The trees are down, the decorations are all packed away for another year and the last vestiges of seasonal stilton and chocolate indulgence have finally been consumed. It’s time to take stock of how it all went, which, if you’re an eCommerce business, means looking at what kind of volume you achieved, how you coped and whether you can do things better next year.
For many smaller or rapidly growing eCommerce businesses, January provides the lightbulb moment when they realise that managing fulfilment in house is not only stressful but is also taking the team’s attention away from business development and customer service. The point at which you sit down and look at how many hours you worked and how much of your core job was left undone because you were too busy is often the point at which you realise that something needs to change.
The easiest way to make that essential change is to consider areas of the business that you could outsource to a third party partner to save time and resources in house. It may be that you could outsource some or all of the fulfilment process so that you can focus on maximising sales, growing your customer base and implementing your business strategy.
The good news is, Q1 is exactly the right time to set the wheels in motion for making that change, which will support your growth potential, free up your time and help you restore your work/life balance. By investing time now in the selection of a third party fulfilment partner and onboarding during a quieter time of year, you can ensure that all fulfilment is running like clockwork before any of your customers so much as whisper the words ‘Christmas shopping.’
Not only will outsourcing fulfilment to a 3rd party provider unshackle your business from the time-consuming activities and costs that constrain growth, it will also create a much leaner approach for your business, making distribution costs and cashflow more predictable.
For example, not only does this approach delegate responsibility for ensuring the correct item arrives with your customer quickly and in good condition to a specialist, it can also reduce your fulfilment costs by around 20 per cent, while helping you achieve consistent five star ratings.
When selecting your fulfilment partner, it’s important to find out whether they can manage all your fulfilment requirements across all online sales channels and marketplaces.
Perhaps you’re interested in becoming an Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime retailer by next Christmas to help drive sales volume through the Amazon marketplace. If that’s the case, you will need to find a partner that’s accredited and can work within the rapid dispatch parameters Prime demands.
You also need to consider the size and capacity of the third party fulfilment partner you select. Will their services be scalable? Do they offer the right geographical delivery reach for your customer base? Can they offer you a choice of couriers so that you can select the delivery service that suits your business, your products and your customers?
As eCommerce businesses grow, managing stock across multiple sales channels becomes more complex and onerous, so it’s also worth considering how fulfilment processes, software and warehousing facilities will work together as part of an outsourced fulfilment strategy. As sales volumes increase, vertical integration of software across all sales channels means that stock is automatically de-listed from any marketplace or website as soon as a transaction is completed and the location of all SKUs can be identified instantly to enable same day dispatch. As a result, service levels are maintained and your business will be leaner, with much more accurate data for forecasting.
Whether your sales exceeded your expectations at Christmas or simply kept pace with your forecast, you’re probably asking yourself whether you could manage the increased throughput better next year. With outsourced fulfilment services, the answer is yes you could.
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