One of the most common challenges for creative entrepreneurs in launching their business is figuring out shipping and fulfillment. A new clothing designer is unlikely to have the capital or space to store thousands of shirts, let alone the time to package and send them to customers.
The solution to this problem is drop shipping, a practice where a customer places an order that is then shipped directly from the manufacturer instead of from the retailer. This allows the artist to focus on what they do best, creating cool products, while an expert handles shipping and fulfillment.
But not all shipping and fulfillment partners are created equal. This article will talk about some of the things you should consider before picking a partner, using one of the most popular fulfillment services Printful as an example.
Nearly 510,000 sellers trust Printful to print and ship their unique designs on everything from beach towels to phone cases. If you're looking for a fulfillment partner, those kinds of positive reviews matter.
Among all the partners you rely on to run your eCommerce business, perhaps none matters more than your fulfillment partner. Your customers don't care who does your taxes, but you can bet they'll care if their order shows up late or in bad condition.
The partner you choose should have a long track record of success with businesses similar to yours. Make sure to look at their reviews, positive and negative, to see what they might be like as a partner. If possible, talk to one of their current customers to get candid feedback on their dependability.
No two businesses are alike, so its important that you choose a fulfillment partner that can meet your needs. Flexibility in pricing is especially important. You should know how much it will cost to manage your business based on a range of considerations: customer location, speed of delivery, minimum order requirements and more.
You should also look for a partner that is flexible enough to scale with you as you grow your business. If one of your designs becomes a viral hit because one of the Kardashians put it on Instagram, will you be able to fulfill the requests?
In a world where Amazon Prime has conditioned customers to expect free two-day shipping (or faster), it is important that your shipping and fulfillment partner provide clear information about how quickly they can fill orders. For example, Printful lists its shipping speeds as basic (3-8 days) and expedited (1-3 days) within the United States.
Getting clarity around your shipping speed is essential because it is a promise to your customers and one of the most common areas for which eCommerce businesses receive negative reviews.
There are a lot of companies out there that can manufacture and ship basic products, so if that's all you want, feel free to look for the cheapest partner possible. But if you're seeking to launch your business, you may want to find a partner that has extra support services. Printful offers a range of services, including design services, so even if you're the best artist your idea can still make its way onto a t-shirt.
No matter what you're selling, an ideal partner should be able to help you not only fulfill orders but also grow your business — and that means providing holistic support. While these full-service partners may cost more than their bare bones cousins, it can be worth it to new entrepreneurs.
Ultimately, the partner you choose to support your eCommerce business should align with your vision. Just remember, while they may be the ones printing and shipping for you, it's your brand's name on the box.