Fulfillment companies unfamiliar with direct selling businesses may struggle with some of the unique requirements to serve this market.
Following are 5 keys to success in fulfillment operations for direct sellers, and what to look for in a fulfillment partner.
As a direct seller, you’re one good Instagram post from a big demand spike and one product launch from exponential growth.
Having a virtual sales organization makes it possible for you to rapidly convert market demand into profit. It’s critical that your fulfillment partner can keep up. Look for:
- Nationwide locations. As you grow, you’ll want the ability to add locations to reduce transportation costs and delivery times.
- Engineering and design expertise. To minimize your cost-per-order, your warehouse layout, processes and automation must adapt to changing order profiles and increasing volumes.
- Full-featured warehouse management system (WMS). Basic WMS systems can handle basic operations. But what happens if you need your system to integrate with conveyor systems and other automation?
- Real-world examples. It’s one thing for a provider to say, “We can handle it;” it’s another to see proof of that provider’s ability to scale its operations.
Flexibility to Handle Unpredictable Volumes
In direct selling, there is far greater variability in order volumes, day to day. BOGOs and month-end promotions can potentially double volumes. That requires a fulfillment partner that can effortlessly flex its operations to absorb this added volume and then quickly ratchet down space and labor. In this way, fulfillment costs parallel your revenue stream.
Key requirements include:
- A multi-client warehouse where staff are cross-trained on the requirements of multiple accounts
- Flexible contracts where you pay only for the space and labor you use in a given month
- A knowledgeable management team that can collaboratively forecast based on a promotion schedule, history and experience with similar organizations.
Systems that can’t adapt to your requirements can bring your business to its knees. Proper vetting of providers in this area is critical.
First, you’ll want a high level of confidence that orders will flow seamlessly between your direct selling platform and your fulfillment partner’s WMS. Look for partners that serve companies using top commerce platforms like Exigo, Magento and InfoTrax.
It’s critical, too, that your partner’s system can meet some of the unique order processing requirements of direct sellers. For instance, many individual orders may go through party planners, who then arrange the final delivery. This requires a system that receives orders using a “parent-child” protocol, where the party planner is the parent. The system creates a pack slip for each individual order and these are added to a master case to ship to the planner.
Packaging Excellence for Brand Consistency
Customers of direct selling companies are not buying a commodity from the lowest cost supplier. They are making a lifestyle choice. As such, the relationship is more with the brand than the product.
That’s why direct sellers want a high-quality presentation at delivery, with a package that has their logo (not Amazon’s!). They want the paper inside to be folded just so, and the product to be positioned a certain way in a box that may contain a personal note to the buyer.
Your fulfillment partner must be capable of delivering this level of packaging customization, and they must do it as part of a high-volume, rapid-turn warehouse operation.
Experience in the Direct Selling Industry
Direct selling is an industry of entrepreneurs.
For these companies, it’s not about beating the competition as much as achieving personal success. So there is liberal sharing of information among companies – on software systems, on sales strategies and, yes, even on fulfillment operations.
Direct sellers benefit from working with fulfillment partners that have the experience in the industry to bring best practices to the table.
Does Your Fulfillment Partner Have What it Takes?
For direct selling companies, complex inventory management, unexpected volume spikes, and custom packaging requirements are business-as-usual challenges that must be managed.
Make sure your fulfillment provider has what it takes.