Fulfillment Basics (Part 1)
Pacific’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) fulfillment suggestions for the new business owner…
Set up your inventory system
Identify each of your products with a unique name and item# (SKU). When choosing a SKU number, the best practice is to keep it simple, but allow for growth. What I mean by that is don’t put a lot of logic into the SKU coding, keep it simple, for instance – 1000-01, 1001-01, 1002-01, etc. The idea being that the first 4 digits (1000) are associated to the product itself, while the ending (-01) might be the version, color, scent, etc. of the individual product itself. You could have each product line start with a different numeric like 2000, 3000, etc. just be careful not to put a lot of logic into the sequencing as it typically causes more work and confusion later as your product line evolves and changes. It will also make for an easier transition for your fulfillment vendor down the road.
In order fulfillment shipping, your most important product factors are weight and size. You’ll want to identify a maximum of 3-5 box sizes that will fit a majority of your product orders. Take the time up front to play with different order configurations so that you find the best (smallest) box shipping configuration – this will save you a ton of money in ordering boxes, fill material, air bags, tape, etc. In the shipping world, space is King – the less space or weight you add to a truck, the more you’ll save on shipping.
As you know, in business, image is important – but customer satisfaction is everything. Take the time up-front to understand your customers delivery/packaging wants, and let that dictate your packaging/marketing needs. It’s a simple concept, but one that many do-it-yourselfer’s can accidentally miss completely. (Example: If your product plays to the “green zone”, that is to suggest that your target customer is environmentally conscious (as we should be these days), then only use corn-starch peanuts and/or recycled/recyclable airbags to send a green message that you care and are sensitive when it comes to how you as a vendor treat the world. And when you do that, make sure you throw in a “green card” marketing piece that helps them become aware of your environmental efforts. It may seem like common sense, but it really isn’t – it’s just good business sense.
Recognize that the USPS is your first, most cost-effective shipping resource, they’re located just about everywhere, and offer a wide range of online and automated shipping options worldwide.
UPS – personally I would start with them if I was a start up as their rates are typically better than Fed Ex or others in the same arena. Until you ship with a fulfillment partner (like us), you probably won’t get deep shipping discounts, but it’s a good place to get your feet wet and their reps are typically eager for new businesses like yours.
Hope my comments/suggestions will help you in your endeavors.
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