When it comes to shipping and fulfillment solutions for small business, it is definitely NOT one size fits all. Key variables include the type, weight, size and destination of the items you ship, along with customer needs and expectations. Don't take fulfillment lightly. It is often the final touch-point with your customer, and poorly packaged items, slow, botched or overly pricy shipping can be a real turnoff. Don't make a bad final impression and risk losing future sales to the same customer. Outsourcing fulfillment can be a big time saver. Here's how it works:
- Your products, labels, barcodes and other unique packaging are stored in the fulfillment company's facilities.
- Then, when orders are placed — either through you and your Web site, or perhaps direct to the service — the fulfillment firm can pack and ship the items.
- A fulfillment firm can also handle customer service and returns, if you wish.
Discover what to look for in a fulfillment serviceDifferent businesses have vastly different fulfillment needs, and service choices also vary tremendously. Choose a service that handles volume similar to yours, has good support and is Web-savvy.
Find a fulfillment service to fit your precise criteriaThe Mailing and Fulfillment Service Association, a professional organization for mailing and fulfillment companies, offers a search feature on its Web site that can help you locate a fulfillment house that's right for you.
Get help designing your own fulfillment documentsTo handle fulfillment properly, you'll want to integrate it with email notices, invoicing and reports that keep you informed on what's happening.
See what 'Brown' and its affiliates can offerFor many small businesses, fulfillment services available through UPS or its affiliates may be the smart and convenient choice - especially if you already use this carrier.
Integrated fulfillment solutions for eBay sellers, Miva merchants and othersSpecialized fulfillment solutions are available for eBay businesses and other Web merchants.
Fulfillment that's fast, easy and guaranteedWhile there are hundreds of shipping and fulfillment services nationwide, these have offerings that set them apart.
- Keep a close eye on costs. Using outside fulfillment adds an expense you may not have factored into your budget.
- But you should also consider the costs you are avoiding by using them, such as storage space, payroll and your own time.
- If you charge customers for shipping and handling, you may be able to recover all or a portion of it.
- Aim to break even on the shipping cost side. Some small companies try to make a profit on shipping, but risk alienating customers who are savvy about shipping costs.
- List shipping and handling costs separately from the cost of the goods, and calculate the charge by weight, not the cost of the merchandise. Both steps will garner greater appreciation from customers.