Running a small business can feel like running a large business when you run the order fulfillment yourself. From receiving in product to storing and shipping products to customers, order fulfillment takes up a lot of time and energy. That’s why it makes sense to consider farming out your order fulfillment to a company that can do it for you. When you choose an appropriate fulfillment company that specializes in helping smaller companies, then a lot of the pain of storage and shipping can be alleviated so that you can focus on growing your business.
Startups & Small Business Order Fulfillment
Contrary to popular belief, there are not many fulfillment companies that focus almost exclusively on “small business fulfillment”, meaning the processing of orders for smaller companies. Typically, fulfillment providers like to concentrate on larger customers that will provide them with a higher order volume, and therefore allow them to make more money. So the first thing that small businesses must do is seek out a fulfillment firm that specializes in smaller to mid sized companies. Not only will these companies provide better pricing, but they’ll also provide better, more tailored service, since the larger companies usually lock you into their box and fail to provide the level of customization of a small business fulfillment firm.
Storage and Shipping
Probably the hardest part of doing order fulfillment yourself is storing and shipping orders. Unless you want to store your inventory in your home or office, chances are you’re going to need to hire the services of a warehouse. The key to business success, though, is choosing a warehouse that will not only store your product, but will also ship it out for you as orders come in. This type of service is more common than you think.
Here are some things to look for in a fulfillment warehouse operation:
- Focus on smaller businesses – such as no “minimums”
- A history of filling orders, large or small, correctly
- Up-to-date-software (we’ll talk more about that in a bit)
- A location that is convenient enough you can visit to tour the facility and check on product storage
- Short turn-around time between receiving orders and shipping them
Warehousing & Fulfillment Technology
When you think of a warehouse you may think of a large metal building with conveyor belts and people scurrying at rapid pace. They are much more than that. Today’s warehouse fulfillment centers are state of the art and run using top-of-the-line software. This software can be integrated with your website so that orders go from your site to the warehouse. This means your product can be shipped more quickly. You will also be able to use the warehouse’s software to:
- View invoices
- Check returns
- Run detailed reports
- Manage shopping cart integrations
- Obtain inventory alerts
- Forecast inventory
- Create new orders
- View existing orders
- Search and edit orders
- View inventory
All of this means that you will always be on top of every selling and return trend, when you will need to replenish inventory and details on every order so that you can provide the best customer service possible.
The best warehousing options should be able to offer you these capabilities through their system. In some cases, fulfillment companies design their own software for use in their warehouses. In other cases, they purchase sophisticated “pre-built” systems. Regardless, a company that has a solid technology infrastructure in place means they will be better equipped to answer your questions and integrate their system with your business.
Warehouse fulfillment is a must for any company that will be shipping out more than a few orders per day. If you choose your fulfillment company wisely, your business will benefit through better customer service, speedier deliveries and better product storage.