With so many e-commerce hosting options, businesses can set up an online store and start doing business in a matter of hours. An entrepreneur can commission a logo design, and in no time at all start marketing an online business across social media sites. The bulk of the work that goes into running an online store, however, is just as challenging as it has always been.
Prior to building that online store, a business owner should already have a process in place to fulfill and ship orders. If orders begin coming in right away, the business must be prepared to get them to customers as quickly as possible to avoid a customer service nightmare. Fortunately, there are multiple fulfillment options that can facilitate the process for online businesses.
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Traditionally, online sellers have attempted to fulfill all orders themselves. Using a postal scale and a postage-printing service, entrepreneurs can set up an environment that allows them to prepare packages and either drop them off or have them picked up on a daily basis. While this is a great option when a business has only a handful of orders each day, it lacks long-term scalability.
I know many entrepreneurs who have stuck to DIY for as long as possible before eventually hiring people to help or outsource. DIY is a great option for solopreneurs and new businesses, but you should have a plan to accommodate future growth.
Having seen an opportunity to create a new revenue stream, many of the major carriers now provide fulfillment services. For example, FedEx handles the processing and shipping of orders through its global distribution logistics and fulfillment services.
UPS’ Supply Chain Solutions include advanced warehouse management and a solution that is tailored to each business’ needs. Often-forgotten shipping carrier DHL has even gotten into the game. It can handle regional or national fulfillment out of its own fulfillment centers.
Fufillment By Amazon
Amazon sellers aren’t the only ones who have access to Amazon’s fulfillment services. Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment program lets a business store its inventory at Amazon’s fulfillment centers, and then have them shipped by Amazon, even when those items aren’t listed with Amazon. Perhaps the biggest benefit to Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) is that businesses have access to the company’s fast shipping turnarounds at reasonable prices.
For non-Amazon sellers, however, Shipwire can be a better option. Shipwire is built to integrate with various e-commerce platforms, including Etsy, eBay, Google Trusted Stores, GoDaddy Quick Cart, Shopify and many more. Businesses can sign up for a plan that meets their own monthly sales levels. To guarantee its fulfillment turnaround times, Shipwire provides service-level agreements.
Rakuten Super Logistics
A long-established fulfillment service in Japan, Rakuten purchased Webgistix in 2013. This company has fulfillment centers in New York, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Reno, Scranton and Austin. Rakuten promises one- to two-day delivery to 98% of the United States. Through the customer portal, businesses can monitor their own fulfillment at all times. To link up their shopping carts to the service, businesses use the company’s SmartFill Technology cloud-based fulfillment system.
Businesses with a more global customer base may opt for Fulfillment.com, which specializes in dealing with the complexities of storing and shipping items across the globe. Even difficult-to-ship items like e-cigarettes, nutraceuticals or fragrances can be turned over to Fulfillment.com, where they’ll be shipped according to varying regulations in different countries.
The service also provides reports that make it easy for businesses to gather data on where items are being shipped and how quickly they’re arriving at their destinations.
Fulfilled By Sears
Once known as one of the top department stores in the U.S., Sears has struggled over the years to remain relevant in an increasingly crowded marketplace. With its e-commerce services, Sears is trying to delve more into online fulfillment. The company’s pay-as-you-go payment model might appeal to businesses that see fluctuations in demand from one month to the next, since they’ll only pay for what they store and ship.
Fulfillment is an undeniably important part of selling products online. With so many affordable options now available, even small businesses can offer speedy shipping to their customers while staying within their limited budgets. Businesses looking for fulfillment should compare pricing and features among the many options and choose the best one to meet their own needs.
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