For someone new to the e-commerce game, warehousing and storage can either seem like something mysterious and complicated, or be forgotten about and fall to the wayside entirely. So many merchants start off by housing products in their garage, office, or even under the dining room table. But as they kick the can down the road and procrastinate on researching more sustainable solutions because they think it’s “too hard”, or they don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole, worried to start warehouse business endeavors. Or, they mistakenly believe that their operation is too small for outsourcing to be possible, all of a sudden they find themselves drowning in boxes.
As a seller, warehousing and fulfillment are critical components of your supply chain that can’t be left until the last minute. Good warehouse practices and efficient warehousing strategy are paramount to making sure that everything runs like a well-oiled machine, which ensures that your products reach your customers faster. We live in a post-Amazon world, meaning that customers expect goods to arrive in two days or less, so making sure that they get their orders as quickly as possible leads to a happier consumer base in the long run. Read on to discover the ins and outs of running a successful warehouse, how to manage warehouse concerns, and warehousing tips.
First of all, it’s helpful to define what e-commerce warehousing actually is. Strictly speaking, it’s the storage of physical goods while they wait to be sold online. Goods have to be safely and securely housed and their locations carefully managed to make sure that nothing is lost and that inventory is correctly tallied at all times. Daily operations include the training and management of warehouse staff, building relationships with shipping carriers, and recording all inbound and outbound shipments. It’s a lot to wrap your head around, especially if you’re just starting out on your e-commerce journey and have no idea on how to run a warehouse.
However, despite what many beginning sellers might believe, there aren’t only two options to choose between, namely doing everything yourself or purchasing/leasing permanent warehouse space. There are a number of third-party solutions that serve businesses of all sizes. Not having your warehouse requirements checklist in place and failing to do your research more often than not leaves you with a dining room table full of boxes. So, what are the benefits of outsourcing your fulfillment operations to a third party?
First, warehousing enables faster shipping and delivery to your customers. Thanks to the proliferation of Amazon Prime and services like it, the modern e-commerce consumer expects nothing less than delivery within two days and have little knowledge of how warehouse works can be complicated endeavors. If you’re shipping everything directly through your local post office, that often simply isn’t feasible. If, on the other hand, you distribute your goods to multiple locations, you’ll be able to get your products into your customer’s hands that much quicker, while saving you both time and money.
Second, outsourcing your product storage enables everything to be a lot more organized. Warehousing companies are professional organizations who have a checklist of receiving, inventory, and warehouse operations best practices that they abide by in order to make sure that nothing gets misplaced. Your living room and garage, on the other hand, don’t have that same level of sophisticated inventory management, or access to a warehouse receiving checklist template, meaning that confusion and frustration is the order of the day and it’s all that much easier to accidentally ship out the wrong product. Taking those responsibilities off your plate can be a huge relief.
And third, you’ll just save so much time. Why waste valuable hours playing storage Tetris that you could use on developing your products, helping customers, and coming up with new marketing campaigns? In the long run, past a certain point of growth, it just doesn’t make sense to spend so much of your day on packing and fulfillment and formulating a warehousing business plan.
Many 3PL services provide a number of benefits to their companies, including but not limited to access to their warehouse inventory template and the assurance they’re conforming to warehouse layout best practices checklist. This means you never have to worry about how to organize warehouse inventory. It all gets handled for you. They also very often support direct integration with a number of selling channels, meaning that every order is automatically sent to the provider so that it can be packed and shipped without any special intervention from you. This also means that inventory is automatically synced between your 3PL partner and your online store, preventing “phantom inventory”, or when products that aren’t actually available for purchase are shown as available on your website.
But what sort of services and standards should a warehousing partner offer? Here’s a short warehouse duties checklist that you can use when finding a company that meets all the warehousing requirements to help your startup.
First, data must be available to you as quickly as possible. Real-time updates are highly preferable so you can make sure that you’re up to date on where your products are at any given time. Delays in processing and shipping should be something you’re aware of soon after they happen, as opposed to days later when your customers are messaging you to ask where their packages are. Preferably your warehousing partner has some sort of software infrastructure that provides automatic updates whenever items are picked and scanned.
Second, it’s ideal to go with a fulfillment company that has warehouses in a variety of locations so that your products can be spread out. If an order comes in from Wisconsin and all of your products are in a warehouse in the Florida Keys, that represents extra hours and days tacked onto the end of delivery that wouldn’t be necessary if you had some products sitting in the Midwest.
Third, you want to make sure that your contract with the warehouse has liability assigned in an appropriate way. You don’t want to have to eat the cost for a destroyed palette of goods due to an accident on the distribution center’s behalf. Any good contract has responsibility for lost or damaged goods built in, minus a certain percentage of shrinkage, which should be minimized by properly organizing warehouse inventory.
If you bear all these things in mind, you’ll go from a rank beginner at warehousing and fulfillment with a kitchen table full of boxes to someone who knows their way around. No matter the size of your business, whether you ship thousands of orders per day or whether you’re just starting out, there’s a 3PL outsourcing solution for you if you decide to go down that route, meaning that you can leave the checklist for warehouse operations behind.
We here at P2Pseller pride ourselves on servicing businesses of every size, and connecting them to the perfect warehousing and fulfillment companies for their unique needs. With us, you don’t have to worry about even half of the things listed above or pore over a warehouse startup checklist. Instead, we handle all the finer points for you so all that’s left to do is arrange the delivery of goods to your distribution partner. That leaves more of your focus available to spend on the parts of your business that really get you excited. Sign up for a P2Pseller account in just a few clicks to browse our offerings with zero stress, zero phone calls, and zero hidden fees.