If you run an eCommerce store that is big enough to justify booking freight shipments, then you are probably working with an order fulfillment company. It might be a small, local warehouse or a giant like Amazon. Either way, outsourcing fulfillment to someone else makes it much easier to automate your orders and enjoy the flexibility of having an online business.
Most fulfillment centers use some variation of the same pitch. “We ship your orders quickly and cheaply.” Some companies emphasize their low rates and others their great customer service, and still others their wide network of fulfillment centers.
But on most of these companies websites, you’ll notice something else. Most of them offer a lot more services than those you see emphasized in ads and landing pages. As it turns out, fulfillment centers have a lot more to offer than you might be aware of.
Here are 10 value-added services that your fulfillment center might just be offering.
1. Kitting & Assembly
Did you know that products don’t necessarily have to be ready to ship when they arrive at the fulfillment center? If your partner offers kitting and assembly, you can take advantage of this fact.
Assembly is when two component parts are assembled together prior to shipping out. The classic example is furniture, which often ships in flat boxes, but can be assembled before delivering to retail stores. The value in this is clear – it costs less to ship in bulk, but customers don’t have to actually assemble the furniture itself.
Kitting, on the other hand, is when you take two or more items and bundle them together in one ready-to-ship kit. For example, if you are an author and you’ve just published the third book in your series, you can sell the whole trilogy on your website as a single item, even though each book is a different SKU.
2. Amazon FBA Prep
If you’re selling items on Amazon, you’re probably familiar with the stringent standards that Amazon makes you follow in order to use their fulfillment service. As it turns out, a lot of fulfillment centers can take care of that burden for you.
Third-party fulfillment centers are often able to apply Amazon’s labels, properly package the items, and send them where they need to go. This is especially useful if you have a presence split between Amazon and other platforms. You can use your fulfillment partner to ship everything not being sold by Amazon and to prep everything to be sold by Amazon.
3. Crowdfunding Fulfillment
Crowdfunding fulfillment is an unusual beast. Often, fulfillment centers prefer steady order volume. Crowdfunding campaigns often result in a ton of inventory being delivered all at once, which must be fulfilled in short order, before the client is ultimately offboarded.
However, if you run an eCommerce store and use crowdfunding for product launches, you may be surprised to hear that your fulfillment center can handle crowdfunding-related order surges. Not every company will do it, but it’s worth it to ask yours. They might just be able to prevent you from having to reach out to another company.
4. Sorting and Inspection
One of the fundamental problems with outsourcing order fulfillment is that another company has to handle your inventory. That means if you’re shipping freight shipments straight to your fulfillment partner, you don’t get to see it or interact with it before it goes out to the customer.
Many fulfillment centers will provide sorting and inspection services. This is great for taking care of some of the quality assurance issues that could otherwise keep you up at night!
5. Marketing Material Insertion
One of the easiest ways to upsell to customers is simply to add marketing materials to the box. Your fulfillment center can probably provide this service, often for less than $0.20 per insert.
When your customers receive the box, they will immediately see the inserted marketing materials before the main item. This is a great way to catch their attention, perhaps with a special offer, and make some additional sales. It’s also extremely cost-effective.
Want to allow for gift messages? What about hand-written notes? Depending on your fulfillment center, you may be able to personalize orders before they go out.
Every company offers slightly different options in this regard. However, the common personalization options offered by major shopping cart softwares like Shopify and WooCommerce are highly likely to be supported.
7. Labeling and Barcoding
Have you ever shipped a bunch of inventory to the warehouse only to find out that it’s missing a required label or a barcode? This happens more than you would think, and most fulfillment centers have a process to help you out.
For a small per-unit fee, many fulfillment centers can manually apply any labels or barcodes you may have forgotten earlier. This is often an extremely cost-effective way to prevent otherwise sellable goods from going into the trash.
8. Bulk Disposal
Speaking of trash, it’s not always easy to get rid of garbage. Some items like batteries require special handling, and can’t simply be thrown out back into the dumpster.
Luckily, fulfillment centers are very good at removing waste from their warehouses. If you find out that you need a massive amount of stuff thrown away in a hurry, your fulfillment center might be able to help. This is especially true if you are working with a fulfillment center that provides special services like hazardous material handling or refrigeration.
9. Retail Prep
Preparing items to sell in brick-and-mortar retail stores can be quite the ordeal, in some ways more difficult than FBA prep. All items must be properly labeled, complete with barcodes and may need additional processing depending on the retailer.
If you are an eCommerce store owner branching into brick-and-mortar distribution, contact your fulfillment center and see if they can help you prepare your inventory. You might be surprised to find out they can!
10. Repackaging & Refurbishment
According to Shopify, around 20% of eCommerce shipments are returned. No matter how much you optimize your product descriptions or try to prevent shipping damage, that return rate is enormous. The expense really adds up.
Anything you can do to put your inventory back into stock can save you a ton of money. That’s why some fulfillment centers are starting to offer repackaging and refurbishment services. It’s not common, but when available, this can help you sell goods that would otherwise need to be thrown out, allowing you to maximize the amount of revenue you make with your inventory.
The basic value proposition of fulfillment centers is extremely simple: ship orders quickly and cheaply. Even still, no matter which company you work with, someone is handling your orders and they can probably do more than you think.
Check in with your fulfillment center and see what additional services they offer. You might be surprised at what they can do. There may be very simple, inexpensive services that you could start using today to upsell to customers, provide a better experience, or even cut costs!
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