Building an e-commerce business greatly depends on how successfully you can handle shipping, customer service and delivery of products to customers. Having a reliable logistics system is essential in the e-commerce arena. Building a good customer service reputation and building trust and loyalty with customers is essential in e-commerce.
Choose a fulfillment center as carefully as you would choose a business partner, because it sort of does become an unofficial partnership. The more organized and efficient the fulfillment center, the more successful your e-commerce venture. Some due diligence is required on your part to get the fulfillment center that will best fit your and your customer’s needs. Here are some questions to help you find the best fulfillment center for your e-commerce business:
Does the fulfillment house have a minimum volume requirement?
This should be the first question you ask, since if you do not meet the fulfillment house’s requirements you will not be able to do business with them. Fortunately today there are some fulfillment houses that cater catering to smaller e-commerce businesses.
What are the set up costs? Is a long-term contract necessary?
Get any and all setup costs in writing. Many fulfillment centers are available that don’t require a long term contract. Shop around because many fulfillment centers will waive set up costs and long-term contracts in order to attract business.
Do they provide a free trial run of their fulfillment services?
Some fulfillment service providers are willing to let you try out their services for a limited time on part of your inventory. This can be an excellent way to see if your partnership will be compatible.
How much warehouse space is available?
The fulfillment center needs to have enough space to meet your current needs as well as additional if your business should grow.
How long have you been in the business?
Experience matters! It’s important they have experience is fulfilling orders for products similar to the ones you offer your customers.
Do you have references from businesses like mine?
Speak with other e-commerce business owners who have partnered with the fulfillment house you are considering. This is an important step to find out if they hold up their end of the business and also to discover if their services are compatible with your business needs and will be able to perform the services you require.
What is your policy on fixing errors when they occur?
In a perfect world, your fulfillment center would deliver all your customer orders accurately and on time. But things happen. Make sure that the fulfillment center you choose has something in place (preferably in writing) to handle and correct errors when they happen. The plan should assure that all parties involved are satisfied with the resolution.
Can I add my brand to my customer shipments?
When an e-commerce business uses drop shipping, their deliveries are often be branded by the third party. This can mean a lost opportunity to build brand identity for your organization. Request that all your shipments display your company brand!
Outsourcing your shipping needs doesn’t mean you don’t want to have control over your inventory. The ideal fulfillment house will monitor inventory and will work with you to give you access their information, inventory available and what has been shipped.
Final note: Asking these questions of any prospective fulfillment center will not only give you an idea of how they run their facility and can help your run your e-commerce business, but also their level of customer service in how they handle your questions.