Finding a good ecommerce fulfillment partner is like buying your first house. You don’t know what you don’t know until you live in it awhile…and eventually you see the flaws or outgrow the space.
Here are 7 key areas to evaluate when deciding if you should stay or go:
Reliability is always an important factor in ANY business partnership, especially one that can have such a big impact on your brand’s reputation. A fulfillment provider should have a proven track record of on-time and accurate delivery. Your customers might love your products, but if they come to realize they can’t rely on a consistent delivery experience, it’s often reflected in poor reviews and results in lost customer loyalty.
Scalability is obviously critical during peak season, but beyond that, how well-equipped is your provider to grow with your business long-term? Do they have the space? The distribution footprint? The technology and infrastructure? It’s not always easy to know the future roadblocks you’ll face, but if you do a little research into other larger companies using the same provider, it might give you some insights.
Robust Carrier Network
Does your fulfillment provider have a robust carrier network? Covid and the ecommerce boom swamped national carriers and gave rise to smaller regional carriers who offer quality service at often more affordable shipping rates. A diversified logistics network relies on a combination of both national and regional carriers to give you more flexibility when it comes to shipping speed and cost.
Strict quality control measures
Strict quality control measures in the pick and pack process means you’ll have peace of mind that your order fulfillment will be accurate. Your provider should have well-defined Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and best practices in place the ensure the right item gets shipped every time. Automation is a big factor in quality control. The more automation involved in warehouse fulfillment, the lower the rate of human error.
Inventory management is really where it all starts. Multi-channel ecommerce doesn’t work without good inventory tracking at the item level and it has to start the minute your products are received into the fulfillment center. This allows for accurate, real-time inventory reporting across all selling channels, reducing the number of stockouts and lost sales.
No one wants to get caught in a data security or compliance breach, but guess what, your fulfillment partner is housing ALL of your customer data. How well are they protecting it? This topic should probably be at the top of this list, but it’s not always top of mind because it’s happening behind the scenes. And, since rules of privacy and security are constantly changing, your fulfillment partner needs to have your back with robust security measures and data compliance certifications.
Good customer service can make or break the relationship. Don’t expect your partnership with a fulfillment provider to be free from challenges. That’s just part of doing business and growing. However, the support you receive and the speed to resolution is what makes it tolerable. Do you have a dedicated team of real people that can assist and provide timely information when problems arise? Is your business treated like an extension of their business?
The holiday peak season is fast approaching, so as your business ramps up, take note of how your current 3PL is handling your online order volume. What are they crushing and what areas need a little work? Defining your business needs is important, because after the holiday glitter settles, you might be deciding what you want in your NEXT fulfillment partner.
For more information about Distribution Management’s fulfillment services and to take a virtual tour of our operation, visit us at www.distributionmgmt.com.