If you want to streamline your eCommerce business, finding the right fulfillment provider can be a major step. A good fulfillment service can get your orders out efficiently and in a cost effective manner. But not just any service will do.
If you’re looking for an eCommerce fulfillment service to give your business a boost, here are 15 tips for choosing the best provider for you.
Factors to Use When Comparing Order Fulfillment Services
Consider Your Volume
If you’re looking for an eCommerce fulfillment service, you need to make sure that you have enough volume to cover the cost. Depending on the type of items you sell, the actual volume you need to make it worth your while can vary. But you should at least be aware of your monthly shipping volume before you start shopping around so you can get accurate estimates.
Create a Realistic Budget
From there, you need to look at your books and decide what you can realistically afford to spend on eCommerce fulfillment. The pricing models of different fulfillment services can vary. But you should think about how much you can afford to spend per unit while still making enough off of each sale.
Make Sure You Can Still Be Profitable
Even if you think having an eCommerce fulfillment service might be helpful, that doesn’t mean it is going to be a good idea for your business at this point. So you’re really going to need to look into your expenses going forward and make sure that paying for eCommerce fulfillment isn’t going to hinder your ability to turn a profit. And if you can’t find a trustworthy company that fits within your actual budget, you might need to hold off for awhile.
Look for a Specialized Company
When you actually start your search for an eCommerce fulfillment company, it’s important that you find one that can handle your products specifically. For example, if you ship especially heavy items, you need a fulfillment company that specializes in handling heavy items. If you ship potentially hazardous items, you need to find a company that can handle those items too.
Zach Zitney, co-founder of eCommerce fulfillment company Ships-A-Lot  said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “It’s not efficient for companies to fulfill all different types of orders from the same place. But if they specialize in one or two types of items, then they probably have a pretty good system for shipping those specific items.”
Try Some Industry Authorities
While you can simply do an internet search or ask around to find potential eCommerce fulfillment services, Zitney also recommends looking at industry authorities like FulfillmentCompanies.net . You can browse lists of approved services that fit within different niches.
But don’t just pick a company off a list. Zitney also says it’s very important to come up with a list of questions for any potential fulfillment service. For example, you should ask about their pricing structure, what shipping providers they work with, the types of products they work with, if they ship internationally and even how they come up with their prices. The more questions you ask, the more you can be sure whether or not you’re getting a good deal.
Consider Turnaround Times
You also need to carefully consider what kind of time frame is acceptable for each shipment. If you promise two-day shipping to your customers, for example, then you need to make sure to choose a fulfillment service that can accommodate that request.
Make Sure They Can Handle the Size/Weight of Goods
And you have to also be clear about the size and weight of your shipments. That can have a major impact on the price that you end up paying for fulfillment services.
Ask About Warehouse Locations
The location or locations of each fulfillment service’s warehouses may also have an impact on your decision. If you need to get shipments delivered quickly, then having multiple warehouse locations around the country could be a benefit.
Find Out About Returns
Returns or exchanges can also be a major issue. If you need your fulfillment company to handle them for you, then you need to make sure they have the ability to do so. And you should also ask more detailed questions about their process for returns.
Look for Companies That Work With Your Platform
For an eCommerce fulfillment service to be effective, they need to be able to quickly get information about the orders that come in. So if they have the ability to automatically hook up to your site or eCommerce platform, that can be a major benefit. For example, Ships-A-Lot works directly with Shopify stores.
You’ll also want to be sure that whatever service you choose has the ability to work with you as your business grows. So ask questions about the volumes they can handle and if there are any price changes for increases in volume.
Beware of Price Outliers
While you certainly want to get the best possible value out of an eCommerce fulfillment service, finding the lowest quoted price shouldn’t be your only goal. In fact, Zitney warned that some services that quote extremely low prices often leave out added fees just to get you to sign a contract.
Ask About Added Fees
For that reason, you should be sure to ask about exactly what you’ll need to pay and if there are any situations where you might need to pay more than the actual quoted price.
Find a Transparent Company
The most important thing you can do when looking for a fulfillment company, according to Zitney, is to find a company that’s transparent. If they are willing to answer your questions and don’t try to hold back information, you’re likely to have a good working relationship with your eCommerce fulfillment service.
Fulfillment  Photo via Shutterstock