Whether you’re running a solo shop or are part of a growing company, there comes a time when you wonder: Does it make sense for me — or my team — to spend our time boxing and shipping orders?
Switching your order fulfillment process is a significant change. And it can be hard to know when it’s time to switch to an offsite fulfillment provider. So to help, we rounded up the top reasons to make the switch.
#1 You’re Running Out of Space
Do you have thousands of sunglasses in your living room, headphones in your bathtub, boxes of plushies on your bed, or underwear on top of your fridge? It could be that you’re an incredible slob — or you’re a small e-commerce business using every possible location to store your inventory. When space is at a premium, moving your inventory to an offsite fulfillment company can be a way to get better results — at a price that’s more reasonable than you may think.
Of course, running out of space isn’t just a problem for solo ventures. Even if you have a corporate headquarters, you may find yourself running out of places to store inventory. After all, your company has a limited number of supply closets. And management would typically prefer to fill offices with actual human beings — even if the inflatable aliens you sell look quite remarkable behind the desks.
Space issues can be a particular challenge as your business grows and the number of stakeholders increases. Suddenly you may need space to store:
- A more extensive inventory of more items
- Custom packaging to reinforce your brand and create a personalized experience
- Employee onboarding materials
- Promotional items for customers and employees
- Sales literature for your salespeople to use on customer calls
- Investor relations materials
- Media kits
The bottom line is that if you’re up to your eyeballs in squishy eyeball promo items, or you’re going nuts finding a place to squirrel your inventory, it’s probably time to consider outsourced fulfillment.
#2 You’re Losing Track of Inventory — And Your Mind
Even if you magically find enough space to store your inventory, the next challenge is keeping track of item quantities and when to reorder. Color-coded post-its will work for a time — as will a good old spreadsheet. But your dog eats your post-its, or you forget to update your inventory, you make looking at cleaning up a mess. You definitely don’t have time for a manual recount. You could always guess, but that could result in too few of your in-demand gigantic gummy bears and way too many of the hard-to-move electric toenail clippers.
When you work with a fulfillment provider, they’ll help manage your inventory. Point B makes it especially easy for you. We have a cloud-based inventory management system that allows you to give up the hassle of managing inventory without surrendering control. Using management and forecasting tools, you’ll be able to view on-hand inventory and determine reorder points — so you have what your customers want when they want it.
#3 You’re Getting Orders Faster Than You Can Ship Them
In the beginning, getting an order from your e-commerce site was a cause for celebration. Maybe you’d dance around the garage with the music blaring while you gleefully packed the order. But now that you’re getting dozens of orders a day, the fun of dancing until dawn while packing orders is starting to wear off.
Starting a business is not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of work and a lot of long hours. But if you’re successful, there will be a point when you simply won’t be able to ship all your orders by yourself. The question is when to look for help — before or after you send a customer your half-drunk cup of coffee by mistake. Friends and family may help for a while. But at some point, you’ll likely need to hire an employee or a company to manage your shipments.
Hiring a fulfillment company can be a lot easier than hiring an employee. That’s because there are many things you need to do when hiring your first employee, including a lot of paperwork, establishing a payroll system, and creating an employee handbook. Of course, if your business is on its way to world domination, this is something you’d need to do at some point for your growing company.
But there’s another reason why outsourced fulfillment is often a more effective and efficient choice than hiring an employee to meet your shipping needs, and it has to do with the inevitable ebb and flow of product orders. All businesses have good sales days and slow days. Which means that sometimes employees may be twiddling their thumbs while on others, they may be pressed for time.
When you work with a fulfillment provider, you always have the right level of support — whether you need someone to ship two orders per week or two orders per minute.
#4 You Can’t Support the Seasonal Shopping Rush
Some businesses are incredibly seasonal. If you sell ugly Christmas sweaters, there’s a good chance that most of your orders come in between November and December. Sales for the rest of the year are likely pretty flat — except for a mid-summer sales spike from people who are exceptionally committed to throwing the best Christmas in July party.
If this were your business, shipping would be a light lift for most of the year. But when the sales pick up, you may wish you could borrow dozens of Santa’s little helpers to support your seasonal shipping rush.
The yearly process of adding seasonal staff to support a holiday shipping boom can be a time-consuming and financial strain on a company’s resources. It can be hard to find seasonal workers, and you usually need to pay higher-than-normal wages. Plus, you’re investing time and energy into training resources that you’ll need to let go in a couple of months once your sales have petered out. An easier option is using an offsite fulfillment company that can seamlessly flex to meet your shipping demands for every season.
#5 You Want to Improve Customer Experience
Working with a reputable fulfillment company ensures customer orders get sent out on time — something that’s critical for customer happiness, repeat orders, and brand reputation. As you know, if you’re selling through Amazon or another 3rd-party site, even the slightest delays can impact your seller rating and product reviews.
Some fulfillment providers do even more to support and improve customer relations. For example, Point B can act as the liaison between you and your customers — answering most customer questions and managing the return process, allowing you to focus your attention on other things.
#6 You Think Your Customers Deserve Something Extra
Maybe you’ve built your brand by forging personal connections with customers. Perhaps you like to include hand-signed thank you notes in every order, or you add specific coupons in particular shipments.
If you’re managing fulfillment on your own, this level of customization may not be sustainable in the space or time you have. But you don’t have to give up on being a customer-centered brand. While it may seem odd, working with a third-party fulfillment partner may be the best way to create a differentiated experience as your company grows.
When you choose the right offsite fulfillment company, you can move a large volume of merchandise while retaining — or adding — a boutique vibe to your orders. Through customized kitting and order fulfillment, you can show customers that you care.
#7 Your Shipping Costs are Cutting Into Your Profit Margins
Despite what consumers think, shipping isn’t actually free, especially when it’s fast. Someone always pays to move the product from one place to another — even if it’s not the customer. However, customer expectations have drastically changed based on free shipping options from massive online retailers like Amazon, which offer free 2-day shipping for its Amazon Prime members.
Offering competitive shipping options can cut your profits, especially if you’re a small business with less buying power. Working with a fulfillment provider allows you access to bigger and better shopping discounts — which go a long way toward offsetting the cost of outsourced fulfillment.
#8 You Want to Focus On the Fun and Meaningful Stuff
Why did you take steps to set up an e-commerce business? If you’re like most people, you probably like the idea of financial independence, setting your own hours, and doing what you love. Unlikely reasons include the smell of cardboard shipping boxes or the shriek of packaging tape as it’s pulled from the dispenser.
So, when packaging and shipping customer orders start to get in the way of building your business, it might be time to look at including an offsite fulfillment company in the next stage of your company’s growth.
Just imagine all the things you can do with the time that you get back! Maybe learn how to set up a customer contest? Build a better website? Dream up the next best product or service that will delight current and new customers?
#9 You Want to Prepare for What’s Next
Do you have big plans for your company’s future? If you dream of expanding your business into new sales channels and markets, you’ll need to ensure that your shipping process isn’t the limiting factor. And let’s be honest, storing your inventory in your shower and shipping orders from your garage isn’t scalable for future growth.
The right fulfillment provider can provide a shipping solution that scales to meet your customer needs — and your dreams.
Point B Offsite Fulfillment Can Help You Fulfill Your Dreams
Point B’s order fulfillment services include offsite storage, precise inventory management, kitting and assembly, shipping discounts, and forecasting and reporting.
Point B can even help you build your online empire. For example, if you’re interested in selling on Amazon, Target, Nordstrom, Walmart, or other retailers, we can integrate your e-commerce website with the best e-commerce app.