If you have a small business sending products to customers, and you are not using a pick and pack service you are a fool.
Firstly a pick and pack service is essentially a full service fulfilment centre. Once you have sold your goods to the end customer, the rest is taken care of – the items are picked form a warehouse, packed into envelopes or boxes or other packaging, and then sent on to their final destination.
The rise in popularity of these pick and pack services comes hand in hand with the growth of the internet and e-commerce. Small businesses can now reach a wide audience they never dreamed of previously. People can discover new items not available in their local area. There are huge corporations dedicated to making online selling, purchasing and payment processing easier, so that now there is little or no resistance to online shopping. However, there is only so much technology can do – physical products still need to be transported and delivered to their new owners.
This is where a good fulfillment centre comes in, offering a pick and pack service. For those selling tangible products rather than services or digital products, this is a godsend. It’s all very well in the early days piling your bedroom, kitchen and any available space with your bespoke handmade merchandise; not to mention the cartons, cardboard boxes, tissue paper, bubble wrap, labels and everything else you need to successfully contain your product for delivery. But once you reach a certain scale, a smart entrepreneur recognizes that as soon as possible they should outsource this time-wasting chore and focus on the goods, brand and communications of the company.
It makes perfect sense to employ a specialized pick and pack service to take charge of this laborious task. By taking ownership of this particular function of the distribution funnel, they can perfect the necessary efficiencies. Having a dedicated warehouse means goods are properly stored, catalogued, quickly trackable and found with ease. Just as important is what happens the contain once it leaves the fulfilment centre – logistics and tracking are crucial to this process.
Those are the basics of pick and pack service providers, but there are more specific questions depending on your products. Do you export food products or perishables? The you’ll need a refrigerated warehouse that can offer special packing material and refrigerated delivery transportation. Do you offer free returns, for example for clothing sizes? In that case you’ll need a fulfilment centre that can also manage the returns arm of the distribution channel for you. Do you have a variety of different sized commodities in your repertoire, perhaps you sell furniture or ornamental merchandise? The distribution centre will need to have the flexibility to house these items and the expertise to know how to contain them correctly, as well as the ability to transport and deliver them efficiently. Does your brand attract interest from all over the world, requiring international shipping? Again, the fulfilment centre will need the requisite licences and contacts to comply with foreign orders.
While most options provide all of the above, another important facet of the operation is the timing – how quickly can they send the item? How long will it take to arrive to its destination? The pick and pack service will most likely base its pricing on a combination of the aforementioned factors. This will depend on the size, weight, nature and even seasonality of your goods. However, a good provider will allow you the time to properly ascertain the costs involved and work out the pricing structure that best suits you. Does this price include good customer care, or will you have to take charge of this side of things?
There’s another important consideration when choosing between pick and pack services. While everything may seem in order and they perform all the tasks you require, can they be successfully integrated to your systems? There is nothing more frustrating than receiving 100+ orders a day, but not being able to action them immediately. Furthermore, can they integrate with multiple channels and treat them adequately? (For example, you are offering a free gift with purchases from channel A). A successful integration makes everything else possible and the result is that there should be no need for manual intervention, one should be able to rely on the technology to be one hundred per cent automatic and timely. When you sell 5000% your normal daily sales on Valentine’s Day, you want to be sure those orders will be contained correctly and delivered as soon as possible to the beaming customers.
So, whether you sell stuffed toys to children (and adults) in Asia, exotic teas to Northern Europeans, Comic books to South Americans, specially cobbled dance shoes to Africans or hunting knives and rifles to North Americans, make choosing a great pick and pack service your priority, it will delight your customers while freeing up your time for more sales focused activities.