Four reasons to start using a fulfilment company

Accounting, purchasing, marketing, and operations are all areas that online and multi-channel merchants must manage. Fortunately there is a growing class of service companies that allows sellers to outsource product receiving, inventorying, packing, and shipping.

Fulfillment services act like a retailer’s warehouse and shipping operations, checking in products when they arrive from manufacturers or distributors; organizing and storing those products; and eventually fulfilling orders and ensuring that online shoppers get professional service.

Outsourcing these sorts of operations may not make sense for every business, but there are at least four good reasons to consider using a fulfillment service.

1. Seasonal Flexibility
Nearly 20 percent of all annual retail sales take place between November 1 and December 31. This year, in the U.S. alone Christmas sales are expected to reach $465.6 billion.
With so much seasonal shopping activity, merchants, even pure-play ecommerce merchants, often find that they need to bring on temporary workers or invest in new capital equipment to manage the rush.

Outsourcing order fulfillment allows retailers to avoid the need to hire and train temps or buy new scales, lifts, or the like. Instead, the retailer simply needs to ensure that the product is in the fulfillment service’s warehouse, and trust the service provider to worry about extra hands and tools. In this way, the merchant has complete seasonal flexibility. When Christmas sales are rolling in, the fulfillment service manages the surge. When sales are slower in January, there is no idle equipment — or excess employees to let go.

2. Grow New Markets
Online retailers can use fulfillment services to expand their businesses to new markets without having to invest in infrastructure or a lot of additional employees.
Imagine that a U.S.-based retailer is enjoying good success, but wants to start selling products to customers in the U.K. With the help of a fulfillment service, the merchant can place inventory in England, add a “.co.uk” version of the site, and begin selling to a completely new market with relative ease.

3. Convert Fixed Costs to Variable Costs
Unless a merchant deals only in software, music, or ebooks, physical inventory will need to be received, housed, and accounted for. Doing so requires physical space. For family startups, a garage might do for a while, but serious ecommerce operations will soon need serious facilities. These facilities — whether purchased or leased — have a fixed cost associated with them. So whether business is slow or roaring the rent stays the same.
Choosing a fulfillment service gives merchants the opportunity to covert some of their fixed costs, like rent, heating and cooling, and similar, into variable costs — expenses that go up and down in relationship to sales — which in turn can do very good things for cash flow.

4. Focus on What You Do Best
Often online entrepreneurs start businesses because they have a passion for the product or a passion for marketing, but, it is relatively less common that someone or some group starts a tee shirt business or an online hardware store because she feels especially gifted at stacking or packing boxes. To be sure, operations managers that can smoothly handle this part of the business are in high demand, but they tend not to be as common in small ecommerce start-ups.

Using a fulfillment service for many retailer business owners is an opportunity to outsource many unfamiliar tasks and focus on what one does best.

Summing Up
Ecommerce fulfillment services have a lot to offer small and middle-sized retailers in terms of seasonal flexibility, cost reductions, growth, and focus.

This entry was posted onTuesday, February 12th, 2013 at 9:26 am and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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