribution

Depending on where the bulk of your customer base is located, 3PLs recommend inventory storage at different inventory levels and locations so that your customers get their products delivered to them faster. For example, if the majority of your customer base is in the United States, it’s smart to have your products stored there.

3PLs know the importance of customer satisfaction and the impact it can have on a business. This is why they provide you with smart suggestions for inventory distribution based on our advanced software.

3PLs Ship Your Orders

3PLs partner with carriers to provide a wide range of options for shipping methods. Depending on what suits your and your company’s needs the best, 3PLs provide you with the optimal carrier combination for your shipment. For example, a 3PL like ShipHero partners up with USPS, UPS and DHL.

You Delight Your Customers

In the current world, the shipment process has become exponentially better when compared to the process just a decade ago. The option of tracking your order with a tracking number has taken out a lot of anxiety from the process, where people worried about their shipped packages being lost before. 

Faster shipment times, lower shipment costs, and great packaging, all bunch up to provide the ultimate shopping experience for your customers. Satisfied customers yield great reviews for your business that ultimately decide the future path for your company. By choosing Shopify, you choose happiness for you and your customers alike!

Does Shopify Do fulfillment?

Shopify is an online platform for eCommerce stores and the Shopify Ship option starts the shipment and fulfillment process automatically once a sale is made. The Shopify Fulfillment Network provides companies with fulfillment services across the globe. The Shopify Fulfillment costs are greatly reduced as compared to other fulfillment service providers, thanks to Shopify’s large network of fulfillment centers.

Additionally, Shopify also provides third-party fulfillment services to companies around the world. In this option too, like the previously mentioned one, Shopify handles the entirety of the fulfillment process for you so that you do not have the branch out to another fulfillment services provider. What’s different for this option is that you do not have to have an online store on Shopify.

When is the Right Time to Switch to Outsourced Fulfillment?

The advent of the internet coupled with the rise of technology has provided the eCommerce business market with a growth spurt. Many people are starting their online businesses and many existing stores are transitioning to online platforms. 

Most eCommerce companies usually start local and handle order fulfillment and shipping on their own, by storing products in their garage, for example. But as your business grows, storing products in your garage and handling shipment on your own no longer seems like the smart thing to do. This is the time for outsourcing your order fulfillment to third parties like Shopify.

So, what are the signs that you should start outsourcing your order fulfillment?

Cyclical or Uneven Sales

In case your business has already outgrown the inventory space in your garage and you are thinking about investing in a warehouse, take a minute and weigh in your options. For companies with a fluctuating frequency of orders throughout the year, it might be counterproductive to spend money on a warehouse. 

Such an investment will probably cost you more money than you’re expecting to make by this upgrade. This is where a fulfillment company shines. Fulfillment companies provide you with warehouse services that are adaptable to your needs. If your business is related to a niche that makes the sales uneven, it might be time for you to partner up with a fulfillment company.

You Don’t Have Time to Fulfill Orders

A booming business means a greater deal of orders coming in. Sometimes, business owners spend all their time keeping up with the fulfillment of the order instead of improving upon their business. This can limit the growth of your business in the long run, and no one wants that. If you’re spend all your time handling orders, it is a clear sign that you’re too busy and you need to switch to other fulfillment options. A fulfillment company handles are your order fulfillment needs so that you are left with more time to focus on making your business better.

Lack of Logistics and Fulfillment Infrastructure

If your growing business is putting a strain on your fulfillment capabilities and is inflating your fulfillment costs, it might be time to switch to a platform that grows with your business. External order fulfillment provides you with flexibilities that your business might not have encountered while doing self-fulfillment. 

Good fulfillment partners like Shopify are equipped with the infrastructure to meet the needs of your growing business. International shipment is usually much more difficult to handle than local shipment due to the involvement of foreign rules and regulations. This is where a fulfillment company helps you and keeps your order fulfillment smooth and hiccup-free.

Who Should Not Work with a Third-Party Logistics Company

While third-party fulfillment providers certainly make the job easy for eCommerce businesses, not all businesses can manage a successful partnership with such fulfillment service providers. So, what type of companies should reconsider before opting for external order fulfillment?

Here are a few indicators that suggest it might not be time for you to switch to outsourced order fulfillment just yet.

Businesses With Limited Cash Flow

If a business is struggling with the allocations for shipping costs, it might not have enough capital to pay towards the fulfillment costs for a third-party fulfillment company. Such businesses are better off with the self-fulfillment option because outsourcing your order fulfillment demands a steady inflow of money as a pre-requisite to handle the shipping and fulfillment costs.

Highly Specialized Businesses

Highly specialized projects with unusual products often demand custom packaging and shipping conditions. Fulfillment companies usually provide clients with standard default options for shipment unless specified. Even on specification, some fulfillment companies might not be able to comply with the demands because it is usually uneconomical for fulfillment companies to deviate from the standard options that they offer. 

Even if some fulfillment companies agree to provide fulfillment services for special orders, it might turn out to be costlier than if you went for the option of self-fulfillment. This is why highly specialized businesses are better off with going for self-fulfillment rather than outsourcing their order fulfillment.

Businesses with Limited Daily Order Volume

If your business is only receiving a limited amount of orders per day, it might not be the right time for you to outsource your order fulfillment just yet. You might be able to handle the order fulfillment on your own. Why it is not such a good idea to partner up with a third-party fulfillment company is because these companies work by bundling the orders. 

So, for few orders, the whole deal becomes costlier for you overall. If you have a low influx of daily orders, it can become uneconomical for you to store your inventory at a third-party warehouse because you will end up paying more for storage costs than what you’re making from your business.

What Does the Fulfillment Process Look Like for Shopify Stores?

The self-fulfillment process uses the time and services of a company and the setup usually involves the business owner and the staff handling the fulfillment process on their own.

With outsourced fulfillment, you only need to make a contract with your fulfillment provider and see if they have enough inventory space available for your products.

Outsourced fulfillment at a third-party fulfillment company usually involves mechanization to yield a highly optimized supply chain. Online shopping platforms like Amazon provide your business with an automated fulfillment process that requires minimal input from you. If your online store has a Shopify integration, the process is automated as well and only a click of the button starts the fulfillment process. 

A fulfillment process spans the storage of inventory in warehouses, the picking and packing of products upon a confirmed order, and the shipment of the ordered package to the specified location. The good thing about outsourcing your fulfillment is that you do not have to worry about any of these steps. So you can sit back and let experts handle your fulfillment!

How to Choose a Fulfillment Service for Your Shopify Store

If you have a business with a Shopify integration, you will be provided with services for automated order fulfillment. If you have an online store and are looking for a fulfillment service provider, it is a smart thing to research a bit beforehand and then make your decision. So what should business owners look for while choosing an order fulfillment service provider company?

Here are a few basic things that you should look up before making the big decision.

Experience in Your Industry 

Not all eCommerce businesses are alike. Different businesses have differing customer-bases and different needs. Likewise, different fulfillment companies have different capabilities and offer different services to their clients.

Before committing to a fulfillment service provider, make sure that what they offer aligns with what you’re looking for. While searching for fulfillment companies, look for what business niches they cater for and which industries they specialize in. Base your decision on which companies have a similar industry experience to your company’s demands. This ensures that you don’t end up regretting your decision and losing your customers in the end.

Similar Existing Clients

While looking for a service provider, target the companies that cater to sellers of the same business niche as yours. This ensures that the fulfillment company has experience with a company with similar needs and will thus be a suitable option for you. If you are having trouble finding the right fulfillment company, ask for recommendations from merchants in your niche and then weigh in your options. 

While doing your research, don’t be afraid to contact the fulfillment companies and ask any questions you have about their services. It is better to make an informed decision than to regret it later.

Pricing Isn’t the Most Important Factor

An important determinant while choosing a fulfillment company is the offers and shipping costs that they provide. While it is wise to look for an option that gives you low shipping costs, price should not be the only factor for your decision. 

Customer experience is more important in the long run and so you should look for companies that align with your values and your penchant for customer satisfaction. If your company requires custom packaging for products, it is better to invest in this rather than have all your products spoiled. So, look for factors other than price when deciding on a fulfillment service provider.

Technology and Integrations

While choosing a fulfillment partner, look for a company that is up to date when it comes to technology. Having the option of a provider with easy integrations into your existing online platform translates into smooth transitions and better coordination. Shopify integrations for your online shop make your fulfillment process seamless. 

With Shopify’s premium technology, we provide our customers with the best fulfillment services. Our fulfillment Network uses machine learning to suggest the optimal inventory storage options for you so that you save both time and money.

Data and Analytics

Data and analytics are powerful tools in the world of e-commerce when used properly. Fulfillment provides you with a fresh set of data that you can then analyze and use to your advantage to improve upon your services and business. 

While working with a fulfillment provider, it is smart to partner up with a provider that provides real-time tracking and analytics. Shopify provides its users with a tracking number for every order so that you can track it in real-time. Shopify also provides its users with the customer order data so that it can be analyzed to yield points for improvement.

Let ShipHero Handle Fulfillment for Your Shopify Store

ShipHero handles warehousing and fulfillment for fast-growing Shopify stores. ShipHero can be integrated with your Shopify shop to handle fulfillment for your store. ShipHero keeps your orders and inventory updated across the different eCommerce channels of your business so that all your accounts work in harmony without any disruption.

With the optimized shipping feature, you can get quotes from directly integrated carriers for your shipment. This way, you choose the best option for your business and don’t end up overpaying for shipment. ShipHero simplifies operations by optimal order management with the use of tools and features that are easy to use. At ShipHero, we care about you and we always focus on our customers, so, by opting for ShipHero, you know that you are in good hands.

Conclusion

For eCommerce brands, the order fulfillment process is an integral part of the supply chain; it’s the point of interaction between your business and customers. Thus, it’s vital to make this process as memorable for your customers as possible. Sometimes, this can be achieved by handling your own logistics, but as your brand grows it might be worth considering outsourcing the process to a competent fulfillment partner.

When it comes to choosing the right fulfillment partner, be sure to look for a service provider that offers you value for money, high-tech software and seamless integrations, useful analytics, and a similar industry experience. Keep this in mind and make an informed decision to find the best fulfillment partner to help your brand grow sustainably!

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