For any business seeking to maximize efficiency and grow at a scalable pace, product fulfillment is one of the most important things to get right. The right product fulfillment process is integral to streamlining the workflow of an organization, and it can make or break the efficiency of that company’s team and the success of its product. That’s why product fulfillment solutions are so important for a company to leverage for their own success and the good of their customers.
What Is a Product Fulfillment Solution?
Product fulfillment solutions are those companies or services provided by companies that will help a business efficiently move from the point of sale to the delivery of the product to the customer. While many businesses have experts in their products themselves and great salespeople on their team, getting products of any kind into the hands of the consumers is another story, and doing so in house can be next to impossible for many companies. Efficient product fulfillment (also referred to as order fulfillment) makes for happy customers, and happy customers are the most likely to be returning customers.
Furthermore, with eCommerce being such a big part of almost any product sales these days, some businesses might find themselves growing faster than they are able to handle in house. For example, their sales could double in a matter of only a few months, and before they know it they might be running behind on hundreds of large orders. This creates a strain not only on their warehouse or similar staff teams but also on their customer support team, as the calls will start to roll in about missed deadlines and other shipping issues. That’s exactly where fulfillment services can step in and help.
How Does a Product Fulfillment Solution Work?
Depending upon the product fulfillment solution you are working with, you might find different kinds of services included, but typically you can get help to handle your customer orders, inventory tracking, order management, warehousing, packaging, third-party logistics, shipping orders, and delivery using fulfillment centers devoted to these tasks. This allows you to keep inventory in larger numbers as well as handle more orders at once without getting behind on order fulfillment.
In other words, the focus of a fulfillment solution is to enrich and enhance your customer experience. A great product fulfillment solution goes beyond just basic shipping services. They can be an extension of your small business and can help manage the entire process to help you grow and scale with less headaches.
For example, the Amazon fulfillment service (called Fulfillment by Amazon or FBA) allows businesses to take advantage of their over 175 fulfillment centers all across the globe as well as their online marketplace that has been so popular due to the shipping and other perks of Amazon Prime. The Amazon fulfillment solution is only one example of a company that offers these types of services to growing businesses, though.
Things To Consider When Using a Product Fulfillment Solution
When considering whether a product fulfillment solution or service is right for your business, there are several things to keep in mind.
How Good Is Their Online Platform?
For an eCommerce fulfillment solution, the quality of the online platform really matters. There is increasing research into the experience that users have of websites and apps, and the competition has grown immensely for having the most efficient, intuitive, user-friendly, and aesthetically superior platform possible.
This can include the experience with the online store on the front client facing side, as well as how it’s integrated through the entire process with the fulfillment software, inventory management and more.
If it’s an ecommerce business, similarly, you have to factor the customer experience along with your experience. For example, when the ecommerce order comes in from your client, how efficient does your automation and integration process flow?
The order will flow through you to some type of ecommerce platform, a shopping cart, to integrating with a supply chain, real-time inventory, warehouse management, and more, through the entire process. It’s like a chain of events all connected together to provide an amazing customer experience – most of which is happening behind the scenes in semi-real time.
All of these qualities are important for avoiding issues that may arise for customers before their order is even placed. And, the best fulfillment centers can provide you amazing resources and tools to make this happen for you, even if you’re outsourcing all or most of it.
Do They Communicate Well?
Another important consideration is communication. This means anything from how well the company communicates with you during the process of setting up your account with them to how quickly and successfully their support team handles any issues that arise. When it comes to product fulfillment solutions, excellent communication is key.
Are Their Fees Appropriate and Clear?
The cost of a good order fulfillment service may not be cheap, but you still want to be sure that you aren’t overpaying. You also want to be able to easily understand what their fee structure is so you know where your business’s money is actually going. Unclear or disorganized billing departments are something to steer clear of when choosing a product fulfillment company to build a partnership with.
In addition, your fulfillment solution or service provider should be able to provide you easy to understand billing and invoicing. It should be clear, easy to understand, and avoid ‘gotcha’s’ or unexpected invoices.
How Good Is Their Track Record?
Nothing speaks louder than a great track record and a solid reputation. Reviews online can point to whether a product fulfillment business is really a good one. And it can help to know whether other reputable and established companies trust them to deliver their products around the world. After all, those companies are well known for good reason, which includes the fact that they have a great shipping network that allows them to fulfill their promises and make their customers happy.
Do You Need To Upgrade Your Product Fulfillment Solution?
If you’re wondering whether you need a product fulfillment upgrade, there are several specific things to consider.
First, determine how well your current solution is working. Are your products being handled well and delivered faithfully to consumers, or are you finding that an unusual number of incidents are coming up, whether bad communication or late deliveries?
Again, it comes back to focusing on the entire process of your customer experience. Break it down piece by piece to navigate each of the stages in your fulfillment process.
For example, your order fulfillment process starts with the customer order through some type of offline or online store. That triggers the chain of events that follows like: order management, connecting to your shopping cart, fulfillment software and an order management system. That fulfillment software is connected with your fulfillment partner so that you and your partner have real-time inventory, inventory tracking, and more that triggers another series of events that happens next in your process.
Your process may require warehouse management and storage of your inventory, and then a person at that warehouse would go, pick and pack your order, from a designated pallet with your exact product(s).
All of this is seamlessly happening behind the scenes for the customer.
The reality, is you want to go deep in the thinking behind your fulfillment solution. In some ways, you want to think like a logistics company and focus on the flow and operations of what happens, and what’s next to create the best experience possible.
In addition, you want to prepare for growth and scaling too right?
You want to think through whether you need more inventory storage than your current solution is able to handle. If your business is growing and you’re partnering with a smaller product fulfillment service, chances are that eventually you’re going to outgrow them.
On the other hand, if you’re holding steady on how much product you’re moving, then it may not be time to upgrade.
Finally, consider whether your current solution offers the kind of shipping speed and quality that you want for your products. Do they offer options for expedited, two-day, or even one-day shipping? Is that kind of shipping important for your business? A bigger company with more fulfillment centers is going to have a lot more potential to meet those high standards, but it may come at a higher cost.
How To Manage Your Growth and Scaling Needs With Your Product Fulfillment Solution
To best manage your growth with successful scaling, your product fulfillment solution needs to be able to utilize automation (to keep costs down), operate efficiently, and take enough work off of your and your business’s plate to maximize your team’s energy in house and make the most of the money you are spending on the solution.
Proper scaling essentially means finding ways to keep costs in check while you grow so as to avoid simply having a larger but equally profitable business, and a good product fulfillment solution can help your business with that kind of scaling by bringing their own expertise to the table to help with product-related things like inventory, storage, and shipping as well as order-related things such as customer service.
Types of Product Fulfillment Solutions
Integrated Fulfillment Solution
An integrated fulfillment solution is one that integrates with your online shopping system so that your customers can continue to shop for your products through your website. Once the order is placed, that information is sent to the order fulfillment company so they can fill the order, and then information is sent back to you regarding the order fulfillment process. This kind of solution is necessary for maintaining your own online marketplace while also utilizing the efficiency of order fulfillment.
Book Launch Fulfillment Solution
A book launch fulfillment solution helps specifically with the launching of a book. Not only will they make sure that your book is delivered successfully to customers, but they also often offer printing services as well, which can help keep total production costs for the book lower.
Worldwide Shipping for Your Product Fulfillment Solution
Worldwide shipping can be especially tricky for domestic businesses that are not used to shipping overseas or long distances. The costs and processes associated with doing so can take up the valuable time and energy of employees. Product fulfillment solutions with a global reach can help immensely with this kind of shipping. They specialize in the processes involved in getting a product halfway around the world and can keep costs down at the same time through automation and efficiency.
Inventory Management for Your Product Fulfillment Solution
Inventory management is one of the most important aspects of a good product fulfillment partner, and it’s important not to overlook it. Keeping good records of your product can be a tedious and time-consuming task, and spending your team’s in-house energy on doing so will detract from the quantity and quality of the primary work that they do. Finding a product fulfillment partner who handles inventory well is vital, especially for those businesses that sell a variety of products and rely on inventory data to determine how they handle production.
Batch Distribution for Your Product Fulfillment Solution
This kind of fulfillment solution is also called batch picking or fulfillment batching, and it’s one of the best ways to cut down on shipping costs. It essentially means organizing order deliveries in such a way that batches of orders going to the same area are delivered together, thus reducing the total number of trips required to handle the orders that any given warehouse or fulfillment center needs to fulfill.
11 Key Questions To Identify the Right Product Fulfillment Solution Partner
If you’re still wondering exactly how to spot a quality product fulfillment solution partner, start by asking these 11 key questions about any partner you are currently considering. They will help shed light on whether the service will be a good fit for your business.
- Can they handle a doubling or tripling of orders quickly?
- Do they offer a great variety of packaging options for the optimum presentation and delivery of my product?
- Can they provide printing and manufacturing of collateral materials to be included in my packages?
- How long have they been in the business of product fulfillment, and what kind of track record do they have?
- Is their staff professional, available, and well-balanced so my sales, customer service, fulfillment, and IT questions and concerns can be answered efficiently?
- Can I easily reach a talented team that manages seamless integration with over 25 eCommerce shopping carts and has the capacity to create custom APIs and programming as the need arises?
- Can I access my own private customer fulfillment portal to check on my shipments, inventory, and expenses at all times as well as generate reports, back up information in the cloud, and make changes at a moment’s notice?
- Do they ship all seven days of the week with only a few closures on major holidays? Do they offer several shipping options with all of the major carriers both domestically and internationally so every customer has all the options they could possibly want for shipping?
- Is their fee structure both intuitive and ideal for my business? Are they nickel-and-diming me with small fees and hidden charges that are unnecessary or unspoken, or is their billing simple and transparent? Do I have to sign any contracts?
- Can I send them all of my existing inventory, even 10 trucks worth with 30 skids each, without any fears about space or excessive storage fees as a result?
- Do they have an excellent reputation and great credibility from big names and well-respected clients around the country and around the world? Do they have a great track record and happy customers?
7 Key Things You Need From Your Product Fulfillment Solution To Help You Grow and Scale
In addition to the many important functions that a product fulfillment solution has, here are seven important things you need from your service to maximize your business’ growth and scalability.
- They should build a personal relationship with you and your business. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all model, and automation shouldn’t be the solution to every problem. People are the focus; expect that your order fulfillment solution provides a dedicated representative to you who will build a relationship with you and your company over time.
- They should learn what the particular needs, wants, and problems are of your business and identify where you currently are and where you want to go. In this way, they should successfully provide scaling for your growth so that your expenses can be kept in check and your growth doesn’t simply cause you to break even. The worst thing that can happen is your business outgrowing a provider in just a few months.
- They should provide a strong tech support team and a platform that will integrate easily with your online order and cart system in real-time.
- They should provide you access to a real-time reporting system that keeps you up to date, even to the minute, at all times. It shouldn’t be difficult for you to check on how things are going with your product fulfillment.
- They should provide an excellent IT team so that your tech needs are handled easily and quickly. This is important for eliminating downtime so you can be focused on the things that matter to your business.
- They should have a billing process and portal that is easy and transparent, with no hidden fees or charges after the fact.
- They should be open and contactable 24 hours per day and seven days per week. They should also maintain robust backups of all data in case of unexpected power and internet outages.
The Product Fulfillment Solution
Having the right order fulfillment service in place can make the world of a difference to your business. It can be a great way to scale your growth, move your product better, and better meet the needs of your customers. Contact Disk.com to find out how they can help your business succeed with their excellent product fulfillment solutions.