Tips for more frugal fulfillment

With so many orders coming in and out each day, it can be hard to quantify the efficiency of your current fulfillment process. With other time-consuming priorities like marketing, sourcing new products and competing on price, fulfillment and logistics strategies can often get overlooked. But fulfillment is a vital component in a thriving e-commerce business. And as consumers continue to expect faster and cheaper (and free) shipping, the incremental costs for retailers and brands can start to become a drain.

Here are some quick tips to improve your daily fulfillment routines. Some are changes to your operational processes. Others are practical software solutions. Implementing even a few of them can have a positive impact on your bottom line.


Turn Your Stores into Warehouses

If you have brick-and-mortar locations, use them for more than just a shopping destination. Consider those shelves full of merchandise as an active warehouse. Today’s customer is omnichannel. You should be omnichannel, too. One way to start that integration is to offer in-store pickup for your online items.

Webstore provider Shopify offers a point of sale (POS) platform that completely syncs your webstore with your retail stores. This way, a consumer can make a purchase online and drop by the store to pick it up, saving both you and your customers time and money on shipping. Other third-party integrations, such as NetSuite , can help you keep track of your billing and inventory data as well.


Eliminate Problem Products

Have you noticed that certain products of yours seem to always have problems? Are these bad apples being returned constantly? Are they receiving the same complaints over and over? Do a cost-benefit analysis and determine whether these troublemakers are worth your time and the risk to your seller reputation.

In addition to the financial issues, an influx of returns puts your defect ratings on marketplaces in jeopardy. By eliminating costly products as soon as you see a pattern, you’ll be saving yourself money in the long run.


Consolidate Your Efforts

Let’s face it: A consumer doesn’t care how inconvenient it is for you to receive five different orders from them in the same evening. For them, that just means five new products that will arrive soon on their doorstep. For you, it means fulfilling and shipping five products in five separate packages.

Take the hassle out by consolidating those orders with ChannelAdvisor’s Order Consolidator for eBay sellers . The Order Consolidator automatically detects when the same buyer has made multiple independent purchases within a certain timeframe, then combines those into a single package for processing and fulfillment. This saves you time and money across your personnel, packaging and postage operations. You’ll also be able to grow your business more efficiently without compromising quality.


Package with Price in Mind

It might seem obvious, but many retailers and brands still package their products inefficiently. Take time to analyze the way your products are leaving your warehouses. Are the boxes the right size for the products? Are you using recycled materials for padding? Are you wasting money on paper receipts and other coupons when an e-receipt will do?

It’s worth taking some time to brainstorm creatively on how you can cut costs. A penny or two might not seem like much here and there, but when you’re dealing with tens of thousands of packages each year, the total savings could be a windfall.


Find a Drop Shipper

Many retailers hire a third-party drop shipper to purchase, hold and ship their inventory as an up-front cost savings.

So if you found a new seasonal line of products that you wanted to experiment with, but not necessarily purchase wholesale, you could contract with a drop shipper and go right to the business of selling those products. In that scenario, the time and internal resources you would have spent on receiving, storing, packing and shipping those orders can now be allocated to other areas of your business, such as marketing, customer service and operations.


Develop a Multi-Distribution Center Strategy

Whether you’re adding new warehouses, drop shippers or third-party fulfillment providers, our Multiple Distribution Centers feature gives you access to a smart network of distribution centers, so you can fulfill orders how you want. With your distribution centers connected, ChannelAdvisor manages your distributed quantity and automatically determines where orders are fulfilled based on goals you set. There are two primary strategies you can use within our platform.

1. The first option is to prioritize your distribution centers based on your business goals. Once a product is purchased, we’ll select the distribution center based on the priority level you’ve assigned, combined with the center’s ability to fulfill the complete order.
2. The second option – and the most convenient and cost effective – is to use ChannelAdvisor’s Proximity Order Routing (only for US accounts). From your available distribution centers, we’ll choose the one closest to the customer, also combined with whether the center can fulfill the complete order.

Using the Multiple Distribution Centers feature, you’ll be able to add more distribution centers, customize your fulfillment strategies, integrate orders with your Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) inventory, or even tailor your fulfillment strategies by marketplace.


Get the Refunds You Deserve

The easiest way to make money is to simply claim the money that’s already yours. Did you know that carriers like UPS and FedEx have policies in place that guarantee a retailer a full refund if they’re even a few minutes late with a package delivery? Many retailers either aren’t aware of these policies, or don’t take the time to enforce them. You could unknowingly be leaving money on the table. Companies like 71 Pounds and Refund Retriever , however, will do the work for you, scanning your shipments and helping you recoup your rightful refunds from your carriers.


Pass the Baton

In any other circumstance, you should be willing to go the extra mile for your customers. When it comes to fulfillment, you might want to leave that up to the United States Postal Service (USPS). At least for that final mile. It could actually save you a little money on low-weight packages.

Carriers like FedEx and UPS have programs ( FedEx SmartPost and UPS Mail Innovations ) that deliver your packages to the local post office of the buyer and then let USPS deliver them to the final address. These programs have proven to be a cost-effective, efficient way to deliver (and return) lightweight packages.

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