When you start your eCommerce business, getting your first shipment of products is exciting. The last thing you’re thinking of are fulfillment centers.
You set up your eCommerce storefront and wait for the orders to roll in. At first, there is just a trickle. You pack the boxes yourself and send each one off with high hopes. You expand your marketing, and your volume picks up. Now you’ve got your cousin packing orders for you part-time. And you’ve drafted your teenage daughter to manage the overflow when she gets home from basketball practice. You’re bootstrapping everything—including your eCommerce fulfillment.
How do you know when to send your products to outsourced fulfillment centers? When should you go from in-house to a third-party provider specializing in shipping products like yours?
Prioritize growth over putting out fires
As your eCommerce operations grow and your garage or that first rental space gets a little too full, problems start rolling in faster and faster.
You worked out the perfect system for packing your delicate products to arrive in one piece. However, your family doesn’t have the same laser focus on quality that you have. You start to get returns. Customers post negative reviews online or complain about the quality. The money you were making starts going out the door instead.
At this point, you must turn things around. When you start pivoting from growth to putting out fires, it’s time to shift shipping to an outsourced order fulfillment provider.
Outsourced order fulfillment by product type
If your product is delicate, heavy, contains hazardous materials, or is otherwise difficult to ship, you should consider hiring a 3PL firm sooner rather than later. The earlier you integrate with your 3PL service provider, the smoother your operations will run and the happier your customers will be.
Let’s use four examples of companies and product types that benefit greatly from the professional order processing and shipping methods available at 3PL fulfillment centers like Red Stag Fulfillment.
How fulfillment centers protect heavy items and profits
Ever since his trips abroad, Brent has been obsessed with elephants. This journey led him to open a BigCommerce store called Everything Elephants, selling everything from elephant t-shirts and jewelry to sculptures of these majestic creatures. It turns out that there are a lot of elephant fans nearby and across the globe.
Initially, Brent stored and shipped all his products out of a shed in his backyard. As the business grew and Brent got to know his customers and began to understand his bottom line, he realized that the elephant sculptures had the best profit margin. He started to focus Everything Elephant on sculptures, selling bigger and bigger pieces to elephant lovers around the globe.
There was only one problem: Depicting an elephant with its trunk down is considered unlucky. Almost all the elephant sculptures Brent sold had trunks that bent upward. And no matter how carefully he packed them, those trunks often broke during shipping.
Moving into larger sculptures would open up higher profit margins. But with fragile items, shipping headaches grow even faster. Plus, the bigger your products, the harder it is to store them safely.
Brent needed to find a fulfillment center to provide professional pick and pack services to get orders safely to his customers.
Time to outsource fulfillment
As Brent looked at different fulfillment centers, he realized he needed more than expert order fulfillment. He needed a 3PL that could safely store breakable sculptures and ship bulky packages. Finding someone who could integrate seamlessly with his BigCommerce store to ship orders quickly was crucial.
Brent found a 3PL service with expertise in shipping fragile and heavy items. They packed his coveted elephant sculptures securely, so they arrived with the trunks intact every time. Red Stag Fulfillment has years of experience packing and shipping oversized and fragile products. And our zero shrinkage policy means that we pay for any items that break while in our care.
Determining the best company was a little taxing but worth the work. After looking at the total cost to fulfill, including how much shrinkage and incorrect orders hurt his company’s reputation, he came out ahead on expert fulfillment.
Customer satisfaction is up, and now he has more time to focus on growing Everything Elephant into a mammoth success.
Large and oversized products need order-processing experts
When Brent’s cousin Mandy saw Everything Elephant’s success, she turned her lifelong hobby of creating papier-mâché peacocks into an eCommerce business. Brent helped her create a WooCommerce store, and voila, Peacocks in Paradise was open for business.
The business grew as it connected with peacock lovers around the country. She packed her first peacock orders carefully and shipped them out. Mandy knew Brent was happy with his decision to use a 3PL service, but she didn’t think she needed the help. She loved packing each of her creations just right, but was worried someone else might not keep them safe. Plus, her peacocks were very light, unlike Brent’s elephants, so she expected shipping would be a breeze.
The dreaded DIM weight
However, when Mandy got her first invoice from her carrier, she almost fell off her chair. She hadn’t used Red Stag’s FedEx, UPS, and USPS DIM Weight Calculator, and her shipping costs were sky-high because of DIM weight pricing.
This pricing method, used by the major carriers, factors in the size of the box as well as the weight to determine how much a shipment costs. The peacocks were feather-light, but their large tail feathers required a big box. So, even though Mandy’s peacocks weighed much less than Brent’s elephant sculptures, she paid more for shipping than he did.
She shipped in large boxes full of padding, which triggered DIM weight charges. Even worse, she undercharged her customers for shipping, reducing her profit.
Handling with care
So, it was time for Mandy to find a shipping partner. However, she didn’t want to give her delicate creations to just any fulfillment company. That’s because shipping costs could kill her business if she didn’t do something different, but broken items would mean a poor reputation and greater revenue losses.
When Mandy found a 3PL service she could trust to pack her peacocks with loving care, they also showed how each item could be put in a smaller box and still arrive safely. Part of the service that you get when you use a 3PL is professional guidance on packaging and infill. Using the right packaging will help your products arrive safely and save you money on dimensional weight pricing.
Mandy’s order fulfillment company had a volume contract with her delivery service. That allowed it to negotiate a better DIM factor and pass on the savings to Mandy. She lowered shipping costs for her customers, who ordered more peacocks than ever. Now Mandy is up to her elbows in papier-mâché and purple paint as her peacocks fly off the shelves.
High-Value Products Can Be Safely Stored and Shipped from Fulfillment Centers
Rock Star Jewelers is a top boutique for a modern take on Art Deco pieces. Sales have been steady for years, but an Instagram star found the shop when trapped in her apartment during the early days of the pandemic. Rock Star Jewelers’ early, hand-done online sales were a big hit, and orders have been rising higher and higher.
Unfortunately, running their retail store and keeping their Shopify pages fresh is taking all of the owners’ time. As popularity scales, there’s not enough time or space to store and ship orders. They desperately need some help. Enter the 3PL.
Providers like Red Stag can help Rock Star give their eCommerce customers the same five-star treatment they give the customers coming into the store. Every order is packed immaculately so that Rock Star Jewelers’ discerning clientele receive their high-end purchases on time and in perfect condition. If a customer ordered octagon silver studs with white gemstones but got giant filigree pieces instead, the consequences would not be pretty, no matter how much movement the piece has. To avoid hours of apologizing on the phone, they looked for a top-notch 3PL service.
Outsourcing fulfillment leads to peace of mind
Quality wasn’t the only issue on their minds. Rock Star Jewelers needed a fulfillment warehouse to safeguard items whose price tags often exceeded $1,000. They found a fulfillment center with state-of-the-art security where they could relax, knowing their merchandise was safe.
Red Stag Fulfillment provides 24/7 security in all our fulfillment center locations. We treat your eCommerce business as if it were our own, which means safeguarding your inventory. Security cameras cover our warehouses to prevent theft and allow us to pinpoint mistakes and improve our processes. That is one reason for our stellar record of error-free fulfillment. It’s how we can safely offer a zero-shrinkage guarantee no matter the value of your products.
With the right 3PL service provider, Rock Star Jewelers watched their online sales go platinum.
Hazmat items and products require specialized fulfillment centers
Becky has always been a tinkerer. Her favorite projects are the ones that have the biggest bang. When she came up with a kit to make a volcano with a large and realistic eruption, her teacher friends suggested she market it to science teachers. So, Becky created a company called “B is for Boom” and offered the Mega Volcano Kit as her first product.
Pre-orders exploded, and she soon lined up a production facility that could crank out the kits quickly and ship them in flat packaging to keep costs low. There was only one small problem: Some ingredients in her kit are classified as hazardous materials. Becky wasn’t sure how to ship them since there are special rules governing hazmat shipping.
Her manufacturer could get them to Becky’s home or a warehouse, but she needed help sending them to schools and homes without worry.
Outsourced fulfillment centers were the answer. Becky found a third-party logistics company with licenses to store and ship hazmat products. They helped her develop proper labeling and packaging for her kits. To make things even better, the 3PL offered kitting so she could sell larger bundles to bigger school systems. Now, B is for Boom could market and safely ship Mega Volcano Kits throughout the United States.
Different fulfillment centers can handle different types of products. Some are certified to store food items, while others have the know-how to manage hazmat items. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we work with our clients to make sure their products have the proper classifications so they don’t pay extra for hazmat shipping if they don’t need to.
How can fulfillment centers help grow your business?
Our four fictional business owners saw their businesses flourish with the help of professional fulfillment centers. But the benefits of outsourced fulfillment aren’t a fantasy. In the real world, order fulfillment companies help eCommerce sellers solve logistics challenges every day.
For heavy or delicate items, large products, high-value goods, and hazardous materials, fulfillment centers like the ones Red Stag Fulfillment operates can help you ship your products safely, securely, and quickly. Your customers will thank you.
Want to learn more about how fulfillment centers can help your business? Here are some fantastic resources:
- Do You Really Need to Own Your Warehouse?
- The Complete Guide to Onboarding with a New Logistics Company
- Understanding ECommerce Fulfillment: Definition, Process, Resources
- 3PL, 4PL, 5PL Explained