There is no shortage of companies promising to take care of your logistics needs for you. Like just about everything else, we are spoiled for choice when it comes to this aspect of running an online store.
However, comparing logistics providers in the search for the right one might be more difficult than comparing other services for a simple reason — many potential customers don’t know what to look for when considering their choices. Even experienced eCommerce veterans may not know what to ask about so how can a beginner?
That’s why we’ve put together this list of 15 questions you should ask when looking for a fulfillment partner. The answers will help you to not only pick the one that best fits with your needs, but to better understand what they do and how their support helps your business grow.
Who is an eCommerce Fulfillment Provider?
An eCommerce fulfillment provider is a third party that provides services for ecommerce operations, mostly in the area of order fulfillment. When a customer orders something from an online store, it’s the fulfillment provider who actually takes care of everything needed to deliver that item to the customers.
This includes everything from warehousing & storing, the process of picking and packaging items for shipment and handing over the parcels to couriers for transport to the customer.
eCommerce fulfillment providers make it easier for online stores to focus on their core strengths and devote their resources to improving their sales and marketing efforts without the distractions of order fulfillment.
1. What are your international shipping policies?
This might seem like a too-obvious question with an equally obvious answer (“We ship everywhere!”) but that isn’t always the case. Some logistics operations can specialize in shipping to certain markets, whether in terms of carriers they work with or the paperwork they know how to take care of for certain kinds of goods.
If your eCommerce ships or plans to ship across borders, be sure to ask about specific advantages or disadvantages that a particular fulfillment operation has in the markets that are important to you.
Omnipack ships anywhere in the world but we specialize in deliveries to within the EU and to the Polish and German markets in particular. We cooperate with all major carriers and multiple regional delivery services in order to secure the best possible rates and pass along the savings to our clients.
2. How do you handle returns?
Returns are simply a fact of life in eCommerce, particularly in the fashion industry. It’s not unusual for a third or more of all clothes, shoes and similar items to come back to you. No matter how returns you get, they can be a logistical challenge and a major interruption of your workflow.
That’s exactly why it’s so convenient to let your logistics partner handle them.
Ask if the kinds of products you sell can be processed when they are returned, the fees for doing so and about any services offered to return sellable stock back to inventory.
Omnipack handles returns for our clients, including repackaging items for resale when possible. We can even take pictures to document the condition of returns when received and return them to stock based on guidelines we are given from vendors. Omnipack clients can get alerts and updates about all returns received via our Merchant Portal.
3. What is your shipping accuracy rate?
All credible logistics operations track their accuracy when it comes to shipping the right items and the right number of items to the right customers. Feel free to ask what their most recent measured result is and use this as an indicator of their overall level of service.
We constantly monitor our picking & packing accuracy with a special team dedicated just to this important performance metric. For the most recent measured term, Omnipack’s accuracy rate was 99.95%.
4. Can you integrate your CRM or other eCommerce platform with your logistics partner?
Digital integration means being able to access all relevant information about your shipments, returns and more. In many cases, it also means being able to get answers quickly yourself rather than relying on someone to respond to your call or email. Integration is a valuable asset that keeps you informed about deliveries, shipments in progress and other issues that you customers may inquire about.
Omnipack works with our partners to complete integrations and we can accommodate most major eCommerce platforms. We work with your IT team if you have one or take care of it ourselves to complete the process as quickly as possible and get you set up and onboarded with how to manage your integration via our Merchant Portal.
5. What’s the deadline for an order to be shipped the same day?
Next-day delivery is something that many customers want and you need to offer it. That means handing the package over to a courier service before a certain deadline and the later it is for you, the better. Be sure to ask when this deadline is so you can inform your customers about it if they are considering paying for next-day delivery.
At Omnipack, the deadline for next-day delivery varies according to different carriers but can be as late as 6pm.
6. In what areas do you offer next-day delivery?
This is obviously related to the previous question and it’s another topic your customers will ask you about. Be sure to know exactly when and where you can offer next-day delivery.
Omnipack offers next-day delivery to addresses in Poland and Germany. Delivery time to the rest of the EU is 3-4 days.
7. Do you offer custom packaging?
One size does not fit all when it comes to packaging. Whether it’s the size, shape or nature of your product that needs special attention, you need to be sure your logistics partner can provide the packaging needed to not only protect your product during shipment but to deliver the kind of customer experience you want.
Always ask about the packaging options available, particularly if you offer items in non-standard sizes.
During the client onboarding process, Omnipack learns all about any special requirements needed to meet packaging standards and suggests the best solution for each item. We not only want to ensure that the item arrives in perfect condition, but we are also happy to work with you to create just the customer experience you have mind.
8. Do I need to provide any materials?
Boxes, filling materials, labels — a lot goes into preparing items for shipment and you need to know where it comes from. Most fulfillment operations will offer everything required for the packing and shipping process but it’s always best to be clear if anything is expected from your side.
Also, you may want to provide certain materials for various reasons related to, for example, branding or other considerations. Be sure to ask if you can provide those materials if you so choose and how it affects the pricing of your service.
At Omnipack, we’re happy to use any suitable materials you want to provide but we already have everything that we need. You can choose from a wide range of options, including eco-friendly variations of packing and filling materials. It is typically better to let us use our materials because it is easier to optimize the process and use the perfect size and amount of materials, thus making our operations more sustainable and reducing the total amount of packing used.
9. Do you offer flexible pricing plans?
Answers may vary here, but it’s always worth learning more about how you are charged for the support provided by a logistics partner. Typically, what you pay is in direct proportion to what you ship, since per-piece charging is the industry standard. If you’re interested in a particular arrangement that will give you some flexibility, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
At Omnipack, we charge on a per–piece basis, so the amount of packages we ship for you determines what you will be charged. There is one other variable that can affect this, however. If you ship above certain volumes, you will receive a discounted rate that will lower your per-piece charge.
10. Can you help me with data about stock levels, etc.?
When your physical stock is stored with your logistics partner, you may want or need to check things like inventory levels, whether new supplies have been added to your inventory or the updated availability of a certain product. It’s important to ask how you can gain access to this information so you can run your business without having to rely on someone else to tell you what you can sell right now.
Omnipack provides full access to your inventory metrics through our Merchant Portal. You can check stock levels, the status of particular orders, change the shipping priority of orders and get historical data related to previous shipments.
11. Do you operate 24h?
You may be curious about this if you deal with particularly time-sensitive shipments.
At Omnipack, we don’t operate 24 hours a day, although we do work extended hours around the Black Friday holiday season to ensure the timely shipment of all packages. We will always adjust as needed to provide our clients with the best possible service. Even though our warehouses do not operate around the clock, Omnipack clients can access their Merchant Portal 24/7.
12. Can I visit your warehouse?
It’s a fair question if you want to see the conditions in which your goods are stored and processed. There are always safety considerations that may complicate any such visit, but most operations will allow clients to visit in certain circumstances.
Unfortunately the covid pandemic has complicated many things, including the possibility of clients visiting our warehouse facilities. Our clients are always welcome to visit after first making the necessary arrangements with our administration. We can also offer a video tour of our warehouses as part of our onboarding process and can arrange them at any time.
13. What kind of customer support do you offer?
Customer support is important for any service, and logistics is no exception. Always ask about available resources to help you when you have a problem, question or anything else that requires contact with the company.
Omnipack offers a dedicated Merchant Support team to handle all issues. Currently, their average response time to customer tickets is just 45 minutes.
14. What kind of security do you have at your facilities?
Your inventory is valuable and you have every right to be curious about how it is secured and protected. Always ask about security measures implemented at sites where your goods are stored.
Omnipack’s warehousing locations are protected with video monitoring. Particularly valuable small items are kept in a restricted area with limited access for additional safekeeping. On top of that we are of course fully insured in the event of damage to the warehouse.
15. Do you specialize in any particular field or kind of product?
Some fulfillment operations may be especially equipped to handle certain kinds of items while others may avoid certain categories. It’s always worth asking to make sure that your product line is a good fit for the operation’s equipment and fulfillment process.
While all online merchants are welcome at Omnipack, we have extensive experience working with vendors in the supplements and Health & Beauty sectors. Our shelving and heated storage is optimized for this kind of product and we have the necessary tools to monitor expiration dates. Vendors with a limited number of SKUs are especially easy to work with since optimizing the processes around them is much more straightforward.
What does e-commerce fulfillment provider do?
E-commerce fulfillment providers take care of all the steps that take place between the moment a customer orders something online and the delivery of that item. This includes storing inventory, picking and packing items and turning them over to parcel delivery services.
What are ecommerce fulfillment services?
E-commerce fulfillment services include anything required to fill orders from online stores and deliver ordered items to customers. This includes storing inventory, picking and packing items and turning them over to parcel delivery services.
How to choose e-commerce fulfillment provider?
Depending on your needs, there are different things to consider when looking for a logistics partner. See our post on this topic at https://omnipack.com/blog/15-questions-you-should-ask-when-looking-for-a-fulfillment-partner