Thinking of outsourcing your pick and pack but not sure where to start. Here are some handy tips to help find the right fulfilment house for you.
Deciding to outsource and finding the right fulfilment house for your needs can seem like a daunting task- after all, it is scary to put your trust and confidence into another company to control a key component of your business. You need a partner who will understand your concerns and take great care to put your mind at ease and, as experts in their field, will deliver the highest quality service your customers expect.
Karen Weston, New Business Manager, from Newbury-based fulfilment house Intermail says:
“The key to outsourcing your fulfilment is to find a partner who truly understands your business, working closely with you to become your virtual warehouse team.”
Do I need to use a fulfilment house?
With year on year sales for the first half of 2016 up by £7.4 billion (+18.4% as reported by IMRG), online shopping continues to thrive and for many SMEs, the number of orders received can sometimes outstrip the capability to fulfil them. Many businesses find their resources are pushed to the limits which can feel overwhelming and stressful when trying to tackle increasing order volumes. Outsourcing your fulfilment offers a helping hand, as well as being a great way to reduce costs and improve efficiency and productivity, leaving you to focus on driving sales and cultivating business growth.
There are many fulfilment companies in the UK who provide a variety of services:
- Stock storage
- Pick and pack
- Variety of shipping services
- Specialty packaging
- Direct mail
- Data management
- Point of sale distribution
How to choose a fulfilment house
It might be tempting to make a decision based on price, but there are many other aspects to choosing a fulfilment company who will actually add value to your fulfilment offering. Here are our top tips for things to look out for to help you choose the right fulfilment house for your business.
One of the most important things you will need to think about when looking for a fulfilment partner is how they will support you and your business. A good fulfilment house will be interested in you and your products, and will pro-actively look to help in any way they can. Look out for a company that cares as much as you do and quality checks your products to ensure your customers are always happy with their purchase.
Many fulfilment houses will also assign you with a dedicated account manager, which will be hugely beneficial for building a strong working relationship, enabling you to work productively and positively together towards a shared goal. They will also be able to help you with their shipping expertise and ability to despatch complex trade orders as well as e-commerce domestically and globally.
It can be easy to get swept up and overwhelmed by the company website and proposition, but the one thing that you cannot forget about is security. The best fulfilment houses will invest in high quality security to detect and prevent theft from external burglars as well as internal staff. They will have CCTV or alarms installed and perform regular inventory audits to check no stock gets misplaced. Ask the fulfilment house if they have these measures in place before you commit to make sure your products are in safe hands.
3. Understanding the product
A great way to decide if a fulfilment house is for you, is to look at who they count as their existing customers. Do they sell similar products? If so, the company will have good knowledge and experience with regards to the space and shipping required for your product. Your goods may need specialist protective packaging or attractive wrapping which fulfilment experts can recommend and supply to you, often using their buying power to give you cheaper prices.
Staff can also use their handy skills to construct kits for you before the goods are sent to a customer. If your product is unique, a good fulfilment company will spend time understanding your product and your business. If they hold a wide mix of different products in their warehouse, this will show you that they recognise that one size doesn’t fit all; a willingness to adapt will give you flexibility and assurance that your products will arrive with your customer just as you intend them to.
One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing your fulfilment is taking advantage of their large investments in sophisticated technology. Fulfilment houses will have different levels of technology installed, from order processing via multiple sales channels to warehouse management systems with barcode scanners and order tracking. With access to such complex technology, this will give you increased visibility and accuracy of picking, reducing manual mistakes and saving you money. It would be very expensive and time consuming for smaller companies to introduce this level of technology on their own so take advantage of the tools they have at their disposal.
A visit to the warehouse is a must, see how they handle the operations to help you envisage how your orders will be cared for. You should feel comfortable with the level of order updates you will receive and the processes they will take to resolve any issues or problems if they should arise.
Visibility gives you assurances of which products have been picked, packed and shipped and at exactly what time. Combined with regular open communication with your account manager, the fulfilment trail provides accountability and helps you maintain a level of control.