Once you have your full supply chain up and running, the fulfilment process itself can be pretty straightforward.
However, as we said in our recent blog post on how to choose the right fulfilment partner, you need to take a lot into consideration to ensure you don’t hit any costly snags along the way.
One of these things is considering whether your product – or business – requires a specialist fulfilment centre.
There are many types of specialist fulfilment centres out there. And, this doesn’t just refer to the types of products they can store. Specialist fulfilment can also refer to things like:
- The channel you sell your product through – for example, Amazon FBA or through major retail outlets
- The volume of products you sell – some centres might specialise in small start-ups, others in large scale sales volumes
- The logistics your product requires – it could be that you depend on international deliveries or heavy freight shipping, for example.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. That’s why it’s important that both you and your fulfilment centre both have a thorough understanding of what your products are and the requirements of your business as a whole.
If you think about it this way, every business and product requires a specialist fulfilment centre. By this we mean, it is essential that you find a fulfilment partner that has the expertise and knowledge in what you do to help push you to the next level.
What type of specialist fulfilment options are there?
So, you might now be wondering what sort of specialist fulfilment centres are out there. This list could go on indefinitely, as we know that almost every business has their own needs that often require a specialist solution.
But, as a starting point, we’ve put together a list of examples of specialist fulfilment centres to help you understand why you might need one…
Selling on Amazon – FBA and Seller Fulfilled Prime
Have you made the decision to sell your products via Amazon FBA?
If so, you will need specialist fulfilment. For many businesses, selling on Amazon is just one channel out of many – for others, it might be their sole source of business.
Either way, you need to make sure you adhere to very specific Amazon guidelines when shipping your products to their warehouse. If you are working with a fulfilment centre and want to make Amazon FBA a part of your output, you need to make sure they can specialise in the process – which means the correct labelling and paperwork. Rejected stock can become a messy and time-consuming process.
If you aren’t sure what Amazon FBA is, be sure to read our blog post – Amazon FBA: What are the Advantages and Disadvantages.
It’s not only Amazon FBA that has strict guidelines, either. Another option is to join the Seller Fulfilled Prime programme. This allows you to display the Amazon Prime Badge if you can offer a free two-day delivery service from your own warehouse.
This is a great way to make your business more competitive, though you need to make sure your warehouse can process orders quick enough or you can lose your status. In terms of specialist fulfilment, you need to be confident that your partner is able to keep up with orders, uses the correct labels and understands the full Seller Fulfilled Prime process.
Subscription Box Fulfilment
The popularity of subscription boxes has been soaring over the past few years, having reportedly grown by 890% between April 2014 and April 2018 in the US. Subscription boxes cover all manner of consumer goods too, with beauty and food leading the way, while clothing, lifestyle, pets and children’s boxes have also found a niche too.
One of the keys to the success of subscription boxes is the ability for them to be personalised to a diverse number of subscribers – meaning they can tailor the items they want to appear inside them.
Not only this, but the customer experience also plays a huge part in customer loyalty.
So, what does this mean in terms of specialist fulfilment?
Firstly, not all fulfilment centres are geared up for the needs of subscription boxes. They need to accurately pick and pack items so customers aren’t let down by receiving the wrong product.
They also need to prioritise the kitting of the box – ensuring it is presented to your brand’s liking, delivering that all important ‘unboxing’ experience. You might also have a diverse breadth of products that all need suitable storage – maybe one month you have beauty items, while the next month features some dry food, candles or books, for example.
So, you will need a specialist centre who can cater to these needs.
It could be that your business is a part of a supply chain that sends your product to retail partners.
For this, you will need specialist fulfilment to ensure you are following all-important EDI compliance.
Again, this could be just one channel of your sales funnel. Or, maybe you are a wholesaler selling to multiple retailers at once? Whatever the case, it can be easy for all the necessary labels, invoices and booking times to become lost in logistics.
If you are planning on finding a retail fulfilment partner, you will need to find one who specialises in EDI compliance, as well as catering to any other needs your particular product has, whether it is food, clothing, makeup or pharmaceuticals.
White Glove Fulfilment
This is a classic case of a product that needs specialist fulfilment.
White glove fulfilment refers to any high-value or luxury item that could be fragile or in need of special care when handling. Some common examples are fine jewellery, cosmetics or delicate fabrics.
If you are shipping white glove items through a fulfilment centre, it is vital that they have the specialist facilities or processes your items need. This might be an isolated clean room, specialist packing techniques or even 24-hour CCTV to ensure your high value items are kept safe.
As it is likely you are also selling in the luxury market, you will probably want packaging to match your customers’ expectations, too.
Dangerous Goods Specialist Fulfilment
You may not think your goods are classed as ‘dangerous’, but you would be surprised. Items such as batteries, aerosols, household cleaners or even electronics – anything that contains a flammable, pressurised, corrosive or other type of toxic substance might be classed as dangerous goods.
Dangerous goods require specialist fulfilment as they require additional health and safety protocols around their handling, delivery, transportation, labelling and storage. If you, or your fulfilment centre, do not follow these regulations properly, you could be putting your whole business at risk, as well as the safety of employees and customers.
Ambient Food Fulfilment
Storing food comes with it’s own full set of special requirements that you really can’t overlook – particularly when they need storing at an ambient temperature or are easily perishable.
In this case, it is essential that you find a fulfilment centre that has the specialist facilities to provide temperature controlled storage and transportation, along with the knowledge of stock rotation to ensure your products don’t go to waste. Food hygiene certification is also required, while accurate stock management software will allow you to get a good view of your inventory, before it expires.
Fulfilment is Not One Size Fits All…
As we have already mentioned, we think every business should be looking to find their own specialised fulfilment partner, whatever that means to them. Whether it’s something as obvious as the need for refrigeration, or a solution to the unique way your brand operates.
Ps, if you want to know more about how fulfilment centres work, contact 3PL for a chat about how we can help your business grow.
More from the 3PL blog…