It is true that our economy has never faced the challenges it does now, but e-commerce has never been more important. This is demonstrated by the federal government’s determination that companies that ship goods directly to people’s homes are an essential service, and as such, are permitted to continue operating, even during a pandemic.
Here are four key strategies to help your e-commerce business strive and thrive.
1. Enforce guidelines, support your team and verify your fulfillment company does too
Doing the right thing isn’t just good for the employees, customers and the country at large. It’s also good business. The more you can stem the spread of the pandemic, the longer and better you can stay up and running. It’s not just about masks or gloves or disinfectant. It’s also about conversations, financial support and flexibility. Moreover, it’s not just about how you operate within your own business, but how your third-party fulfillment company operates within its business too.
This uncertain time can cause added worry for the protection and handling of direct-to-consumer brand clients’ products, as well as for those responsible for the day-to-day. Knowing that your internal team, as well as your third-party providers and their teams are working diligently to maintain a safe and sanitized environment across all of their facilities will make all the difference.
2. If you are self-fulfilling, transition to a third-party fulfillment company
Self-fulfillment has always been a challenging path – it has never been your core expertise and it’s a huge distraction. Working with a third-party fulfillment company can lift the burden off your back. Now, in the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) era, there are even more reasons to make a shift.
Conditions in various geographies can be very different from time to time. A substantive third-party logistics (3PL) provider can put inventory in multiple geographies to diversify and reduce risk.
Fulfillment companies are, themselves, firmly designated as essential services and will continue to be. If you have concern about how your facility will be designated overall, go with a 3PL.
Seek a significant list of integrations. Make sure your 3PL can handle everything you need today, as well as the things you will need as you evolve, like e-commerce platforms, EDI systems, returns software, order management systems (OMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.
Look for great shipping rates, but don’t go with those who are cheapest on fulfillment. Be suspicious of pricing that seems too good to be true.
3. “Every day is Cyber Monday.” Prepare to scale – fast
All indicators point to the growth that was predicted to take place for ecommerce over the next few years has been accelerated and compressed into the months, and in a post-COVID-19 world, this shift will persist and continue to grow. Find a fulfillment provider that thrives with sudden growth. Even in normal times, digitally driven companies such as direct-to-consumer brands do not grow linearly; rather, they grow in a “hockey-stick” curve pattern. It’s clear why that’s difficult for self-fulfilling brands – after all, this is a capital investment. It is a heavy undertaking to begin, with and expanding that is costly and difficult. Unfortunately, many fulfillment companies also break when their customers suddenly scale. Look for a 3PL that specializes in scaling with its customers. Ask for specific examples of how they handle the sudden increased demand. One of the worst things that can happen is you suddenly find great success and your fulfillment system fails you.
4. Be a real partner with your fulfillment provider
This relationship isn’t transactional; close collaborations between both sides of this equation translate directly into success. The more you communicate, the more you’ll experience excellent results. Make it a real partnership.