Running a business demands awareness of a multitude of factors - and this is no less true for digitally native brands selling direct-to-consumer. Aside from the manufacturing and presentation of a product itself, brands need to think about where to store inventory and how to meet customer expectations for fast, convenient shipping.
Fulfilling your orders independently drains both your time and resources, taking your focus away from core business objectives like growing your customer base. When a brand begins experiencing an internal struggle between core business functions and fulfilling orders, it may be time to consider partnering with an outsourced provider that has the expertise and resources required to handle the customer demand.
In this post, we’re going to cover 6 reasons why merchants should outsource their ecommerce fulfillment to an experienced provider.
What is ecommerce fulfillment?
Ecommerce fulfillment refers to the complete fulfillment process from receiving orders via your online store to delivering them to customers. This includes:
When ecommerce is supposed to facilitate convenient and seamless customer journeys, getting your fulfillment process right from the outset is critical. By outsourcing your order fulfillment, you can streamline your operation in the following areas:
When your business is just starting out, self-fulfillment is often the most logical strategy; when order volumes are low and budgets are tight, it makes sense to keep everything in-house. But as your business grows and order volumes increase, self-fulfillment takes up more time and resources - to the point that it’s no longer cost-effective.
Why? Because the larger your fulfillment operation becomes, the more those associated costs begin creeping in; extra staff (payroll, training, and recruiting) storage space, packaging materials, as well as the extensive admin this takes to organize.
By outsourcing to a 3PL, your business is also outsourcing the ongoing costs that self-fulfillment involves. Because they can rely on economies of scale, providers can also achieve much more affordable fulfillment costs than a merchant can. This means bigger cost savings - especially as your business grows.
SKUs need a place to be stored until the picking/packing begins. This is why warehousing is an integral link in most supply chains - and one of the biggest logistical puzzles.
Knowing how to facilitate effective pick/pack strategies for SKUs requires both know-how and assistance in the form of advanced software integration, something a regular storage facility is unlikely to offer.
Outsourcing to an experienced ecommerce fulfillment provider mitigates these challenges because they will take care of this on your behalf through their own facilities. Furthermore, their Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Order Management System (OMS) give you the added advantage of fast and accurate fulfillment.
Shipping is one of the biggest deal-breakers in ecommerce, for both customers and brands. Consumers want shipping to be fast and cheap, while merchants need to protect their profit margins. With over 70% of shoppers deciding their shipping preference before checkout, it’s never been harder for merchants to meet consumer expectations.
For many businesses, offering fast and free shipping simply isn’t feasible - especially when they lack warehousing or shipping facilities close to their end customers. By outsourcing ecommerce fulfillment, merchants gain access to more affordable shipping rates due to 3PLs’ ability to negotiate rates with major carriers.
Furthermore, partnering with a fulfillment provider with multiple locations offers the ability to store goods much closer to customer hubs to reduce both shipping costs and last-mile delivery.
With their low overheads and low barriers of entry into the marketplace, D2C businesses have the ability to scale rapidly. However, a growing business may not have the means to ship to a growing customer base independently.
A surge in order volumes can mean the need to begin shipping to more distant states within the U.S. — or even customers outside of the U.S. This can add major logistical challenges if the business is unable to adequately scale with consumer demand.
Having ecommerce fulfillment experts at one’s disposal allows a business to scale faster, service more customers with less costly fulfillment errors, and improve delivery efficiency.
Ecommerce fulfillment involves a lot of moving parts, and it’s a major challenge to stay in the loop with what’s going in addition to other business activities. A lack of visibility into your operation increases the likelihood of errors happening due to decisions being made on outdated information, which slows the fulfillment process considerably.
A technologically-advanced fulfillment provider like Whiplash will be able to integrate directly with your existing enterprise software and your ecommerce store. Seamless integrations with key platforms such as Shopify mean that 3PLs can receive order notifications and status updates in real-time, creating a much more nimble fulfillment operation that can respond to changes at short notice.
Order errors and delivery delays negatively impact the customer experience (CX) and are highly damaging to your brand - especially when CX has become the biggest brand differentiator in ecommerce.
But fast shipping and timely delivery alone is no longer enough to give your brand a competitive edge. Why? Because this is simply the minimum of what online shoppers expect.
Today, customers want to be wowed by unique experiences that make them feel valued - and partnering with a fulfillment provider is enhances your ability to deliver them.
3PLs that can integrate value-added services such as premium packaging and personalized inserts directly into the fulfillment process enable you to offer a far more memorable brand experience to your customers.
Ecommerce fulfillment for D2C brands certainly comes with its fair share of challenges, especially as competition and consumer expectations increase. An ecommerce fulfillment specialist with advanced omnichannel distribution solutions like Whiplash can support businesses across all aspects of their fulfillment operation to create that ideal customer experience.