E-commerce sales rose 9.3% in Q2 of 2021, with no signs of slowing down heading into the holiday season. As sales continue, many online retailers are looking for fulfillment partners to support their supply chain operations. But it's not as simple as hiring just anyone to step in. Rather, it's about finding a reliable partner who understands your business and seamlessly plugs into your processes without causing disruption.
With peak season in full swing, here's what to look for in a retail fulfillment partner.
While online shopping was an option before the pandemic, it’s become the preferred option among consumers even as brick-and-mortar stores reopen.
As online sales increase, there are things you should look for in a fulfillment partner that will enable your brand to scale efficiently. These include:
- Automation: Automation can easily capture and document every step of the order fulfillment process. By syncing your store with your partner's warehouse management system (WMS), orders placed online will automatically be sent to the facility where your inventory is stored. From there, orders are picked and packed, and tracking information is automatically pushed to your store, where it can be shared with customers. This level of automation can help you scale faster by eliminating manual, repetitive tasks from your fulfillment process.
- Custom Reports: Customized to your needs, reporting from your fulfillment partner should provide complete visibility into supply chain operations that allow you to monitor inventory levels, check order statuses, review discontinued items, track shipment costs and more. Having access to these helps to correct or manage bottlenecks in your fulfillment process, accurately forecast and benchmark growth.
- Flexibility: A fulfillment partner that offers flexibility, both in terms of space and volume, can help you handle spikes in sales or promotions throughout the year. Look for a fulfillment partner that understands the fluctuations and seasonality that come with online retail.
- Strategic Partnerships: A fulfillment partner that maintains, or has access to, a global distribution network can ensure packages arrive on time and on budget, thanks to their relationships with carriers. They can also help your brand scale internationally and develop customized cross-border shipping solutions.
Integrations and Custom Development
Since more and more customers are making purchases online, you want a fulfillment partner whose software integrates directly with your e-commerce store to offer a seamless experience. GLF’s proprietary, cloud-based platform easily integrates with hundreds of storefronts, including:
We also have in-house developers who can build custom features or reporting capabilities based on your needs.
Fast Set Up Process
When outsourcing, it’s so important to look for a fulfillment partner that can get you up to speed fast. With the holidays looming around the corner, online retailers don’t have time to wait.
Many fulfillment partners have extensive implementation processes that can take three to four weeks to get set up, costing you valuable time. GLF guarantees a 24 to 48-hour setup process and will have your software fully integrated before your inventory even gets to our warehouse.
Once set up, you have immediate access to your data including orders, exchanges and returns.
Extensive Quality Assurance
In retail, customer satisfaction is your number one goal, but that can only be achieved if you are in good standing with them. Sending the wrong color or size can frustrate customers and cause them to do business elsewhere.
If you’re having challenges with QA, a fulfillment partner like GLF can help. We’ll carefully inspect items as they arrive at our warehouse, and look for any signs of damage to ensure the item is up to standards. Once complete, we’ll store your items in bins, pallets or shelves separate from other customers and label each item with its own unique SKU, which is then entered into our system for inventory management. As orders come in, our fulfillment process includes extensive QA checkpoints to ensure accuracy, including:
- Organizing inventory by type, size and weight for the utmost efficiency and accuracy.
- Thoroughly reviewing the order prior to picking.
- Final check of the pick list and packaging before distribution.
Returns and Exchanges
The surge in online shipping has caused many online retailers to experience a surge in exchanges and returns as well. This can be a major resource drain for small- to medium-sized online retailers who only have one or two people handling returns. Plus, it can make for a logistical nightmare without the right processes in place.
Since fast returns and exchanges are an important part of the customer experience, look for a fulfillment partner that offers this value-added service. This may include:
- Supplying you with a return file directly via the API to process returns.
- Documenting why the item was exchanged or returned.
- Restocking the exchanged or returned item.
- Prioritizing “good” returned products to go back out the door. This is super important for lotted or dated products.
GLF can handle all of your returns and exchanges, as well as guide you on a return policy that works for you and your customers.
Make GLF Your E-Commerce Fulfillment Partner
With 19 years of experience, GLF understands the importance of finding a reliable fulfillment partner in the online retail industry. We process over 20,000 daily orders, many of which consist of clothes, shoes and other accessories. There are no hidden fees to get started, and we pride ourselves on transparent pricing and personalized services. For more information, contact us today.