5 Essential eCommerce Website Features

5 Essential eCommerce Website Features

5 Essential eCommerce Website Features

Whether you are a well-established brand or just getting started, a well-designed and executed website is essential to success. A recent forecast by statista.com reveals that eCommerce is expected to grow by over 50 percent during the next four years. eCommerce revenues could reach an incredible 7.4 trillion dollars by 2025. To capitalize on the growing market, eCommerce websites and features must cater to new consumer tastes. Your website is your storefront. From the homepage to the product pages, each segment has specific elements that cannot go ignored if you want to minimize cart abandonment and increase sales. This article will share 5 essential eCommerce website features that contribute to conversion and customer satisfaction.

Must-Have eCommerce Website Features

Responsive Design

Now more than ever, consumers are using multiple devices to scroll, shop, and learn. Screen sizes vary from a watch to a 65” monitor. Furthermore, purchases from mobile devices are on the rise. Retail mCommerce sales (mobile purchases) hit $359 billion in 2021, a 15% increase over 2020.

Your eCommerce brand cannot afford to lose market share because your design isn’t optimized for mobile. Investing in responsive design will make your site mobile-friendly, improve the aesthetic of all screen sizes, and increase the time visitors spend on your site. Nixon.com has an excellent responsive design and great design overall. They cater to a youth lifestyle and have invested in ensuring their buying experience is easy across all devices.

User-Friendly Navigation

There is nothing worse than having to search for what you are looking for and being unable to find the navigation menu. The navigation is like the foundation of your website. It is where every user will go to locate what they are looking for. Make sure the navigation is prominently placed and easy to use. Eye-tracking research shows people spend 80% of their viewing time on the left portion of your website and only about 20% on the right. Consider using secondary navigation on the left side.

An excellent example of solid navigation design is Rothys.com. They have anchored their navigation in the left quadrant with a responsive and extensive dropdown navigation menu for their unique sales verticals. User-friendly navigation enables your consumer to find what they are looking for quickly and effortlessly if a customer has to look too hard for something, they will simply find what they need from a competitor.

Easy and Generous Return Policy

A return policy is often an afterthought for most eCommerce owners, but it can be an effective marketing tool. With more customers shopping online, the details, clarity, and ease of making a return can make the difference between a “sale” and a “save for later.” Ensure your return policy is easy to find and prominently displayed at the point of sale. Use easy-to-understand language. Lastly, make it as simple as possible for a customer to make a return. The more flexibility they have to change their mind, the more likely they will make the purchase.

In fact, 92% of consumers will buy again if the return policy is easy. A great example of a generous return policy is from Zappos.com. They are so confident in their return policy they have placed it in their top header!

Multiple Payment Options

Consumers want to be able to pay with whatever platform, card, or app is most convenient for them. Credit and debit card options are standard. In order to improve conversion and attract a broader audience it is important to offer multiple payment options. Payment options that are gaining traction include; Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal, Amazon Pay, Boleto, Stripe, Venmo, Square, and E-wallet. With so many ways to pay it can be hard to narrow which will cater to your specific audience. The essential feature is to have more than one way to pay at checkout. This gives consumers flexibility to give you their money easily. After all, you don’t want to prevent a purchase simply because you didn’t offer a payment gateway that was easy for them.

Omnichannel Platform

Omnichannel is the new buzzword in the world of eCommerce for good reason. An omnichannel platform, simply stated, is where a consumer has a seamless shopping experience across every location and channel that offers your product. This means that the website, social channels, third-party retailers, and the brick-and-mortar stores create a singular brand experience. Omnichannel development requires unification across point of sales systems, inventory tracking systems, marketing efforts, and UI/UX design. A daunting task, especially if your sales efforts have become fragmented. It is worth the time and energy to refocus your brand and your technology integrations though. Expect to see more omnichannel fulfillment and growth in the future.

 

Designing and developing your website to convert as many consumers as possible is a massive undertaking. At Falcon Fulfillment we cannot help you implement the 5 essential eCommerce website elements, but we can give you more time. We alleviate the fulfillment headaches and allow you to focus on your core competencies. From receiving to final mile delivery, we ensure your product gets into the hands of your customers. We can even manage customer service and returns! Get in touch today to gain back some time to focus on your eCommerce future.

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6 Main Causes of eCommerce Shipping Damage and How to Prevent It

6 Main Causes of eCommerce Shipping Damage and How to Prevent It

6 Main Causes of eCommerce Shipping Damage and How to Prevent It

Except for ordering or receiving the wrong size item, a damaged or defective product is the number one reason a customer will return an item. Unfortunately, damaged goods are all part of doing business as an eCommerce. Online returns cost retailers an average of 21% of the overall order value. You can reduce returns and improve customer service scores by focusing on minimizing shipping damage. There are a few practical and cost-effective ways to increase the chances your package arrives in excellent condition. Here are six main causes of eCommerce shipping damage and how to prevent it.

6 Main Causes for eCommerce Shipping Damage

Improper Packaging

Suppose the package selected to ship your product is too big or too small, the probability of damage increases. When a box is too large, the product has more room to shift and move in transit. If it is not shock-proof, the likelihood of damage goes up. Similarly, if a package is too small, the product has limited cushioning and is more easily crushed, scratched, or dented. There is a “Goldilocks” size for every product. A box or bag that is not too big and not too small; it’s “just right.”

Incorrect or Inadequate Filler

Failing to wrap or insulate the package with enough filler will result in more movement during transit. Furthermore, selecting a protective filler that isn’t appropriate can also increase the likelihood of damage. For example, shipping a bone china tea cup unwrapped and tucked into loose packing peanuts is a recipe for disaster.

Poor Handling

Your product will be jostled, tossed, stacked, shoved, and moved in ways you never could imagine. Products travel through various machines, conveyors, delivery vehicles, and people before they reach their final destination. Even when eCommerce fulfillment teams do their absolute best to package a product, it can still absorb shipping damage due to a lack of proper handling. Whether your delivery driver is just having a bad day or they had to make a hairpin turn last minute to avoid a stray dog, your package can take a tumble.

Mislabeled or Improperly Sealed

Not every transportation employee will heed the “Fragile” stickers affixed to packaging, but many do. Not adding a label at all can mean the difference between someone tossing your package on the front porch and carrying it there. Another common cause of eCommerce shipping damage is poor sealing. When the adhesive cannot hold the weight or has lost its ability to keep a box closed damage is bound to occur.

Failing to Track or Inspect Shipments

Many eCommerce businesses get so busy they fail to implement inspections along the fulfillment journey. Your product is passed along and if there are not quality control inspections along the way it is difficult to narrow down where the most shipping damages occur.

Infestation

Pests can ruin everything. While beetles, cockroaches, and birds are typical varmints found in warehouses the main perpetrator are rats. Rodents can chew through almost any variety of materials and use many types of packing materials to build their nests. They damage boxes, plastic and fiber tie downs and more. Weak, chewed up, and damaged corrugated packaging cannot withstand the same weight or transit stress as a perfect one.

6 Main Solutions for eCommerce Shipping Damage 

Right-size Packaging

Right-size packaging uses the appropriate materials, quantity, and size to protect a product and showcase a brand well. Right-size packaging ensures the proper dimensions to minimize shipping damage, and it saves money on shipping costs. Carriers charge based on weight and dimensions so getting the balance between protecting the product without paying for extra airspace is vital. Here are 4 ways that right-size packaging can boost profitability.

Correct Type and Amount of Filler

After getting the package size correct, the next tip to reduce eCommerce shipping damage is to select the right type and amount of dunnage. Dunnage is any packing material used to protect goods during shipping. There is a plethora of void fill and protective packaging materials to choose from. Many eCommerce companies are shifting their packing materials to sustainable choices. Our sustainable packaging guide can help you select the most eco-friendly materials to limit shipping damage.

Test Your Packaging Before Shipping

It might seem silly to package a product and then drop it off a 4ft cliff, but that is precisely what can make the difference between a refund and a 5-star review. Put your packaging to the test by shaking it, dropping it, banging it, rolling it, vibrating it, and torturing it as many ways as possible. If your product maintains pristine quality after rigorous trials, you can be assured your product should arrive with minimal shipping damage.

Use Quality Sealing Tape or Adhesive

Select high-quality sealing tape that is rated to hold the weight of your product. Also, ensure all edges are aligned and sealed fully to prevent snags.

Inspect Regularly

From the receiving dock to the final mile delivery it is important to document damage and shortages. Keeping a record of manufacturing damage can help you work with your vendor to modify shipping or packaging to minimize damage. Furthermore, if you are using a carrier that consistently delivers packages that are sustaining damage it can tell you it’s time to change. Track damage sustained including images of damage through the entire fulfillment process.

Extermination

Keeping a regular schedule of extermination in your storage and warehousing facility is crucial to keep pests away. Limiting access points and sealing all food items well will also keep from attracting bugs, beetles, and flies. It isn’t possible to keep pests from entering an open door but you can minimize shipping damage from them by ensuring you exterminate regularly and seal boxes fully. 

The main causes of eCommerce shipping damage are not difficult to prevent but they do require attention to detail. Many eCommerce business owners have restricted time and energy to focus on ensuring they have the best possible packaging, materials, and inspection procedures. This is why partnering with a fulfillment expert like Falcon Fulfillment can help minimize shipping damage. Not only can we select the best shipping options for your product but we also ensure the highest quality standards for handling, cleanliness, and accuracy. Get in touch today to see how we can help save you money on shipping damage returns.

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Inventory Costs Explained

Inventory Costs Explained and Mistakes to Avoid

Inventory Costs Explained and Mistakes to Avoid

Inventory costs are one of the assets and liabilities a company has on its balance sheet. Managing inventory costs is crucial for success. Managing inventory is a complex process that involves multiple vendors, suppliers, fees, and reports. Striking the delicate balance of ordering and storing the right amount of inventory is tricky. Companies don’t want to under-order but they don’t want to over-order. Establishing what to track and when to make adjustments can be confusing. This article will explain the main inventory costs and common mistakes to avoid when creating an inventory management process.

Inventory Costs Explained - Categories

What are the main costs associated with inventory? There are four primary categories of expenses related to inventory management. 

Purchasing Costs

Purchasing costs are the price paid to a supplier or vendor for a product. If you purchase 100 vintage-style handbags at $15 per item, your purchase cost is $1500. This line item does not include shipping, handling, taxes, or insurance. Some companies calculate the purchase cost within the ordering cost category. It depends on personal preference and the desired level of detail.

Ordering Costs

Typically, ordering costs include labor, fees, and transportation associated with getting your product shipped from the manufacturer to your storage facility. The expenses in this category tend to be small compared to the purchase costs but can add up quickly if not measured accurately.

Carrying Costs

Carrying costs, also known as “holding costs,” are fees associated with keeping inventory in stock. Anything from employee wages to warehouse rents is included in this category. Carrying costs vary significantly according to the type of product that is being sold and managed. Higher costs are associated with products with a limited shelf-life or requiring consistent handling, movement, and restocking.

Stockout Costs

Stockout costs are any costs related to the loss of revenue from inventory shortages. These costs can add up for various reasons, like; running out of a product before your in-store or online inventory management system is updated. A customer purchases a product that is no longer available, which triggers a refund process. The sale is potentially lost when a suitable alternative cannot be offered. Sales are also lost due to stockouts. How many consumers go to a competitor when a product is listed as “out-of-stock”? It is a missed opportunity cost. Fortunately, many of these costs can be avoided or minimized. Companies can increase their supply chain resilience by partnering with a competent 3PL.

Inventory Costs Explained - What to Track

Storage Costs

Storage costs include repetitive payments related to inventory storage management. These include warehouse rents, heating and cooling costs, lighting, security, and employee wages. Any fee for maintaining a clean, organized, and pest-free space would be considered a storage cost. Holding onto inventory that is slow-moving or considered deadstock increases storage costs quickly.

Capital Costs

Capital costs are typically the largest upfront investment regarding inventory costs. They are a one-time fee required to physically store and carry inventory to the designated storage facility. Capital costs can include land purchases, building or buying a warehouse, and sourcing inventory equipment (e.g., forklifts, pallets, storage racks/shelves, etc.).

Damage & Obsolescence

Things get banged, bruised, and battered in the shipping and receiving process. It is essential to track this inventory cost closely. If a pattern of damage is noticed, it can be corrected; otherwise, it is like flushing money down the toilet. Similarly, items that become obsolete are like leaving money on the shelf. Businesses still carry the costs of unsold and outdated products in the balance sheet.

Theft and Fraud

Theft and fraud associated with managing inventory costs can only be solved through careful tracking and utilizing accurate inventory management systems. While it won’t catch every criminal that threatens the bottom line, it will undoubtedly show where items are going missing.

Taxes and Insurance

“There is nothing certain in life but death and taxes.” (Paraphrase Ben Franklin) Inventory costs of taxes and insurance are determined by many factors, including but not limited to; types of product, location, and local ordinances related to product distribution. It is best to consult a lawyer regarding the nuances and costs associated with this category. Alternatively, partnering with a 3PL with extensive experience in your industry can typically provide introductions to legal counsel and help ballpark costings where appropriate.

Inventory Costs Explained - Mistake to Avoid

Understocking

There is nothing worse than missing out on a sale because of stockouts. Proper inventory management systems and tracking can help forecast accurately and avoid losing sales. It is more important to overstock than understock. For one, you miss a sale. Second, you can lose a customer permanently. Third, you have to issue refunds which costs you additional money in employee wages and customer service strain. Include inventory management in product forecasting to help avoid understocking whenever possible.

Failing to Include Inventory Management in Forecasting Sales

The entire process of managing inventory is complicated. Including inventory management in forecasting will improve accuracy and minimize overstock or understock situations. Inventory management data will include product levels, cycles and highlight stock value categories. This helps businesses forecast not based on sales numbers alone but the overall health and movement of products through the inventory management process.

Launching a Product and Retroactively Managing Inventory

Launching the business and then getting around to managing inventory can be tempting. This is a significant mistake because by the time inventory management is a need; it has become a problem. Implementing inventory management before a product launch can help with forecasting, restocking timelines, and reducing stockouts. Accurate sales data, stock levels, and performance are readily available by preparing to track inventory management from the beginning.

Always Buying in Bulk

It is important to buy what you need when you need it. Sometimes bulk purchasing is ideal. Other times, it is a gamble. It might be tempting to buy 1000 units of your most popular product, but it could cost you if that item trends out or becomes obsolete before you can sell them. 

 

There is a lot of information involved when explaining or managing inventory costs. It can be an area of business that causes many owners sleepless nights. Falcon Fulfillment utilizes a proprietary inventory management system that touts a 99.9% accuracy rating. We pride ourselves on helping our clients have accurate data so they can make the best decisions for their businesses. If you would like to learn more about how Falcon can help streamline your inventory costs, get in touch with one of our agents today.

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eCommerce trends to watch

Q3 eCommerce Trends to Watch

Q3 eCommerce Trends to Watch

Q3 has ended, and online retailers are seeing a shift in consumer behavior. The main Q3 eCommerce trends to watch include; elongated holiday shopping timelines, social selling, and reduced consumer spending. This post will cover both Q3 eCommerce trends and overarching trends from 2022.

Top Q3 eCommerce Trends to Watch

Consumer Spending Will Change

While we still see strong consumer spending habits, holiday sales are expected to slow. As a result of the economic downturn, holiday sales are projected to grow between 4% and 6%, reaching $1.45 to $1.47 trillion this season compared to an increase of 15.1% during last year’s period, according to a new forecast from Deloitte. With inflation hovering just above 8%, many consumers are making adjustments. According to a recent survey by Bankrate.com and spokesperson Ted Rossman says,

8 of 10 Americans with travel plans are reconsidering or making modifications to save money.

 

Retailers can expect higher eCommerce sales as customers comparison shop for bargains. eCommerce brands poised for early sales will be in good shape to have a successful Q4.

Holiday Shopping is Coming Early

November typically marks the beginning of Peak holiday sales, but trends show shoppers have already started making gift purchases. According to a Gartner Marketing survey, nearly half of consumers, 48%, plan to shop early for this holiday season, and the big reason is inflation. They are spreading out their spending. Consumers are beginning to scour retail sites for the best deals and promotions, and deep discounts from retailers are expected to be seen early instead of revolving around “Days” or “Weeks” as in years past.

Brands that are poised to offer early promotions will be able to capitalize on early sales and offset last-minute delivery complications.

Social Selling is Rising in Popularity and Trust

As a result of COVID-19, consumers found that shopping online could keep them safe and save them money and time. This has increased consumer trust in social commerce. Social commerce is using social media to sell goods or services. From increasing your post frequency to engaging influencers to promote your product, now is the time to double down on social marketing and sales efforts.

Enduring 2022 eCommerce Trends to Watch

Personalization

Consumers are looking for shopping experiences tailored to their preferences. Shoppers are continuing to look for personalization. Personalization includes; displaying recommended products, targeted messaging, and cultivating personalized add-ons. People want their online shopping experience similar to having a personal shopper. AI is powering personalization and getting more accurate by the minute. A brand with a seamless omnichannel experience that offers the best deals and designs for each individual will perform well throughout the end of 2022 and into 2023.

M-Commerce

M-Commerce or mobile commerce will continue to be an eCommerce trend to watch. Mobile purchases are trending to be almost 22% higher than in 2021. It isn’t enough that your site is mobile-friendly; it needs to be optimized for mobile. Consumers are spending more time than ever on their devices. You cannot afford to have a sub-par mobile purchasing experience to capture their attention and their dollars. Here are just a few of the best practices for mobile UX design, according to Toptal.com.

Infographic

Infographic by Toptal

Chatbots

As AI-powered chatbots become more intelligent, their use in customer service situations is growing. While human connection is still essential in complicated customer service circumstances, a chatbot can more efficiently and effectively share frequently requested information. Furthermore, chatbots are available 24/7, making it feasible to respond to customers instantly, no matter the timezone or time of day. We can expect chatbots in other business areas, including payments, scheduling appointments, and even hiring. 

While Q3 presents a few new eCommerce trends to watch, they are ever-changing. From implementing chatbots to longer sales seasons, it can be overwhelming to keep up. Falcon Fulfillment specializes in eCommerce fulfillment. We can free up headspace by managing every aspect of product fulfillment, from receiving to last-mile delivery. If you need breathing room to focus on maximizing revenues, core competencies, and flowing with the eCommerce trends, let Falcon help. Talk to one of our agents today.

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6 Signs It Is Time to Outsource Fulfillment

6 Signs It Is Time to Outsource Fulfillment

Running a successful eCommerce business is demanding. It requires a lot of time, money, and expertise. Owners are pulled in a thousand directions daily. They manage product development, marketing, order fulfillment, customer service, staffing, and sales, all while remaining focused on future growth opportunities. It’s like running a three-ring circus, only with fewer furry employees. Order fulfillment is a crucial aspect of running a successful eCommerce business. There is a tipping point where order fulfillment can make or break profitability. Here are six signs it might be time to outsource fulfillment.  

You Can No Longer Focus on Core Competencies

Focusing on your business's core competencies has helped you gain success thus far. Continuing to hone and focus on what your company does best will ensure it continues to grow and thrive. There is a business idea that states, “Work on it, not just in it.” Often, a business owner builds the company around their ability to get things done. This works when the business is small but very quickly will bottleneck growth. When your time and attention are being hijacked by order fulfillment more than 20%, you might want to consider outsourcing fulfillment. A 3PL can give you back the headspace you need to refocus on what matters most to you and your customers.

Your Team Cannot Handle the Demand

Orders are rolling in at rates your team is struggling to keep up with. Does this scenario sound familiar? “Everyone is working around the clock to fulfill orders, yet they are getting increasingly delayed. I’m even pulling in admin, sales, and marketing staff to pack and ship product.” You might be laughing, thinking that would never happen to you until your product gets featured on Fixer Upper, or you missed the window to Prepare for Peak. Engaging with a fulfillment company gives you access to an expanded and expert fulfillment team.

You Have Outgrown Your Warehouse Space

It’s challenging to stage receiving and fulfillment when you don’t have the space required to pick, pack, store, and ship products. This is especially difficult when you experience significant fluctuations in order volume. Holiday sales might fill your warehouse capacity and be virtually empty by January. You can utilize flexible warehousing to ebb and flow when you outsource fulfillment. 

Order Errors are Increasing

Order errors are apt to happen, but they become more and more common when staff and management are stretched too thin. Whether the mistakes stem from a lack of time, staffing, space, or technology failures, they are costly. A rise in unhappy customers is directly related to order accuracy and promptness. One bad review will cost you 1 in every ten potential customers. For example, if you receive 300 visitors to your online store daily, one lousy review costs you 30 customers per day. Can you afford that loss? 3PL fulfillment teams can provide almost 100% order accuracy, and they can offer fast shipping.

You Know You are Paying Too Much for Shipping

Shipping is expensive. Leveraging every avenue to ensure you get the lowest shipping rates is good business practice. 3PL order fulfillment companies have preferred high-volume discounts with shipping carriers. They pass along those preferred rates to clients. If you are paying the same or more for shipping as your competitors, it might be time to outsource your fulfillment.

You Want to Expand Internationally

Expanding your business to a new country is a huge undertaking. Expert knowledge is helpful whether you are launching in a neighboring country or taking your business worldwide. Fulfillment companies know how to navigate international customs, export and import law, and other complicated areas. They have managed fulfillment for others and can help create and streamline your process to have the most success in your new market.

Running an eCommerce is a 24/7 job. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the number of orders to process and your team is running out of steam, it is a sign it is time to outsource fulfillment. Having the headspace to focus on future growth and expansion opportunities is priceless. Partnering with a 3PL fulfillment company like Falcon Fulfillment can give flexible warehouse space, staffing, and cost-effective shipping rates to ensure you have the best possible chance of thriving, not just surviving eCommerce growth. Talk to one of our agents today to see how we can help you scale.

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5 Last-minute tips for retailers to prep for peak

5 Last-minute tips for retailers to prep for peak

Pumpkin-spice lattes firmly held in the hands of consumers signify that peak season has begun. Shoppers are already starting their holiday gift purchases despite inflation and the looming threat of a recession. Don’t worry if you haven’t had the headspace to plan for the holiday sales season. Here are five last-minute tips for retailers to prep for peak. 

5 Last-minute tips for retailers to prep for peak

Diversify Your Carrier Network

Supply chain delays and carrier incidents are expected during the sales surge from October through the New Year. If you rely on a single shipping carrier, you could find yourself in a shipping and fulfillment nightmare. From weather to traffic, peak season is littered with unforeseen situations. Partnering with multiple shipping carriers allows you to pivot orders should the unexpected. 

Over Communicate with Customers

Even if you haven’t stock-piled inventory, now is the time to engage your customers. Not only can you begin peak sales offerings, but now is the time to reach out to suppliers and carriers to determine realistic cut-offs and delivery deadlines. Accurate consumer details on when orders will be received are crucial to maximize peak season and ensure happy customers. Create marketing efforts to encourage early purchases, especially if your carriers are already talking to you about delays. Lastly, if you have the technology in place, now is the time to update automated e-mail correspondence regarding delivery details, returns, and how to get in touch with customer service should it be required. Keeping your customers informed before, during, and after product delivery is the best defense against a poor experience and bad reviews.

Determine Realistic Stock Availability

Reach out to your suppliers and determine realistic timelines to receive products. If they cannot get your ‘best sellers’ in stock until January, you might need to spin up a new product or engage a new supplier. Most goods are procured from Asian manufacturers because of affordability. However, now might be an opportunity to investigate some of the top manufacturers in the US. A local supplier can often deliver products in a shorter timeframe, even if it might be slightly more expensive. In general, diversifying your suppliers makes your supply chain more resilient. Find out what is possible from your existing vendors and be prepared to pivot on products or suppliers if necessary.

Boost Customer Service Efforts

Not only do sales skyrocket during peak season, but so do customer service issues and returns. Now is the time to boost efforts to streamline your customer experience efforts. While we cannot always avoid returns altogether, we can implement strategies to ensure the returns process is as seamless as possible. Refine your return policy and ensure it is visible and uses easy-to-understand language. Another last-minute tip for retailers to prepare for peak is to retrain customer service staff. Host training on how to deal with common customer service complaints reps deal with during the holidays.

  • Product unavailable or out of stock
  • Poor product or service
  • Lack of follow-up or communications
  • No first call resolution

Hire Extra Help

Even if you are late planning for peak, you will still likely need a few extra hands to deal with the sales surge.  Depending on your need, make a solid effort to hire help, so your existing staff doesn’t burn out. Many retailers have standard hiring processes for the holiday season but don’t forget back office, warehouse, and service staff needs also increase.  

Top Last-Minute Tip for Retailers to Prep for Peak

Partner with a 3PL

A 3PL partner can alleviate the pressures of finding a broad network of carriers. They already leverage multiple shipping services and a network of suppliers. A white-glove 3PL can introduce your business to new manufacturers and offer better shipping rates because of their current economies of scale. Furthermore, partnering with a group like Falcon Fulfillment can manage returns and refunds. We are experts in fulfillment and would love to have the chance to help your peak season soar, regardless of how late it might be. Get in touch with our agents today to see how we can help.

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A Beginners Guide to 3PL Fulfillment

Beginners Guide to 3PL Fulfillment

Beginners Guide to 3PL Fulfillment

To help you evaluate whether or not a 3PL partnership is right for you, we have developed this beginners guide to 3PL fulfillment. We will discuss what a 3PL is, the pros and cons of using a 3PL, and questions you should ask before selecting a partner.

What is a 3PL

Third-party logistics, or 3PL for short, is a company that offers outsourced logistics services. 3PL services encompass everything from procurement to last-mile delivery. A 3PL provides the staff, space, and transportation network required for order fulfillment. They can manage receiving, inventory warehousing, packaging, and shipping services, letting businesses focus on other essential areas of their company. Some 3PL businesses offer additional logistics services known as value-added services. These include inventory management, kitting and assembly, and more. Furthermore, some 3PL companies specialize in specific product types such as:

  • B2B
  • Ecommerce
  • Retail
  • Apparel
  • Health & Beauty
  • Frozen Foods
  • Nutraceuticals
  • Beer & Wine

Pros of Working with a 3PL

In this beginners guide to 3PL fulfillment, we will focus on the most relevant benefits, although there are many more.

Industry Expertise

Streamlining and managing supply chains, transportation, and new market compliance can be overwhelming. When partnering with a 3PL, you gain the advantage of industry experts with insider knowledge. They can help facilitate imports, exports, international shipping compliance, and economic regulations. This is incredibly valuable as you consider launching new markets or expanding overseas.

Cost Savings

Businesses often partner with 3PLs to save money and boost profitability. 3PLs consistently improve efficiency in the order fulfillment process. They reduce shipping costs by leveraging their collective order volumes to negotiate better rates. Furthermore, they typically provide faster delivery times.

Scalability

Another benefit is the ability to scale your business with a 3PL. It is easier to navigate sales peaks and valleys when warehousing, staffing, and transportation needs rise and fall in step with demand. 3PL fulfillment companies give their clients the ability to scale quickly without significant capital investment in fulfillment infrastructure.

Customer Satisfaction

Working with a 3PL can significantly improve your overall customer satisfaction. They help provide quicker delivery options with more consistent results. The inventory management technology used by most 3PLs allows for fewer stock-out situations. Lastly, many 3PL companies handle reverse logistics, or returns and refunds. All of these create happy customers.

Cons of Working with a 3PL

There are clear advantages of working with a 3PL. However, you should also know the common drawbacks you might encounter. Here are a few complications you should consider especially if you are trying to determine whether to continue dropshipping or transition to 3PL fulfillment.

Loss of Inventory Control

Many business owners want to maintain a high level of control over their inventory. Rightfully so, your business can suffer if products are not packaged and shipped correctly. Releasing inventory management and fulfillment to a 3PL can be unsettling and detrimental if the right partner isn’t chosen. Finding a logistics partner you can trust is a process.

Higher Up-Front Costs

Saving money with a 3PL is a long game. Setting up your 3PL warehousing and distribution requires an initial investment. Your storage needs and order volumes will determine the necessary upfront cost. Companies with high order volumes and flexible storage space will benefit most from a 3PL partnership. An excellent 3PL will tailor costs around actual needs.

Loss of Control over Customer Experience

When you entrust a 3PL to fulfill your orders, you have to give up some control about how and when those products will be delivered. When a 3PL performs or handles a customer poorly, that reflects on your business directly. This is why choosing a trustworthy and competent 3PL is crucial.

Questions to Ask Before Choosing a 3PL

  • Will your technology integrate with your sales channels and inventory management platforms?  (Omnichannel technology)
  • How does your pricing model work? I.e., do you charge separate fees for receiving, picking/packing, and warehousing, or do you provide an all-inclusive option?
  • What types of products are your specialty? If your product is outside of their wheelhouse, how will they accommodate it?
  • What is their experience with peak seasons? Can they handle fluctuations in order demand easily?
  • Do they provide same-day order fulfillment, and can they offer competitive 2-day shipping for most of your customers?

We have scratched the surface in this beginners guide to 3PL fulfillment, but we hope it has shed a little light on the topic. No matter where your business is in its life cycle, there will come a day when partnering with a 3PL will become a viable option. If you have more orders than you know what to do with and your inventory is spilling out of your current space, it might be time to consider a 3PL option. Chat with one of our specialists today to find out how Falcon Fulfillment can help.

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ways to make your ecommerce stand out

Ways to Make Your eCommerce Stand Out

Ways to make your eCommerce standout 

Online shopping is at an all-time high. Every niche is saturated with eCommerce brands that are nailing the basics. They have fulfillment and distribution locked down, and they know how to meet the needs of picky customers. People want to differentiate between products and brands quickly. Knowing where to invest valuable time and resources can mean the difference between a converted consumer and an abandoned cart shopper. What are some of the best ways to make your eCommerce stand out?

Narrow and Nail your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

eCommerce brands that stand out in the market understand what makes them better than their competition. This is their unique selling proposition. They exhibit this USP every chance they have, from marketing to packaging. Establish a narrow and clear USP, so you don’t fade into the eCommerce ether of the internet. What is it that your business does best? 

Updated and Streamlined Website 

More than 90% of buyers say they pay more attention to visual appearance over other elements when making a purchase. Furthermore, consumers will leave if your website is outdated or clunky before they even consider purchasing. You cannot afford a website that doesn’t have great UI/UX and funnels customers to a CTA. A few of the most crucial elements of a great eCommerce website are: 

  • Clear Calls to Action
  • Multiple, Large, High-Quality Images on Product Pages
  • Lifestyle Versus Product Imagery
  • Recommended Related Products
  • Customer Reviews and Ratings for Products
  • Intuitive and Useful Site Navigation
  • Easy Checkout

Adapt and Reinvent 

Your products cannot go stale. Stagnant fashion ends up in the thrift store, and unsold products collect dust and are liquidated or incinerated. Continually update your offer according to trends, tastes, and TikToks! Your company cannot afford to stay where they always have been.

Invest in and cultivate social proof

Consumers rely on others to determine whether or not they will purchase a product. Reviews, consumer photos, and feedback provided by real customers help conversion rates. One customer review can increase conversion rates by 10%, and multiple reviews can boost them by 44%. You cannot afford to wait for the 5-star reviews to show up. Here are a few ways to make your eCommerce stand out by investing in a social proof strategy. 

  • Showcase Reviews
  • Create User-Generated Content
  • Collaborate with Local Celebrities, Experts, or Industry Influencers 
  • Display testimonials on your website
  • Encourage mentions and be responsive 
  • Use Chat Bot Responses to Share Social Proof Content To Answer Questions

Be active on social media

Online shoppers often check out a brand's social accounts or even get targeted before they make a purchase. One big way to make your eCommerce stand out is to remain active and consistent on social media. It is also one of the best and more affordable ways to engage with your online brand advocates. Here are some posting ideas to kickstart your campaigns. 

  • Demo and How-To Videos
  • Host LIVE events on Instagram or Facebook
  • Create Curated Pinterest Boards
  • Ask Questions To Your Target Audience
  • Give Sneak Peeks Into New Products and Events
  • Host Q + A Sessions
  • Use Specific Hashtags
  • Create Giveaways and Promote User Content

Offer Subscription Boxes and Pairings

Generate consistent month-over-month revenue and wow your customers by offering a subscription box or personalized pairings and add-ons. Here are some keys aspects of creating a successful subscription box. 

Solve an actual problem for your customer avatar

Regardless of your marketing budget, website design prowess, or social media engagement, one stellar way to make your eCommerce stand out is to solve a problem. This is likely your USP, but sometimes it is a bonus that your product offers. Consider your customer avatar and create a solution for a real-life pain point. This is one of the best ways to make your eCommerce STAND OUT…it’s solid gold! 

Unforgettable Customer Service

In a saturated market of bots and automated help articles, having a personal, professional, and polite customer service situation is shocking. While it may not be feasible to hire actual people to respond to every customer request, at minimum, try to ensure a real person solves the most challenging situations. According to Brittany Hodak, the 3 P’s of customer service are professionalism, patience, and a people-first attitude. Having a people-centric customer service model will beat the competition without much effort. 

Be charitable

It’s no surprise that people like to buy stuff from companies that help others. Whether your philanthropic outreach is for children, pups, or people struggling with addiction, adding a charitable cause to your business is a great way to set you apart. 

If you want to make your eCommerce stand out, it takes work, time, and resources. From redesigning websites to partnering with a local charity, there are many ways to differentiate your business from the crowd. Falcon Fulfillment ensures your product arrives but can also expand your network through a 3PL partnership. We can handle the nitty-gritty stuff so you can focus on building the best stand-out eCommerce brand out there. Get in touch with one of our agents today to see how we can help. 

 

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Common and costly shipping mistakes

6 Common and Costly Shipping Mistakes

Common and Costly Shipping Mistakes

Shipping products is a necessary component of running a business. According to a new report from Pitney Bowes, parcel shipping exceeds 131 billion in volume globally and is likely to double by 2026. Companies must correctly manage shipping and delivery expenses to prevent negative effects like slowed productivity, dissatisfied consumers, and burgeoning shipping budgets. Unfortunately, these six common and costly shipping mistakes affect even the most diligent organizations. The good news is that all of them can be limited with a few simple changes. 

Invoice Errors

Invoice errors or miscalculations are more common than you might expect. Nearly 2% of all shipping invoices contain errors. The most common inaccuracies include: 

  • Fuel and Shipping miscalculations - Fuel prices fluctuate, so it’s no surprise that miscalculations happen regularly. Make sure shipping contracts clearly state acceptable margins of error on fuel charges. In addition, shipping miscalculations are related to inaccurate weights and dimensions of packages. 
  • Accessory Charges - relate to special instructions or tools required for delivery. For example, charges can be added to access a gated community or deliver a heavy load up or down stairs. Another common accessory charge is for unique tool usage, like lift gates, forklifts, etc. These charges are hard to know whether they are legitimate. Ensure you trust your carrier and have the relationship to question when something seems out of the ordinary.
  • Detention - occurs when your shipment isn’t ready for pickup during the allotted time. Often these terms are set beforehand, but you can be overcharged for the time the carrier waits.  

The best way to avoid common shipping mistakes is to audit invoices. Whether you take the time to review them or invest in automated invoice technology, it is crucial to double-check for accuracy. Given the numbers, you could save your company 2% on shipping costs annually.

Incorrect Measurements and Dimensions

Incorrectly measuring or weighing parcels is probably one of the easiest shipping mistakes, yet it is one of the most costly. Shipping charges are calculated based on actual dimensions, density, weights, and volumes of parcels. If an estimate is off by even a few ounces, it can result in thousands of dollars of surcharges, especially when shipping more than a few daily orders. 

Depending on the carrier, they could even return the package to the warehouse and make you pay for redelivery at the correct amount! This delays the package, costs your company double the shipping, and doesn’t provide your customer with a good experience. 

Ensure your packages have precise dimensions and weights, using a tape measure and calibrated scale. It is a simple step that busy entrepreneurs often miss. 

Improper Packaging

Packaging your products in a box that is either too big or too small can cost you money. Improperly packaged products are prone to damage and breakage. Furthermore, you could be overpaying for shipping using an oversized box (albeit standardized). Here are four ways right-size packaging can boost profitability. Packages that are delivered that have sustained shipping damage also do not showcase your brand well. Utilizing packaging and materials that protect your product and showcase your brand saves you money long-term.

Offering Free Shipping When You Cannot Afford It

common and costly shipping mistakes - free shippingA common and costly shipping mistake is offering free shipping when it doesn’t make financial sense. Of course, customers want free shipping but do not offer it if it will place your business in a financial bind. A quick evaluation of your accounting records will tell you whether or not it is viable. Here are a few “free-shipping” options that might still allow you to offer it as a special event without breaking the bank.

No Shipping Insurance

This is an easy mistake, especially when you want to cut corners. Unfortunately, the sender covers any shipping damages or losses. This is why it is crucial to insure your products. Regardless of shipping insurance, you can recoup losses and damages when the unexpected occurs.

Incorrect or Incomplete Delivery Details

A silly but common and costly shipping mistake is inaccurate or incomplete delivery details. From incorrect addresses to vague delivery details like the floor or suite number can cause delivery delays, returns and cost you money. Double check address details and ensure if there are special delivery instructions that either the customer covers the expense or verify you can absorb the cost. Invest in online address verification technology. When a customer inputs their address it will confirm the details by cross-referencing them against known addresses. If there is a mistake, it can autocorrect at the input point. 

With shipping costs rising, it is vital to ensure you are saving as much as possible by avoiding these common and costly shipping mistakes. By steering clear of a few of these mistakes, your company can see a little boost to your bottom line. By double-checking the accuracy of invoices, addresses, dimensions, and weights, your company can save a lot of lost revenue. Even though package damages cannot be avoided altogether, using the right-size packaging limits damage and ensures you are only paying for the shipping, you need. Falcon Fulfillment can help you reduce shipping costs, improve shipping invoice transparency, and provide the right-size packaging. Learn more and get in touch with one of our agents today.

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fulfillment challenges and solutions

2022 Fulfillment Challenges and Solutions

Fulfillment Challenges and Solutions

It’s old news that eCommerce continues to grow and outpace brick-and-mortar retail sales. By 2040, 95% of purchases will be made online, so it’s time to face eCommerce challenges and solve them. Fulfillment and logistics play a crucial role in the success of an eCommerce brand. This article focuses on the main eCommerce fulfillment challenges and solutions. 

fulfillment challenges and solutions - logistics

Logistics

Getting orders delivered to customers is sometimes more difficult than attracting them to your eCommerce site. There are multiple facets to logistics; therefore, various fulfillment challenges and solutions are linked to this aspect of eCommerce. 

Challenge: Tracking Orders

Tracking orders is one of the main challenges facing companies. Consumers are expecting real-time updates on when and where their purchase is. They have grown accustomed to a steady stream of communication outlining when the package has left the distribution warehouse when it is in transit, and even images of the parcel and where it was left. 

Solution: Automated order tracking

Transparency tracking is critical whether you self-fulfill or use a third party to fulfill orders. Leverage an automated communication system to notify consumers of purchase and delivery status. Most white-glove 3PLs offer system integrations that provide reliable order fulfillment details. Furthermore, you improve customer retention by using an automated order tracking system. Streamline the process by investing in a platform or partner that integrates with your customer communication system.

Challenge: Scaling Up and Down

eCommerce brands that want to differentiate themselves in the marketplace must be ready to fulfill demand, especially when launching new products or offering special sales promotions. The ability to scale up and down during busy seasons is a significant challenge. It is difficult to spin up enough staff, product, and fulfillment staff to accommodate a massive influx of orders.

Solution: Flexible Scaling with a 3PL

eCommerce brands rely on flexibility as they scale. For example, during the peak holiday sales season, they made need 3x the staff and order fulfillment capacity as during slower periods. Most successful eCommerce brands rely on a 3PL partner to help manage these resource fluctuations. Leveraging a 3PL affords your brand flexible warehousing space, fulfillment staffing, and kitting services. Your company only pays for what they need, so they have flexible options to grow incrementally.

Challenge: Warehouse Space

Scaling includes the need for flexible warehousing space. As eCommerce brands scale, they need affordable warehousing facilities.

Solution: Pay-for-what-you-need warehouse space

A significant overhead cost for eCommerce brands is warehousing space. Only so much product will fit into your Uncle’s basement. At some point, warehouse space must be rented or purchased. Owning a warehouse outright has high upfront costs and high risks. Renting space can also be costly, depending on the contract lengths and total space usage. The most flexible and cost-effective solution is a 3PL partner who charges you only for the space you use.

fulfillment challenge - shipping cost

High Shipping Costs

The high shipping cost is one of the most significant fulfillment challenges, with various solutions. Although there isn’t a quick fix, there are several ways to reduce shipping costs and boost profitability.

Challenge: High Costs

By March of 2021, shipping costs had skyrocketed. The estimated increase in shipping costs was 350% higher than the previous year. Shipping container shortages, COVID-19 lockdowns in Asia, and a global supply chain staffing shortage have contributed to the higher shipping costs. There have been slight indications that the supply chain bottleneck is loosening, but high shipping costs remain. This is a significant challenge to SMBs that must choose whether to pass these added costs to consumers or suffer lower profitability. Whether you ship t-shirts or TVs, shipping is an unavoidable expense that directly affects your bottom line.

Solution: Diversify Manufacturers

If your primary or only manufacturing vendor is in China, you already know the potential for disaster. An excellent option to improve your supply chain resilience and decrease shipping costs is to partner with a local manufacturer.  Reducing the distance will automatically reduce the shipping cost. 

Solution: Invest in Delivery Infrastructure

You may want to invest in your in-house delivery infrastructure if you are sick of being at the mercy of carrier inconsistencies and constant price increases. This requires a significant amount of up-front capital, but it puts you in control of all aspects of shipping and delivery services.

Solution: Ensure Right-Size Packaging

Ensure that your package and packing materials are as small and lightweight as possible without sacrificing the protection of the product. Reducing the dimensions and overall weight of a package will reduce shipping costs. You can also investigate alternative shipping materials like poly mailers instead of corrugated boxes.

Solution: Partner with a 3PL

A competent 3PL partner has relationships with a broad network of shipping carriers. They benefit from economies of scale for reduced shipping costs and lower packaging material costs. They share that benefit with their clients. Furthermore, they can offer a variety of shipping options that will help customer retention

Solution: Offer Shipping Alternatives

Offer shipping alternatives like BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), locker pickup, or direct delivery to local customers. Investigate all the shipping alternatives that work for your brand to help reduce shipping costs.

Product Returns and Refunds

Challenge: High Return Rates

Consumers are buying more and returning more. In 2021 retailers expected a return rate of around 16.6%, which jumped from 10.6% in 2020. Products purchased online have a higher rate of returns than those purchased in-store. It is easy to toss a product into the virtual cart and have a very unclear picture of what those items will look like in your home or your body.  The more generous or flexible the return policy, the more likely a consumer will over-purchase.

Solution: Invest in Visualization Technology

Many eCommerce retailers have started to invest in 3-D visualization tools to help customers make better choices when making a purchase. Virtual reality software has grown in popularity, especially with large or bulky retailers like furniture retailers, to help consumers visualize what pieces will look like in the space. Investing in technology that allows a customer to envision the product can help reduce the number of returns.

Solution: Beef Up Product Descriptions and Specifications

Adding more details to your product descriptions is a simple yet often overlooked solution. Ensure all appliances, furniture, and other bulky items have precise dimensions in the product details. Create accurate and detailed size charts that correlate directly to body measurements. Give your customers every opportunity to make a fully informed choice.

Solution: Clear and Easy Returns Policy

A survey by comScore and UPS showed that 63 percent of American consumers check the return policy before making a purchase, and 48 percent would shop more with retailers offering hassle-free returns. Consumers will buy more if the process of returning is as easy as it is to buy. They have confidence that getting their money back won't be a hassle if it doesn’t work. Start by reverse engineering the purchase journey. A few best practices for your returns policy: 

  • Be transparent. 
  • Use plain easy to understand language.
  • Educate staff on the policy and how to handle everyday return situations
  • Be prepared to issue refunds

Many eCommerce brands outsource the returns and refund process to a logistics partner who can handle receiving, inspecting, and adding back to inventory. Regardless, it is crucial to focus on a strategy for returns and refunds that is sustainable and protects profitability.

Sustainability

Challenge: Cost and Confusion of Sustainability

Nearly 60% of consumers are ready to alter their purchase patterns to lessen their impact on the environment. Consumers are looking for brands that prioritize the environment, reduce carbon emissions, and have a clear sustainability plan. However, the upfront costs of switching supply chain processes to more environmentally friendly sources can disintegrate profits. Determining what types of sustainability to invest in can also be confusing because there isn’t a single definition of what makes a company fully “sustainable.”

Solution: Start with Swapping Packaging

Even though sustainability can be confusing and costly, a quick win is swapping packaging materials for sustainable options. It can be as simple as replacing polystyrene packing peanuts with green cell foam or custom biodegradable shapes. Bonus: biodegradable shapes provide a personalized touch to your unboxing experience too!  Making a small start is better than nothing at all.

Solution: Reduce Transportation Emissions

Optimize your transportation schedule to fill every container to minimize the wasted space and lower your CO2 emissions. The more boxes in a load, the fewer trips it takes to reduce emissions. Partnering with an environmentally-focused 3PL can help you create a sustainable business

 

In 2022 ECommerce businesses are facing some complex fulfillment challenges. From logistics to sustainability, companies are working hard to find solutions that meet growing customer demand without losing profitability. Fortunately, partnering with a quality 3PL can help alleviate several of these challenges. Falcon Fulfillment specializes in logistics, reverse logistics, and sustainability. If your eCommerce faces any of these challenges, see how Falcon might be able to help. Get in touch with one of our helpful agents today. 

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