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E-Commerce Fulfillment Services

E-commerce is hot and it’s only going to get hotter. In the last two years, during one of the country’s worst recessions, e-commerce sales have sky rocketed. 2010 saw a bump with an increase of 14.8% over 2009 – bringing total sales to $165.4 billion. Sales for 2011 are already up a staggering 15.2%. Everyone wants to get in on the action, but the real question is – what do you do after the e-commerce website is developed?

e-commerce fulfillment servicesWhether it’s fulfillment of digital products or the delivery of physical products, it’s still required that the product be handled “in the real world.” When selecting a fulfillment company for your e-business operation, you need a partner who knows both fulfillment services and e-commerce services for order processing. Traditional fulfillment services include receiving, inventory, warehousing, order fulfillment, carrier selection, record-keeping and processing of customer inquiries. E-commerce operations include web development, website product updates and maintenance, shopping cart management, secure credit card processing and SEO updating.

Unless you are an expert in warehousing and e-commerce development, you will want to outsource these services to a professional third-party fulfillment center who can tailor them to meet your specific needs and the needs of your clients.

A word of caution – be careful when dealing with fulfillment centers that charge on a percentage of sales, or on a flat per shipment rate. There’s a very good chance that you will be over-paying for services with either of these methods. Fulfillment centers need to charge you for two things – the space you occupy in the warehouse and the labor it takes to manage your account. The prices of the products you are selling have no correlation to the space occupied in the warehouse, nor the amount of labor required for processing your orders. Every account is different and requires unique processes to be performed in the warehouse. For example, some e-commerce retailers have catalogs inserted into each order, while others add flyers or customer satisfaction cards. Some even require that special stickers be applied. In addition, not all items being sold are the same size – a 2-ounce bottle is much than a lamp. When a flat fee is used, these differences are not taken into account, which may lead to paying for services you don’t want or use.

E-Commerce Can Strengthen Your Brand Online

E-commerce fulfillment services can help businesses strengthen their brand by dramatically improving their professional image and providing access to a much wider market. The fulfillment center you choose needs to be strategically located near the center of your client base. This will allow the fulfillment center to offer alternative distribution methods that may reduce transportation costs to your customers. Not to mention that fulfillment centers receive significant discounts with the major carriers that should be passed along to you. This is particularly helpful during times of strong seasonal shifts, when clients may be facing a huge influx of orders.

Smaller companies and start-ups may not have the capital required to invest in brick and mortar operations. It is very expensive to recruit, hire and train employees. It’s also quite an investment to purchase the physical tools required to run the warehouse; like forklifts, stackers, cherry pickers, fast jacks, dollies, conveyor systems, and other equipment. Most fulfillment centers have invested close to a million dollars in their technology for things like WMS (warehouse management systems), RF equipment, mailing systems, cabling, repeaters and servers.

A large worry for many e-commerce entrepreneurs is employee safety training. No one wants to see an employee get hurt, and when you have a limited budget it can be very difficult to provide proper safety training. By outsourcing your fulfillment operation, you have the added security of knowing the employees are properly trained and certified to operate the equipment in the facility. Each employee at the fulfillment center receives initial training, along with regular updates for operating the equipment and how to handle tasks, such as material handling and ergonomics.

In today’s market, distribution and fulfillment services offer a number of other important functions, including shopping cart management, call center services, sales reporting, promotional code tracking, EDI capabilities, B-to-B and B-to-C order fulfillment, as well as logistic services and kitting. Kitting refers to product that consists of multiple parts, sourced from different manufacturing center, that the fulfillment facility pulls together and assembles or packages in a completed kit that is sent to customers. When it comes to product inventory and keeping track of supplies and orders, managers simply have to go online and use the web-based platform that most providers offer.

Researching and finding the right fulfillment center will provide you with an increased level of professionalism and provide a positive customer experience, enhancing their perception of your customer service and your organization. Take the time to tour the fulfillment center before making a final selection. By leveraging all of the competitive benefits that fulfillment center services offer clients, businesses can easily expand their scope and pass along some net savings to ensure for more satisfied customers.

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