When Is It Time to Outsource Order Fulfillment?


There is a compelling case to be made that order fulfillment is actually the most important part of the whole ecommerce process. This might seem strange. Surely it is your brand that draws customers in? Surely, it is the great products you offer and the far-reaching marketing techniques which really lead to a sale? This actually isn’t incorrect. However, if that sale is not completed – efficiently and with a degree of customer service – then you run the very real risk of spoiling your company’s reputation. And this is a disaster which is awfully hard to come back from.

This might sound like obvious sense, but it’s actually an aspect of modern retail that is fairly new. Ecommerce today offers many advantages to customers which simply did not exist before. It’s much easier to methodically browse what’s on offer, it’s much easier to place an order and, ultimately, you can do the whole thing from the comfort of your home.

But all of that is just the “virtual” part of the process. If a customer is still waiting for their order to be delivered, all they have really experienced up to that point is clicking things on a computer. If that cannot be translated into the reception of a real product, the whole benefit of ordering things comes to nothing.

Shipping and Handling of Texas, an ecommerce fulfillment and cross dock services company out of Sugar Land, Texas, say that fulfillment is perhaps the one area of the entire process where customers expect the most. You can blame this on the influence of the ecommerce giants such as Amazon and eBay. Recent innovations such as next day delivery and the sheer efficiency of fulfillment with these companies has led to customer’s expecting the utmost service when it comes to receiving their deliveries. Remember, you may derive most of your sales from your company site, but you can bet that every one of your customers is familiar with ordering things on Amazon and eBay.

What is Fulfillment?

One of the reasons why companies like Amazon can offer the speediest deliveries is that the order fulfillment process has become a highly developed, and therefore complex, process that involves many different stages. An efficient order fulfillment system will take into account inventory control, supply chain management, fast delivery, and often the use of third-party order fulfillment services in order to supply your products to customers in the way they have become accustomed to.

This last point is particularly important. Only the smallest ecommerce ventures will handle order fulfillment at a single company location. Most today outsource order fulfillment to third party services. In fact, this is often considered a checkpoint in a company’s growth. There will come a time, in other words, when you cannot handle it yourself.

When is It Time?

As it happens, many small ecommerce ventures fail precisely because they don’t know when the time is right to outsource order fulfillment. When that time comes, you can be assured that things are going well (your company is growing), but you also need to actively take the step.

The trick is to ensure you use companies that are regarded as industry specialists and which you are sure have distribution centers within range of where most of your customers are located. For small companies making this step, this will normally take the form of a customer base moving to the national, rather than local, level.

And this, ultimately, is perhaps the best sign that it’s time to outsource – your customer base is suddenly too geographically dispersed for you to ship to without the help of national order fulfillment infrastructures.

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