Customer expectations are at their highest during peak season. They expect products to be in stock, ship fast, and arrive on time—and to be able to return items easily as well. Everyone’s happiness depends on making sure order fulfillment and delivery times are met—and that those special unboxing moments when memories are made happens.
After all, you may be an eCommerce business, but you’re also a happiness ambassador for your customers. The special things that make your business and your products stand out—including the value-added personalization and packaging—are all part of the equation. Customers choose your brand and products for the customer experience they believe you will provide—and nowhere is their loyalty to your brand more on the line than when they engage with you during peak seasons, special sales, and holidays.
If you’re a retail business, online store, or startup that’s been doing your own order fulfillment services and you’re growing fast, now may be the time to consider partnering with a fulfillment company to effectively manage peak 2022. If you’re already working with a fulfillment partner—but wondering if you’re getting the level of service, pricing, and true-partner support you could be getting—now may be the time to consider switching fulfillment solutions.
Either way, you want to be well positioned to meet customer expectations for online shopping this peak season and every day of the year.
What is eCommerce Fulfillment?
Once a customer checks out via their online shopping cart, the next step is eCommerce fulfillment. This is the process of selecting, packing, and delivering products. It includes inventory management, finding products in the fulfillment center (which may be your own warehouse), packaging products, preparing shipping labels, and managing delivery logistics. It also involves handling returns and restocks.
Retailers may manage their own fulfillment processes by maintaining their own warehousing and employees to handle the entire eCommerce fulfillment process. Or, they can outsource this to third-party logistics companies that will manage every part of the process for them. This often includes customer service, and as in the case of Radial, proprietary transportation services.
Ecommerce companies and online retailers that choose to outsource do so because fulfillment partners can offer greater efficiency, expertise, scalability, lower cost, and higher levels of service than handling it inhouse—particularly larger global providers that have a network of fulfillment centers around the world, cloud-based technology integrations, automation, and proven partnerships with shipping carriers.
What Are the Benefits of Outsourcing eCommerce Fulfillment?
There are multiple benefits when you outsource your fulfillment with a partner dedicated to meeting your business needs, including:
- Ability to scale. Few inhouse fulfillment centers can manage the predictable and unexpected spikes in demand that come with peak seasons and sudden surges. An eCommerce fulfillment provider has the infrastructure, staffing, and capacity to scale to meet your needs at any point. You’ll have peace of mind that you will be able to keep your shipping and delivery promises to your customers. Some providers, like Radial, offer unique services that help you extend the cut-off deadlines during peak season so shoppers can buy closer to the holiday and still have guaranteed delivery.
- Specialized expertise. By using third-party fulfillment, you no longer need inhouse expertise on supply chains, shipping rates, custom packaging, inventory levels, order processing, order management, the shipping process, returns processing, warehouse management, and fulfillment operations. Your eCommerce fulfillment services partner handles all of it. You get to focus on the parts of your business you do best while being confident that inventory, orders, and delivery are delighting customers.
- Simplified operations. The order fulfillment process is a complex operation for any business. Ecommerce companies are often standalone or part of brick-and-mortar strategies. The more you can simplify your business operations, the easier it is to drive efficiency, lower costs, and improve profit margins.
- Increased opportunities. Since you no longer need to engage in long-term contracts (or own your own warehouses), employ fulfillment staff, or manage the infrastructure costs and storage fees involved, you can take advantage of lower overhead costs to boost your business. The savings achieved can be funneled back into other areas of the company that focus on growth, innovation, automation, expanding into new marketplaces, and improving the customer experience.
What to Look for in a Fulfillment Partner to Win Peak 2022
There are multiple eCommerce fulfillment service providers to choose from. Ultimately, you want a partner that understands your industry, has similar customers as your business, and one that offers the best fit for your fulfillment needs. Before we drill down into some peak-specific capabilities. we believe the best providers will meet the following criteria:
- Has capacity to scale with proven metrics. You want to make sure they can do what they claim. Ask to speak to other customers and inquire about their experience during peak seasons.
- Is located close to your customers. Be sure the provider has eCommerce fulfillment centers in geographic locations that reduce time to deliver to your customers.
- Uses modern, cloud-based technology to provide easy integrations into your existing eCommerce platforms (like Salesforce, Shopify, and Adobe Commerce) and provides transparent, real-time visibility into your inventory and eCommerce orders.
- Offers business intelligence and analytics to help you improve your business and customer satisfaction rates.
- Has the infrastructure, processes, staffing, technology, and capacity to handle customer orders, inventory storage, ship orders, and manage the entire process in a way that lowers your fulfillment costs while keeping your promises to customers.
- Makes onboarding easy. Whether you’re just starting with a fulfillment partner or switching from one provider to another, the onboarding process should be easy. Radial gets emerging brands up and shipping within four weeks with a simple integrate - transfer - fulfill process.
That said, peak season is the time when details matter. Choose an eCommerce fulfillment partner that offers:
- Hassle-free returns. From restocking to damaging-out, your partner should handle the entire returns process, including providing customers pre-paid shipping labels and return instructions.
- Value-added services. This may include customized packaging and gift wrapping, digitized handwriting for notes, personalization, embroidery, marketing inserts, custom blending, and kitting—the touches that connect your customer to the heart of your brand.
- Shipping options. Whether it’s FedEx, UPS, DHL, country-specific carriers, or their own proprietary transportation service, your partner should offer multiple shipping options and use automation and machine learning to identify the fastest method to get products to the customer. This should include two-day shipping, same-day shipping, international shipping, and dropshipping—all for the best possible pre-negotiated shipping costs.
- Marketplaces. They should enable you to expand your total market and revenue by placing your brands and products in the top marketplaces (like Amazon Marketplace and ebay) without setting up new, dedicated channels.
- Seller-fulfilled Prime. Radial, for example, leverages Amazon Prime in its distribution center network so Marketplace fulfillment retailers can realize the benefits of Prime shipping status without using Fulfillment by Amazon (fba) services.
- Customer support services. Peak season strains customer support centers. The best fulfillment outsourcers offer customer support (contact center) services to help manage high order volumes and scale throughout the year.
These added capacities will help set you apart during peak season and position you for success in every transaction.
Want to know more? We can help! Learn more about Radial eCommerce fulfillment services.