The Questions You Should Ask When Choosing a Fulfilment Company

Choosing an order fulfilment partner can sometimes feel like something of a minefield. There are so many options to choose from, all with different services, specialities and abilities.

So, what exactly should you take into consideration when choosing a fulfilment company?

The key is to find the right company who can design the perfect solution for your operational needs – both now, and in the future.

Not sure where to start? We are here to help. In this blog, we share some of our top tips and expert advice on what questions you should be asking your future fulfilment centre, and why….

Do you require a specialist fulfilment service and provider?

This is a good starting point, as this could have a big impact on what type of fulfilment centres you need to choose from.

If you are selling food, perishable items, hazardous or fragile goods – or any type of product that needs specialist storage facilities – you need to ask any potential fulfilment partner or centre about this early on in discussions.

Whatever specialist requirements you have, such as MHRA approval for pharmaceuticals for example, be sure to ask the right questions so you know the centre can cater fully to your product’s needs and your brand’s values.

Even if you don’t consider your product as needing specialist storage requirements, you will still need to put some thought into whether the fulfilment centre and warehousing is geared up to your needs.

For example, if you are a fast fashion business, you want to make sure any hanging garments are not at risk of creasing or arriving with dust or dirt on them.

You might also require a quick turn around on high volume stock, with fast changes in demand. Or, perhaps you have branded subscription box packaging that needs assembling in a particular way? Packaging and kitting is very important for the D2C customer experience, so you need to be confident that your fulfilment partner will get it right.

Are you getting the right number of orders for this fulfilment company?

Whether you are a B2C, B2B, multichannel or FBA based business, you need to ensure your order fulfilment partner has a suitable setup to take care of your number of orders, including any industry regulations you need to adhere to.

When choosing your fulfilment company, you need to look into what volume of orders they specialise in servicing. For example, some might only deal with high-volume high street retailers, while others might be focussed on working with small start-ups.

If you sell in large volumes, you need to know that they can handle your quantity of orders – whether this is in the hundreds or thousands. Or, if you require full pallet in and full pallet out solutions, are they experienced in dealing with this?

Ask your potential fulfilment partner if they can cater to a business of your size – and, more importantly, how they will do it.

What are their shipping rates, courier relationships and available delivery services?

One of the key advantages of using a third party logistics provider is the potential for savings on shipping costs, along with the ability to offer fast and free delivery options.

This could be of huge importance to your business, as providing consumers with choices is often key to winning them over. For example, research has shown that one of the highest reasons for purchase abandonments during checkout is the extra cost of shipping and other delivery fees.

Choosing a fulfilment partner that makes free or low-cost delivery affordable to your business could be a huge advantage. Ask about timings; how quickly can the fulfilment centre despatch your orders and what are the cut-off times for next-day delivery orders?

Will your fulfilment partner send out order confirmation emails, texts and tracking updates for your customers? Think about this carefully before you choose your fulfilment company – it might seem small, but these things are vital to your success.

You should also inquire about the shipping rates your fulfilment partner can offer on your products before choosing them. Remember, the required service, size and weight of your products will have an effect on this too, so if you need heavy shipping, make sure they can cater for this without costs shooting up.

On the flip side, consider how they will deal with any goods you need to import. Can they fit into your global supply chain if you need help importing freight from overseas?

Financial benefits aside, think about your customer, too. If they expect an order to arrive the next day and it’s late, you might have lost their trust in future. When choosing your fulfilment company, have a conversation with them about this, and get a feel for the value and reliability of their courier services and relationships.

Can they integrate with your current e-commerce store?

When choosing a fulfilment company, you want to be confident that they will be able to seamlessly integrate with your business.

Make sure you ask about their e-commerce store integrations and how their inventory tracking software can work with your business. Nothing will be more frustrating to you than finding you don’t have the visibility or communication you need with your fulfilment partner. A good fulfilment company will offer a real-time view of your inventory, plus give you complete control and valuable insights into your best-selling products, low stock alerts and returns updates.

Do you sell across multiple channels – for example, eBay, Amazon, your own website and wholesale? If so, you will need to choose a fulfilment partner that has experience dealing across all of the various channels you make use of – check if they have a track record of managing EDI compliance, too.

Don’t compromise – does the fulfilment company offer everything you need?

You should only finalise your choice in a fulfilment partner if you feel confident that they offer everything you need – this isn’t the time to compromise on your business!

When choosing a fulfilment company, the relationship needs to be a good fit for both parties. Afterall, they only get an order when you get an order. If you both aren’t singing from the same hymn sheet, they might not be the best choice for both businesses.

Besides the main fundamentals – the warehouse and fulfilment and delivery services – have a wishlist of everything else you want to have covered.

This could include:

  • Customer support – how easily can you contact them when you have a problem? Will you have a dedicated named contact that will act as an extension of your team?
  • Returns and complaints – quick and easy returns and exchanges are a huge selling point for your brand – how will your fulfilment partner deal with these?
  • On-site and digital security – your stock and data is important, especially if you have high value products. How will they make sure it is secure? Do they offer 24/7 on-site security?
  • International delivery – if you have a European or global footprint, it’s important to choose a fulfilment company with the expertise and network to fulfil across multiple countries. If you have a big international market, look for a fulfilment partner that is geared up for a large number of overseas orders.

Don’t be afraid to ask as many questions you feel you need to when choosing your fulfilment partner – if they are a good match for you, they will have all the answers you need.

Really think about this – will they genuinely help you grow your business?

Don’t just choose a fulfilment company who will help you right now – choose a partner who will help you grow in the long term.

This is key to forming a successful relationship with your fulfilment centre. During those early discussions, bring up your plans for growth and ask how they will support you with this. Maybe one of your goals is global expansion, a huge increase in product range or you have a high target for year-on-year growth in 12 months time.

It may be that their fulfilment centre has everything you need for your current sales volume, but will they be able to adapt to any changing business needs as you scale up? If you decide to add or change your sales channel, from B2C from B2B for example, will they be able to handle this? Do they have examples of clients they have done this with?

This is a vital question to ask – and, if your potential fulfilment partner has some strong responses, it’s a good sign you have found a suitable match.

Do you trust them?

This point is perhaps the most important, but the hardest to quantify.

Trust is a huge factor when choosing a fulfilment partner. And, sometimes, it comes down to that gut instinct.

Do you feel like this company understands your needs? Have they answered your questions genuinely and honestly? Have they been transparent about their costs and services? Do they have case studies and reviews available for you to read?

If you sense any red flags, now is the time to raise them. If you have ironed out any concerns and feel confident that this fulfilment partner suits your needs and is a good fit for your business – you may well have found the fulfilment company you are ready to choose!

PS, want to know more about how to choose a fulfilment company for your business? Contact 3PL today for a chat about how using a third-party logistics provider could benefit you.

More from the 3PL blog

What is a Third Party Logistics Provider | Which eCommerce Order Fulfilment Strategy is Best For Your Business? | Amazon FBA: The Advantages & Disadvantages

Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan

Barry Ryan is Marketing Manager at 3PL. He researches and writes everything you need to know about eCommerce fulfilment and logistics.

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