You’ve built a strong ecommerce brand with amazing product(s) and are actively growing. As your sales volume increases, you may start to see operational and cost challenges. These problems can be alleviated with the right outsourcing partner to support your order fulfillment needs. To help you determine if you’re ready to outsource, the fulfillment and logistics experts at ShipMonk have outlined some of the common signs that indicate it’s time to make the big move.
There are many reasons ecommerce brand owners begin considering outsourcing order fulfillment. While some are pretty straightforward (like not having enough space), others can be more complex cost and operational challenges. To help you determine if you’re ready to outsource, we’ve outlined the seven common signs.
1.) Limited Space
No one starts a business just to do okay. Brands want to grow and scale, and if they are successful in doing so then your in-house operation will start to be constricting, only becoming more limiting as order volume ramps up. Clear signs that you’re running out of space include:
- Brown boxes stacked ceiling-high
- Floors lined with crinkle paper and shipping labels
- Couches and kitchen tables used as extra storage space instead of furniture
If you have one or more of these symptoms, then your operation has grown too big for your homebase to literally be your “home.” You need to outsource your inventory storage and order fulfillment to a space dedicated and designed to handle it with the respect it deserves. You can choose between traditional warehouse space or a fulfillment center from here, but if you intend to keep growing, scaling, and being successful, why would you make the move to a place that just holds onto inventory when you could send your SKUs to a place that fulfills orders too? The answer is you wouldn’t. Which is why ecommerce brands that plan to keep evolving outsource to an order fulfillment center or 3PL (third-party logistics provider), not a simple warehouse. After doing everything yourself in-house, if you’re going to make the big move to outsourcing, why go halfway, right?
2.) Too Much Time Spent on Fulfillment
As an ecommerce brand owner, you wear many hats. But while we understand the need to stay involved with all facets of your business, your time is valuable and should be prioritized around high-value to-dos. If you’ve gotten to a point where you’re tired of using all your time picking, packing, and shipping out orders, and would rather focus on big-picture tasks for growing your business, you need to outsource.
By enlisting the professional help of an order fulfillment partner, you can focus on creating new products, optimizing customer experience, expanding international efforts, testing marketing strategies, and more. Does that future-forward daily task list sound more worthy of your time than printing labels and dealing directly with shipping carriers? If you said yes, then it’s definitely a sign you’re ready to outsource.
3.) High Shipping Costs
What is typically the biggest expense of an ecommerce brand? Most business owners will tell you that after manufacturing, one of the highest costs they regularly face is shipping rates, which can wreak havoc on your margins. If you think there’s room for improvement in your bottom line where shipping factors are concerned, then outsourcing to an order fulfillment center is the answer. Fulfillment centers pack a punch when it comes to reducing overall costs related to shipping. Because of the millions of packages shipped each month, 3PLs are able to secure deep discounts with shipping carriers. Those savings trickle down to individual ecommerce brand owners, allowing you to get the best rates in the industry, certainly much better than if you were lone-wolfing it.
4.) Order Complexity
Let’s say your business started out nice and simple. You sold small rubber ducks that only came in the color yellow. You’ve since expanded your inventory and have ducks in all different sizes, shapes, and colors, and are even bundling them into variety packs. What’s more, your customer base is going crazy for these new additions, and your online store is more popular than ever. While that doesn’t sound like a problem, it does raise some concerns for in-house fulfillment. For example:
- How will you manage your inventory?
- Are you able to store products effectively so orders are picked on time and without error?
- Will increasingly intricate orders cause any shipping delays?
- If there are shipping delays, how will you explain that to your customers?
A great order fulfillment company will have the space and experience to handle all these complex order needs as your SKUs and bundles evolve. 3PLs can also quickly and easily adjust to upticks in order volume and product offerings, giving online businesses an added boost of flexibility, which will help you “stress less and grow more” like the ShipMonk motto says.
5.) Difficulties with Retail Fulfillment
If you’re ready to see your ecommerce empire grow beyond the reach of a single store or marketplace, then getting outside help is an extremely good idea. Selling your products in retail stores is an entirely different ball game to digital sales; it would be like going from owning a hot dog cart to owning a sit-down restaurant, or even a chain of restaurants. From physical shipping requirements to technological requirements, there are a lot of processes here that require expertise and substantial time commitments.
If you want to be successful, you shouldn’t make this huge jump alone. Outsourcing to a full-service order fulfillment company can help you immensely. An experienced 3PL can guide you through the potential headaches, complex systems, and ins and outs of the ecommerce industry in a user-friendly way so you don’t get buried before you’ve even truly begun.
6.) Outdated Technology
While spreadsheets may have been the pinnacle of technology for business owners a while back, in today’s complex ecommerce landscape entrepreneurs need a lot more ammo to keep track of data, learn from order history, and ensure both accuracy and efficiency. If any of these have been pain points as in-house order fulfillment begins bursting at the seams, then outsourcing can be your savior in terms of time and money.
Typically, the more manual labor involved the higher the chance for error, so finding the right balance between trained professionals and fulfillment technology is key to expanding your operation. Additionally, if you’ve had trouble keeping track of any aspect of order management, and growing from that data, then you need more sophisticated inventory management software.
A skilled order fulfillment partner can provide all this and more, allowing you to make the most of your fulfillment center while keeping all the historical and real-time data you need easily accessible. The result: a highly dynamic, powerful and efficient operation.
7.) International Markets
Ready for world domination? Being an ecommerce brand means you have the ability to find customers anywhere and everywhere. However, while penetrating international markets is appealing, it can come with its fair share of challenges. Filling out forms, clearing customs, dealing with tariffs, and abiding by the regulations of different countries is not a walk in the park by any means, especially if you’re doing it all by yourself.
Add to that, the shipping costs and shipping delivery windows for a brand fulfilling in-house are more than enough to keep you from branching out. Enter a global 3PL order fulfillment partner with the experience and assorted locations to simplify the process of selling and shipping internationally.
Overall, outsourcing to the right order fulfillment partner is really the only way to take on international markets without damaging your margins or customer experience ratings. So if your plan is to go global, you need a 3PL on your side stat.
Have You Seen the Signs?
It can definitely be intimidating to go from doing everything yourself to trusting a partner to handle all the ins and outs. But the difference between blind faith and an informed decision comes down to experience and proven track record. ShipMonk has proudly helped ecommerce brands of all sizes across all verticals grow throughout the globe. Our reliability as a logistics and order fulfillment partner comes from our consistent commitment to user-friendly technology, strategic innovation, and you.So if you’ve seen the signs highlighted above, don’t wait. The time to pick a 3PL partner and outsource order fulfillment is now. Contact ShipMonk today to get started in building a bigger, better future for your ecommerce brand!