In today’s expanding world of omnichannel marketing, marketers must have the ability to not only offer their products across a multitude of different platforms, but they must also be able to deliver the product to the customer once the sale has been accomplished. Consumers have multiple options available to satisfy their shopping needs. They might be compelled by an infomercial to pick up the phone and order, they might shop in-store at a brick-and-mortar retail location, or they might shop via a desktop, laptop, smartphone, or smart TV. They might purchase a product from a marketer’s e-commerce website, retailer’s website, shopping network or flash sale site.
Regardless of how and when this sale transpires, the marketer must be able to deliver the products purchased in a reasonable amount of time, which in today’s standards means now. Consumers are no longer willing to accept “please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery of your product.” Ease of purchase and speed of delivery are what drive sales. Based on the foregoing, there is no more important decision for marketers than which fulfillment partner they utilize in processing their orders and shipping product to their customers.
The fulfillment company selected by marketers must be able to meet their needs under all circumstances regardless of the channel by which the sale was made.
The fulfillment company servicing the marketer must be able to accept orders from a variety of sources generated by an infomercial. Whether those sales are made over the phone via telemarketer or online at the marketer’s website, the fulfillment company must be able to receive all orders, check the orders against available inventory, send all orders requiring credit card processing to the marketer’s merchant processor for approval, print labels, pick, pack and ship orders, and then have the funds deposited in the marketer’s account upon completion of shipping. And don’t forget, if the fulfillment provider is working with the marketer’s merchant processor to authorize and settle credit cards, the fulfillment company should be certified as a Level 1 provider under the payment card industry data security standards (PCI DSS).
The marketer should have the ability to offer its products on any or all of the shopping networks such as HSN, QVC, ShopNBC, and EVINE Live. The fulfillment provider should be able to provide the marketer with the ability to ship in bulk to the shopping network’s DC or drop ship directly from the fulfillment company’s warehouse. This flexibility not only makes the marketer’s product more attractive to the shopping network buyer, but the ability to drop ship from the fulfillment warehouse can provide substantial freight savings to the marketer.
Flash Sale Sites
The number of flash sale sites has grown exponentially over the past year, providing marketers with even more options for selling their wares. Websites such as Groupon, Living Social, Gilt, HauteLook, etc., are growing in popularity and consumers are increasing the number of purchases they make on these sites. The marketing company, through its fulfillment provider, must be able to service these customers and deliver product in a timely and accurate manner, which requires the fulfillment provider be able to accept the order file from these flash sites—whether it is transmitted via flat file or EDI (Electronic Data Interchange).
Brick-and-Mortar Retail Locations
There are hundreds of major retailers out there in addition to countless “mom and pops.” Marketers, and therefore their fulfillment company, must have the ability to ship to all of these retail locations. With each retailer having its own vendor compliance guidelines and chargebacks on the rise, it is essential that the marketer’s product can be delivered on time and in compliance with all routing guides and other vendor compliance requirements. Unnecessary chargebacks can cut into a marketer’s profit margin and can turn a lucrative retail account into a losing proposition in a blink of the eye. The fulfillment provider must be able to process orders via EDI, which is required by many of the larger retailers, or via flat file that is utilized by many of the smaller retailers and independent stores.
Retail Drop Shipping
For years, retailers have required marketers to support their retail business with a DR infomercial campaign. If you’re not on the air, you’re not in the store. While that is still often the case, the most recent trend is for retailers to require marketers to also sell their products on the retailer’s website. While the marketer’s products are being offered and sold on the retailer’s website, it is the marketer who must find a solution for fulfilling and shipping these orders. This growing industry is referred to as retail .com drop shipping, which represents another distribution channel that marketers must ensure can be serviced by their fulfillment provider.
In 2015, Amazon passed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the United States by market capitalization, and it is now the largest Internet-based retailer in the country. Marketers must have the ability to sell their products on Amazon and service this ever-growing market segment. Whether they are participating in FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) or utilizing a third-party drop shipper, the marketer’s fulfillment partner will be integral in making the Amazon business a success. If the marketer chooses to go with FBA, the fulfillment provider will store the marketer’s inventory and ship in bulk to Amazon—replenishing their stock as needed to meet the order volume. If the marketer chooses not to go with FBA, the fulfillment partner will integrate with Amazon to download the daily orders, drop ship the requested inventory from their facility, and upload tracking information into Amazon’s system for the daily shipments. If the fulfillment partner were unable to service Amazon, marketers would be missing out on a huge opportunity to increase their sales and revenue.
Lastly, the job of marketers is to create and sell products. The more exposure they get for their products and the more channels they sell through, the more likely they are to be successful. Marketers cannot be limited in their ability to offer their products to customers by their fulfillment provider’s limitations or inability to deliver their products. That is why it is so important for marketers to select the correct fulfillment partner. Other factors such as the fulfillment company’s ability to provide customer service, returns, refurbishing, value-added services, etc., are also key factors in the decision-making process. However, it all starts with one simple question: can my provider get my products to my customers regardless of where they purchase it? If the answer is yes, the marketer is off to a good start and can move on to evaluating the other services offered by the fulfillment company.
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Tony Altman is Senior Vice President and General Counsel at Motivational Fulfillment & Logistics Services.