Fulfillment companies have never been more necessary for eCommerce businesses – small or large. We’re living in the age of next day shipping, ordering groceries online and higher delivery expectations from customers everywhere.
Whether your growing company needs to manage bulk orders of products, manage retail and ecommerce inventory seamlessly, or put together more complicated orders like monthly subscription boxes, or custom holiday gift sets, hiring a fulfillment provider is the way to go.
But you don’t just hire anyone. If done poorly, the fulfillment process can greatly impact your end customer’s experience with you. The best way to find the right fulfillment provider is to ask them in depth questions about the services they offer, and what specific solutions they have to make sure they are the perfect fit your business and have the same interests in mind. Here are a few to think about:
1. Do You Have Experience with Retail Fulfillment?
Retail fulfillment involves shipping orders to or from physical retail stores. Even if this is not currently part of your business model, it’s still a good idea to ask about retail services that the vendor provides, and what experiences they have with retailers. It’s never too late to plan for the future, and learning about how the provider deals with retail shipping will give you a great snapshot of their performance.
If retail experience is a focus for your business, dive deeper! For example: “Do you have experience shipping into big box stores like Target, Duluth Trading or Walmart?”. Bigger retail stores have a unique and specific shipping process. Partnering with someone who is familiar with this process will be key.
2. What Are Your Accuracy Rates Like?
Accuracy rates refer to what percentage of orders are wrong – this could be anything from the wrong product being shipped, to no product is shipped at all. Your company clearly wants the percentage of wrong orders to be very low, and accuracy rates to be very high! An experienced fulfillment company will be able to provide accuracy numbers for their services upon request. If their accuracy rates are below 98%, they’re not the fulfillment company for you.
They should also be able to discuss the technologies they use to increase accuracy, including tagging, scanning, and tracking procedures. This is excellent information to use when comparing different fulfillment services, so don’t hesitate to ask about it.
This is also a great time to ask about accuracy guarantees. Does the provider offer these guarantees, and what are the details? Are there any other guarantees for steps in the fulfillment process that the provider has?
3. Can You Handle Unexpected Orders? What Size?
Growing companies often experience spikes in their orders – it’s a natural part of business, but fulfillment providers need to be able to handle it. You should always ask what happens if you have unexpected orders come in, as well as what volume of sudden orders the provider is equipped to handle.
This question can quickly get down into the gritty details of the vendor’s warehouse management system (WMS), and that’s great! Learn all you can about the WMS and how it allocates inventory, sorts products based on shipping frequency, and handles unexpected changes in order type or size. You want a good view of how inventory flows through the provider to make the right decision.
It’s also important to know their policies and procedures. Are they going to charge you for the influx of orders? Do they need to 24-48 hours to handle the change or can they adapt quicker?
4. What If a Last Minute Change Needs to Be Made?
Is the system flexible enough to handle last minute changes? What does the process look like if a business contacts you with a sudden change? How much longer would fulfillment take if such changes came up? The unexpected will always happen, and you deserve accurate information about how this will affect your order and what delays may be involved.
5. What Sort of Customization Options Do You Offer?
If you offer delivery or package customization options, there’s a good chance your fulfillment partner will be involved in the process. Are they equipped to handle customization? What experience do they have with companies that need certain types of order customization? Do you offer compliance for specific industry requirements? This is also the time to ask about things like subscription box fulfillment, custom kits or bundled orders, and other more complex needs that your company may have now or in the future.
6. What Types of Different Storage Do You Offer?
It’s always good to know what storage options a provider has, even if your current storage needs are very basic. What storage is provided for oversized items that need extra space? What about particularly delicate items? Products that need temperature control or refrigeration? Learn about the facilities and what they are equipped to handle. Most fulfillment centers should invite you to tour the space – and we highly recommend you do!
This is a great place to segue into security, too: What security tech does the vendor use to keep a watch on the products and how they are handled? Do they have 24/7 security cams? How do they screen employees when hiring?
7. What eCommerce Platforms Do You Work With?
eCommerce businesses absolutely need a provider that can sync their facility and order tracking with your website – this has become a requirement for today’s online stores. Good providers have inventory management systems that can sync with your site (inventory availability, etc.), update in real time, and provide important alerts when necessary. You can also ask more general questions about current best practices in the eCommerce fulfillment world to get an idea of the provider’s knowledge.
8. What Are My Contact Options Like for Your Company?
This is a great question to ask any vendor, but you really want to know how you will be contacting your fulfillment provider. What sort of dedicated representation will you get? How quickly will the company get back to you? Are there chat options? Email? When you call your contact number, who is going to be on the other end?
9. What do Your Contract Options Look Like?
Always find out what contracts the provider offers and how flexible they are on creating a contract with businesses. Are long-term contracts required to get certain perks or discounts? Does the provider use a no-contract or short-term contract model? Generally, the more flexible the contract options are for a growing company, the better. But it’s important to find out the details no matter what.
Well, what do you think? Are you ready to give us an interview? We’re happy to give you all the information you need! Contact us today for a quick chat, quote, or a longer conversation – whatever you need!