Key questions to ask when looking for a fulfilment partner
Many companies offer to take care of your ecommerce logistics needs for you. However, comparing them can be more difficult than comparing other services, as many potential customers – ecommerce veterans included – don’t know what to look for when considering their options.
That’s why we’ve put together a list of questions to ask when looking for a fulfilment partner for your online store. Not only will the answers help you pick the one that best suits your needs, but also they will allow you to understand better how the chosen company can help your business grow.
How flexible are your pricing plans?
One of the most essential facts you need to know is how you will be charged for the support provided by your fulfilment partner. Typically, what you pay is determined by the number of packages shipped (so-called per-piece charging). But if you ship above specific volumes, you will likely receive a discounted rate that will lower your per-piece charge.
What level of customer support do you provide?
Customer support is the key to successful cooperation. Always ask about available ways of contacting the prospective partner for assistance, as well as available resources that will help you when you have a problem. The best ecommerce order fulfillment companies will offer you a dedicated support team to handle all issues. This is the case with our partner, Omnipack.
How do you protect your facilities?
Your inventory is valuable, and you have every right to know the security measures implemented at sites where your goods are stored.
It’s a standard practice to have warehousing locations monitored by CCTV and to keep precious items in a restricted area with limited access for additional safekeeping. On top of that, all fulfilment providers are fully insured in the event of theft or damage to the warehouse.
Do you offer international shipping?
This is not a silly question. Some logistics providers can specialize in shipping to specific markets, whether the carriers they work with or the paperwork they know to take care of for certain kinds of goods. However, the best ecommerce order fulfilment companies should cooperate with all major carriers and multiple regional delivery services to secure the best possible rates.
If your ecommerce intends to ship across borders, be sure to ask about specific advantages or disadvantages that a particular fulfilment operation has in the markets that are important to you.
Our partner, Omnipack, ships anywhere in the world, but they specialize in deliveries within the EU and to the Polish and German markets.
Do you handle returns for your clients?
Returns are a fact of life in ecommerce. No matter how many returns you get, they can be a logistical challenge and cause interruption of your workflow. That’s why letting your fulfilment partner handle them is so convenient. Ask if the types of products you sell can be processed when they are returned and how much they cost.
The leading ecommerce order fulfilment companies handle returns for their clients, including repackaging items for resale when possible. They also send its clients alerts about all returns received.
What’s the order deadline for same-day shipping, and in what areas do you offer it?
Next-day delivery is something that many customers require, so you better offer it. That means handing the parcel over to a courier service before a certain deadline. The later it is for you, the better. Be sure to ask when this deadline is, so you can inform your customers about it if they are interested in choosing next-day delivery. Also, make sure to ask when and where exactly you can offer next-day delivery.
How flexible are you with custom packaging?
When it comes to packaging, one size does not fit all. The shape or nature of your product may need special attention, so you must ensure your fulfillment partner can provide the packaging needed to protect your product during shipment and deliver the kind of customer experience you want.
Most fulfillment providers will offer everything required for the packing and shipping (including eco-friendly variations of packing and filling materials). Still, if you want them to use, e.g., branded materials, be sure to ask if you can provide those materials and how it affects the pricing of your service.
Image 1. Omnipack warehouse
Do you work 24/7?
For particularly time-sensitive shipments, this may be a key factor. Some providers operate 24 hours a day, and some do not, although they work extended hours around the Black Friday or Christmas holiday season to ensure the timely shipment of all orders.
Can I come to see your warehouse?
You may want to see the conditions in which your goods are stored and processed. There are always safety considerations that may complicate such a visit, but leading ecommerce order fulfillment companies will allow you to visit after making the necessary arrangements. Some providers also offer a video tour of warehouses as part of the onboarding process; some can arrange such a tour upon request.
Image 2. Omnipack warehouse
When considering your fulfillment provider options, make sure you ask the above questions. Making the right choice will ease your mind and allow you to focus on the most important task: selling. Do you still have questions about this? Learn more here.