If you’re the owner of a brand-new e-commerce outlet, you’re probably already learning quite a bit from your mistakes. Chief among them, you might be finding your fulfillment could use some improvement.
Fulfillment is something you can usually handle yourself—early on. But you can also outsource fulfilment. Plenty of companies exist to take that responsibility off your hands. So without further ado, let’s look at the best e-commerce fulfillment options for small businesses.
Handling Fulfillment Yourself
The best thing about handling your own fulfillment is you don’t have to pay cash to anyone. The biggest negative about doing it yourself is that it’ll eat up a lot of your time — time that could be better spent elsewhere within your business. Handling your own fulfillment also allows you to customize your process any way you’d like. You get a hands-on feel for your business, packaging and inventory levels. This is a great option early on for a new or very small e-commerce outlet because it costs time, not money. As the business gains traction and begins to grow, it can be very tough to scale your fulfillment operations to keep pace with your sales volume.
FedEx is a great fulfillment option for small business owners because it can provide your e-commerce business with an inventory platform, customer support and continuous monitoring throughout your supply chain. Since FedEx is a logistics-first company, one of its main advantages over other fulfillment options is favorable shipping costs. While many companies may have to outsource shipping needs to third-party logistics providers (like FedEx), the company has its own fleet of trucks and planes for shipments of any size. E-merchants can also store products at the 130 FedEx warehouses in the United States and Canada. In that instance, most shipments will be transported via two-day ground services provided by FedEx Ground.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
Amazon can be a one-stop shop for a small-scale e-retailer. It offers a marketplaces with a built-in audience to sell your product line, handle fulfillment, logistics and last-mile delivery. Active sellers using Amazon’s fulfillment service rose more than 70 percent in 2016. One selling point for Amazon is Prime membership. Eighty-two percent of Prime members will purchase a product on Amazon, even if they can find it at a lower price through another retailer. Amazon’s FBA Prime tie-in gives businesses that sell in any volume on Amazon very powerful incentives to use Amazon FBA.
While the Amazon marketplace can be a benefactor, it can also be a major negative. Amazon can see what products are selling well in their marketplace, which allows it to beef up their individual product lines based on these sales trends While your product might take off like a rocket at first, it’s only be a matter of time before Amazon creates its own product to keep up with yours.
E-commerce companies who were unhappy with their fulfillment services got together to create ShipBob. Just like any other fulfillment service, ShipBob can handle your inventory, packing and shipping, but it also allows you to connect your e-commerce platform to your ShipBob account. Wherever you are selling your product line, you can integrate your system to ShipBob’s so it can begin handling your fulfillment process. Let’s say you sell makeup from home. If your e-commerce platform and chosen marketplace connects to ShipBob through standard integrations or API, there are no onboarding or setup fees. All you’ll see is your makeup arriving on time.
Red Stag fulfillment is best when your products are expensive, oversized or require some assembly before shipping. Red Stag is a specialty fulfillment company, so it’s not worried about a minimum number of sales per month from their e-commerce partners Red Stag also has incredible shipping coverage within the United States. It’s capable of reaching 99.9 percent of Americans in three days and 97 percent of Americans within two days. However, one of the downsides of Red Stag fulfillment is its per-item pick-and-pack fees. If you have multiple products within a single order, charges add up quickly.
Many of these companies offer a variety of other services that may or may not suit your e-commerce business model. Whether handling fulfillment in-house or outsourcing it, your needs can vary greatly depending upon the size of your business and your product line. An improved supply chain usually means fewer shipping issues, more streamlined operations and a boost to your bottom line. Look for providers that can improve each of these aspects when researching the best e-commerce fulfillment options for small businesses.