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You start your business on a wing and a prayer, (well hopefully a little more thought than that). You get your first shipment of product, set up your e-commerce storefront, and wait for the orders to roll in. At first, they are 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 handle the overflow when she gets home from basketball practice. You’re bootstrapping everything–including your own fulfillment warehouse.

Pretty soon, the problems roll in. You worked out the perfect system for packing your delicate products so they arrive in one piece, but your family doesn’t have your laser focus on quality. You start to get returns. Customers are posting negative reviews online. You have to turn it around. It’s time to outsource your fulfillment 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 might want to consider hiring a third-party logistics 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.

Here are four (hypothetical) examples of companies that can benefit greatly from outsourcing their order fulfillment operations.

Heavy Items

Ever since his trip to Africa, Brent has been obsessed with elephants. This led him to open a BigCommerce store called Everything Elephants, where he sells everything from elephant t-shirts and jewelry to sculptures of these majestic creatures.

In the beginning, Brent stored and shipped all of his products out of a shed in his back yard. As the business grew and Brent got to know his customers and 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.indian elephant statueThere was only one problem: it’s considered unlucky to depict an elephant with its trunk down. Almost all of the elephant sculptures Brent sold had trunks that bent upward. And, no matter how carefully he packed them, those trunks often broke during shipping.

As he was able to sell bigger sculptures, Brent’s profit margins grew, but so did his shipping and warehousing headaches. Plus, his wife put her foot down when he stored a crate of wooden elephants on top of her prize petunias. He needed to find a fulfillment warehouse.

As Brent searched for the perfect fulfillment center, he soon realized that what he really needed was a 3PL warehouse. A 3PL service company could integrate seamlessly with his BigCommerce store to ship orders quickly. Brent found a 3PL service that had expertise in shipping fragile and heavy items, so his coveted elephant sculptures would arrive with the trunks intact every time.

The best 3PL service for Brent wasn’t the cheapest, but he crunched the numbers and realized that, balanced against the cost of returns, third-party logistics was a good value. His customer satisfaction ratings went up and, now that he had outsourced his fulfillment warehousing and shipping, he had more time to focus on growing Everything Elephant into a mammoth success.

Large and Oversized Products

When Brent’s cousin Mandy saw the success of Everything Elephant, she decided to turn her lifelong hobby of creating paper maché peacocks into an e-commerce business. Brent helped her create a WooCommerce store and, voila, Peacocks in Paradise was open for business.Peafowl include two Asiatic species and one African species of bird in the genus Pavo.

Business grew as Mandy connected with peacock lovers around the country. She packed her first peacock orders carefully and shipped them out. She knew Brent was happy with his decision to use a 3PL service, but she didn’t think she needed the help. For one thing, she loved to pack each one of her creations in a big box with lots of tissue and before sending it off to its new home. Plus, her peacocks were very light, unlike Brent’s elephants, so she expected shipping would be a breeze.

When Mandy got her first invoice from her preferred carrier, however, 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, which factors in the size of the box as well as the weight. 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 was paying almost as much to ship as he was because of the large boxes she used. As a result, she had undercharged her customers for shipping, and it cut into her bottom line.

All of this caused Mandy to look at fulfillment center service providers. She didn’t want to give her delicate creations to just any fulfillment warehouse, but she realized that shipping costs would kill her business if she didn’t do something. When she found a 3PL service she felt she could trust to pack her peacocks with loving care, they also showed her how she could put them in a smaller box and still get them safely to peacock collectors everywhere.

Even better, the order fulfillment company service had a volume contract with delivery services like UPS and FedEx, so they had been able to negotiate a better DIM Factor. The fulfillment warehouse passed the savings on to Mandy, and she passed them on to her customers, who ordered more peacocks than ever. Now Mandy is up to her elbows in papier maché and purple paint as her peacocks fly–not literally, of course–off the shelves.

High-Value Products

When James and Samantha added an e-commerce store to their bricks-and-mortar fine jewelry business, Rock Star Jewelers, they knew they needed a third-party logistics company to handle their orders. Running their retail shop plus keeping their Shopify store sparkling took all of their time, so they knew they would need help."Fork lift truck lifts round cut diamond, isolated on white background"Beyond saving them time, however, James and Samantha needed a 3PL service that would give their e-commerce customers the same five-star treatment that they gave the customers they served face-to-face. Every order had to be packed immaculately. Rock Star Jewelers’ discerning clientele expected their high-end purchases to arrive on time and in perfect condition. If a customer ordered a diamond bracelet and got a sapphire necklace instead, the consequences would not be pretty for James and Samantha. To save hours of apologizing on the phone, they looked for a top-notch 3PL service.

Quality wasn’t the only issue on their minds. James and Samantha needed a fulfillment warehouse that could safeguard items whose price tags often ran over $1,000. They found a fulfillment center with state-of-the-art security where they could relax knowing that their merchandise was in good hands.

With the right 3PL service provider, Rock Star Jewelers could watch their online sales go platinum.

Hazmat Items and Products

Belinda 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 mother suggested she market it to science teachers. So Belinda created a company called B is for Boom and offered the Mega Volcano Kit as her first product.Scared young scientist looking at the overflowing foam and screamingThere was only one small problem: some of the ingredients in her kit are classified as hazardous materials by the government. She drove the first volcanos to some local schools, where they were a big hit with the teachers and the kids, but Belinda was stumped about how to get them out to a wider audience.

3PL service to the rescue! Belinda found a third-party logistics company that was able to help her develop proper labeling and packaging so B is for Boom could market and safely ship Mega Volcano Kits throughout the United States and even internationally.

In fact, the 3PL service she works with makes shipping Belinda’s B is for Boom products so easy that she’s busy thinking up new ideas for kids. Next up: the Supernova Explosion Kit.

In the real world, order fulfillment companies help e-commerce sellers solve shipping and handling problems every day. For heavy or delicate items, large products, high-value goods, and hazardous materials, a 3PL service can help you ship your products safely, securely, and quickly. Your customers will thank you.