It doesn’t matter if you fill orders in your living room or in a 10,000 sq ft warehouse, at some point your e-commerce brand will outgrow your current order fulfillment center. But recognizing when you’ve outgrown your e-commerce order fulfillment provider is easier said than done.
This article will help you identify the right time to change order fulfillment centers, and determine when you’ve outgrown your current e-commerce order fulfillment partner.
7 Signs It’s Time to Change Your Fulfillment Center
So, how do you know when it’s time to switch order fulfillment centers? You start with the relationship.
If you and your fulfillment partner are experiencing trouble on a regular basis, then it may be time to make a change.
To help with your assessment, we’ve listed 7 glaring indications of when it’s time to switch your fulfillment center provider. Follow the link for more on How to Evaluate Your Fulfillment Provider.
- Multiple Mispicks and Mis-ships
Relationships between retailers and fulfillment providers tend to sour once a multitude of mispicks and misships are noticed by the customer. Once that happens, it only takes a few bad reviews on social media to tank an e-commerce brand.
If you’ve noticed an increased number of complaints concerning lost, delayed, or mis-shipped goods, then it is likely due to a change or mishap somewhere in your supply chain. With millions of moving parts and hundreds of workers, the most likely culprit is one of your fulfillment centers.
- Damaged Goods and Shipping Delays
While shipping delays are a regular part of business (and are often excused), no customer will ever accept broken merchandise, especially late broken merchandise. Damaged goods are not only useless to your customers, they put an additional burden on your company, since you now must absorb the cost of returning and replacing the damaged merchandise.
If your products are not reaching your customers in good working order, then they likely did not survive the rigors of shipping because they were picked, packed, and/or loaded incorrectly at your fulfillment center.
- Increased Return Numbers
If you’ve noticed complaints about lost packages, damaged merchandise, shipping delays, and incorrect or partial orders, then the next thing you are bound to notice is an increase in returns and replacements.
An increase in returns quickly leads to a decrease in sales numbers and even more bad reviews on social media. Remember, your customers don’t know/care that your fulfillment provider failed to meet your expectations. All they know is that they ordered from your brand, and you failed to meet theirs.
- Unforeseen Price Hikes
Though price hikes are part of the e-commerce industry, they should never be commonplace or unforseen. If your fulfillment provider isn’t communicating price increases clearly and regularly, you might have to pass some of those costs onto your customers. Remember, the mark of a great fulfillment partner is one that not only shares the bad news but helps you figure out a solution that best suits you and your customers.
- Outdated Technology
Powerful technology is one of the core elements of the fulfillment process. Without powerful technology, things like software integration, order management, and inventory forecasting become nearly impossible.
When assessing your current fulfillment provider, take stock of your needs to see if they have a technological solution to match. If your technological needs outpace what your provider can offer, it’s time to switch to one who can provide the functionality you need to grow your business.
- Poor Communication and Customer Service
It goes without saying that you need to be able to communicate with your fulfillment provider. But if all you get from your 3PL is radio silence, then they either can’t or have chosen not to answer you. Either way, it’s a clear sign that you need to switch providers.
It should also go without saying that your communications and concerns should be addressed in a timely manner. Slow response times and incomplete answers are a clear indicator that communication is lacking between you and your fulfillment partner.
- Inability to Scale
Though any one of the above listed signs are enough reason to switch fulfillment providers, the determining factor for most retailers is the ability to scale and expand. If your fulfillment partner does not have the capabilities to scale to your anticipated needs (or they can’t keep up with your growing demand), then it is clearly time to begin searching for other options.
How to Tell When You’ve Outgrown Your E-Commerce Order Fulfillment Partner
As you conduct your assessment, you may notice that your current fulfillment partner is struggling to keep up with your anticipated needs through no fault of its own. You’ve simply outgrown your current relationship.
There are different stages of e-commerce business growth, all of which come with specific fulfillment challenges that need to be overcome if you want to grow your business. Here are a few ways to determine whether or not you’ve outgrown your current e-commerce order fulfillment provider.
- You can’t keep up with increased order volumes.
- You’re running out of warehouse space.
- You’re expanding to a new channel
- You’d like to focus on your brand.
- You’re struggling with seasonal and fluctuating demand.
- Your warehouse labor costs are out of hand.
How to Switch Fulfillment Providers
If you assess your current order fulfillment center and/or provider and conclude they are guilty of the red flags listed here, then it is time to switch to a fulfillment provider that can meet your needs now and in the future.
Fortunately, all you need to do to get that process started is to contact Flowspace. With a nationwide network of warehouses and order fulfillment centers, Flowspace is the best choice you can make for your growing e-commerce business.