It is true that our economy has never faced the challenges it does now, but e-commerce has never been more important. This is demonstrated by the federal government’s determination that companies that ship goods directly to people’s homes are an essential service and, as such, are permitted to continue operating.
As an e-commerce fulfillment company, we and our clients have not only survived but thrived in this tough time. Here are four key strategies to help you do the same.
1. Enforce guidelines, support your team, and verify that your fulfillment company does too
Doing the right thing isn’t just good for the employees, customers and the country at large. It’s also good business. The more you can stem the spread of the pandemic, the longer and better you can stay up and running. It’s not just about masks or gloves or disinfectant. It's also about conversations, financial support and flexibility. Moreover it’s not just about how you operate within your own business but how your 3rd party fulfillment company operates within its business too.
From our own fulfillment business, we know that this uncertain time can cause added worry for the protection and handling of our direct-to-consumer brand clients’ products, as well as for those people who are responsible for them day-to-day. Knowing that your internal team, as well as your 3rd party providers and their teams are working diligently to maintain a safe and sanitized environment across all of their facilities will make all the difference.
Here is a link to some things we do to protect and support our people: https://rubyhas.com/covid-19/
2. If you are self-fulfilling, transition to a 3rd party fulfillment company
Self-fulfillment has always been a challenging path – it’s never been your core expertise, and it’s a huge distraction. Working with a 3rd party fulfillment company can lift the burden off your back. Now, in the Covid-19 era, there are even more reasons to make a shift:
- Shifts in demand are even steeper.
- Conditions in various geographies can become very different from time to time. A substantive 3PL can put inventory in multiple geographies to diversify and reduce risk.
- Fulfillment companies are, themselves, firmly designated as essential services and will continue to be. If you have concern about how your facility will be designated overall, go with a 3PL.
- Seek a significant list of integrations. Make sure your 3PL can handle everything you need today, as well as the things you will need as you evolve, like ecommerce platforms, EDI systems, returns software, OMS systems and ERPs.
- Look for great shipping rates, but don’t go with those who are cheapest on fulfillment. Be suspicious of pricing that seems too good to be true.
3. “Every day is Cyber Monday.” Prepare to scale – fast
All indicators are that the growth that was predicted to take place for ecommerce over the next few years has been accelerated and compressed into the current months, and that in a post-COVID world this shift will persist and continue to grow. Find a fulfillment provider that thrives with sudden growth. Even in normal times, digitally driven companies such as direct-to-consumer brands do not grow linearly; Rather, they grow in a “hockey-stick” curve pattern. It’s clear why that’s difficult for self-fulfilling brands – after all, this is a capital investment. It is a heavy undertaking to begin with, and expanding that suddenly is costly and difficult. Unfortunately, many fulfillment companies also break when their customers suddenly scale. Look for a 3PL that specializes in scaling with its customers. Ask for specific examples of how they handle the sudden increased demand. If they’re just “ok” at it, keep looking. One of the worst things that can happen is you suddenly find great success, and your fulfillment system fails you.
4. Be a real partner with your fulfillment provider
This relationship isn’t transactional; close collaborations between both sides of this equation translate directly into success. The more you communicate, the more you’ll experience excellent results. Make it a real partnership.
Esther Kestenbaum is President of Ruby Has (rubyhas.com), a major eCommerce fulfillment company providing enterprise-level services with locations in NY, NJ, NV, CA, KY and Ontario, Canada.