Ecommerce Logistics – a definitive checklist

When it comes to eCommerce there is any number of platforms out there. We integrate our technology with many of the industry’s big hitters as well as some smaller ones. So, we keep a close eye on what’s being discussed, how the platform providers are steering their users, and what these users consider important. Which is how we came across Shopify’s Third Party Logistics Checklist 

 

Terms of reference

It's a thorough and well-researched piece and provides fantastic advice to eCommerce retailers. And, while it’s focussed on logistics-only providers, the issues it raises and the questions to be answered are just as relevant to POD partners (like Prime) with responsibility for their customers’ logistics and fulfilment.

 

Needs
It urges those selling online to evaluate their current needs, and to take a long hard look at their future requirements, around:

  • Product weights and dimensions
  • Monthly order volumes
  • The average number of items per order
  • Common order combinations
  • Average basket size
  • Customers geographical locations
  • Total number of SKUs
  • The eCommerce platform that hosts their store

Questions and Answers
Then, with those current and future needs determined, it outlines a raft of questions the retailer should be posing. Questions we’re both happy to hear and to respond to! Here’s a summary:

Company-specific

  • What sets your company apart?
  • What services do you provide?
  • What do you consider your speciality?
  • How many customers do you have?
  • Do you have case studies, or existing or past customers we can contact?
  • How do I know that your company will be around in five years?
  • How do you support merchants wanting to scale or expand into new markets?
  • How will your services save me money?

Customer service

  • What are your hours of operation?
  • What hours is customer support available?
  • What’s the best way to contact customer support?
  • Will I have a dedicated account manager?

Inventory and fulfilment

  • How many locations do you have and where are they located?
  • Can I choose which locations my products are stored in?
  • What is the process for sending inventory to your warehouse?
  • How do you receive and store inventory?
  • Do you have any prohibited product materials?
  • Do you have any product size and weight limitations?
  • What is your company’s CSR policy or staff welfare policy?
  • Can I visit one of your locations to see for myself?

Shipping

  • What delivery options, including product sizing/weight, do you offer for standard packaging?
  • What kinds of standard packaging do you offer?
  • What custom packaging options do you offer?
  • Can I include inserts with my orders?
  • Do you offer kitting of orders?
  • Do you ship internationally?
  • What shipping carriers do you work with, including internationally?
  • Do you have lower negotiated rates with these carriers?
  • Can I track international orders?
  • How do you compensate for delays?
  • How do you handle unexpected spikes in order volume?
  • Do you offer delivered duties unpaid?
  • Do you manage returns?

Pricing and costs

  • Are there monthly order minimums or maximums?
  • What are all the potential variable and fixed fees that I’ll be charged?
  • Do I have to pay for standard packaging materials and boxes?
  • Do you use dimensional weight in shipping calculations?
  • How often will I receive a bill?
  • What type of fee breakdowns do you provide on invoices?
  • Do I have to sign a long-term contract?
  • What are the terms of exiting the relationship?

Technology and integrations

  • What kind of software do you use?
  • Are you able to integrate directly with my store through an API or an approved app?
  • Do you have a standalone platform you can integrate with through an EDI or via FTP?
  • If so, how easy is it to use?
  • What communications platforms are available for orders, shipping notice returns, inventory counts, incoming purchase orders, receiving, and adjustment notifications?

 

These are just some questions that can help you build a picture of your potential partner but, of course, there are plenty of others. The logistics are always going to be key, but it’s the final piece of the jigsaw. You’ll need to be sure that integration, ordering, production, service, and quality control are also on point. Talk to us, ask us anything you like and then come and take a look to be 100% sure you’re in the right place and with the right people.

Prime is the largest Print on Demand provider in the UK and, after 30 years in this sector, we’re the eCommerce partner of choice for many. If you’re looking for a POD partner with the resources, skills, and stocks to ensure your products are always available to market simply, quickly, and profitably, please get in touch. We’d be delighted to help.

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