The Top 5 Considerations in Finding an Omnichannel Fulfillment Partner

As the volume of online sales continues to rise, companies are struggling to manage the difference in B2B and D2C operations. Many still segregate these inventories, meaning they pay more for inventory, equipment, buildings and labor.

If you have an online and brick-and-mortar presence in the retail industry, it’s imperative to find a partner that fully understands the challenges that come with omnichannel retail to help combine your inventories, reduce costs and make your fulfillment operations more efficient.

If you’re searching for an omnichannel fulfillment partner, here are the top 5 things to consider in finding the right one:

Inventory Management

A 3PL (third party logistics) fulfillment warehouse should be able to manage the inventory levels and picking process for both D2C and B2B business. Make sure the system is robust enough to handle an omnichannel operation with retail compliance and routing guideline needs.

IT Services

Your fulfillment partner should be able to accept orders in multiple formats, whether it’s API, EDI, CSV or emails. Make sure their systems can handle your current and peak season volumes, number of addresses and other details. Today, the most popular option is receiving orders in an electronic format that automatically uploads into the WMS for picking in shipping.

Pick-Pack Process

The best way to see an omnichannel pick-pack operation process is to visit potential fulfillment partners. Evaluate the KPIs of the warehouse and standards they keep for other customers, along with the audit process for order accuracy. It is important to be comfortable with the KPIs for the pick-pack process and holding your 3PL partner to these standards. Don’t settle on performance.

Parcel Options

This can be an option for you if you have great parcel rates, or LTL/TL partners, but many companies do not. Look for a fulfillment partner that can provide a full turnkey solution that includes shipping.

Web-Based Systems

Just because you’re outsourcing your services does not mean you need to lose visibility into the process. An experienced fulfillment partner should understand this and provide a customer web portal that with a real-time online view into orders, inventory status and receipts. The warehouse customer service representative and systems should be able to provide tracking numbers as well on the status for online orders and LTL/TL shipments.

If you haven’t already, it’s time to start evaluating your current fulfillment operations. If you’re separating your D2C and B2B business, look at options for outsourcing to a fulfillment partner with experience handling omnichannel operations. Keeping your operations separate can create inefficiency, such as excess inventory and redundant costs that can be avoided with a robust system and 3PL fulfillment partner.

Robert Hartley is vice president, client development at IDS

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