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Searching for a warehouse and fulfillment center can be overwhelming. Unfamiliar terminology and complicated pricing can create confusion. How do you know what you’re getting? Here are some things to consider.
Some warehouses only provide short-term storage, with storage costs increasing over time. In addition, some only provide storage for fulfillment customers, while some warehouses only provide storage and no fulfillment.
Storage can also be billed in a number of ways—by volume, by unit, or by pallet. How storage fees are calculated can make a big difference in storage cost.
Here are some questions to ask regarding storage:
In addition to storage, a warehouse can provide fulfillment services. Fulfillment refers to the process of picking and packing items for e-commerce orders.
These orders are received through integrations with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Amazon, and many others.
Once an order is received, your fulfillment center then “picks” the items, retrieving them from their storage location, and “packs” them into a shipping box or mailer.
Whether you prefer branded, protective, or eco-friendly packaging, your warehouse should be able to offer a solution for you.
A fulfillment center also negotiates shipping with domestic and international carriers. These rates are much lower than retail since they utilize bulk shipping contracts. A fulfillment center should work with your priorities—whether that is low rates or fast shipping.
Here are some questions to ask regarding fulfillment:
B2B or “business to business” shipments refer to shipments from one business to another. These are often wholesale orders by another retailer.
Depending on what you sell, this could be a boutique, holistic medical office, specialty store, or other retailer.
These shipments can vary in size from one carton, to multiple pallets. You may need to arrange shipping with a freight carrier for larger shipments. Smaller shipments can be shipped with Fedex or UPS.
Some warehouses focus only on e-commerce fulfillment, and do not offer B2B services. If you sell wholesale, or plan to in the future, this may be something to consider.
Here are some questions to ask regarding B2B shipments:
FBA or “fulfilled by Amazon” refers to shipments to an Amazon fulfillment center. Amazon will then fulfill orders on your behalf. In contrast to B2B shipments, Amazon does not buy the product from you for resale. Amazon acts as your warehouse providing storage and fulfillment services.
Amazon has specifications your products must meet in order to qualify for FBA.
Your products will need to be prepared before shipping. This preparation can include inspection, counting, repackaging, bagging, labeling, and more.
Shipping is often arranged through Amazon with either an LTL pick up or using UPS. (LTL, or less-than-load, refers to freight that does not fill an entire truck.)
Some 3PLs don’t offer FBA services, or may be limited in what preparation they will do. If you plan on using Amazon’s fulfillment services, you will want to ensure the warehouse you are considering will be able to offer the services you need.
Here are some questions to ask regarding FBA shipments:
In conclusion, if you are searching for a 3PL, there are some important things to consider. The services that your company needs will determine which 3PL is the best fit.
Choosing a 3PL doesn’t have to be scary—we provide all our pricing up front. No start up fee, no hidden costs. Just excellent customer support and the services you need. Contact us today to get started.