Fulfillment centers are warehouses that help companies store, package, and ship their products out to their end customers. They essentially shoulder the burden of mass shipping for businesses that receive an influx of demand and need to deliver in a timely manner.
However, finding the right fulfillment center can make or break your business. Here are some considerations when exploring your options, as well as a few fulfillment centers that are worth checking out.
Look for a fulfillment center that cares about upholding your brand alongside you. You will likely want them to have a reliable call center for your customers to place or check on orders and one that will respond appropriately to returns or cancellations. On your end, you will want a center that provides you with a single point of contact -- someone who will give you personalized service and guide you through what is needed (product labeling, documents, etc.) for your shipment’s arrival at their warehouse. This contact should also know what is going on at all times with your shipments and push to deliver 110%. Find fulfillment centers that are recommended by existing clients so you can ensure that they are dependable.
Consider whether or not your business will require customized packaging or instructions when shipping to different customers. Some fulfillment centers’ strengths lie in efficiency but at the expense of ease in customization. However, other centers may be flexible with change and update requests, but they may not be as speedy with the shipments. Investigate how each fulfillment center approaches changes to orders (such as returns) and what impact their processing system may have on your clients and on your business. Finding the right balance for what your products and customers necessitate may be key to your business’ supply chain operations.
3. Location – for speed and costs
Where are your customers located? Are they primarily domestic? Mixed across the globe? Dive into fulfillment center locations, down to the nitty-gritty: its international presence, its warehouses across the US, and their locations near major transportation arteries. Common locations for fulfillment centers are Los Angeles, Chicago, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and in the New Jersey / New York area. It will be cheaper and more efficient if your chosen fulfillment center is close to the port where your goods enter in the US, and if the fulfillment center’s truckers can easily get on major highways to deliver your shipments to your end-customers across the country. At the same time, you may want to balance this with the ability to visit the center to see your products yourself. After all, you want to be sure that your fulfillment center is capable of securely storing and delivering your shipment as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible.
4. Technological capabilities
If you want to be able to keep track of your products and inventory at your fulfillment center, look into what applications and integrations are available to you. Do they have real-time tracking? What kind of analyses can they provide you? A fulfillment center that can integrate seamlessly with different e-commerce shopping carts via easy-to-use APIs and plugins will make it easier for you and allow you to focus on other aspects of your business. Different platforms work well with different people, and it may be wise to explore which fulfillment center fills your technological needs best.
Research the people with whom you are working. Your supply chain operations will move smoothly if the representative helping you at your fulfillment center has a strong background and experience in the business. They will be able to provide you with advice when you need it and efficiency throughout the entire process.