Fulfillment can be a major headache for online beauty retailers. Between supply chain issues, seasonal rushes, and inventory management, fulfillment can eat up a good portion of your time, energy and budget.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything online retailers in the beauty industry need to know about fulfillment, including:
- The current state of beauty product e-commerce fulfillment.
- Challenges of beauty product e-commerce fulfillment.
- How to solve fulfillment challenges.
The Current State of Beauty Product E-Commerce Fulfillment
The global supply chain has been suffering for the last several years, and this has affected shipping merchandise to consumers, as well as receiving inventory, packaging, and ingredients.
Unfortunately, these supply chain slowdowns and gaps have snowballed, and experts are predicting another rough year for 2022’s holiday season and beyond.
The silver lining is that more people than ever are discovering new beauty brands and shopping online, appreciating the convenience they experienced during the pandemic.
This helps level the playing field between small beauty product businesses and the big guns. If you can keep up with inventory and shipping, you can make a real dent in the industry without ever having a physical storefront.
Common Challenges of Beauty Product E-Commerce Fulfillment
Has your beauty e-commerce business struggled to deal with any of the challenges below?
Storage and Inventory Management
Keeping track of your ingredients, finished products, packaging materials and other essentials can be a full-time job in and of itself. But many online beauty businesses don’t have the workforce for that. Inventory management software can help, but you still need to invest time in managing the system, and must be diligent about scanning and updating data.
Storing all of those goods can be difficult, too. You need to have them arranged properly for the easiest picking and packing, which can vary with seasons and the introduction of new items. Your warehousing needs may vary widely with the seasons, and you may be paying for storage space that you’re not using year-round.
Packaging and Presentation
Product appearance is everything in the beauty industry, whether you’re selling hair care products, makeup or shaving accessories. Unboxing videos on social media can make your products look great, or they can expose subpar containers and damaged items in transit.
Customer complaints about poor packaging are all too common. With 67 percent of beauty product shoppers using influencers to make decisions about purchases, and 82 percent using Instagram at least once daily, the last thing you want is a customer sharing their leaked moisturizer or cracked eyeshadow to online audiences.
Packaging can be expensive and comes with the added difficulty of potentially not being able to source all the materials you need due to supply chain issues.
Depending on your type of business, further coordination may be required, such as when products are grouped together as part of a kit or subscription box. This brings together multiple overlapping pain points, including packaging materials, picking, kitting, storage and staffing.
The smaller your beauty business, the more you will likely rely on manual order assembly. Unfortunately, that leaves more room for human error, which has an unpleasant domino effect on your order accuracy rate and return rates. Inaccurate beauty product orders are also a way to lose hard-won new customers and pick up negative reviews, too.
Finding the best shipping rates and options for your business may seem like it requires a Master’s degree in logistics. And a Ph.D. if you’re going to ship your beauty products internationally (see more on that below).
Customers expect free shipping and want their items ASAP. However, if you have to compete against online giants with their own shipping services, it can be nearly impossible to match their overnight or two-day delivery promises. Other shipping issues include:
- Address verification systems.
- Last-mile delivery in rural areas.
- Returns (if allowed).
Aside from the logistics of arranging for international shipping (and possibly returns), online beauty product sellers need to think carefully about how to get their merchandise through customs in foreign ports. It starts on the website, where you need to be transparent with buyers about any additional fees, taxes, or duties they will be responsible for (assuming you’re passing these costs on to the customer).
Once en route, your parcels need to have the proper documentation. Your ingredients need to be listed, as many other countries have more stringent limitations on what is and isn’t allowed. You must be aware of regulations and changes to foreign import laws before you even offer certain items to overseas markets; otherwise, you are wasting the customer’s time and money with items that can’t clear customs.
If you think reaching the most isolated areas of the U.S. is hard, try getting a package to the Himalayan foothills or an island off the coast of Scotland.
Limiting your shipping to domestic destinations and Canada to avoid these headaches isn’t a great solution, though. The Asia-Pacific region, for example, makes up 46 percent of the market share of the beauty industry. That’s a lot of potential business to miss out on.
Fluctuating Staffing Needs
Most e-commerce businesses experience slow and busy seasons throughout the year, which makes staffing difficult. Beauty product e-commerce companies are no exception. In addition to the holiday season, your business may get a rush during the fall and spring as consumer beauty needs shift for summer.
The problem with these highs and lows is that it’s not easy to scale up and down your staffing needs. It’s expensive to pay for permanent staff when they’re not needed, but it’s a hassle to have to train temporary staff for just a few months at a time. And using temps can also affect your error rate.
If you’re struggling with any of the challenges above, plus added stresses from current supply chain issues, it might be time to outsource fulfillment.
Benefits of Outsourcing E-Commerce Fulfillment
The best fulfillment services today do much more than process, package and ship your orders (although they certainly do that too). All-in-one fulfillment companies like GLF E-Commerce Fulfillment provide a wide range of services that solve the challenges of beauty product fulfillment, including:
- Receiving merchandise: You don’t have to step away from running your business every time a shipment arrives. We’ll make sure it gets received, inspected for quality assurance, assigned a SKU, inventoried and securely stored in our warehouse.
- Storing products and packaging: There’s no need to worry about excess or inadequate warehouse space. Our custom warehouse solutions make inventory management and warehousing hassle-free since we can easily scale up or down as demand fluctuates.
- Inventory management: You’ll always know stock-levels to avoid having too much or too little product on-hand. Our warehouse management software integrates seamlessly with your storefront to provide complete oversight of inventory, including real-time data and historical data for forecasting.
- Handling domestic and international shipping: Expand your business to the international market while eliminating the headache of shipping. Our global distribution network, and long-standing relationships with domestic and international carriers allow us to create custom shipping solutions that expedite delivery times and reduce costs.
- Order tracking: Keep customers happy by letting them know where their orders are once they check out.
- Managing returns: We’ll take care of the entire returns and exchange process, including shipping, customer service and restocking.
- Print marketing: Our print marketing division lets you add coupons, flyers and other marketing materials to packages with ease.
- Reports for business forecasting and scaling: When you want to budget for next year, seek capital investors, or grow in size, we can help you with the data you need.
Your beauty product e-commerce business will not only survive but thrive in 2022, 2023 and beyond with the right team behind you.
Eager to learn more about GLF’s solutions for fulfillment? Take our assessment today to see if outsourcing fulfillment is the right solution for your beauty product e-commerce business!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July of 2021, but has been updated to reflect current information.