Thinking about working with a logistics company for your ecommerce business? Has logistics become a bottleneck in your current operations? Modern ecommerce logistics solutions from inventory management to fulfillment services to shipping options are streamlining operations for online retailers everywhere but where do you start in your search for ecommerce logistics solutions?
To help you with the search for an ecommerce logistics partner, we’ve put together this list of tips and guidelines to use in the process. Finding the right logistics support is easier when you know what to look for so use this list as a guide when trying to select a logistics operation.
What is logistics?
It might help to first define what we’re talking about when we refer to “logistics”. In the context of ecommerce, logistics includes anything involved in the process of fulfilling orders placed through online stores. This starts with storing the items sold and warehouse management, selecting the goods from shelves or other warehouse space when they are ordered, packing and shipping them to end customers and sometimes extends to handling ecommerce returns as well.
In short, logistics start working in the background the moment a customer places an order and continues until the package is delivered to them. The logistics network involves lots of moving parts, from the supply chain to the transportation of goods to storage in an e-fulfillment warehouse to order packing and shipping — all the services that online stores need to deliver what they sell online.
The logistics partner checklist
When it’s time to choose a partner to provide logistics for your ecommerce, these are the particular areas that you should consider and ask about. You have lots of options when it comes to working with a logistics specialist, so be sure rate them based on their how they perform in these areas:
- Shipping accuracy rate. This is an important metric that tracks how well logistics services for ecommerce do their most basic job – get the right product to the right customer. In massive warehouses with thousands of items, mistakes will be made even with the best technology but any logistics provider good enough for you should have an accuracy rate of at least 98%.
- Integration with CRMs and tech ecosystems. 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.
- Where the logistics service ships to. You might think this is an easy question to 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 you plan to ship internationally, be sure to ask about the markets that are important to you for ecommerce fulfillment.
- Returns. Returns can be a bigger challenge than you planned for, particularly in certain industries like fashion, where you can count on 30% or more of all your shipments coming back to you. Or, better yet, to your logistics partner. No matter how returns you get, they can be a logistical challenge and a major interruption of your workflow. Be sure that 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. This whole process of processing returns is known as “reverse logistics” in the industry.
- Secure facilities. You’re turning over your inventory to someone for safekeeping — are their facilities up to your standards? You have the right to ask about how the warehouses of your logistics partner are secured and protected. Always ask about security measures implemented at sites where your goods are stored. Modern ecommerce logistics warehousing should meet the highest standards.
- Customer support. 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.
- Flexible pricing plans. Per-piece charging is the industry standard - the more you ship, the more you pay. However, different ecommerce logistics providers may offer different plans that may be more appropriate for the volume of your business. It doesn’t hurt to ask and you may find that a fulfillment center is willing to be more flexible than you realized.
- Cost and source of materials needed. Like everything else, the price of paper goods used in the shipping process is going up. Boxes, filling materials, labels — a lot goes into preparing items for shipment and it’s part of the cost equation in ecommerce logistics. 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.
- Custom packaging options. Sometimes, a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work 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.
Logistics is a crucial part of the performance of any ecommerce business. The efficiency of the logistics processes can influence the sales, reputation and customer satisfaction to take the business to new heights if done well. Choosing the right ecommerce fulfillment service is an important decision that is made much easier when you get answers on the topics we’ve covered here.