Due to the ease of browsing and ordering items online, apparel has rapidly become one of the highest-selling product categories in ecommerce.
But to be successful as an apparel brand in a crowded marketplace, you need a seamless strategy for fulfilling and shipping orders. Otherwise, it’s incredibly challenging to differentiate yourself from competitors.
We’re going to look at the top areas that your apparel business needs to be thinking about to ensure a positive customer experience - and a healthy bottom line!
For all its convenience and accessibility, D2C fulfillment does have a dark side; it’s responsible for huge volumes of packaging waste.
The truth is that when it comes to packaging, materials do matter. Consumers don’t appreciate waste, especially when they’re trying harder than ever to do their bit for the environment. According to Shorr, only 11% of consumers are satisfied with ecommerce packaging - with 19% saying that it’s ‘excessive’ and too difficult to dispose of responsibly.
So, don’t fill your packages with unnecessary materials that will end up straight in the trash after unpacking, such as packing peanuts and bubble wrap. Courier bags offer a fantastic alternative for clothing apparel because they’re lightweight and keep garments separate from one another.
Excess packaging segues nicely into our next recommendation: reducing the weight of your packages as much as possible. Why? Because the heavier your packages are, the more they’re going to cost you to ship!
All major carriers now use DIM weight (dimensional weight) as a metric to calculate shipping fees. Because space is at a premium on freight trucks and aircraft, DIM weight considers the physical size of a package in addition to its weight - thus encouraging ecommerce merchants to make their packages as compact as possible to maximize available space.
One of the benefits of apparel products from a shipping standpoint is that items tend to be lightweight and foldable, allowing you to reduce the overall surface area of your packages for lower carrier fees. So, take advantage of this perk wherever you can!
Even when you’ve lowered the weight and size of your packages as much as possible, it’s still important to make that your shipping strategies cost-effective while still meeting consumer expectations.
For example, air shipping is always more expensive than ground shipping methods - but it can help you get orders out to customers faster. Moreover, you also need to consider where your customers are located; if your demand hubs are predominantly within major urban areas, it’s worth considering whether localized carriers can offer you a more favorable rate.
Last, but certainly not least, is thinking about how your business is going to charge for shipping. Free shipping is a growing consumer expectation, as are two-day or even same-day delivery options. However, absorbing these costs can seriously cut into your profit margins. You can consider offering free shipping once customers meet a certain threshold, or charging extra for expedited delivery.
Many ecommerce merchants choose simply to place clothes in courier bags or boxes and call it a day - resulting in a generic, forgettable brand experience for customers that affects their ability to retain customers.
However, you can choose to go the extra mile and show your gratitude to customers by offering them a memorable, branded delivery experience. Strategies like using custom-branded packaging, adding freebies to your orders, and including thank-you notes will make a favorable impression on your customers - and dramatically increases the odds of them becoming a repeat buyer!
With high SKU counts to accommodate all possible size and color variants, scalable inventory management is a must to achieve a more streamlined and error-free fulfillment process for your apparel brand. 3PLs that use real-time inventory software give you greater visibility into stock counts and sales history - making your business much more responsive in times of peak demand.
One of the biggest advantages of partnering with a 3PL is that they can negotiate more favorable rates with carriers due to their high shipping volumes, thus saving your business a lot of money in the long run. Furthermore, a partner with multiple warehouse locations allows you to bring your product much closer to your end customers, which further lowers transit times and costs.
If you’re wanting to offer customers a unique, branded experience upon delivery, a well-connected 3PL can help to facilitate this process by connecting you with premium and custom-branded packaging suppliers. Whiplash also allows customers to implement custom packaging as an order rule directly through the app for a faster, more intuitive approach to fulfillment.
Return rates for apparel items are far higher than other product categories in ecommerce due to the inability of consumers to try garments in advance - sometimes as high as 56%! While it’s difficult to change this, a 3PL with experience in reverse logistics can ease the returns process for your business by automating workflows and offering straightforward exchanges to customers.
By partnering with Whiplash, your business will gain access to technologically-advanced support and expertise for nationwide apparel fulfillment. Our real-time inventory management and integration with all major ecommerce platforms enables your business to offer a seamless customer experience - from start to finish.