Category Archives: Warehousing and Fulfillment Resources

Information about warehousing and fulfillment for those new to warehousing and fulfillment.

Selecting a Canadian Warehouse Location

CanadaWhere to start?

It makes sense to start by analyzing your supply chain and to discover where most of your product is flowing to. The key to a successful and efficient supply chain is to consider the following questions:

  • Where is your port of entry?
  • Where are your customers mainly located?
  • Does your volume qualify you to have multiple locations?

Throughout this article, I will be referring to a consumer goods company shipping 40’ containers from Shenzhen (China) to Vancouver (Canada).

Analysis of the Canadian Consumer

The location of Canadian customers falls roughly in line with a provincial population map. With that in mind, it is generally safe to assume that 38.4% of Canadians are in Ontario, 23.6% in Quebec, 13.1% in British Columbia, 10.9% in Alberta, 3.6% in Manitoba, and 3.1% in Saskatchewan. These provinces make up almost 93% of the Canadian population. All other provinces are under 3% or less.

The interesting thing about the map below is that it does not give you an idea of where people live within the provinces. 90% of all Canadians live within 100km (62 miles) of the US border. So the map below may look daunting, but the vast majority of Canadians are actually very close by.

CanadaWarehousing

The greyed out area makes up 0.8% of the Canadian population – not including polar bears.

Considering the above information, we can see that the 4 most likely locations to consider in terms of sheer population size are Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and Alberta.

The two key distribution hubs are Ontario and British Columbia as most consumer products come through Vancouver’s port, and the majority of perishable and automotive shipments pass through Ontario by road or rail. Ontario and Quebec make up 62% of Canada’s population, and this number is growing every year. Most major companies distribute their products from either Ontario or Quebec because the largest cost is the end delivery either to distribution centre, store, or the customer’s home address. If 62% of your customers are in one area, it makes sense to warehouse your product in close proximity. Furthermore, 53% of Ontarians live in the Greater Toronto Area, or within 1 hour’s drive of Toronto.

Reducing Shipping Costs & Delivery Times

If product arrival is not time sensitive, it may be an option to utilize rail as a means to move product from Vancouver to Ontario or Quebec. Shipping by rail can save companies as much as 33% on shipping costs. However, if getting your product to your warehouse is a priority it makes sense to utilize air freight, or a reliable large carrier such as Challenger Motor Freight. Full truckload shipments from Vancouver to Toronto generally take 4-5 days of driving (weather dependent) for a single driver, and that time can be cut in half by team drivers.

Here’s an example to show why it often makes sense to warehouse your product in Ontario:

This is not to say never to warehouse product in Vancouver. If a customer has enough order volume in British Columbia or Alberta, it may make sense to warehouse some product there rather than sending it all the way to Ontario, only to ship it back out to West. That would be expensive and wasteful.

Reducing Shipping Costs & Delivery Times

If you’re shipping from China to Vancouver and have customers all across Canada, my recommendation is to warehouse some product in Vancouver area, and to move the rest to the Greater Toronto Area. This is a broad and general statement, but at the end of the day it usually holds true. The key is to look at where your shipments are entering Canada, and to analyse your order destinations within Canada. Keeping the distance and time short on the final delivery is very important.

Article by Ryan Bennett of Challenger Motor Freight

As E-Commerce Grows, A New Breed of Fulfillment Companies Offer Online Retailers Value Beyond Shipping

Online Shopping and FulfillmentIn years past, fulfillment companies simply served as an outsourced shipping department, storing goods for companies and shipping orders to their customers. While the breadth of services have steadily increased over time in order to meet the rigorous demands of multi-channel fulfillment, including retail and e-commerce fulfillment environments, fulfillment has largely been…fulfillment. That is, until a new breed of fulfillment companies have cropped up that offer services outside of the scope of packing and shipping.

How Innovation in Fulfillment Got Started

Perhaps it all started with some of the major online marketplaces, such as Amazon and eBay, offering fulfillment for companies selling on their respective marketplaces. For smaller and more regional logistics companies looking to compete with services like Fulfillment by Amazon, new and creative ideas had to be fostered to level the competitive playing field. After all, it seemed to make sense for a large number of sellers to not only list their products on a website but also have that same company fulfill orders. If traditional fulfillment companies didn’t want to become a dinosaur, they had to come up with a way to win back sellers.

Further complicating the competitive landscape was the introduction of additional sales channels online – from social media to crowdfunding platforms and beyond. Online merchants, with each passing day, had more and more sales channels online at their disposal – which was particularly intriguing for smaller and start-up businesses because they were finally afforded the opportunity to compete with bigger retailers and businesses. In fact, with the world at their fingertips, online merchants were only limited by the time and investment required to participate in these sales meccas.

Opportunity and Timing Collided for Forward Thinking Fulfillment Firms

Naturally, the first wave of fulfillment innovators chose the path of becoming a niche expert for fulfillment services in these specific online marketplaces. For example, some firms chose to focus specifically on fulfilling order for crowdfunding campaigns, or became e-commerce fulfillment experts – building sophisticated integrations with web store software programs so that they could receive online order, offer real-time reporting, and even in some cases offering support for inbound calls and order taking.

But a new breed has evolved to take things to the next level of service, offering even more than fulfillment itself for businesses that either don’t have the time or resources to take advantage of every opportunity. For Utah Based IFS (International Fulfillment Solutions), the move from straight fulfillment to value added services was obvious. According to Ryan Treft, President at IFS, the company saw a need to assist companies with selling in various online marketplaces. “We have essentially created a distribution arm of our company which allows us to offer the channels as additional sources of revenue for our clients. Half the battle in selling a product into retail has nothing to do with the product itself…it has to do with convincing the buyer to set you up as a vendor. That’s where we come in. We are the vendor of record with 21 major ecommerce retailers. We ask our fulfillment clients if they want us to manage sales of their product into any of these channels. Once they pick the ones relevant to their brand, we submit and we can add much easier than they can. We confirm the order, we provide the tracking, we buy product from our own clients to manage the channels they have chosen. “

This unique add-on service does a couple of things for companies like IFS. First, it adds tremendous value for fulfillment customers. According to Danny Villarreal of Zarbee’s (who utilizes IFS for value added services), “We have been able to fully offload our online orders and samples fulfillment and have confidence that our customers will be taken care of.  The great part is that we can now focus on driving our marketing and business and know our fulfillment is in a solid place.”

But adding value isn’t the only benefit. In addition, these services make the entire process faster, bringing sales and profits to growing companies sooner than later. For another IFS customer, ATGStores.com, the add-on service was an easy decision. Because the process to add new brands is quite extensive, having a relationship with a current vendor already intact makes the process easy and to get things done fast. They were able to get from point A to point B much quicker than on their own.

Innovation Will Continue to Shape the Fulfillment Industry

Outside of the benefits to customers, value added, online sales oriented services does another very crucial thing – it allows these creative fulfillment companies to compete with much larger fulfillment marketplace competitors and fulfillment companies in general. As is true in business, healthy competition and changes in the marketplace spur innovation and growth. It will no doubt be interesting to see what will come about as a result in this most recent shift in fulfillment services. As online selling and logistics continue to collide, companies will continue to find new ways to add additional value and further differentiate from their competitors, which will help propel online sellers to a new level of potential success and continue to disrupt the logistics industry.

The Benefits of Warehousing for Business

When it comes to logistics, small business owners know that warehousing is important. It in itself is part of managing the supply chain, and although simply seen as a place to store goods and prepare items for outbound shipping, warehousing and pack&ship orders, they are economically beneficial to both owners and customers.

Why is warehousing necessary for even small businesses?

First, it provides a central location for your products. Having a place to receive orders, store goods, and distribute products make the process systematic. With each arrival of shipment, responsibility goes to the warehouse personnel, and they’re going to be in charge with identifying, sorting, and dispatching the products to their storage locations, looking over security measures and environmental hygiene. Then orders come and go, and warehouse personnel keep up with the records before dispatching. Warehouses ensure that there is a place to store goods when there is not quite enough demand for the supply. Instead of leaving the surplus products somewhere, having a warehouse ensures that the there is a good place for storage somewhere to keep goods until they are needed or wanted again without having to haul everything by your lonesome self.

Second, it adds value to your operation. The good thing about warehousing is that you are more in control of your shipping and handling. Because warehousing increases the value of goods by providing services that make products available at the most convenient way possible, it lowers the costs and increases the value of customer service. Warehousing operations such as consolidation and assembly add value to the logistics of the business.

Third, the efficiency, capacity, and location of warehouses provide economic benefits. Consolidating operations, for instance, cut costs for outbound delivery, which works well for both business owners and their customers. Instead of shipping individual products from a plethora of sources, central warehouses help package and ship orders together as a complete order, effectively eliminating expensive shipping costs. This is beneficial for making a turn in profit for businesses, especially new ones. Besides, most warehouses provide processing, packing, and blending, and grading facilities, meaning, small business owners can save more by not having to pay third parties in the order fulfilment process.

Fourth, warehousing is also an effective contingency plan to make sure that orders are sorted and done on time. Warehousing service companies like National Products Fulfilment http://www.npfulfilment.com.au/ ensure that their clients get their orders safely and on time. Warehouses provide custody of goods, and as an added benefit, products kept in warehouses are almost always insured. With systematic efficiency,  good warehouses guarantee a 99.9% accuracy level of storage and inventory, allowing you to sit back and relax while other people to do the job for you.

Finally, warehousing allows you to focus on the more important part of your business: making it in the dog-eats-dog world without having to worry about too many things. Which is why warehouse and inventory management is important for small-and-medium sized businesses planning to make it in the great big world.

Of course, there are different types of warehouses for different types of businesses, but warehouses — whether private or public or bonded, are guaranteed to help lessen the gap between production and consumption, that is what you call a proper order fulfilment process.

Finding a Logistics Outsourcer that Doesn’t Outsource Brings True Cost Savings

Third Party Logistics ProvidersOutsourced warehousing and shipping can help companies alleviate the pain of storage and distribution and reduce overall costs. The theory is simple – warehousing and shipping companies specialize in these services, so they can perform them more efficiently and effectively than most companies can internally. Furthermore, by aggregating the combined services for the sum of all of their customers, third party logistics providers are able to achieve additional cost savings that they can pass on to clients. However, what about add on services, such as shipping or freight forwarding? Many third party logistics companies contract theses services out to another provider, not only adding another layer of communication but also adding another layer of cost to the equation. If you’re interested in achieving the best rates possible and looking at 3PL options, it might be wise to consider the use of a full scale logistics provider that not only has its own warehouse and labor pool, but also operates its own freight services.

One Contact Streamlines Communication

Dealing with a shipping issue can be especially painful when using a fulfillment services company that contracts out freight services. Most likely, you’ll speak directly to the fulfillment company about the issue, and they’ll handle the communications with the freight company. Many times, dealing with multiple companies results in additional time wasted due to duplication of communication and correspondence. Furthermore, key information can easily be lost in translation, leading to more frustration. On the other hand, when a logistics management services company also has its own trucking services, all of the communication remains under one roof, and in most cases can be managed with a single point of contact. In addition to streamlined communications, the 3PL also has more control over fixing any issues and bringing proper resolution.

Avoid Needless Markup

In most cases, warehousing companies mark up the cost of shipping services so that they can make some level of profit. Also, the warehousing company, in most cases, isn’t getting the lowest cost possible for freight services, unless they have significant volume that justifies a sizeable discount. Conversely, when a warehousing company has its own shipping division, it can offer you freight services without an additional layer of markup, helping reduce your overall freight bill.

More Services Means Better Negotiating Power

One of the greatest benefits of utilizing a full service logistics provider is that it tips the scales of negotiating leverage in your favor. When you bring more services into the equation, the 3PL has the potential of winning more business, and will most likely be more willing to entertain the best pricing possible to win your business. Furthermore, with more areas within the business to make a profit margin, the 3PL company doesn’t have to make quite as much margin in each area to survive. And as your volume increases, you can leverage this increase into further potential cost savings, as the 3PL will gain further synergies through an overall increase in volume.

5 Key Questions on IT Platforms when Selecting a Fulfillment Partner

When selecting a 3PL partner, you’ll want to make sure they provide you with a web-based management tool, or platform, where you can remotely monitor and control all aspects of your fulfillment operations. Quality IT platforms allow for thorough reporting functions, quick order placement, control of automated procedures, integration across multiple online storefronts and intuitive digital asset management. Here are five key questions to consider, when assessing your fulfillment partner’s IT platform:

  1. Reporting

    What reports does your fulfillment partner offer, and do they provide the visibility and metrics you need to analyze and budget your operations? Review and analysis of fulfillment operations can only occur if your fulfillment partner gives you access to its data. At a minimum you will want to have 24/7 web access to reports on available inventory, inventory history, inventory transactions, order status, order history, and billing. Data should be readily accessible, real-time, downloadable, and easy to read.

  2. Order Placement

    Does your fulfillment partner provide you and your sales reps with a web-based tool to place orders? If your company has internal staff and sales reps that will be placing orders directly with your fulfillment partner, you will want the order placement process to be as quick and easy as possible. This order placement tool should display available inventory, allow multiple user access controlled by you, and facilitate easy bulk ordering of both wholesale orders as well as single-item orders.

  3. Notifications

    Does your fulfillment partner have an IT platform that allows you to set and automate important notifications? Many people like to be able to set certain notifications for themselves with their 3PL partner, so they do not miss critical information or points of action. Examples of common notifications among operations managers include low stock alerts, automatic re-order points, inventory receipt confirmations, and returns processed.

  4. E-commerce Storefront Integration

    Does your fulfillment partner have the IT staff and resources to establish (and troubleshoot) IT integration between their fulfillment database and your ecommerce storefronts? There are countless sales channels available online for any given industry vertical. Linking order information and accurate inventory levels across multiple ecommerce sites back into your fulfillment operations can be a challenge.

  5. List Management

    Does your fulfillment partner offer list management services? Every time you sell your product online, you gain valuable information about your customer such as their address, items purchased etc. If you store and organize this customer information well, it can be a valuable source for marketing campaigns. Because they process and distribute your orders, your 3PL partner has access to much of your customer data and they should make this readily available for you at all times.

What to consider when finding a Fulfillment House in the UK

Outsourcing to a 3PL fundamentally means you are placing your trust in an outsider to complete and control one of the most important stages in your supply network. If you are going to place that trust in a company you need to carefully consider the following points when choosing a 3rd party fulfillment company especially if they are based in another country.

If you are thousands of miles away from your eCommerce fulfillment provider you are going to want total transparency. Find a company that uses a modern WMS and is flexible, adaptive and capable of being integrated with your software to deliver live information including warehousing, shipping and delivery which is vital for inventory control, customer service and even finance.

Live Order Retrieval

Many older warehouses batch collect orders into their system for packing. The problem that can arise from this is that if the orders are sent from a different time zone up to a 24 hours delay can be caused before picking even begins. It is best to use a company that automatically retrieves orders as soon as they are placed in your system.

Live Reporting

With the time difference you will need a company that offers live reporting. You must be sure that your orders are being dispatched in good time. Not all companies offer this, find one that offers a full view of the fulfillment process. See infographic below which displays best practices in transparent fulfillment reporting.

Technology and Reliability

Check how technology integration and data exchange will be handled. Find a company that offers simple integration with an open API. Given the time difference and distance you may want to consider operators whose technology is cloud based and can guarantee 100% up-time.

Inventory Management

It is a fundamental benefit in a fast-paced business because it enhances the ability of managers and employees to, with the click of a mouse ascertain exactly how much product is in stock. The best companies offer batch control and best before date management so you can select what batches go to particular customers. Also look out for companies that offer inventory alerts that utilize sales data to automatically alert you to a potential stock out when there is still time to act.

Customer Service

You will need to contact the company from time to time make sure you choose one with great customer service and fast response times. When you are dealing with countries abroad you need to find a company that has some level of integration in there system and customer service. A ticket system is particularly useful as you won’t be able to reach the UK by phone at during parts of the day due to time difference.

Returns Handling

Nobody wants returns shipped halfway across the world or worse to have to employ yet another 3PL to deal with returns. If the company can ship items out they should be adequately equipped to deal with items coming back.

Reputation

There are a few companies the the UK that offers these services so do some research and choose a fulfillment company with a good rep for accurate picking, packing and fast dispatch times. Find a company that has been servicing its clients for some time. You want a company that can keep its clients happy and builds a good long term relationship.

James Hyde is Operations Director at James and James Fulfilment. James is an expert in order fulfillment and systems engineering. His company has reinvented eCommerce fulfillment in the UK.

B2B vs. B2C Fulfillment

How Customer Experience Extends Into Both Niches

Once upon a time, ecommerce fulfillment was almost 100% retail and etail businesses. Slowly but steadily, B2B enterprises are jumping into the market and are becoming a larger part of the fulfillment world.

Historically, fulfillment has been considered to be the “back-end” of an operation, a necessary cost after everything else has been decided. That old-fashioned approach changed drastically during the dot.com era. The realization that fulfillment is indeed a place where strategic imperatives, such as brand building, maintaining a relationship and driving down costs, can be achieved. Once this message started spreading, it did not take B2B companies long to realize that the exact same imperatives are applied in their business model.

Fulfillment Should be Part of the Marketing Program

Many astute marketers from both B2B and B2C, now consider fulfillment to be just as important as any other component of a marketing initiative. An obvious example of this is how the use of the internet has been incorporated into the fulfillment processes, resulting in strategic or integrated fulfillment systems.

As a fulfillment provider, it is important to recognize that clients are becoming more and more experience-oriented. Further, when it comes to B2C and B2B fulfillment clients, it is very important to be aware of the differentiating factors that have an influence on their experience.

The client who sells direct to the consumer and the client who sells to other businesses, each demand a high level of service, along with specific technological and reporting needs. But, it is the fulfillment partner that can create the exceptional customer experience (either consumer, or business) that gains the competitive advantage.

Customer Experience is the Intersection

Over the years, consumers have evolved from a product-led to a consumption-driven economy. In today’s competitive environment, it is the fulfillment provider’s responsibility to create an exceptional customer experience for their clients. The way in which products are received, whether by a consumer, or a business, is the VERY first impression the recipient has of a business.

Although much discussed, this concept is often misunderstood. In a recent poll conducted of 81 businesses, several interesting insights were made:

The ecommerce, direct to consumer client is most satisfied with their fulfillment partner when the following key factors are met:

1. Helpfulness in resolving their problem or challenge
2. Value for the client’s time
3. Customer recognition – the client’s customer
4. Promised fulfillment – the fulfillment partner does what they promise
5. Personalization – the fulfillment partner is a part of the client’s team?
6. Competence
7. Accessibility

The factors that have a fundamental impact on the B2B client are:

1. The extent of personal contact
2. Flexibility
3. Implicit understanding of their needs
4. Pro-activity in eliciting customer’s objectives
5. Pro-activity in follow up
6. Promised fulfillment
7. Knowledge

Note that only Promised Fulfillment makes it to both lists. Fulfillment, by definition, is that part of the business process that plans, implements and controls the efficient, effective forward and reverse flow of goods, services and related information from the point of origin to the point of consumption in order to meet customer’s requirements. What is important to recognize is the means by which the B2B client demands satisfaction, are very different than those of a B2C company.

Whether Business to Business or Direct to Consumer, achieving a great client experience is the cornerstone of client satisfaction.

Jeff Ehrlich is President of Fulfillment Plus, Inc., a full service product fulfillment company that services both Business to Business and Consumer Direct business.

A Hidden Performance Killer in Your Warehouse

The process of preparing orders and shipping them to your customers is such a critical component of your overall supply chain process. Only one minor misstep, such as an inaccurately picked order or incorrectly chosen shipping service level, can cause devastation, leaving customers disappointed. And if mistakes happen too frequently, the overall business will be in jeopardy of losing customers and, therefore, sales. In order to combat these warehouse performance killers, most companies focus on implementing state of the art software and technology, creating and updating processes and procedures, and hiring and training warehouse staff. Make no mistake about it – these components are critical success factors in creating a high performing warehouse. However, there may be some other challenges that are holding back your warehouse from achieving the greatest success possible. And one of the most overlooked of these issues is employee drug problems.

Is Drug and Alcohol Use Affecting Your Staff?

A 2010 National Drug Test Assessment published by the U.S. Dept. of Justice indicated that 8 percent of full time and 10.2 percent of part time employees abuse illegal drugs. Furthermore, the study showed that 32 percent of workers stated that a co-workers’ drug or alcohol abuse negatively affected their job performance. These stats are startling; especially for the warehousing industry – considering that employees are required to operate heavy machinery, forklifts and in some cases drive delivery vehicles.

An Impact That Extends Beyond Mistakes

If any of your warehouse staff is under the influence of drugs or alcohol while at work, then the probability of making picking and shipping mistakes increases exponentially. But this isn’t the only concern that should be on your mind. Workplace accidents can cause significant injury or damage, and are highly correlated with drug and alcohol abuse. And an overlooked impact of employee drug and alcohol abuse relates to warehouse morale – oftentimes making it increasingly difficult to build a cohesive team that bonds with one another and comes together as a group.

Steps to Take if You’re Not Drug Testing

There is enormous regulation pertaining to employee drug and alcohol screening. It’s important to be sure that you understand all of the applicable laws when hiring and testing your employees. Because there are so many laws, many companies turn to experienced drug screening companies. These drug screening services companies specialize in testing and training, and can help your company put together a drug and alcohol screening and compliance program that will reduce the risks of this hidden performance killer in the warehouse. And if your operations include freight management that extends into the realm of the Department of Transportation (DOT), then it’s required by law that you adhere to their rules and regulations – so additional training is necessary that addresses many facets of the drug testing process, including DOT reasonable suspicion training.

So don’t make the same mistake that many companies do each day. First and foremost, recognize that substance abuse problems do exist and can manifest themselves very tangibly in your warehouse. Second, take action and implement a drug and alcohol testing program if you haven’t done so already. In doing so, you’ll find that the safety of your warehouse is enhanced, the morale of your staff improved, and performance of your team increased.

Guest blog written by Kail Seibert, President of Ahead of the Kurve, a leader in the background check companies industry.

4 Questions to Ask When Selecting A 3PL

As a whole, third party logistics companies have not progressed as rapidly as they should have in terms of transparency, technology, flexibility and communications protocols.  There are several speculations as to why this happens, but realistically, third party logistics providers can neither afford nor justify the necessity to take the risks required to stay ahead of the curve with newer technologies and policies.  Luckily, there are a few things you can watch out for when selecting a 3PL for your company.

How long has the 3PL been in business?

Believe it or not, although this seems obvious, this question is actually not to verify reputation or stability.  There is an obvious correlation between the longevity of a 3PL provider’s time in business and their ability to maintain up-to-date policies and procedures.  If a provider has been in business long enough to have evolved through several decades of changes, you then need to determine where they currently stand in terms of technology, communications, transparency and flexibility.  More times than not, you will find that the companies that have been in business through many transitions are more up to date than those with only a few years, or less, in operation.  More importantly, the 3PLs that have been in business through many transitions will also have a much better ability to adapt to future technologies and trends.  A company that has only been in business for a short time will have most likely utilized all of its resources to purchase the software, hardware, machinery and resources necessary to operate within current standards (or perhaps even slightly antiquated standards), but will not have the ability to adapt to any necessary changes within the near future.

Does the 3PL have multiple locations?

It isn’t so much the size of the 3PL, or even the number of locations, but the fact that a 3PL has multiple locations is a direct example of the company’s ability to network and provide communication between multiple locations, which directly relates to the ability to communicate to their customers.

Does the 3PL have a web presence?

While certain companies seem to be under the impression that a web presence isn’t for everyone, the truth is, when relating to any business, it is for everyone.  It is a necessity.  Notice however this was not limited to a “web page”.  There is much more that goes into a successful 3PL then a simple static web page.  There should be details, functionality, interaction, customer portals, billing and payment options, account/inventory access, communication tools and more.  Social networking and integration should play a part as well, so you are able to see reviews, testimonials, feedback and more.

Does the 3PL provide adequate transparency?

There are several debates on the effectiveness, and even the definition of transparency, when referring to third party logistics.  While some companies maintain that their expertise and experience should be sufficient in proving their standards of service, this is a very antiquated argument.  With today’s technological advances and communication protocols, companies should be able to see much more than they are accustomed to.  Real-time inventory tracking, account management, invoicing and account history, inbound and outbound activity, delivery and pickup scheduling, activity logs and more should all be made available to your company by any third party logistics provider.  The transparency of a logistics provider is imperative to ensure that your company is able to monitor all KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators).  Without the ability to monitor the performance of a third party provider, you lose control of your overall performance indicators to your customers.

With these tips to look out for, you will find an ideal 3PL for your company, which will lead you to a greater profit margin and better success and satisfaction rating overall.  Remember, when selecting a 3PL, you are putting the performance of your company in someone else’s hands, so you should make sure they are up to the challenge.

Fulfillment Partner

Finding the Right Fulfillment Partner for our Growing eCommerce Business

Guest Blog by Tom Schwab

The wonder of eCommerce is that it allows customers throughout the world to find your product day or night.  The ugly reality is that when that customer reaches the check out page they want two things:  They want it fast and they want free shipping.  Both are the number one reason for shopping cart abandonment.  Fail to meet either condition and you risk loosing the sale either to another website or a brick and mortar retailer that can provide faster availability.

Our niche direct to consumer medical products company was forced to expand from a regional player to a national provider.  Our customers would take their crutch alternatives with them on vacation.  Where they went, the call and orders followed.   Due to the size and associated dimensional weight of the product, air shipments were prohibitively costly.  Ground shipments while reasonably priced could take up to four business days from our Midwest location.  For patients struggling with the pain and limitations of crutches this was an eternity.  To continue to expand our business we needed to address this real logistical constraint.

As we searched for a fulfillment partner on the internet we were met with frustration.  The 3PL companies that ranked highest in Google were on page 1 for a reason:  They were big.  It was clear that they were not interested in small accounts by their responses.  Multi-year contracts, expensive set up fees, minimum shipment, minimum floor space and the need add expensive software to transmit orders all scared us away.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there were many companies that claimed to do 3PL in addition to their core business.  What it was in reality was an attempt for them to fill empty warehouse space and provide an additional revenue stream in a down economy.  Questioning them about their process proved we could not count on them to provide our level of service our customers.

After months of dead ends that educated us what we could not accept and what we could not afford, we stumbled across WarehousingAndFulfillment.com, an easy to use online service that looked at our specific needs and gave us a quick quote of 5 potential fulfillment partners that potentially met our needs.  Beyond a simple matching service between eCommerce companies and 3PL providers, they had pre-screen the warehouses.  All the discussions with the potential partners were efficient, informative and addressed our needs.  Finally, we had choices instead of frustration. Within days we had chosen our partner and our product was on a truck headed for them.

We’ve now used the WarehousingAndFulfillment.com services 3 times as we’ve added additional 3PL partners throughout the US.  Clearly they have been a key resource for us in harnessing the incredible potential of eCommerce.  Now no matter where in the US the customer finds us, we can deliver to them in just 1 to 2 business days with free ground shipping.

Tom Schwab is an entrepreneur who has transformed a regional player into a national leader using the tools of a connected world and the strategy of Inbound Marketing for eCommerce.