How to Lower Logistics Costs

lower costsWhen customers buy from you, they expect their purchases to be delivered as promised—on-time and unharmed.

If a company can’t meet consumer demands and expectations, they’ll lose shoppers regardless of how amazing their product is. Dissatisfied customers will take business elsewhere and can influence other shoppers to do the same.

The importance of order fulfillment to customer retention can’t be overstated—it has to be accurate so a business can thrive. Outsourcing to third party logistics (3PL) experts can help, as it can improve customer experience (CX), and save time and money. Here’s how.

What Do Third Party Logistics (3PL) Do?

Third party logistics providers are supply chain experts that are skilled in providing efficient, cost-effective order fulfillment and inventory distribution solutions. A 3PL company specializes in warehousing, packing, shipping, receiving, transportation and inventory control. They can significantly lighten the load of retailers, eCommerce businesses and B2B suppliers. While a 3PL handles a variety of order fulfillment aspects, brands can focus more on their products.

Flexible, Scalable Order Fulfillment

Order fulfillment can be costly and time-consuming, which is especially true for eCommerce businesses and independent retailers. As a business scales, the investment of time and resources grows alongside it.

Partnering with a 3PL helps in staying proactive as consumer demand changes, while also allowing for better customer experience.

Built for Consumer Demand

The costs of running a warehouse don’t magically diminish during a business slowdown, and fulfillment operations won’t automatically adjust to a rise in product demand. 

A sudden spike in demand requires fast, efficient order fulfillment, which is where a 3PL would come in. Third party logistics experts should be equipped with the tools and staff to accommodate brand growth, while operating with total efficiency. 

3PLs are already set up to adapt quickly to consumer demand with advanced inventory management tools like warehousing management systems (WMS), forecasting and automation. They have a greater ability to streamline supply chain operations, saving clients money. 

Expert third party logistics should offer global order fulfillment solutions that would be difficult and impractical to implement solo. Warehouses should be strategically located near large client bases, making it easy to receive and deliver orders to customers.

3PLs can also help in staying compliant with unfamiliar local rules and tax codes, which helps to lower costs. For example, if a company were shipping from the United States to the United Kingdom, they would have to pay value added tax (VAT) at each level of supply chain operations, trickling down from suppliers, to manufacturers, distributors, retailers and then to customers (which is a high cause for shopping cart abandonment). However, if they were partnered with a 3PL with bonded warehousing, the VAT is paid only one time – when the shipment enters the UK.

Omnichannel Order Fulfillment

Third party logistics can offer a variety of order completion strategies to match company goals. A global 3PL can use omnichannel order fulfillment to manage the entire inventory supply chain. They work end-to-end, from receiving merchandise to packing and distribution.

A 3PL’s omnichannel capabilities allow them to manage inventory across all sales channels, which includes brick-and-mortar stores, social media and online.

3PLs can also help with giving customers the shipping options they prefer, such as ship-to-store, ship-to-customer or ship-to-pickup-point.

Omnichannel fulfillment needs to be customizable to fit a certain client. Third party logistics can match order processing for customer service priorities, whether it’s speed of delivery, cost of shipping, the unboxing experience or reducing carbon footprint.

Saving Money 

Efficient order fulfillment means expert management of your bottom line. A 3PL provider saves you money, as they operate on a much larger scale than you do.

They have the mechanisms already in place to manage inventory and fulfill orders. For instance, a low freight rate based on volume offers savings you cannot achieve on your own. 

Facilities and Personnel Costs

Running your own warehouse can be expensive. Even if sales are enough to keep up with the rent, there are additional costs to consider. You’ll need to purchase an effective WMS (warehouse management system) and inventory control software. Even cloud solutions require an investment.

You’ll also need to hire a logistics expert who understands the nuances of supply chain management. They should be knowledgeable in warehousing, inventory management and cost-effective shipping methods.

If your eCommerce business works with overseas clients or suppliers, they should have a solid understanding of local laws. This includes understanding local value-added tax (VAT) rules so you remain compliant.

Or you could take the time to learn all that yourself.

Once you have these bases covered, you’ll need enough (but not too many) trained fulfillment center personnel to keep up with demand. You don’t want to pay people to stand around during a lull in business.

If you or your current employees are spending their time learning international commerce rules, packing, shipping and managing inventory, who will focus on sales and building your business?

A global 3PL company can handle the necessary fulfillment processes, as they’re equipped with the facilities, staff, expertise and technology to get the job done.

Efficient, Cost-Effective WMS

Third party logistics providers have warehouse management systems (WMS) in place to ensure efficient operations. The WMS can integrate with top eCommerce platforms like Shopify and Magento, as well as point-of-sale software. This makes inventory control and workflow seamless by automating the order fulfillment process.

The automation features of a 3PL-level WMS can greatly reduce order fulfillment errors. Reducing errors will save money on return shipping, repacking and restocking.

It also helps to better meet customer expectations, which improves customer trust and retention. You don’t want to lose sales because of avoidable order fulfillment errors.

Low Costs Per Order

A 3PL company has shipping expertise and resources that far exceed most eCommerce businesses. This can translate into lower costs per order and increase efficiency. 

You will see substantial savings on shipping costs when using third party logistics, as a 3PL’s volume gets them discounted rates for shipping—both across town and across the continent. That low freight rate translates into big savings.

Plus, a 3PL company’s inventory solutions are robust enough to work for all client order types, from wholesale and retail to ecommerce.

They can also offer cost-effective solutions for custom packaging and branding. 

Keep Your Focus on Your Business

The success of an eCommerce company relies on efficient order fulfillment. Entrusting your fulfillment process to a global 3PL gives you preferred shipping options, helps you maintain quality CX and safeguards your bottom line.

Beren Logistics has decades of operational experience, and global distribution facilities in strategic locations, including Canada, the Netherlands, Shanghai, Hong Kong and across the United States.

Contact us to learn how our third party logistics solutions can work for you.

Why You Need to Know the Ecommerce Fulfillment Process

So your e-commerce store sells the best product on the market, but your order fulfillment process isn’t where it should be. If you’re not offering consumers a fast, efficient delivery experience, you could be losing out on business. When the order fulfillment process runs smoothly, you can increase your rate of repeat buyers and enable your business to grow. Whether you’re outsourcing your order fulfillment or fulfilling orders in-house, your fulfillment strategy needs to be top tier.

What is Order Fulfillment?

What is order fulfillment anyway, and why is it so important for your online store?

Order fulfillment embodies the steps taken to get products to customers. The fulfillment process begins the moment a customer places an order on your site, and is completed once the customer’s order is received.

Fulfillment can either be done in-house or outsourced to a 3PL (third-party logistics company). If you have a large inventory with a high stock-keeping unit SKU (stock keeping unit) count, partnering with a 3PL is highly beneficial.

Order fulfillment gets complicated and costly, especially as your business grows. If you become more consumed with order fulfillment, you will be less likely to launch new products and market your brand well. By allowing a 3PL to take over your order fulfillment, you can focus more on your business and strengthen your brand.

This is especially true for e-commerce brands with a large consumer base. Consumers expect their orders to be accurate and fulfilled on-time. Fulfilling orders in-house has a consequential impact on brand reputation. If deliveries are slow and there are too many mistakes, it negatively affects speed of service, and the likelihood of returning customers can decrease dramatically.

If you’re not familiar with how order fulfillment works, get acquainted with the end-to-end process and see how your business measures up.

The Order Fulfillment Process:

Receiving: The receiving process has the same requirements at a 3PL as when done in-house. The WMS (warehouse management system) receives ASNS (advanced shipment notifications), inbound deliveries are scheduled, goods are unloaded and inspected and labeled and relabeled as required.

Receiving stock and managing inventory are key in knowing the quantity, quality and demand of items. An expert 3PL should offer you full visibility of your inventory levels, and track items from when they arrive to the facility up until they’re delivered to the customer.

Storing: Orders should be organized and stored (either in-house or in a warehouse) after they’re received. Each item will have a different SKU, and should be stored separately. Storage types could vary based on UOM (unit of measure). If you’re a retail brand with high-end or delicate clothing, you might consider storing your items in a facility equipped with GOH (garment-on-hanger). This type of storage keeps items neatly on hangers and display-ready upon delivery. Or, you may have small, high-value items, that require a more delicate process, and need to be stored in a white-glove area.

Order Processing: At a 3PL, an order is picked and packed after the order is placed in the WMS. The order information should be on the pick ticket. Pick ticket information includes the contents of what is required to be picked and where the units are located in the warehouse. In addition, after the order has been picked via scanning technology, it will be packed according to the customer’s required expectations.

Before the order is packed, it goes through VAS (value added services). These premium services are tailored to the customer, and include things like customization, embroidery and branding. Customized services are vital to the success of an e-commerce company, as it sets a brand apart and adds to the overall customer experience.

Custom packaging is key, as the unboxing experience is vital in customer retention and increasing the rate of repeat buyers. According to a Westrock report:

  • 81% of consumers tried something new because the product packaging caught their eye
  • 63% of consumers have purchased a product again because of the appearance of its packaging
  • 52% of customers are more likely to make repeat purchases from an online retailer that delivers premium packaging
  • 52% of consumers have changed brands because of new packaging

Appearance isn’t the only thing, but it weighs heavily on customers. If you do outsource your order fulfillment, be sure your 3PL offers custom packaging.

After the order has gone through VAS and has been packed, it’s ready to be shipped from the warehouse.

Shipping: Before the order goes out, it’s given a shipping label and a packing list, which contains the order information (postal code, country code, service class, tracking number, date, package quantity and weight, address validation, and ship street, city and state). If you’re fulfilling orders in-house, you would have to create shipping labels through your carrier and then have them mailed. If your inventory is housed at a 3PL, they create the shipping labels and have the carriers pick up and transport the orders.

Again, you and the customer should have full, real-time visibility on the status of the order and be aware of its delivery.

Reverse Logistics: For a variety of reasons, returns happen. When they do, it’s important to have both an established returns policy and process. The goal of returns processing is to accelerate the return so customers can get their refund quickly. In the 2020 pandemic year, e-commerce returns rose to 70%, so it’s important more now than ever that your 3PL has a smooth returns process. If returns are handled well, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty can increase.

According to a Narvar consumer report,

  • 76% of new customers who had an “easy” or “very easy” returns experience said they would shop with that retailer again
  • 33% of REPEAT customers who had a “difficult” or “very difficult” experience would NOT shop with that retailer again

Keeping old customers and retaining new ones comes down to a simplistic workflow across the board.

The order fulfillment process is essential to your whole business. From having an organized inventory and customized unboxing experience, to seamless returns management, your business thrives when it operates with the right tools and management.

How’s your order fulfillment? Are you keeping up with consumer demands and offering customers a positive experience? If not, it’s time to reconsider your current strategy.

Read more about how Bergen Logistics can help with your order fulfillment.

What is Picking and Packing?

A distribution center with the latest technology and automated processes is more likely to assure accurate order fulfillment. Fulfilling orders requires picking and packing, and there are a variety of methods.

In this post, we’re discussing commonly used picking and packing processes.

The Picking Process: 

When an order is received, a client sends a pick list to the warehouse management system (WMS). The WMS allows clients to see their orders picked and packed in real time, offering full visibility.

The pick list contains the items that are retrieved from inventory and added to the order. It tells the picker the order SKU, quantity and location of the items in the warehouse. The WMS assigns the most efficient method of picking depending on the pick list information. 

Here are some widely used picking methods:

  • Piece Picking: Employee picks each item from the list to complete the order. This process works best for small orders. Large orders require more time from a single employee, slowing down the fulfillment process.
  • Batch Picking: Employee gathers the same items while working on multiple lists. This works best when different customers have the same item included in their order. Picking efficiency increases, as an employee limits repeated visits to the same area. 
  • Zone Picking: Employee is assigned to a specific area of the warehouse. They complete one order at a time, only picking items from within their designated area. If there are items in the order outside of the employee’s zone, the order is moved by conveyor belt.
  • Wave Picking: Similar to zone picking, an employee works in a specified area of the warehouse while completing orders from multiple lists.

The packing process occurs when picking is completed. Items from the order are appropriately packed in terms of box size and packaging material.

WMS deciphers the best suited packaging and box size for the order. This helps reduce shipping costs, as each order is packaged with only that material that is needed. When items are boxed with the necessary material and documentation, the order is labeled and ready for shipping!

Having the proper tools for picking and packing limits errors and increases fulfillment efficiency. An up-to-date distribution center should be more than equipped with the tools and processes to make this happen. At Bergen Logistics, we operate with the client in mind and work hard to assure our processes are nothing short of the best.

Check out more of our services here.

Looking for a distribution center warehouse? Contact us today for a quote!