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Warehouse and Fulfillment is Changing from the Inside Out

What Most Sites Don’t Tell You About Finding the Perfect Outsourced Fulfillment Service Solution

From small businesses to big corporations, fulfilling customer orders can be a tedious process without the right procedures and guidance in place. When it comes to fulfillment, most businesses face one of three options:

  • In-house self-fulfillment

  • Drop shipping

  • Professional third-party fulfillment services

More and more companies are opting for third-party fulfilment services rather than maintaining their own internal fulfillment operations. Outsourcing fulfillment offers quite a few benefits, including:

  • Converting fixed costs (such as leased warehouse space) into variable costs (pay for use only)

  • Reducing shipping costs by leveraging 3PL warehouse’s aggregated freight rates from their entire customer base

  • Moving into new geographic markets for expanded sales

  • Improved operations by upgrading to professionals that focus solely on fulfillment operations

  • Reducing internal time spent on shipping and logistics and thereby focusing on other areas of the business

Whether you are shipping your own products that you sell to customers, manufacturing products that are sold to other businesses, shipping products to your own internal employee groups, sending out samples to customers or a myriad of other scenarios, using a third-party fulfillment service can help you reach your goals quickly and efficiently.

Don’t Just Jump in with Both Feet – Find a Solution the ‘Right’ Way

But finding the right fulfillment service for your company is not as simple as just a quick internet search or call to a close associate for a referral. In fact, searching online for a fulfillment company may give you a false sense of hope, as the search results pages are filled with “top fulfillment company lists” and recommendations of the best fulfillment services.

Some of these companies may work well for your business, but most certainly many of them will not. What almost all of the websites out there fail to tell you is that there’s no way to know which company to choose until you do all of your homework first!

How to Find the Perfect Fulfillment Solution

Making the extra effort to research your options will set you on a path to success. Knowing everything that you need in a fulfillment service will help you narrow down the list of thousands of options into a shortlist of the only companies that will do. Here are several of the most important questions you should ask yourself when choosing the right fulfillment company for your business. Answer these questions before you start searching and you’ll increase your chances of finding the right partner.

What are all of Your Product-Specific Needs?

Each fulfillment center is different, and one key differentiator is what types of products they specialize in fulfilling. Think about your product and any particular out of the box needs you have in shipping. Not all fulfillment companies are able to accommodate all sectors. If you are shipping food you will require a food-grade facility and may even require climate-controlled shipping options. If you’re shipping a large volume of apparel SKU’s, you will require better tracking and inventory and only certain providers specialize in this specific niche. Other companies may need a fulfillment service that specializes in heavy weight products, such as furniture. All of these are completely different than a company that needs fulfillment for shipping a very low-cost, low-weight item like a cell phone case.

Some of the key things that you need to consider that relate to your products are as follows:

  • The overall size and weight of your products

  • The cost of your product

  • The number of SKUs in inventory

  • Any other specialized needs related to your products

What is Your Monthly Order Volume?

This is the dreaded question that many businesses looking to outsource have come to expect right out of the gate – what is your monthly order volume? Many companies won’t work with startup businesses and have strict minimum order fulfillment requirements. But for those with lower volumes, don’t worry! There are quite a few great options that don’t charge minimum fees and welcome your growing business.

The fact remains – many fulfillment companies have minimum volume requirements and storage requirements. Ensure you are aware of what your monthly volume will look like and the amount of space a company will need to store your product in order to find a company that best suits your particular needs. It is essential to be aware and prepare for any quantity restrictions set by the fulfillment company you are researching.

For the record, some of the more common order volume limits are as follow:

  • Minimum order volume per month, such as 500 or 1,000 orders

  • Minimum monthly spend per month, such as $500

What Technological Requirements Does Your Company Need?

Do you sell your product through an online marketplace or Amazon and need web services or open API? Do you need to integrate your shipping with software such as NetSuite or QuickBooks? Do you sell to Big Box retailers and need EDI integration? Consider any technological requirements your company will need in order to get your products from the moment the order is submitted to the customer's doorstep as efficiently as possible.

What Exact Services Does Your Company Need?

Consider your overall shipping perspective and what specific needs you may require. Fulfillment companies offer a variety of services from warehousing; to pulling items, packing, and shipping for an order; or kitting or subscription services. It is important to be clear when discussing your shipping processes and needs with a potential fulfillment company to ensure they are capable of fulfilling those tasks. While some fulfillment companies will offer a variety of services tailored to your needs, others offer only basic fulfillment options.

For example, below are some of the distinctions to keep in mind:

  • What format to you ship your orders (e.g. by the pallet, by the carton, by each unit, or a combination)?

  • Do you require specialized kitting or packaging services?

  • Do you utilize a unique fulfillment model, such as subscription box fulfillment?

  • Is your business truly unique and you need highly specialized services such as t-shirt printing and embroidery services in addition to fulfillment?

What are Your Geographical Needs?

Depending on your volume and customer base you may not need a sophisticated network of multiple warehouses in different locations. You may be able to focus on just one centralized location. On the other hand, if you’re a high-volume seller with extensive international shipping, you may need fulfillment services in multiple countries. Figuring out where you need to be will help you hone in on the companies available to meet your needs.

Now You’re Ready to Take the Plunge!

Once you have been able to answer these questions for yourself and set your fulfillment expectations, you will be able to contact only relevant fulfillment companies and further discuss your needs. But this doesn’t mean your journey is over. You can start the extensive legwork of researching the multitude of fulfillment companies available, or you can leverage a trusted source to cross-reference your specific needs.

Pro Tip:

Even when fully prepared and armed with the right questions, finding the right fulfillment company for your business' needs can be tedious and time-consuming. Consider using a trusted and knowledgeable matchmaking service for the fulfillment industry, such as They will take the time to learn about your product, your company, and your needs and hand-pick companies that will meet your level of expectations.

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