Evaluating Vendors of Ecommerce Fulfillment Services
Once your website has secured an order, you have to fulfill it. While the fulfillment of digital goods is usually handled online, the delivery of physical goods is handled in a “brick-and-mortar” world.
When choosing a fulfillment company for your ecommerce operation, you need to evaluate both fulfillment services and ecommerce services for order processing.
Evaluating Fulfillment Services
Fulfillment services includes receiving, inventorying, warehousing, delivery, record-keeping and customer inquiries. You have options to outsource part of or all of fulfillment services to a third party.
Receiving – This is the process that fulfillment vendors acquire goods from suppliers and the accuracy of services starts at the receiving.
Inventorying – The skills of inventory management directly impact the quality and cost of fulfillment. If inventory is out of stock, you may lose customers. If inventory level is too high, it may increase the cost of inventory.
Warehousing – Physical goods are stored in a warehouse and valuable items are usually stored in secure storage. While fulfillment companies have their warehouses and distribution centers, small businesses can store goods in their garages or basements.
Shipping – For order fulfillment, goods are delivered to customers in various shipping methods – ground, overnight, etc. at fulfillment centers. Customers specify shipping methods when they place their orders and the fulfillment companies may adjust the shipping methods of the delivery.
Return and Order Inquiry – Customer Service Reps at fulfillment companies can handle return and refund for their clients. Most ecommerce sites allow customers to view their orders and status of fulfillment online.
Record Keeping and Reporting – The ability to track all information pertinent to the order fulfillment (from inventory items, customers, orders to shipping) will help businesses to gain insights into the behaviors of their customers. Fulfillment companies and large organizations usually install inventory and fulfillment management software to automate the processes. Small business owners can find shareware for less than $100.
Evaluating Ecommerce Services
E-commerce fulfillment vendors are usually fulfillment vendors that provide ecommerce services related to fulfillment.
Online Catalog – Ecommerce fulfillment vendors can either develop online storefronts for you or integrate your online storefronts into their backend fulfillment system.
Online Payment Processing – Online storefronts from ecommerce fulfillment providers should have the ability to process payments online in credit card, electronic check, and purchase order. Using a fulfillment company, you can accept credit card online without a online merchant account.
Copyright 2005, Bruce Zhang
Bruce Zhang had worked a few years in distribution and fulfillment industry. He contributes to Order Fulfillment ( http://www.4th-media.net/order_fulfillment/ ) section of an ecommerce ( http://www.4th-media.net/ ) website.