When you start an e-commerce business, it’s common to handle your fulfillment in-house. However, self-fulfillment can hinder the growth of your business by taking your time away from other essential business functions. Still, you need to have efficient fulfillment practices, keep shipping costs down, and avoid product waste to remain profitable while keeping your customers happy. It can get to be too much. Here are the main challenges you will face in-house fulfillment (if you aren’t already) and what you can do about it:
1. Customer Dissatisfaction
To fulfill your orders, you must ensure the correct products go into the box packed correctly. This time-consuming process can be inefficient and overwhelming during peak sales times. The maximum amount of inventory you can process limits your sales, and it may not be economical to hire, train, and get rid of staff as your sales ebb and flow.
To maintain customer satisfaction, you must also ship every order promptly. Since e-commerce increased exponentially in 2020, carriers continue to raise shipping prices and add surcharges. If you are handling the fulfillment in-house, you won’t be shipping enough volume to secure shipping speeds and discounts you can pass down to your customers.
As a small e-commerce retailer, you cannot secure wholesale shipping rates, which will lose customers and hurt your profitability. To combat this, you can outsource merch fulfillment services to expedite your order fulfillment and access wholesale shipping rates to offer your customers free or discounted, expedited shipping. This will allow you to handle higher sales quantities at a time, reduce your shipping costs, and increase your efficiency and profitability, all while keeping your customers happy.
2. Inaccurate Inventory Visibility
Managing inventory for your apparel company takes a lot of work. For example, a custom t-shirt screen printing company must handle extensive quantities of shirt types, sizes, and colors. Combining that with seasonal changes and preferences, you will manage many SKUs.
If you are handling this yourself, you won’t always have access to real-time inventory levels, where you can find every SKU and know if you have enough to fulfill the influx of orders. Stock levels are crucial as most customers find ordering an item and then being told it’s out of stock worse than it being out of stock in the first place. Refilling out of stock inventory also slows down your fulfillment process. All of this can hurt customer relationships and future sales.
On the other hand, if you aren’t managing your stock effectively, you could end up with too much product without noticing until it’s too late. Discounting a slow-moving product with short lifecycles can hurt your bottom line.
By partnering with companies that specialize in screen printing fulfillment services, you can always have access to real-time inventory, so you can always ensure you have the appropriate amount of each item. You won’t need to be preoccupied with SKU-locating or routine inventory and ordering, and you will always know if you can fulfill orders as they are incoming. Handing over some of the management will take a massive weight off your shoulder, allowing you to focus on the more enjoyable aspects of managing your business.
3. Limited Big Sale Opportunities
If you are self-managing, you are limited to the order quantities you can handle. It’s tough to offer sales that compete with larger companies for the expected sales on Black Friday or Valentine’s Day. Beyond the larger planned sales, you typically have a short product lifecycle with apparel. If you’re self-managing, you must store that inventory for an entire year until that seasonal product returns, or it might never get used again.
If you have a t-shirt printing fulfillment vendor, they can keep up with higher sales demand. They also manage your inventory, so you can update prices for the “last few” sales when stock gets low. You can even start doing grab bags or mystery bundles to get rid of old stock. Customers love nothing more than saving money on their purchases. A mystery makes it more exciting; repackaging your miscellaneous inventory allows you to move your leftover products and reduce waste or storage fees.
You may need to manage fulfillment in-house to cut costs when establishing your business. As you grow, it can be hard to relinquish control, even if it will help you overall. If you have noticed these challenges with your business, though, it’s time to reconsider your fulfillment options.
You might be an experienced entrepreneur and have an excellent product, but you could be missing the mark on best practices if fulfillment is not your core business. You can optimize your end-to-end apparel fulfillment and eliminate these challenges by outsourcing to a specialist company. They will have the knowledge, experience, inventory management system, and user-friendly interface for both you and your customers to ensure the best experience possible.
Robert is the founder of Thrive Screen Printing and enjoys helping businesses learn how to enhance their brand through screen printing.