Imagine that you run a small business selling customized iPhone cases to customers. It’s a small business — you’re the sole proprietor — and you spend a good deal of time reaching out to prospective customers, podcasts, guest bloggers, and other means to drum up business. You also spend time dealing with product improvements and customer support.
Your excellent work has led to a tremendous spike in orders… except now you have to somehow process 10–20 orders per day in addition to doing all the other things you were doing.
You have three options:
- You can fulfill the orders yourself and spend the extra few hours a day handling this fulfillment… time that will come out of efforts to grow and sustain your company.
- You can hire someone internally to fulfill these orders and pay them to store and process inventory, pick and reconcile order forms, and then either arrange a carrier pickup (e.g. FedEx) or take them to a distribution center for shipment.
- You can outsource fulfillment with a 3PL, and they will do all of this for you.
Obviously, option #1 isn’t particularly great, because it involves compromising your company’s growth at a pivotal time.
Option #2 isn’t bad… but it is usually quite costly.
Option #3 — using a 3PL Fulfillment center — is a fabulous option in many cases, because it will be cheaper than hiring an associate in terms of absolute-capital outlay, but you’ll also very likely benefit from shipping costs due to a fulfillment center being able to operate with economies of scale (excellent ones ship millions of packages a year and thus have access to the very best shipping rates).
The services a 3PL Fulfillment center will vary based on the place, but over at ChinaDivision, we offer the following services (this list is not exhaustive):
- Warehousing: your product has to sit somewhere. Sheds, storage units, and living rooms are options for some… but a fulfillment center has extensive warehouse space and can warehouse your products for you.
- Inventory/Order Management: When an order comes in from a customer, a great fulfillment center will automatically adjust the available inventory and reconcile the order against current inventory levels.
- Integration: Fulfillment centers should be able to integrate their software with your shopping carts across every channel. So it doesn’t matter if your customer came to you through Amazon, your Shopify site, or your eBay store — all stores should be integrated with your account through the fulfillment center.
- Shipping and Handling: Printing out shipping labels, affixing them to boxes, building the boxes themselves, and then taking all of the units to be shipped… this takes time, money, and effort. Fulfillment companies can handle this easily and turn a 2 hour job into a 15 minute one.
- Special Kitting: Do you have a subscription box that requires assembly? Are you trying to prep your packages for FBA? An exemplary fulfillment center will be able to accommodate any and all of these requests.