When you founded your business, started selling, and created a plan to scale, picking fulfillment software probably wasn’t anywhere on the to-do list. Fulfillment operations are a less glamorous side of eCommerce, but wholly essential to your success. That means the tools that make fulfillment go smoothly can make the rest of your business run like clockwork.
Getting fulfillment right keeps customers happy and helps you avoid threats to revenue, plus the complexity of managing a flood of returns. When you’ve got the best tools or partners, things run almost on autopilot. You don’t have to spend time putting out fires or hiring people to address new problems.
So, how do you make the right choice? There are plenty of tools and options, and your best bet will address your specific product niche. So, instead of putting together a list that might not meet your needs, we’re here to share some advice on choosing the right tool when you’ve built your shortlist.
How to choose the best order fulfillment software
You’ve worked hard to build a unique business with a specific, crafted image. Customers come to you knowing the quality they’ll get, and delivering on that promise is why they keep coming back. Think of order fulfillment software as a partner for living up to this reputation. Your best-fit solution is one that helps you highlight your brand’s advantages and minimizes the risk to orders and sales. You find it by exploring your business and sales channels while demanding that the vendor offer the same quality level that you provide. If your customers deserve it, your business does too.
Define your business characteristics
Getting reliable fulfillment software starts with a clear and concise definition of your business relative to your orders and products. Think about how you’d give your elevator pitch to an investor that knows your market but hates the risk of porch pirates. They want to know your plan to get products to people on time and accurately so that you’re dealing with fewer shipments and returns while mastering customer satisfaction.
For this software, that definition starts with your products and average orders. Here are some valuable considerations:
- What are your products like? Big and heavy? High value? Small? Lightweight?
- How many different products do you stock?
- Does your average order have a lot of products or just a few?
- Who picks and packs orders, and what equipment do they need?
- Do you use packaging as a differentiator?
- What’s your monthly order volume?
- Where do you sell?
- Where are your customers?
- Do customers demand two-day shipping or have other specific needs?
- How many SKUs do you carry and how often does your inventory turn?
The bottom line: Fulfillment software has many customization options based on your business. Some may specialize in similar products — such as perishables or those that need temperature tracking — while other tools can work well in a garage or large warehouse. Fulfillment software should match what and how you sell, and you should explain your business to vendors to learn if they have experience in your industry or with products like yours.
Determine what orders to manage
If you’re reading this, your business is probably killing it on multiple sales channels. You could be combining Amazon FBA sales with your site, prioritizing Instagram shoppable ads, working with influencers, pushing search ads, using affiliate networks, and more. The buyer’s journey in each channel is slightly different, and you don’t want your fulfillment software to get in the way of any.
To protect sales, define which orders and channels you’ll be filling using this platform. Many companies will split some fulfillment. You may have retail partners to whom you send items in bulk or a partner in NYC that oversees delivery to high-end clients. Many companies who work with Red Stag Fulfillment first test us with part of their fulfillment needs — such as sales from their website or assistance prepping items for FBA. Fulfillment software should make it easy to manage these separate inventories and route orders to the proper location.
List what orders you want to manage yourself, send to a partner, or split to a specific location. Not only is this functionality possible with most fulfillment tools, but it should be easy to start, manage, and change at any moment.
The bottom line: Fulfillment must work for how your business develops. If you take off and want to outsource everything, your fulfillment tool should help. Platforms should also make it easy to adjust and adapt to channel-based rules. Amazon FBA has its own prep requirements, while you may want to brand goods you sell through your store with tape that has your logo. Choose a platform that supports the orders you want the system to manage and what special rules each must follow.
Review your existing software
You’ve got favorite tools for generating sales and supporting customers. Your fulfillment software shouldn’t get in the way of those or make you choose something else. It would add too much to your team’s task list if every customer support request for a tracking number required them to log into a separate system and then copy-paste those codes instead of simply integrating this information.
Support for existing tools gets more critical when you look at how your business runs. Fulfillment software needs to work with any inventory or warehouse tools. Integration allows you to automate checks and reorder supplies when a SKU is low. Broken integrations mean manual checks, requiring someone to properly reorder goods with many manual checks and room for mistakes along the way.
For your customers, the pandemic taught eCommerce shops that people are more likely to buy when a website says a product is in stock. If your fulfillment tools don’t integrate with inventory systems, someone must manually update sites and pages. You also run the risk of overpromising and having backorders that delay shipments and lead to cancellations.
The bottom line: Choose fulfillment software that works with your existing platforms or else you’re adding a ton of work for you and your team. If you can’t find the right tool, consider reaching out to Red Stag Fulfillment to learn how we ensure our software works with leading marketplaces, shopping carts, and other channels. We’ll help you keep your existing software while offering industry-leading fulfillment all backed by top guarantees.
Include warehouses and partners
Fulfillment software can be a significant investment, so you want to ensure your money is working hard for you. In this case, that means something complex enough to grow with you. One of the biggest tests is if it can support multiple warehouses. As eCommerce companies grow, they typically need more warehouses to hold inventory and deliver quickly. You don’t want to be forced into a new software selection at a point of growth when you’re also building out a new warehouse, team, and investing the capital in inventory to fill the new space.
The same is true for supporting your partners and their platforms. Your fulfillment software should integrate with all the carriers and marketplaces you plan to use. The best option is one that brings everything together so you’re working through one dashboard. Having to turn on multiple systems to manage orders on your website, Instagram, Amazon, and more takes up time. It also can overwhelm or confuse your warehouse team if they’ve got to manage orders coming from multiple locations. How would they know which to prioritize, and what happens if two orders both request a SKU that has just one in stock?
The bottom line: Your software needs to work for your current operations and where you plan to go in the future. It should support multiple warehouses so you can grow. You also need access to APIs and integration to use your preferred eCommerce software, fulfillment partners, carriers, and more.
See if reports make sense to you
Here at our final piece of advice, let’s get straight to the bottom line. Fulfillment software needs to make sense. Look for tools and platforms you can handle and that give you valuable information. The most detailed reports aren’t helpful if they’re not relevant and actionable. Look for software and vendors that can customize your reports, track the metrics you need, and help you take steps based on that intelligence.
The more you understand your business, the better you can make it succeed. Tools like fulfillment software should always help.
Fulfillment can get you back to what you love doing
Many business owners focus on selling and scaling their operations. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to focus on fulfillment, software comparison testing, and troubleshooting. It’s pretty likely that you started a business you love to sell products you love, not spend days in the warehouse fighting with tape or trying to haggle a better deal with carriers.
When fulfillment software upgrades don’t cut it and get you back to what you love doing, it’s time to start thinking about outsourcing. Red Stag Fulfillment works with established eCommerce brands looking to scale. We’re their secret weapon to get back to the fun stuff and make their next quarter even better. Click below to learn a little more and see if we’re the tool your arsenal needs most.