The right fulfillment partner is key to delivering on customer expectations. Your website may offer a good user experience and a streamlined purchase process, but it doesn’t count much if customers aren’t satisfied with your delivery process.
Recent numbers from Baymard Institute show up to 22% of shoppers will abandon an intended purchase due to slow delivery speed.
It’s important to provide top-quality products and quick delivery. — meeting these expectations helps build loyalty and satisfaction among your customer base. You can make that happen by choosing the right fulfillment partner.
Many entrepreneurs focus on pricing and contract options when evaluating potential fulfillment partners. However, there’s more to this key decision.
In this article, we’ll explore seven questions to ask fulfillment partners before signing the dotted line.
1. Can Your Company Integrate With My Already-Existing Systems?
Whether B2B or B2C, your business needs a fulfillment provider that integrates seamlessly with order tracking and processing on your website — making the order fulfillment process more effective since they can automatically fulfill orders immediately after customers place them.
This synchronization level requires technology adaptable to your stock on hand and inventory management systems. The ideal fulfillment partner will have inventory and management systems that integrate with your website, provide real-time updates, and send necessary alerts.
Great eCommerce fulfillment partners can integrate with multiple eCommerce systems, including:
Ask potential fulfillment partners about their integration capabilities. Make sure to explain your company’s existing systems and request an integration demonstration before making decisions.
2. How Well Do You Know My Product?
Fulfillment is more than getting items from point A to point B — it involves other variables like packaging and damage prevention. Your fulfillment partner’s ability to deliver on these variables will depend on their understanding of your product offerings and its unique requirements.
Different product types require different packaging and necessary protective measures for maintaining product integrity during transit. For instance, your products may require refrigeration if they’re perishable and have a limited shelf life.
Ask your eCommerce fulfillment partner if they have experience shipping products like yours or similar. This question should lead to conversations on the packaging, product arrangement, the use of branded materials, and other necessary information to ensure end users have a seamless experience every time.
3. What Order Fulfillment Services Do You Provide?
Each order fulfillment provider delivers a unique set of services. Some stick to the basics — pick, pack, and ship to the recipients. However, others offer additional value-added services to stimulate client growth.
The best fulfillment partners will offer additional services like warehouse operations, inventory planning, and long-term storage. Some will even go as far as offering 24/7 stock visibility with a warehouse management system.
As you decide on the best fulfillment partner for your business, look for value-added features that support startup growth:
- kitting & product assembly
- packaging material procurement
- inventory consolidation
- warehouse services
- omnichannel fulfillment
- freight evaluations
- special handling
- time-sensitive distribution.
Evaluate the features they offer and see if they provide innovative solutions to help your business grow. More importantly, choose a fulfillment partner that can efficiently create a tailored product mix to meet your company’s needs.
4. What Is Your Current Accuracy Rate?
The accuracy rate is the percentage of correctly delivered orders. Incorrect deliveries could range from shipping the wrong product to damage during transit.
With 57% of shoppers reporting an inability to get a product due to various delays, a provider’s accuracy rate is a vital talking point.
Every entrepreneur worth their salt wants a fulfillment company with a high accuracy rate — 95% and above is outstanding.
The right fulfillment partner will provide this number on request. They may even explain how they reached this number and the policies they’re currently implementing to increase their accuracy rate.
Ask about the fulfillment provider’s technology solutions to ensure accuracy, including tagging, tracking, and scanning methods. You can also ask about guarantees regarding order accuracy and company protocol in case of mistakes.
5. What Is Your Current Customer Support Solution?
Customer support is crucial for collaboration with a fulfillment partner and improving customer retention.
Before investing, request information about available support channels. You should also ask about available resources that’ll help you in the event of any problems.
This question is especially important because your end customers will likely have varied questions about their order and delivery progress.
Up to 83% of customers develop loyalty to a brand that responds to and solves their queries. Therefore, it’s better to choose a fulfillment partner that helps you deal with the inevitable “what’s happening to my order” question from your customers.
Ask potential fulfillment partners whether they offer customer support and can communicate directly with your customer on all delivery-related concerns. If not, then your choice of partner must provide real-time communication to help you answer customer queries yourself.
6 . Can You Manage Unexpected Increases In Order Size?
Spikes in sales and purchase requests are common, especially if your business is growing or seasonal. Naturally, you work towards a spike in sales and should partner with a fulfillment company that can handle such unexpected increases.
Ask your potential fulfillment partner about their procedure for dealing with an unexpected increase in order volume.
This question is a gateway to learning more about the provider’s warehouse management system. You can get information on how they allocate inventory, sort stock using shipping frequency as a signal, and their framework for managing large changes in order size.
The right fulfillment partner will also have frameworks to ensure they can handle large changes in order size. For instance, they can predict upcoming increases in order volume by:
- evaluating demand ratios
- discussing upcoming orders with you
- reviewing past supply trends
- discussing marketing plans for high-demand months or seasons.
Finally, ask about their policies regarding larger order volumes. Will they charge you more to fulfill these orders? Will this affect their delivery timelines, or can they adapt seamlessly?
7. Is There Insurance Protection For My Stock?
The final question on this list relates to unplanned eventualities that can damage your stock. A good fulfillment partner will have shipping insurance coverage for various disasters, such as fire, theft, and accidents in their facility.
Ask your prospective fulfillment partner about their claims processes, how long it takes, and how comprehensive the coverage is.
Questions about insurance protection should also lead to inquiries about security measures for your stock. Do they operate 24/7 CCTV protection? Do they use the latest fire alarms and sprinkler systems?
Finally, insurance and guarantee also extend to delivery errors. Ask for information on their policies for managing fulfillment errors — will they cover the cost of correcting shipping mistakes and retrieving incorrect deliveries?
Due Diligence Will Help You Choose The Best Fulfillment Partner
A narrow-minded focus on freight rates and discounts isn’t the way to choose a fulfillment partner for your business. You’ll save money, but the result may be bad for customer retention and satisfaction.
Instead, use the questions above to evaluate potential fulfillment partners. This’ll help you eliminate options until you’re left with an experienced fulfillment partner with the structure to provide maximum value for your investment.
Alex Selwitz is the Director of SEO for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and digital marketing. In his free time, Alex enjoys playing guitar and learning about new trends in the digital world.