Outsourcing your apparel fulfillment is an excellent decision for your business. But it can be challenging to discern the quality companies from the rest if you have never used one. Once you have determined your need to outsource, you must pick the best fulfillment provider for your business. To help make the review process simple, we’ve made a list of the top things to look for. A great company should offer the following:
When outsourcing, integrated, easy-to-use technology is a must. You want to be able to track orders, returns, and inventory efficiently to increase your business’s productivity. Ensure they use a high-quality central platform to manage and track your operations for ease and peace of mind.
Support for Your Peaks
Depending on your business, you will have known peaks and sales throughout the year, such as Black Friday, the Fourth of July, or the winter holidays. While these peaks are expected and great for your business, they can be incredibly stressful. Finding a skilled fulfillment partner will help you prepare inventory across their network for these expected surges. Be sure to ask prospective vendors what proactive measures they take for you and what inventory storage fees they may add during these periods. Surprise price hikes are never fun.
Inventory and Distribution Management
Finding a provider that already specializes in t-shirt fulfillment services is an excellent way to ensure a positive work relationship. For a screen printing company, inventory can grow exponentially, making storage and organization tricky. They should already have a system for organizing by size, style, and SKU, typically by barcoding each item to avoid confusion between similar articles. They should be able to run through their established practices with you during their pitch.
Their system should enable them to manage inventory needs for you with very little input from you. They should also have methods to verify that your incoming inventory shipments to their warehouses are correct.
Quality Storage and Packing
Firstly, you want to ensure your inventory will be securely stored when entrusting it to a third party. You don’t want to worry about the risk of damage or theft while it is sitting in a warehouse. The facility should have security measures in place they can review with you.
Additionally, the fulfillment company should have strict policies to keep your inventory clean during storing and packaging. No customer wants to receive a dusty “new” item. Your prospective partner should be willing to review your packaging expectations and carry them out to your standards. Presentation is crucial for loyal, happy customers.
A Variety of Shipping Options
One of the main benefits of outsourcing to a fulfillment company is that they should be able to provide more shipping options at a lower price point to you and your customers. Reliable, expedited shipping won’t mean much to your client base unless they can provide free shipping options. Review which companies they use for shipping, such as USPS, UPS, or FedEx. The more clients they serve and ship with a specific provider, the better discount they can hand down to you.
Easy Exchange and Return System
Unfortunately, apparel companies have some of the highest return rates due to bracketing. This practice had increased since mandatory lockdowns when consumers replaced the dressing room experience by ordering multiple sizes or versions of an item to find the correct fit, size, or color. When purchasing multiple items, customers don’t want to worry about difficult or costly return processes. No one enjoys paying a portion to get their money back for something they didn’t use.
You will want a company that can accept returns at the warehouse. Experienced fulfillment companies will be able to process returns and repackage the merchandise to be resold, maintaining the higher packaging needs associated with merch fulfillment services. A positive return process leads to more repeat customers even if they didn’t find what they were looking for with the initial order.
A Wider Reach
Even if you are starting in a smaller local market, you may want the option to expand, possibly even internationally. If you partner with a fulfillment vendor with an established global reach, you can continue to scale your business without switching providers. Your original outsourcing decision won’t hinder your capacity to grow. It’s also helpful to choose a company with a more extensive reach because they will already serve clients in various locations within your current market, ensuring an efficient and competent delivery system is already in place.
Overall, you are looking for a fulfillment company that can add value to your product. Your customers will assess your items on their quality, presentation, packaging, shipping, and return processes. Choosing an expert fulfillment partner can streamline your business and add value to your products. It is a small price for increasing your customers’ experience and stress-free management, freeing up your time for more important business matters.
Robert is the founder of Thrive Screen Printing and enjoys helping businesses learn how to enhance their brand through screen printing.