Many eCommerce companies think their fulfillment solution is just moving goods from a warehouse to the customer. Unfortunately, if you don’t dive deeper when searching for a partner, you could be missing out on many benefits or warning signs. So, let’s look at some essential considerations beyond pure pick and pack, including how quality providers better serve you and your customers.
The elements discussed below are something you want to ask of every potential provider, whether or not Red Stag Fulfillment makes your shortlist. They’ll help you think about questions to ask and what’s essential to your fulfillment solution. Remember that every partner should be willing to walk you through these elements and many more.
Packaging and customization
Packaging is a core part of the customer experience. It covers everything from helping you make eco-friendly promises to delivering a high-quality unboxing experience. A good package keeps products safe in transit. A better one can help customers enjoy their products more. Your 3PL should work with you to offer each.
Your fulfillment solution partner should be able to provide you with information on packaging your products. By having expertise in your specific industry or product category, they can ensure everything survives in transit. Even better, a reliable partner can help you control costs through packaging by understanding DIM weight and identifying when you can add more infill, split orders, or choose a different box to optimize cost.
From there, ask how you can customize and personalize orders. Does your provider support inserts? What about stickers and custom tape? Will they help you buy branded boxes, or can they introduce you to a supplier? Finally, ask them how this impacts your costs and what you need to do. In most cases, customization is easy to accommodate, and you’ll find that a smart 3PL makes your day (and your customer’s day) a little better.
Multiple fulfillment centers
Your eCommerce fulfillment solution provider should offer you multiple locations to fill orders and store inventory. This method allows you to put goods closer to customer and population centers, reducing the number of shipping zones goods travel. That’ll significantly reduce your per-order expenses and can play a significant role in how you improve your bottom line.
You want multiple locations and smart ones! For example, moving out of California-based locations helps you avoid some of the most expensive warehouse rents in the United States. Moving to Salt Lake City will give you two-day shipping to much of the same coastal audience, keeping costs low without sacrificing quality.
Red Stag Fulfillment offers two locations that can help you reach roughly 96% of continental U.S. customers within two days. Together, they’ll help you meet current customer demands without having to over-invest in inventory that’s spread across too many locations. We’ll help you get the correct goods and position them to serve your customers better and keep revenues flowing. So, you get to be a world-class provider to your customers.
High-volume fulfillment solutions
Are you shipping enough orders to need a high-volume fulfillment solution? In many cases, a 3PL will classify you as high-volume, starting at around 1,000 orders per month. If that sounds like you, be sure to ask about high-volume support. Here are a few things that this service should include:
- Automated processes for inventory tracking
- Multiple carrier options for every order
- Support for kitting and custom packaging
- Extra shelf space to help you grow
- Pick and pack technology that verifies products through the process
- Reverse logistics support
- Accuracy guarantees
- Security to limit shrinkage
Return processing at every fulfillment center
Your fulfillment solution and partner should support returns for your business. Returns are increasingly important because a positive experience directly leads to improved relationships and increased returns sales. Support customers from order management through returns or being happy with the order.
Returns processing is a core part of inventory management. Partners with reliable capabilities will help you make the most of your inventory. That includes ensuring returned items are in working order. Then, you want quality items added to your available inventory. Having this at every location in a network of fulfillment centers minimizes the supply chain headache of returns.
That said, you want to minimize returns, too. No business wants to pay shipping costs twice for the same products. Red Stag can help by guaranteeing that orders go out the door accurately and on time.
Industry and eCommerce experience
Your fulfillment solution provider should make you feel comfortable at every step. One of the best ways to achieve that is to look for inventory and order fulfillment services from someone with experience in your industry and eCommerce. Choose someone who knows about where and how you sell, plus already works with products like yours.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we’ve optimized every fulfillment process to support large, bulky, heavy, and similar goods. That’s true whether we’re storing and moving something like flat-pack furniture or cartons of liquid like Oatly’s oatmilk.
Request customers from the 3PL’s fulfillment network. Look for reviews and case studies of fulfillment service capabilities. Ensure that they touch on the supply chain and fulfillment needs you have, such as pack and ship services. You deserve eCommerce-focused port-to-porch capabilities.
Clear fulfillment solution pricing
Your fulfillment solutions should always offer you transparent pricing. You need to understand what costs you’ll face so you can determine where you save. Ask every 3PL you’re considering for a clear pricing structure, fees, and shipping costs.
By outsourcing, you’ll typically save on your eCommerce fulfillment. Most companies see reduced costs because they no longer need to rent warehouse space, shift labor costs to the provider, and aren’t footing the bill for all packing supplies or equipment. Fulfillment software and order management tools are needed to help you predict costs and minimize last-mile expenses by sending goods from the location closest to each customer. Even better, you may save directly when your 3PL gives you access to better-negotiated carrier rates and regional carriers.
Cubic storage model for eCommerce fulfillment solutions
Red Stag Fulfillment has adopted the cubic storage model designed to help customers quickly understand pricing and avoid surprises. Instead of waiting for a particular calendar date, this model also makes it easier to restock as you need. Averaging daily totals gives you flexibility in your inventory management practices.
Per-pallet charges can be confusing. And, sometimes, a company will charge you to store the air above your pallet. Or, someone may over-stack your pallets and damage that inventory. Avoid that for your online store with a partner like Red Stag. Dive a little deeper with this explanation of how cubic storage models support eCommerce fulfillment.
No hidden fees and costs
The Red Stag Fulfillment solution is designed to give you transparent order fulfillment services. We provide customers with a complete explanation of every cost they’ll face with our service. That’s how all fulfillment services should be, whether you use one fulfillment center or many.
We’re committed to helping you grow. For your business, that means we won’t charge you or require:
- Setup fees
- SKU management fees
- Account management fees
- Long-term commitments
- Any other hidden fees
Integration and analytics
Your supply chain generates a significant amount of data, and you should be able to use it to your advantage. Making the most of that information requires all systems to communicate, and your 3PL is a big part of that. Look for providers that integrate with your eCommerce platform, shopping cart, and customer tools. They should make it easy for you to leverage customer and order data, such as automating emails with order tracking information.
Ask your partner about their integration partners and limits. Give them a list of your current technology stack and verify that everything plays well. If something doesn’t appear supported, see if they have a way to help. For instance, Red Stag can talk to you about available integration tools, potential third-party suppliers, and our testing environment for plugins.
After you’re integrated, it’s time to use that data. We’ll work with you to develop analytics and reporting on your inventory, orders, and spending. Or, you can quickly access all the data we provide to run your own analysis on trends, such as determining seasonal shifts in orders. Regularly accessing and using your data is a great way to avoid backorders and stockouts. For most, it helps when shifting your business to meet customer demands.
How can we help?
The final question to consider is one you should hear, not have to ask. Potential 3PLs should go out of their way to help you grow and expand. They should have answers to your concerns and methods to keep your costs low. We do that by keeping error rates low and ensuring an overall service accuracy of 99.96%. So, let us ask: Where does your business need assistance?