”Entrepreneurs invest close to a year of their life in exchange for a chance at eight minutes worth of ‘gold’.” – TJ Hale, Shark Tank Podcast
As a fulfillment center who has worked with several companies featured on Shark Tank, we know how important it is to have a sound shipping and logistics strategy in place before launching a product on national television.
Without the proper strategy and logistics in place before the Shark Tank gold rush, shipping delays and other errors could hurt your brand. Take it from us: there are a plethora of logistics-related issues that you’ll need to consider before your company appears on Shark Tank.
First things first…
The primary decision you need to make is whether you are going to fulfill orders in-house or outsource order fulfillment to a company like ShipMonk.
All businesses are different, so it may or may not make sense to outsource fulfillment, and you’ll need to weigh the opportunity costs and the benefits of fulfillment before you make a final decision.
Fulfilling Orders In-House
As Don Hejny at Nerdwax points out, there is tremendous benefit to companies learning how to handle things on their own in-house, even if they do eventually outsource: “Before you just go and hire somebody, learn to do what you don’t think you can do,” Don advises, “It always helps to have a working knowledge of all aspects of your business, and it’s a really empowering feeling once you’ve struggled through that process.” That said, If you are leaning towards fulfilling orders in-house, here are some questions you will need to take into consideration.
Can you pre-pack orders?
If you have relatively few SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) and minimal variations of orders, you can pre-pack a large quantity of orders, so all you have to do is print the shipping labels and transfer the orders to the shipping carrier. However, things get significantly dicier if your numbers spike beyond what you can realistically handle. This happened to Kelli over at PhoneSoap, and she advises that “you may end up needing to bring in temps, so make sure you have a list of friends, family, or temp workers available to prepack orders.”
How quickly can you print labels?
If you plan on pre-packing or fulfilling orders in house, you’ll want to make sure you invest in a decent thermal printer that has the capacity to print many labels very quickly. You may want to even have a backup printer on hand in case your main printer malfunctions; this happens surprisingly often!
Will you be dropping orders off or scheduling orders for pick-up with the carrier?
If you are already fulfilling orders yourself, you may already be making daily trips to the UPS, USPS, or FedEx store to ship orders. It may not be feasible to load your car with the increased amount of orders, so you’ll need to schedule for carrier pick-up in advance. Note: this may increase the cost to ship each unit since it’s an extra step the carrier has to take.
Which shipping methods are best for your business?
This can largely depend on the items you are shipping, the locations you ship to, and whether you offer free shipping to customers.
Which carrier will offer you the lowest rate?
Pricing is relatively straightforward when it comes to shipping: the more your ship, the less you pay.
The problem is…
If you are only shipping a few orders each day, you may have a hard time convincing the carriers to offer you the lowest rate possible on the presumption that you will experience a spike in orders.
Some carriers like UPS and FedEx are willing to reduce rates upfront if they believe they’ll win future business when your volume increases, but if your order volume doesn’t continue to increase, they’ll increase your rates.
Should this occur, you may elect to work with a fulfillment company. This will enable you to leverage the discounted shipping rates that the fulfillment company will have negotiated previously. Fulfillment companies will often then pass these price-advantaged rates down to you, so you’ll be able to save on shipping from the get go.
How much packaging material will you need?
The last thing you’ll want to do is tie up capital in unused boxes and packing material. Without being able to reference past experience, it is significantly harder to forecast your order volume. If you choose not to go with a fulfillment company who stocks packaging for its customers, you should look into various vendors who can supply packaging on-demand. Make sure they can deliver additional packaging within 24-48 hours, so orders are not unreasonably delayed.
Does your order management software integrate with your shipping management software?
Integrated systems allow for less manual work and faster order fulfillment. Ultimately, improving your workflow with integrated shipping solutions will save you time, effort, stress, and money.
Considering outsourcing your order fulfillment to prepare for growth after Shark Tank? Click here to learn the 9 signs that you’re ready to outsource fulfillment.
Outsourcing Order Fulfillment
If you’re planning on using a fulfillment center, you will need to make sure you’ve addressed the following items.
Vet your fulfillment companies.
Not all fulfillment companies offer the same type or level of service. Most businesses find it best to find a fulfillment center that works with business models similar to their own, since the business-specific learning curve will be significantly lower. Ask to speak with some of the fulfillment company’s current clients to get a better idea of what it’s like to work with them. It’s important that the fulfillment company has great customer service and a stellar record of on-time delivery, otherwise your brand will likely suffer the consequences. Katherine Krug over at Betterback went with a fulfillment company based on brand-recognition alone starting out. She quickly realized, however, that the company was not only unresponsive to her needs, but also refused to acknowledge their mistakes. Be sure that you are comfortable with the people at your chosen fulfillment company.
Ask the fulfillment center what experience they have in fulfilling “flash sales” orders related to your business.
Appearing on Shark Tank or a similarly popular show generally results in a massive increase in interest and sales for your business. It’s imperative that your fulfillment center is equipped to handle a sharp increase in order fulfillment quickly. If they aren’t ready for a sudden increase in orders, fulfillment can be delayed, which can negatively affect your consumer ratings and the customer experience of your brand.
Make sure the fulfillment center’s systems integrate with your shopping cart.
Integrated systems will allow for seamless order fulfillment. If your systems aren’t integrated, this will add extra friction (and time) between order receipt and order fulfillment.
Ask the fulfillment company if they have the ability to track inventory levels.
Running out of inventory can be highly detrimental to your brand. Ensure the fulfillment center has sufficient inventory levels ready to ship prior to your appearance on Shark Tank. Put alerts into place for your company’s inventory manager to re-order SKUs with enough lead time to avoid running out of product.
Although you may not be able to explicitly inform your fulfillment partner that you’re going to be appear on Shark Tank, it is very important that you give your fulfillment center a heads up that you’re going to have a spike in orders due to premier placement on a popular TV show.
What to Consider Beyond Fulfillment
Before your company appears on Shark Tank or a similarly popular show, you’ll want to verify that all of your company’s systems are working properly and efficiently – and that your technology and human resources are prepared for a sharp increase in workload.
Ensure your website is mobile-friendly.
This should be a given, but it’s worth a reminder: Your website must be mobile responsive. The majority of eCommerce web traffic is mobile, and many new website visitors will be searching for your brand using mobile devices during and immediately after your company’s appearance on Shark Tank. Your website’s shopping experience should be as efficient and user-friendly on mobile devices as it is on tablets and desktops.
Improve the user experience of your website.
Improving the user experience across all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop) will help you capture a higher conversion rate from new traffic. Start now by improving the quality of images and information on your website and individual product pages. Address frequently asked questions (about the product, shipping, materials, your company, etc.) in the appropriate locations of your website to lower the number of customer inquires and increase your conversion.
Test your website to make sure it can handle the influx of traffic and sales.
Ensure your web server is ready to handle a sudden surge in traffic without your website going down. If your website is overloaded with heavy traffic and becomes unavailable to new visitors, it will make your brand look bad at the most inopportune moment. An appearance on Shark Tank is your time to shine. Run traffic simulation tests to ensure that the impact of an increased number of website users won’t have a drastic decrease on webpage load time or shut your site down temporarily. Julie Busha of Slawsa weighs in on this: “Another consideration beyond making sure your site is hosted on a platform that won’t crash (like Shopify) is also making sure that apps such as store locators will be able to handle the traffic well.”
Ramp up your marketing efforts.
While some customers may be ready to purchase your products based on interest from your appearance on Shark Tank, many website visitors will simply be browsing, researching, and getting to know your brand. Make sure you can capitalize on the sudden interest by implementing retargeting techniques. Consumers generally need to see your product or hear about your brand multiple times before making a purchase, so a strategic increase in marketing efforts and retargeting can bring more sales into your business well after your Shark Tank episode has aired.
Have systems in place to address shopping cart abandonment.
Interested consumers will often drop off just before purchase due to questions and distractions. Retarget hot leads that don’t convert. Shopping cart abandonment processes will help you capture attention and orders from interested browsers and distracted shoppers.
Prepare your customer service team for an increase in calls and emails.
Beyond informing your customer service team that you’re expecting a sharp increase in calls and emails, do your best to fully prepare your team with answers to expected questions. The Frequently Asked Questions page of your website can kickstart your collection of canned responses. Essentially, this allows your customer service team to copy and paste answers to frequently asked questions and then tailor it for the individual response. Not only does this save your team massive amounts of time rewriting the same answers to the same questions all day long but, as your team grows, it also gives newly hired team members a great script to respond to customer inquires on calls and emails.
Consider ways to motivate your team for the sudden surge in inquiries, such as fun challenges and team check-ins. Mentally preparing your team for the influx of calls and emails will improve the overall user experience of your brand.
Consider adding Live Chat to your website.
Giving shoppers the option to Live Chat your customer service team can decrease the amount of calls and emails your team receives. More importantly, it allows website visitors an option to get a quick answer to their questions or concerns without ever leaving your website. Quick answers can translate into higher sales conversions, fewer returned products, and happier customers – all of which are hugely important to your brand’s success after Shark Tank.
Your team can focus on real-time marketing social media, retargeting, Adwords relating to your products appearing on Shark Tank.
Outsourcing your fulfillment process means you can spend more time on your company’s zone of genius: your products. After your episode on Shark Tank airs, you’ll want to dedicate your resources to creating, marketing, and selling your product. Delegating the logistics of order fulfillment can release your other resources to focus on business growth.
The benefits of outsourcing order fulfillment can be a huge boost to rapidly-growing businesses, such as brands featured on Shark Tank and other high-profile shows. If you have any questions related to shipping logistics, order fulfillment, or supply chain management, please contact us. We’d be more than happy to help! By fulfilling with us over at ShipMonk, you can experience why Beard King‘s Nick and Alessia Galekovic “love the personal customer service ShipMonk provides.”