What to look for when evaluating the performance of your ecommerce fulfillment provider
Let’s face it: the always-on, always-open shopping experience demands seamless interaction across all shopping channels. As an online retailer, your brand and your order fulfillment partner, or third-party logistics partner (3PL), need to be responsive and move quickly. This means your direct-to-consumer (D2C) fulfillment has to be impeccable. For the consumer, the expectation for a seamless customer experience translates to self-service capabilities, making order automation a key requirement for online brands and their 3PLs.
For the fulfillment provider, the use of automation is evolving rapidly—from plain old EDI, software and automatic integration to the more disruptive technologies such as robotics, AI, machine learning and advanced analytics. Bottom line: a higher level of order automation and transparency is required today from your logistics partners to keep up with your customer’s expectations for a seamless experience, not to mention the efficiency and profitability of your brand.
If you outsource your order fulfillment to a third-party provider for your brand’s fulfillment, there are often many signs it may be time to fire them. We will list the top 3 reasons here.
Are you aggravating and losing customers that took so much time to earn due to missed and late orders? Does your fulfillment partner fall behind during peak sales periods? Is your inventory processed fast enough? These are just a few symptoms of greater fulfillment inefficiencies. Your fulfillment provider may lag on processing inbound shipments and getting inventory on warehouse shelves. Slow stock replenishment rates can easily erode your bottom line. Returns can stack up and go unprocessed and fail to get timely resale, further bogging down cash cycles. Your critical cash conversion cycle could be suffering, in part, due to inattentive receiving and fulfillment processes which makes for unhappy customers.
Once received, new inventory and quantity counts should be available electronically on a timely basis. A modern order fulfillment provider will immediately scan each inbound item to capture appropriate inventory counts from the start and apply accurate weights and dimensions upon receipt. They will also make processing returns a priority. Services such as Returnly, Happy Returns and Loop are raising the bar on consumer expectations for returns, offering instant refund processing, store credit or seamless exchanges.
What to ask your provider:
Does your order fulfillment provider choose the most cost-effective shipping strategy to meet your customers’ demands? Your provider may be using expedited shipping when ground shipping could reach half of your customers in 2 days. Without automated rate shopping services and carrier integration, you are leaving money on the table.
You should be able to use multiple small-parcel carriers to balance cost with delivery expectations. A modern fulfillment company will offer you flexible carrier rate selection. Many online retailers find they can reach most of their U.S. customer base within 2-day to 3-day delivery timelines at an economical price. Some online brands will also automatically upgrade ground and deferred shipping to express shipping on orders involving social media influencers or high-value shipments.
What to ask your provider:
Is the lack of data automation at your 3PL causing you death by a thousand little things? Your provider’s lack of automation becomes your problem if your only options are to manually upload a .csv file or access an FTP interface. The ability to sync data in real-time between your systems and your provider’s systems is an essential element of modern ecommerce fulfillment—not rocket science.
The automatic syncing of data in real-time should also give you visibility into orders and inventory. The ability to connect your online storefront with third-party ecommerce platform providers such as Shopify, Magento, Stitchlabs or other systems should be a given with your fulfillment provider. A modern fulfillment provider will also offer seamless integrations to your core systems, such as inventory systems, order management systems (OMS) and returns management platforms.
What to ask your provider:
Seeking better ecommerce fulfillment
As an online merchant, you need to keep up with your end customer’s fluid expectations for a seamless customer experience. Your 3PL can’t leave your brand in the dust. Brand reputation, loss of customers and lost opportunity—not to mention revenues—are all at stake if your ecommerce fulfillment processes are less than perfect.
Transparency, visibility and smart use of automation technologies are the baseline requirements of modern fulfillment. If your fulfillment provider has lackluster results, you may need to seek out a provider that specializes in D2C fulfillment and can handle today’s expanding expectations for a seamless customer experience.
Acquired by Port Logistics Group in 2019, Whiplash Merchandising Inc. is an ecommerce technology company providing best-in-class integration through an open API, order management tools, and warehouse management system (WMS) capabilities to emerging brands. Whiplash enables the digital, omnichannel supply chain with fulfillment technology that transforms complex retail requirements into fail-safe instructions for warehouse employees.
Ready to make a move?
If you are ready to explore your options for improved fulfillment with a modern 3PL who gets ecommerce fulfillment, contact us today.