Choosing an e-commerce fulfillment partner is a big milestone in your company’s growth — and a crucial decision. After all, not only will this partner handle the basics of warehousing, packaging, and shipping your product, but you’re also trusting them with significant drivers of your customers’ satisfaction. You’re counting on them to provide speed, reliability, seamless management of your supply chain, and represent your brand as if it were their own. It’s a tall order, and not every fulfillment company is up to the job.
If you’ve been managing order fulfillment in-house but it’s becoming too time-consuming, resource-intense, and just plain complicated, here are six questions to ask when interviewing prospective e-commerce fulfillment partners.
Do they have the distribution network you require?
One of the easiest ways to keep shipping costs low and delivery times short is to choose a fulfillment partner that has facilities strategically located close to where your customers are. However, you need a balance because shipping from a single fulfillment center can cost you through unsatisfied customers, while shipping from too many sites can cost you by eating up your profitability and potentially leaving you with back orders. Strategically placed warehouses around the globe let you deliver locally or within region which translates to lower shipping costs and quicker delivery times. Where your products reside before going to the customer allows you to promote your product to neighboring countries and broaden the range of your brand.
Can they integrate with your e-commerce software?
Whether you’re using an e-commerce or enterprise resource planning platform like Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento or you have your own homegrown software solution, make sure that your prospective partner can seamlessly integrate their warehouse management software with your system. This is a key part of ensuring a smooth ordering process for your customers.
Do they offer online inventory tracking?
Another important feature, that not all fulfillment companies offer, is visibility into your inventory quantities so that you can track on-hand levels any time, from anywhere, and prevent stockouts. You should also have access to detailed data so you can analyze ordering trends and keep best sellers in stock, while also forecasting intelligently to get through those peak periods smoothly.
Are they looking to save you money?
Every fulfillment company you interview will tell you they want to help you eliminate waste and save money, but do your homework to be sure you choose a partner who can back up that promise. Get specific details of how they have saved other clients money. Find out how they expect to save your business money. Get some comparison pricing, and don’t forget to ask for references so you can hear directly from their current or past customers.
Do they offer more than just fulfillment?
You’re focused on securing a partner who can ensure seamless order fulfillment, inventory management, and speedy delivery. There are many fulfillment companies to choose from that offer exactly that. But depending on your business strategy, you might want to look for a fulfillment partner who can do more and offer you more such as kitting and custom order assembly, or supply chain consulting – especially if you have goals for going global. Maybe your products are perfect candidates for customized printed pieces that pack the potential to increase sales, or maybe you are interested in branded packaging that can promote your image. Make sure the services they offer match your business model and can help promote your brand.
Will they grow with you?
Your company is in growth mode and you’ve made the big decision to add e-commerce to your business— that’s why you need an e-commerce fulfillment partner to begin with — but make sure to envision your needs beyond the next year or two. Find a partner who has the ability to scale with you for the next decade and more. Even if you’re not shipping internationally now, consider whether it might one day be a possibility and choose accordingly. Look at any prospective partners’ clients to be sure they can successfully serve companies of the size and revenue that you one day hope to be. Ask the right questions now, and you’ll be more likely to find the partner who can help you get there.
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