In today’s digital age, shipping expectations are extremely high as customers are practically able to order an item online, and in the next 48 hours receive the item they ordered on their doorstep. Unlike a brick-and-mortar store, the process of fulfilling online orders is quite different. It involves several steps to the retail fulfillment process, which include but are not limited to inventory management, picking, packing and shipping your products. To better understand how retail fulfillment actually works, let’s start by defining the term ‘retail fulfillment’:
What is retail fulfillment?
Retail fulfillment is the process of assembling products and shipping online orders to customers. Basically, once a customer completes their purchase from your store, the fulfillment process begins.
Having an effective retail fulfillment strategy is a primary key to running a successful and efficient business. The better your retail fulfillment, the more your customer satisfaction increases. During this process, you are responsible for getting the right product to the right customer in the right amount of time. Depending on the stage of your ecommerce business, you may be taking care of all the order and shipping logistics yourself. However, as you continue to grow, you’ll probably find it extremely difficult or nearly impossible to continue fulfilling orders on your own. This is where a third-party logistics (3PL) partner with their own fulfillment center comes into play. Great, experienced 3PLs handle the entire fulfillment process for you, so you can focus on building your brand.
How does the retail fulfillment process work?
There are a lot of steps that take place behind the scenes for your customers to receive their orders. Here is a breakdown of how the retail fulfillment process works:
- Receiving Inventory- When outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL partner, you will first need to send your inventory to the fulfillment provider so that they can fulfill all online orders for you.
- Warehousing/Storing inventory- After your inventory has been received by the fulfillment provider, your products are properly stored in the most secure and organized way possible whether by bin, pallet, or shelf, depending on the product type. Each product is then logged into an inventory and order management system that allows you to keep up with your stock levels and orders in real-time. Doing this helps you recognize when certain items are low in stock and also provides forecasting data and analytics.
- Processing customer orders- As soon as your customer places an order, it is picked, packed and fulfilled at the nearest fulfillment center. This is also the time that your fulfillment provider will include any extra samples, inserts or marketing materials to make your brand stand out. At Fulfyld, we understand how important a good retail fulfillment partner is to the growth of your company, which is why we don’t charge extra for the inclusion of marketing materials in your customer’s orders. We truly believe in supporting our clients with simple, unique fulfillment services at no extra charge.
- Shipping orders- Once the order is fulfilled, it’s time to ship the item(s) to the customers. When outsourcing fulfillment, a carrier picks up the orders from the fulfillment location, usually in a pretty swift manner. A huge benefit of outsourcing your retail order fulfillment to a 3PL is their reduced shipping costs. By leveraging the 3PL providers’ distribution network, you are able to get much cheaper freight rates and shipping costs than you would shipping items on your own. With Fulfyld, our 2-day guaranteed shipping service eliminates the frustrating delays that customers sometimes run into when ordering online.
- Returns Processing/Returns Management- Sometimes customers order the wrong size or color and need to return an order, or they’ve simply changed their minds about the product and want a refund. When this happens, you must be prepared to process the return as soon as possible. This includes making sure the item is sorted properly and a refund is given to the customer in a timely manner. You have the choice of handling returns yourself or allowing your 3PL to do so for you. If you choose the latter (which is highly recommended to cut out the extra hassle), you determine whether you would like undamaged items to be restocked and resold, disposed or donated, depending on the product. At Fulfyld, we have a custom returns management system that is based on your specific needs. This makes the returns process easier and quicker so customers can receive a refund and your inventory can be placed on shelves again if its resalable.
How can a third-party logistics (3PL) partner help with retail fulfillment?
In addition to the breakdown above, there are several ways that a 3PL can help with retail fulfillment:
Boost customer satisfaction: By accurately fulfilling your customers’ orders in a swift manner, this will ultimately increase customer satisfaction and create repeat customers.
Provide resources for scalability: Skilled 3PLs have the staffing and expertise to accommodate a spike or extreme increase in order volume. By efficiently managing and fulfilling your orders, this will not only increase your order volume but your bottom line as well.
Smooth and seamless integration: Easily integrate your store, shopping cart or marketplace with your 3PL provider’s software to track your orders. Once a customer purchases from your store, your 3PL automatically processes and ships the order on your behalf.
Centralized location: Top 3PL providers that are located in centralized areas are extremely helpful in speeding up shipping times.
Customization and personalization: While standard packaging materials (like a plain brown box) are included with most fulfillment services, you also have the option of personalizing your services with unique offerings like package customization and order personalization. This adds immense value to your brand and helps to set you apart from others.
Let Fulfyld handle your retail fulfillment
Fulfyld is a top ecommerce fulfillment company that handles everything from storage, to picking, packing and shipping your ecommerce orders in an efficient manner. If you are looking for the best 3PL for ecommerce, contact us today and let us handle all of your retail fulfillment needs.