E-Commerce Times Talkback
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The old-school approach to order fulfillment doesn't fly for many Internet retailers. Warehousing, packing, shipping and return-order processing are labor-intensive and time-consuming. This has led to a growing trend among online sellers -- the use of Web technologies to automate order fulfillment. I'm talking about e-commerce fulfillment providers. They take the "friction" out of order fulfillment. In a typical scenario, a consumer will buy merchandise at a Web site. This triggers an order that is sent electronically to an EFP who processes the order.
Good point shipwire. It is very important to know up front if the EFP you are considering, can handle B2C and B2B order processing.
Here at wefulfillit.com we can accomodate multichanneling, and our customized software keeps it easy to intergrate with your current process, or no process at all. Our user-friendly system allows for orders to be placed directly to our site, even if a shopping cart platform isn't established yet. Sales staff or resellers can place orders directly themselves while traveling out on the road selling your products in a password protected area. If a shopping cart is taking orders, our system can accept an XML file directly from the shopping cart.
Another point to mention while building your internet model, is who will handle customer service calls and e-mail responses. As your business grows are you going to be equipped to handle the call volume for those customers who want to place phone orders or ask questions about your products?
Some EFP's have inhouse CSR's while others may outsource it. Wefulfillit.com owns, manages, and operates their Call Center staff internally under the same infrastructure that maintains product distribution. This gives an unparalleled ability to quickly alter capacity to meet client's needs, precisely match our agent skills and experience to your call volume and products, making our operations extremely efficient.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me.
Sandy Griffin, www.wefulfillit.com
I wish you had mentioned http://www.shipwire.com and a couple other order fulfillment topics.
1) International order fulfillment. Make sure your EFP ships internationally and offers Int'l warehouses so you can ship locally in major markets.
2) Most EFP's only do B2C. If you crossdock pallets, resupply distributors or "direct ship/drop ship" make sure the EFP has that capability.
3) Don't use one central warehouse. Locate inventory in multiple warehouses to reduce shipping costs to buyers.
4) Ensure your EFP has established integrations with your web store and marketplaces.
5) Get a free trial. Make sure it works for you before you pay money.
Cheers, Nate with http://www.shipwire.com
I think you made some great points but I wanted to add some additional things to think about.
When determining which EFP to select you need to really determine what your exact needs are. This is very important because you need to only pay for the features that you need. EFP companies have different features and specialties so selecting the one that fits your needs will improve your ROI.
Things to think about
• How much money will you save.
• Number of SKU’s you have: If you are limited to a number of SKU's but they are all small products it might be better to select a company that just charges for the amount of space you use.
• Location of most of your shipping (East Coast, West Coast, Middle America or International.): The highest percentage of people in the USA, live in the North East. If that is where you do the most of your shipping it would make sense that you use someone like Prostar Packaging. Their strategic location allows them to get your orders to the entire Northeast United States in a day.
• Does the EFP company integrate with your current systems: The EFP company might have the best system but if you have to make major changes to your current system it might not be worth the effort.
The article doesn't address logistics for a multichannel retailer. "Bricks and clicks" companies will also need to supply their physical stores. Does everything move over to the EFP? How does the EFP integrate into the existing supply chain for just the E-Commerce channel? Should they? Will suppliers split up deliveries between you and the EFP warehouse? What new responsibilities are required to manage the supply chain between your warehouse and the EFP? Etc.
Nice article if you're a DotCom Start-up business with a blank slate. But I'd like to read more about challenges of transitioning your existing processes to EFP, as well as integrating the EFP into an overall multichannel strategy.
You ask a lot of very good questions. I have attempted to answer them below.
Multichannel retailing, either multi-online channels (eBay, Yahoo, Amazon, Own Site), or a combination of online and offline is possible with select EFPs that have good technology.
Software that provides for multiple integration points, such as Webgistix SmartFill (SaaS), makes it possible for orders from all channels to flow smoothly into one system and be fulfilled.
Suppliers can generally split inventory and send it to multiple locations. This is quite common when a bi-coastal or global strategy is employed in an attempt to minimize total shipping cost (such as splitting between East Coast USA, West Coast USA, and Europe).
In the case of Webgistix, managing the relationship and supply chain is done through a dedicated account manager who handles the customer’s specific needs. Different EFPs provide different levels of service.
I believe EFPs generally benefit established retailers more than start-ups because the ROI becomes clear when actual needs can be evaluated.
Switching to an EFP can be some work up front but the overall cost savings, service improvements, scalability (up and down), and elimination of fixed costs generally outweigh the difficulty by a wide margin.
The EFP is really an extension of your business. It should make your business run more efficiently and give you a competitive advantage. There are a handful of good EFPs around and the market is segmented into different types so finding one that meets your exact needs should be straightforward.
If you have more questions please feel free to contact me.
Joseph DiSorbo is with Webgistix Corporation (www.webgistix.com)
ssarull, great questions which goes to the heart of multi-channel selling.
Many established manufacturers/retailers will sell through a brick/mortar; online through a webstore; and, is considering drop shipping for affiliates with something like Doba.com. You can still use and EFP, as long as it is flexible (B2C and B2B) and technically capable.
Look for the following.
1) Will they store inventory in pallets so that you can reduce your brick and mortar footprint by eliminating a local warehouse and resupplying your store. Better yet, offer in-store buyers the option of home delivery for items and only keep a few at the actual store. (This is a new trend I've hear referred to as "Web Fronting")
2) Work with your supplier or freight forwarder to split your shipments. Many will. If not ask your EFP how to receive so you can reship (cross dock) some inventory to your local store.
3) If you are managing inventory in multiple locations, you may want a "middleware" software like StoneEdge or Cactus on Demand to integrate your EFP inventory counts and your own local warehouse. I'm sure there are others.
4) To keep it simple maybe consider using an EFP just for your web orders of best sellers or just for international online sales.
Our website has a few case studies the cover your specific situation (brick and mortar expanding online).
Hope this helps. Nate
http://www.Shipwire.com (order fulfillment in U.S, Canada and UK).