Finding the right fulfillment partner is one of the most critical elements of building a successful eCommerce business, and it’s not an easy task; tons of fulfillment companies will guarantee fast turnaround times and low storage fees. That said, there are some key differentiators in the landscape that distinguish true partners from the rest of the field. 

Here are the five questions you should ask – and the answers you should hear – to help you find the right fulfillment partner.

Question 1: What are your storage fees?

Answer you should hear:

A good fulfillment partner will focus less on storage fees and more on making sure your products don’t sit around for long. The point is to enable sales, not to collect fees. Where Amazon will penalize vendors who don’t sell and keep increasing fees as time goes on, the right partner will work with you to promote your products and help them move quickly to the end customer.

Question 2: What kind of support do you provide?

Answer you should hear: 

Today’s fulfillment companies should have lots of technical capabilities and automated features, but that shouldn’t extend to customer support. The right partner will provide a dedicated person or people to make sure someone is always available to help you solve your specific challenges. Whether it’s via Skype or Slack or email or phone (or whatever messaging platform you prefer), fulfillment partners who understand your business model should be responsive and resourceful in answering your questions and providing solutions.

Question 3: What kind of items do you ship?

Answer you should hear: 

Warehouses should always have the ability to ship both small parcels and LTL bulk products. If they focus on small parcels, you’ll end up paying way too much for LTL. Good partners can offer volume-based discounts for any kind of shipment.

Question 4: How do you manage our inventory?

Answer you should hear: 

Ideally, your fulfillment partner will use proprietary software to manage your inventory. If it’s manually managed, the process will be very slow and lead to uncompetitive shipping windows. If it’s run through software the fulfillment company has to purchase, the customer will ultimately bear some of those costs. Your fulfillment partner should also be able to help you allocate inventory by using real-time inventory deductions to help keep you from over-selling and providing a poor customer experience with long backorder times.

Question 5: How do you process reverse logistics?

Answer you should hear: 

The best fulfillment partners will provide packaging and marketing recommendations as part of their returns process. All warehouses should be able to process returns and claims, but true partners will proactively communicate with vendors to figure out why products are being returned. Whether the solution is minimizing damage through better packaging or recognizing errors in how the products are being marketed, the right fulfillment partner will work with you on solutions to reduce return rates.

Cenports.inc

Whether you’re a manufacturer or a business owner, you can trust Cenports to automate and integrate your way out of fulfillment, inventory, EDI/API, and order management challenges across hundreds of major retailers. Grow your sales free of operational friction.

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