If you are selling products online, then you need to think about product distribution. This means finding a way to get your products to as many people as possible.
Thinking about product distribution is crucial, because more so than marketing even, it is what will enable you to reach the widest audience possible. If you can’t get your product into the hands of your customers… then you can’t sell it! So how do you ensure you can get your product to as many people as possible? Normally, this will mean finding a fulfilment company. This is a company that specializes in moving large amounts of product and stock from point a to point b.
Before we get started, there are a few ways you can skip the need to find a fulfilment company altogether. One of course is to handle the delivery of your product yourself, though this takes a lot of time and effort when the orders get large (and can actually cost more too as you don’t get the same discounts that fulfilment companies do), and another is not to sell directly to your customers.
If you sell your products to stores and resellers, then it will be their job to both store your products and to send them on to customers. Note though of course that you will have to find some way of getting your product to them – which can be simple or challenging depending on the nature of your business. This does potentially give you the largest potential reach however! In this case, you will want a distributor or a sales representative.
Then there’s the option to look for a white label dropshipper. Dropshipping means that the company will create the product and handle fulfilment for you, but will remain an entirely silent partner. You can brand the products yourself and no one ever has to know that they didn’t come from you. This also removes the need to worry about manufacturing or storage.
Otherwise it’s down to you to find a company that can handle this aspect for you. FedEx of course is a well-known example of a company that can handle fulfilment, but there are many more.
When choosing between these, you should look for reviews to find out how reliable and effective their logistics is. Don’t be too put off by a few cases of items going missing – that’s inevitable when a company ships thousands of parcels every day – but instead try to get an overall feel for the company’s efficiency and make sure to read up on their policies. Note that a company like FedEx is actually a franchise – experiences can differ greatly from case to case. Many fulfilment companies will provide sample services which allow you to test the service without having to commit to a long-term agreement.
If the company you’re looking at is also going to be storing your products, then you should look into the security that they provide on-site and at the way your items will be stored and organised. Some companies will also allow you to do things such as checking inventory levels and sales activities online, and allow your customers to track the location of orders. Options like this can greatly help you to provide a good service to your customers and even to reduce your overheads by paying close attention to your stock and requirements.
We’ve already seen some of the things you need to be on the lookout for, now let’s consider some of the most popular options for ecommerce stores and entrepreneurs.
Three Fulfilment Services to Consider
Fulfillmenet.com offers the lowest cost in general for hardware start-ups, which is likely to be one of the most important factors for small businesses and entrepreneurs. In addition, this company is able to integrate with a number of Ecommerce platforms including eBay, Shopify, Volusion etc. This means that you can streamline order processing, creating less work for you and less chance of anything being lost in translation. Customer reviews are very positive and all in all, this is a great all-round choice.
That said, Fulfilment is also the smallest organization on this list in terms of physical storage space. They have one center in the US and two more in Canada and Scotland.
Amazon’s prices are comparable to Fulfilment.com’s with savings made if you’re selling through the site as well. The company has a lot of appeal simply being a hugely recognizable global brand (with 52 centers in the US alone). And as you would probably expect, this fulfilment service also integrates seamlessly with the Amazon store where you’ll also get access to considerable discounts. That makes this a great choice for businesses looking to sell their products mainly through the eCommerce giant.
Even if you aren’t selling via the Amazon store, a very straightforward and automated process makes everything very easy. You’ll get an inventory sent directly and all your products will be labelled automatically. Unfortunately though, Amazon’s fulfilment service doesn’t work with other eCommerece platforms.
If you’re selling primarily through Amazon, this is a no brainer. Otherwise, you may want to consider other options.
Shipwire is a little more expensive than the other two options on this list depending on how you plan on using it. It also lacks some of the features offered by the other two, for instance you’ll have to print labels yourself for larger shipments. What’s more, they also integrate well with other platforms just like Fulfilment and benefits from having 3 centers in the US.
Of course the best solution will vary greatly depending on the nature and size of shipments you expect to be making. Make sure to read the small print, to calculate all costs and to read plenty of reviews before you make your mind up.
And if you do have any experience with these companies or any others, then we’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Are there any great fulfilment services we missed?