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Are you and your team struggling to stay on top of your order fulfilment? Then it may be time to outsource it to a third-party fulfilment provider. The thing is, fulfilment is so important to eCommerce businesses these days, that it’s crucial you pick the right provider. Keep reading and you’ll find out how to choose the perfect fulfilment service for your business…

What exactly is eCommerce fulfilment?

If you’re relatively new to the world of eCommerce, then you may be wondering what exactly fulfilment refers to.

Put simply, eCommerce fulfilment refers to the set of processes that stretch from the moment a customer places an order on your eCommerce website, through to the arrival of the order at their front door.

eCommerce fulfilment involves everything from locating the relevant products within your inventory, correctly picking them, packing them, selecting a courier and ensuring that the order arrives with the customer quickly and correctly.

Guide – to find out more about what eCommerce fulfilment is and how it works, read our guide here.

What is a fulfilment service?

Okay, so now you know what we mean by the term eCommerce fulfilment.

What then, is a fulfilment service?

A fulfilment service is a third-party which specialises in fulfilling orders on behalf of other companies (typically eCommerce companies, but can also include business to business focused companies). These third-party fulfilment companies are typically referred to as 3PLs.That’s it. That’s all they do – fulfilment.

They don’t market or sell their own products and services, they simply fulfil other companies orders; undertaking everything from storing inventory on their behalf, picking and packing their orders, and arranging shipping and delivery.

Fulfilment services are ideal for eCommerce businesses which have grown to the point that they can’t manage their own fulfilment anymore.

Perhaps, they’ve outgrown their available warehousing space. Maybe they’re selling products at a volume which is more than their current fulfilment team can handle. Whatever the reason, it can make sense for many eCommerce businesses to outsource their fulfilment.

The top tips for selecting an eCommerce fulfilment service provider

These days fulfilment is almost as important as the goods and products you sell. Why? Because of consumer expectations.

Thanks to the fast, reliable, convenient fulfilment experiences provided by internet giants like Amazon, consumers have come to expect their orders to be fulfilled accurately and quickly.

When they click ‘buy now’, they want their order to be with them pronto.

If you can’t offer a smooth, convenient, fast fulfilment experience you’ll quickly lose your customers to an eCommerce store that can.

That’s why it’s so important you select the correct third-party fulfilment provider. Below you’ll find our top tips on selecting the best eCommerce fulfilment service provider.

Knowledge of your industry

One of the most important things to look for in an eCommerce fulfilment service provider is an acute understanding of your industry.

That’s because – despite what some providers will tell you – fulfilment isn’t a generic service.

For example, third-party fulfilment providers like 3PL are specialists in eCommerce fulfilment. They understand that eCommerce businesses have specialist fulfilment requirements.

Whether it’s setting up recurring orders and deliveries for subscription box stores, or scaling up to meet the demands of peak periods (e.g. Cyber Monday), it’s important that your chosen fulfilment provider is able to understand the unique challenges associated with your industry.

Select a provider that doesn’t understand your industry – in this case eCommerce – and you could quickly find that they’re out of their depth when it comes to eCommerce-specific challenges.

Similar current clients

Another indicator that an eCommerce fulfilment service provider is right for you, is that they have a roster of clients that are similar to your business.

If a provider can demonstrate that they’ve worked with many similar companies to yours, then they’ll be able to provide you with a true partnership – providing strategic guidance and advice as your business grows.

That’s because they can draw upon the skills and experience they’ve already accrued from working with other eCommerce companies.

Tech and integrations

What platform is your eCommerce store hosted on? What system do you use to process and monitor orders?

Your chosen third-party fulfilment provider should have a digital fulfilment platform that can be easily integrated into your current systems.

A platform like 3PL’s Fusion platform will ‘plug in’ to your website and order fulfilment system and provide you with a single dashboard where you can monitor everything – from the state of your inventory, through to the progress of all of your orders at once.

A digital fulfilment platform will also be able to automate many steps of the fulfilment process (such as order creation, label printing and warehouse management), making your orders quicker and easier to process.

A platform like 3PL Fusion will also allow you to build up large amounts of historical order, inventory and other data, making it far easier for you to make crucial decisions to grow your business.

Partnerships with couriers

One of the major expenses associated with fulfilment is delivery. This is truer than ever thanks to consistently rising fuel prices.

Therefore, it’s important that you choose a third-party fulfilment provider that has partnerships with multiple, leading couriers.

As a third-party fulfilment provider will be dealing with thousands of parcels each week (on behalf of their customers), they are able to use economies of scale to negotiate delivery rates which are far lower than you’d ever be able to secure on your own.

By working with a third-party fulfilment provider that has a relationship with multiple couriers, you’ll also have access to many more delivery options – including international shipping – which bodes well if you have ambitious growth plans for your eCommerce business.

What are the benefits of using a third-party fulfilment provider?

Now that we’ve looked at the top tips you need to know when picking an eCommerce fulfilment service provider, let’s take a look at why it’s a good idea to outsource your fulfilment.

Cost effective

Once your eCommerce business reaches a certain scale, it makes good financial sense to outsource your fulfilment. Why? Because doing so frees you from having to make significant capital investments.

Think of it this way; if you want to continue carrying out your fulfilment in-house, then once your business has grown to a certain scale, you’ll need to invest in a bigger warehouse, a larger fulfilment team, new technologies, and more.

Those investments can be huge, which is all money that could instead be spent on marketing and growing your business.

By letting a third-party provider take care of your fulfilment for you, you won’t have to worry about making these sizable investments.

Fulfilment expertise

As you attempt to carry out fulfilment at larger scales, you’ll find that there is a steep learning curve.

You have to get your head around multiple issues, covering everything from customs and duties (if shipping abroad), to negotiating shipping rates and dealing with inventory management at ever larger scales.

Why not let people who have been carrying out large-scale fulfilment for years take care of these things for you?

By choosing a third-party fulfilment provider such as 3PL, you’ll be able to take advantage of the decades of experience these companies have in fulfilment, whilst you can concentrate on what you do best – marketing and selling your wonderful products!

Free up time

As your eCommerce business grows, you’ll find that fulfilment takes up more and more of your time.

Whether it’s remembering to re-order popular lines of inventory, or keeping a track of every order that’s currently in progress, fulfilment – especially at scale – can be something of a time sink.

By outsourcing your fulfilment to a third-party provider you can reclaim that time and use it for more productive tasks that’ll enhance your company’s growth, productivity and success.

Economies of scale

Because a third-party fulfilment provider will be providing fulfilment on behalf of multiple companies simultaneously, they’ll be able to benefit from economies of scale; financial savings and benefits which can then be passed on to you.

For example, a 3PL will be able to secure warehouse space at a much lower per-square foot rate than you will (as they’ll be leasing much more space than you would alone).

This equally applies to other areas such as the cost of boxes and packing materials, as well delivery rates as we touched on earlier. Because a 3PL is fulfilling at scale, it’ll be able to buy at volumes which work out cheaper overall.

Time to outsource your fulfilment?

If your eCommerce business is growing and you’re thinking about making the switch from in-house to outsourced fulfilment, then speak to the team at 3PL today.

As experts in eCommerce fulfilment, 3PL ticks all of the boxes outlined above, and can help your business grow by providing a flawless fulfilment experience to you and your customers alike.

Find out more about 3PL’s eCommerce order fulfilment services now

For more eCommerce fulfilment and logistics advice, read the 3PL blog

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