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In the world of online sales, your business needs a smart, reliable fulfillment solution designed to keep customers happy while controlling your costs. Your ability to get the right products to people on-time will help them decide to buy from you again, improving your cost-per-conversion and generating that recurring revenue essential for a successful business.

Customer satisfaction is dependent heavily on what’s inside the box they open after your order. So, let’s look at fulfillment solution options to help you understand what they are, how they can help, and what you should look for when turning order management over to a partner.

What is a fulfillment solution?

A fulfillment solution is a service offered by fulfillment companies like us, and it covers the entire process of receiving inventory and then packing and shipping products to “fulfill” the orders you have from customers. 

It’s an end-to-end solution, so your products are shipped to your fulfillment partner instead of your own location. The solution provider then has teams who take those goods and get them ready for your sales, putting products on shelves or otherwise storing them properly. When someone purchases from you, your software generates a purchase order mentioning all of the products they bought.

Your fulfillment solution partner then has a team that picks those products off of its shelves, packs them safely in boxes, and then sends those boxes to your customer via carriers like UPS, FedEx, and the USPS. If your business accepts returns via mail, your fulfillment solution provider also takes care of these and is the place where returns are sent. Their team would be trained on what you determine to be an acceptable return and then add these goods back to your for-sale inventory.

Working with a third-party logistics company like Red Stag Fulfillment also provides access to other fulfillment-related services. These can include support for all your sales channels, helping you determine how much inventory to stock, and help to ensure that your customers are pleased thanks to on-time, accurate orders.

Are fulfillment centers and distribution centers the same?

While you may hear them used interchangeably, there are differences between fulfillment centers and distribution centers. Knowing these differences can help you choose the best option for your business and protect your bottom line. So, let’s look at what makes each unique.

Fulfillment Centers

  • A warehouse that provides complete eCommerce fulfillment services
  • Has daily carrier pickups at its facilities to ensure goods are shipped each day
  • Supports inbound inventory in containers and pallets
  • Stores merchandise until it is sold to end consumers or wholesalers
  • Ships each custom order to the customer 
  • Offers a dashboard for you to see orders across all channels
  • May include bonus services such as customizing orders, creating kits and subscriptions, and combining orders from multiple platforms.

Distribution Centers

  • A warehouse focused on redistributing products within your own supply chain.
  • Moves goods to other locations you or your partners control but does not send items to customers
  • Transfers products from one mode of transportation to another, such as containers or railcars to crates. Or a grocery store chain may ship all of its dairy products to a distribution center. From there, goods are loaded onto new trucks to take large quantities to different store locations.
  • Focused on physical retail and moving bulk goods to single locations.

Explore more detailed differences here if you still need the information to determine which is right for you.

Is eCommerce fulfillment different?

eCommerce fulfillment is specific to eCommerce businesses, so there are some unique elements for the process, but those can end up saving you money on each order.

The core difference between traditional and ecommerce order fulfillment is that the warehouse fulfillment center is only sending inventory to customers. There is no need to replenish stock at brick-and-mortar store locations, allowing you to control how freight is sent and streamline fulfillment. This avoids any need to re-wrap goods or to create crates for freight shipments, reducing your overall labor demand.

One major thing that eCommerce companies love about outsourced fulfillment with a company like Red Stag Fulfillment is integrating directly with your eCommerce and order software. That means as soon as an order processes, it’s sent to us and can be filled. You don’t need to email over order details or pay anyone for integration and tech support on tools used by companies with physical locations.

Web-based inventory and order monitoring also lets you have a single dashboard to understand the stock you have, the orders that have been filled lately, and what you might need in the future.

Red Stag Fulfillment works with companies like yours for advanced eCommerce support, too, including:

  • Help optimizing inventory levels to avoid stockouts
  • Demand forecast and planning support
  • Same-day shipping and fulfillment options
  • Automated returns processing
  • Reductions in inventory shrinkage. Our clients achieve a 93.6% – 100% reduction in monthly inventory loss or damage
  • Analysis and data management support to help you make decisions

When you work with any partner on those elements, ask about customization and personalization. Your business shouldn’t have to conform to anyone else’s rules for returns policies, refurbishing, or other fulfillment efforts.

Why does an order fulfillment solution matter most in today’s world?

The demand for eCommerce products is higher than we’ve ever seen before. In 2020, much of our shopping moved online and shifted where people look to find what you offer. Even things like groceries moved online as people bought through delivery and pickup options from a wide range of apps and websites.

The move has created a new demand on every business, and especially on businesses like yours: Customers want their orders to arrive quickly and be correct. Delays create headaches and can lead to cancelled orders, lost revenue, and even customers going elsewhere. If you’re not able to get the fulfillment and delivery portion correct, your entire business can be put at risk.

That’s why companies like Red Stag Fulfillment are expanding their fulfillment solutions and reach. Offering multiple warehouses enables these solution providers to deliver to customers quickly and affordably, saving you on the cost of shipping. Experts at their warehouses pick and pack your orders, triple-checking as they go, to ensure that your customer gets exactly what they ordered.

The boom in eCommerce has created more competition for companies selling online. If the orders you send are wrong or late, your customers now have multiple other companies they can turn to for future purchases. People are loyal when you get orders right, but it only takes a few mistakes for their eyes to start wandering.

A note on your sales channels

Related to customer demand for fast, accurate shipping is the fact that they want to buy from your business wherever they are. That means a Facebook or Instagram ad should lead to a quick sale. Your website should make buying easy. Customers even might want to call you on the phone to place an order. You’ve got to be on multiple channels and make it easy to capture as much of the market as you can.

Fulfillment services play a role in customer satisfaction when you’re selling in these diverse ways. By offering omnichannel fulfillment, your 3PL partner will treat every order the same. All sales details are brought together under a single dashboard so they (and you) can see every current order across every channel.

That viewpoint makes it simple to send out products to customers in the correct order. It also helps you see the total number of each product sold everywhere against your current inventory count. Seeing these in a single location lets you know when you should order more inventory to prevent stockouts. Plus, you can directly compare how different channels are performing over time.

Who can you trust for a fulfillment solution?

For your eCommerce company, you need to find a fulfillment solution partner who understands you, your products, and your customers. That means having experience with eCommerce fulfillment in general, plus specifics that make your business unique. Ask potential partners how they specialize.

Some companies may work best with perishable goods or those that need to be kept cold. Red Stag Fulfillment focuses on the world of bulky, large, or heavy products and the unique requirements to keep these products safe during transit while also minimizing the cost to ship them. Our facilities and team work hard to understand those products and look for new ways to make their fulfillment easier.

Ask potential partners about their knowledge of your industry and products. Get lists of similar customers and requirements. Evaluate them based on what they say and how they’re willing to help. For us, when a company approaches us without the right products or order volume, we help point them to a 3PL that focuses more closely on their business needs. You want someone who is there to help from day one. That’s the company you know you can trust to delight your customers every time.