When scaling your e-Commerce business, each element of your operations will eventually feel the strain. In particular, product storage and distribution requirements. Greater sales volumes means more goods arriving at your premises from your suppliers, the need for more flexible and scalable order management technology, demand for tailored delivery options including returns, and added pressure on your customer service operations. Get any of these elements wrong and this can be the difference between a repeat customer and a one-star review.
Meanwhile, demand for outsourced pick and pack operations is at an all-time high in the UK – whilst high street retailers have historically been the dominant occupiers of warehouses, third-party logistics (3PL) firms now lead the way, taking up 42% of space.
Getting fulfilment right
Whether you choose to conduct your order processing in-house, or outsource with a fulfilment specialist, getting it right is crucial to ensuring you can pick, pack, and despatch your orders efficiently, implementing the right fulfilment method for your unique circumstances. On this page, we cover the five key benefits of fulfilment services to help you enhance your in-house operations, or to help you decide whether outsourcing is right for you.
Fulfilment services save time
Working with a specialist, dedicated fulfilment house lets you leverage their experience and expertise. During account setup, a fulfilment centre will typically analyse your product range (along with technical infrastructure and sales channels), and based on your product dimensions, weight, required delivery speed, and predicted order volumes, tailor a picking method to save both yours and the e-Commerce fulfilment specialist’s time.
In Whistl’s ultimate guide to e-Commerce fulfilment, we cover the various elements of the fulfilment journey. The greatest time-saving benefits come from the implementation of tailored picking methods, namely zone, batch, discrete, or wave picking. Furthermore, working with a fulfilment outsourcer means they will have experienced staff on hand ready to carry out all other elements including receiving, reworking, labelling, returns, and even repacking.
Your business can save money
Another reason to work with a fulfilment centre is that if they are of a sufficient scale, you will get access to collaborative buying power. This is because your online store will be one of hundreds or thousands of other businesses utilising the shared resource that is the e-Commerce warehouse.
At Whistl, we ship more than 20 million tracked parcels annually and over 3.8 billion items per year in total when you include mail, packets, and untracked parcels. Furthermore, Whistl has a network of fulfilment houses totalling 1.5 million square feet in space. This means companies such as Ethical Superstore can access ‘pooled volume’ discounted shipping rates, as well as customised packaging solutions to ensure their required storage space is minimised. This in turn saves the retailer money and leaves more room for further growth.
Streamlining helps optimise processes
Whilst you may outsource your fulfilment, you will still need to run some key elements of your business in house. This includes processing your orders via an order/warehouse management system (OMS/WMS), sales channels and marketplaces such as eBay, Amazon and OnBuy, for example. When weighing up the pros and cons of working with a fulfilment provider, one of the key advantages is that an effective company will assess your technical infrastructure and in some instances consult on better technology to help optimise your business from your side. Using the correct OMS will give you the ability to create automation rules to help you:
- Hit despatch targets with auto-fulfilment of new orders
- Get real-time financial reporting with automatic invoicing
- Group customers for marketing using auto-tagging
- Set triggers to order new items from your suppliers to minimise understocking
- Gauge predicted demand from marketplace analytics and sales volumes to minimise overstocking
- Achieve better overall visibility of your inventory management
At Whistl we also offer outsourced contact centre services to complement our fulfilment offering. During onboarding we can consult you to help make sure you are using the most appropriate customer experience management platform, such as Zendesk or Freshdesk, further streamlining your operations and enabling you to deliver more of an omnichannel customer experience that is consistent across sales channels.
Your brand image is improved
Effective inventory management and streamlined fulfilment processes means you will be able to give your customers a positively predictable experience. This means you can deliver on your customers’ expectations and maximise the chance of positive reviews.
A study by Brightpearl and Trustpilot found that even if a delivery failure was down to the courier, 78% of consumers will actually blame the retailer. This pressure your customers are ready to put on you means every step of the order fulfilment journey needs to run like clockwork.
Partnering with a fulfilment centre that has robust carrier relationships and proactive delivery tracking support means you will be able to offer online shoppers the best delivery options in the first place, minimise the chance of deliveries failing and be there to answer their call should they have a WISMO (Where Is My Order? query). Furthermore, synchronising your e-Commerce system (and its associated email marketing platform) with your fulfilment operations means you will be able to trigger email and SMS messages to your customers, such as:
- Thank you for your order
- Your order is now in production
- Your order is ready for collection
- Your order is now with the courier
- Your order is now out for delivery
- Thank you for your order, please review us
All of these tactics will help you provide your customers with the required relevance, omnipresence, and intimacy to generate a greater volume of positive reviews.
Better business reach
An internationally focused fulfilment centre will give you access to new markets, customs compliance resources and in some cases, overseas ‘in-country’ warehouses, so that you can minimise your exposure to customs charges, store goods in close proximity to overseas online shoppers and mirror the performance of your international competitors.
A final fulfilment service benefit is that some providers are integrated with, or optimised to meet the stringent requirements to trade on emerging international marketplaces such as:
- Mercado Libre in Latin America
- Taobao in China
- Jumia in Africa
How can Whistl help?
When looking to outsource your order fulfilment, each online retailer is unique. You may have greater in-store presence than most, or your customers may prefer to buy from you via marketplaces. Your product range may be high value, time critical, or low value and non-urgent and depending on your ideal customer profile, you may need to act faster than most – your customers may be harder to please than the norm. However your business is shaped and whichever stage of growth you are at, Whistl has the experience, operations, technology, and scalability to help your business thrive.
Whistl's Complete Fulfilment Process
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