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When e-commerce is not fastlane?: E-commerce in-bounding and fulfillment

ay47

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Hi all,

I need some help getting my time back from my business. I have an e-commerce business right now in fashion. The products vary in sizes. Think wallets, briefcases and backpacks. I have about a 100 different items. I don't stock many of each. Usually a max of 10. It's not a true productocracy.

What I'm doing is bringing in products and selling it cheaper. I sell on my country's version of Amazon and it's been on-going for 5 years. I do no paid searches of any kind. I'll like to continue the business while I pivot to something that is a true productocracy.

2 things are sapping away my time and stopping this from being a Fastlane business.

1) The in-bounding process: checking the stocks, taking pictures, writing the copy and uploading them to my retailers.

2) Packing products when an order comes in. Every time orders come in, I'm in a scramble to pack everything. The retailer picks it up from my apartment and sends it to my customers.

Are there any ways to leverage human capital or services to turn this business into a fastlane?

I've heard of 3PL warehouses. What do I need to be aware of?
 

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IGP

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Of course there is: hire someone.
 
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ay47

ay47

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Thanks. I guess I should have made the situation a little clearer. The business is run out of my apartment right now and one of my rooms is now a full time warehouse. I don't think I'm comfortable with someone in my apartment.

Would love to know what look out for when hiring someone for this kind of thing? This is mostly monotonous packing.
 
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jcvlds

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Do some searches in your local area or near-by areas for fulfillment centers. These fulfillment centers can do all that work for you ranging from labeling, packaging, shipping, and other services depending on what you pay for.

Shop around to get quotes from different vendors and if you can visit do it so you can see their operations and go with the one you feel you trust more and doesn't break the bank.
 
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ay47

ay47

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Mar 29, 2018
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Do some searches in your local area or near-by areas for fulfillment centers. These fulfillment centers can do all that work for you ranging from labeling, packaging, shipping, and other services depending on what you pay for.

Shop around to get quotes from different vendors and if you can visit do it so you can see their operations and go with the one you feel you trust more and doesn't break the bank.
Wow I didn’t know there was such a thing! Is there anything I should look out for? Pitfalls?
 

jcvlds

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Wow I didn’t know there was such a thing! Is there anything I should look out for? Pitfalls?
I actually have it in my plans within this month to look for one myself. I won't be needing it for now and will operate out of my apt. just like you, but I want to begin doing the due diligence on finding one so that when the time comes I am ready to just outsource it to them and not be rushed to go with the first one I see.

I'm searching for and reading about pitfalls with fulfillment centers as well. I know a ton other people on this forum know a ton about it so I'm sure they will chime in soon enough. :)
 
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ay47

ay47

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I actually have it in my plans within this month to look for one myself. I won't be needing it for now and will operate out of my apt. just like you, but I want to begin doing the due diligence on finding one so that when the time comes I am ready to just outsource it to them and not be rushed to go with the first one I see.

I'm searching for and reading about pitfalls with fulfilment centers as well. I know a ton other people on this forum know a ton about it so I'm sure they will chime in soon enough. :)
Wow, glad to know there are people in the same boat! There seem to be a few of these fulfilment centres in my country. I'll explore my options with them tomorrow.

It would be a dream. I want to send them a box. They check everything. Store it and send it out when orders come in. I spend WAY more time on this part of the business than any other. It feels like I'm running my own logistics and fulfilment company. :D
 

biophase

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Wow, glad to know there are people in the same boat! There seem to be a few of these fulfilment centres in my country. I'll explore my options with them tomorrow.

It would be a dream. I want to send them a box. They check everything. Store it and send it out when orders come in. I spend WAY more time on this part of the business than any other. It feels like I'm running my own logistics and fulfilment company. :D
How many sales are you getting a day?
 
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ay47

ay47

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How many sales are you getting a day?
It’s a bit uneven. I get days of 5, days of 40. I would say on average about 10 a day. It slows when I don’t inbound the stock. And I haven’t been able to keep up recently.
 

biophase

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It’s a bit uneven. I get days of 5, days of 40. I would say on average about 10 a day. It slows when I don’t inbound the stock. And I haven’t been able to keep up recently.
At 10 a day is it worth outsourcing it? I mean 10 packages should take less than an hour to pack and ship.
 
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ay47

ay47

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At 10 a day is it worth outsourcing it? I mean 10 packages should take less than an hour to pack and ship.
By itself, probably not. I do get spikes of activity though.

Add the inbounding process. Having to go through boxes of inventory, checking them and uploading them on the retailer. I still have a lot of inventory boxed up that I haven’t been uploading.

Is there a minimum threshold I should look out in terms of number of sales? Before I decide to outsource?
 

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biophase

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By itself, probably not. I do get spikes of activity though.

Add the inbounding process. Having to go through boxes of inventory, checking them and uploading them on the retailer. I sill have a lot of inventory boxed up that I haven’t been uploading.

Is there a minimum threshold I should look out in terms of number of sales? Before I decide to outsource?
Your fulfillment company is not going to be uploading products to your retailer. They also won't go through boxes of inventory trying to figure out what is what. Sounds like you need an employee not a fulfillment company.

In my opinion, your business is a one person job right now and it is slow and tedious because you aren't taking the time to put in processes to become more efficient.
 
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ay47

ay47

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Your fulfillment company is not going to be uploading products to your retailer. They also won't go through boxes of inventory trying to figure out what is what. Sounds like you need an employee not a fulfillment company.

In my opinion, your business is a one person job right now and it is slow and tedious because you aren't taking the time to put in processes to become more efficient.
Hmm.. thanks for the advice. That is an avenue that I'm willing to explore as well.

My main concern is an employee is going to be very bored with a mundane job like going through inventory. There is nothing special about uploading on the retailer. All of these products exist elsewhere and it's basically a copy and paste job.

Could you elaborate on how I could make my processes more efficient?
 

Xeon

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Wow I didn’t know there was such a thing! Is there anything I should look out for? Pitfalls?
Not sure which country you're from, but I'm currently in fulfilment hell right now.....

1) There's a few 3PL companies that have cheap rates, but always make sure you check their testimonials and reviews on Yelp, Google and FB. If their website promises lots of stuff and it sounds too good to be true, but you can't find any reviews or testimonials about them, it could be a red flag. Unless you can physically drop by their warehouse and see how operations are run, who are the people you're dealing with etc.

2) Shopping cart integration : Since you're selling on your country's equivalent of Amazon, check to see if the 3PL company can integrate your shopping cart and backend with their inventory system, so everything can be automated.
E.g: customer order stuff, fulfilment house/packers get notified, inventory in your and their systems update accordingly and sync nicely, customer gets all the necessary notification and shipment tracking no. emails etc.

3) Do a few test orders with them before you go live with them, if possible. This is a big one. My current fulfilment centre boasts they ship the thing in 24 hrs but I did a test order last week, been 3+ days today and the status still shows "Processing". I emailed them, only to realise they're on VACATION now. No emails from them, no nothing. Thank God the site is not live yet or I would be screwed upside down by customers.

4) Test them out by emailing them some questions and see how long they take to reply. At my current one, the tech guy (in charge of the cart integration), took 1+ week to reply after me sending him another email to ask what's going on. And my latest email to him, sent 2 weeks ago, has not been replied yet. On top of that, you can also call them to see their service level.

5) Nickel-and-dime-you-to-death : Another big one. Dig out all the costs, misc fees and hidden charges from them. Read carefully, and ask if there's any "hidden clauses" somewhere, and get it all down in email.
Many 3PLs usually charge storage fees (pallet/bin) monthly, as well as pick-and-pack fees, packaging materials fees, base admin monthly fee, item return fees, item return processing fees, international order fees....
and the main one : Minimum Monthly Order fee.
That means, if their Minimum Monthly Order fee is US$450, and your total order for that month is only US$250, you need to pay them additional US$200.

Also, some 3PLs only work with companies of a certain size.

#fulfilmenthell #feelsbadman #screwtheseshit #hardtofindagoodandcheap3PL
 
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ay47

ay47

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 29, 2018
54
94
115
Not sure which country you're from, but I'm currently in fulfilment hell right now.....

1) There's a few 3PL companies that have cheap rates, but always make sure you check their testimonials and reviews on Yelp, Google and FB. If their website promises lots of stuff and it sounds too good to be true, but you can't find any reviews or testimonials about them, it could be a red flag. Unless you can physically drop by their warehouse and see how operations are run, who are the people you're dealing with etc.

2) Shopping cart integration : Since you're selling on your country's equivalent of Amazon, check to see if the 3PL company can integrate your shopping cart and backend with their inventory system, so everything can be automated.
E.g: customer order stuff, fulfilment house/packers get notified, inventory in your and their systems update accordingly and sync nicely, customer gets all the necessary notification and shipment tracking no. emails etc.

3) Do a few test orders with them before you go live with them, if possible. This is a big one. My current fulfilment centre boasts they ship the thing in 24 hrs but I did a test order last week, been 3+ days today and the status still shows "Processing". I emailed them, only to realise they're on VACATION now. No emails from them, no nothing. Thank God the site is not live yet or I would be screwed upside down by customers.

4) Test them out by emailing them some questions and see how long they take to reply. At my current one, the tech guy (in charge of the cart integration), took 1+ week to reply after me sending him another email to ask what's going on. And my latest email to him, sent 2 weeks ago, has not been replied yet. On top of that, you can also call them to see their service level.

5) Nickel-and-dime-you-to-death : Another big one. Dig out all the costs, misc fees and hidden charges from them. Read carefully, and ask if there's any "hidden clauses" somewhere, and get it all down in email.
Many 3PLs usually charge storage fees (pallet/bin) monthly, as well as pick-and-pack fees, packaging materials fees, base admin monthly fee, item return fees, item return processing fees, international order fees....
and the main one : Minimum Monthly Order fee.
That means, if their Minimum Monthly Order fee is US$450, and your total order for that month is only US$250, you need to pay them additional US$200.

Also, some 3PLs only work with companies of a certain size.

#fulfilmenthell #feelsbadman #screwtheseshit #hardtofindagoodandcheap3PL
Wow, this sounds horrible! Thankfully, the online retailer I am using has a list of 3PL that integrates with them. Going to start from there.

But it’s at @biophase said, I doubt they could figure out what each box of inventory is and how to repack them for me. I’ll see how far they can go though.

Have a meeting with one of the 3PLs who said they are willing to see how they can help
 

GetShitDone

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Dec 20, 2012
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Not sure which country you're from, but I'm currently in fulfilment hell right now.....

1) There's a few 3PL companies that have cheap rates, but always make sure you check their testimonials and reviews on Yelp, Google and FB. If their website promises lots of stuff and it sounds too good to be true, but you can't find any reviews or testimonials about them, it could be a red flag. Unless you can physically drop by their warehouse and see how operations are run, who are the people you're dealing with etc.

2) Shopping cart integration : Since you're selling on your country's equivalent of Amazon, check to see if the 3PL company can integrate your shopping cart and backend with their inventory system, so everything can be automated.
E.g: customer order stuff, fulfilment house/packers get notified, inventory in your and their systems update accordingly and sync nicely, customer gets all the necessary notification and shipment tracking no. emails etc.

3) Do a few test orders with them before you go live with them, if possible. This is a big one. My current fulfilment centre boasts they ship the thing in 24 hrs but I did a test order last week, been 3+ days today and the status still shows "Processing". I emailed them, only to realise they're on VACATION now. No emails from them, no nothing. Thank God the site is not live yet or I would be screwed upside down by customers.

4) Test them out by emailing them some questions and see how long they take to reply. At my current one, the tech guy (in charge of the cart integration), took 1+ week to reply after me sending him another email to ask what's going on. And my latest email to him, sent 2 weeks ago, has not been replied yet. On top of that, you can also call them to see their service level.

5) Nickel-and-dime-you-to-death : Another big one. Dig out all the costs, misc fees and hidden charges from them. Read carefully, and ask if there's any "hidden clauses" somewhere, and get it all down in email.
Many 3PLs usually charge storage fees (pallet/bin) monthly, as well as pick-and-pack fees, packaging materials fees, base admin monthly fee, item return fees, item return processing fees, international order fees....
and the main one : Minimum Monthly Order fee.
That means, if their Minimum Monthly Order fee is US$450, and your total order for that month is only US$250, you need to pay them additional US$200.

Also, some 3PLs only work with companies of a certain size.

#fulfilmenthell #feelsbadman #screwtheseshit #hardtofindagoodandcheap3PL
Hey man, I just recently started my eCommerce ambitions and am close to launching.

I found an excellent looking 3PL that seems to be more "innovative and user friendly" and stands out from the sea of 3PLs. More of a tech-infused fulfilment centre as they have an intuitive software platform that you use to manage everything too.

You can choose either ShipBob or ShipMonk.

They charge per order ($2.55-$4.40) for picking/packing/etc and storage is fairly cheap too.

Also, like I said I can go on their intuitive dashboard/software management system to manage my entire fulfilment process. assess extensive data & analytics, etc. Really handy, check it out :)

PS: OP, I agree to find a fulfilment centre especially if you're getting massive spikes. But given the other aspects of what you need, perhaps an employee is needed. If an employee is "bored" like you say doing the job, I don't think that matters as they're getting paid regardless. A lot of people get "bored" with their slow lane jobs in my opinion haha. Maybe make it fun if its that bad!
 

Xeon

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Hey man, I just recently started my eCommerce ambitions and am close to launching.

I found an excellent looking 3PL that seems to be more "innovative and user friendly" and stands out from the sea of 3PLs. More of a tech-infused fulfilment centre as they have an intuitive software platform that you use to manage everything too.

You can choose either ShipBob or ShipMonk.

They charge per order ($2.55-$4.40) for picking/packing/etc and storage is fairly cheap too.
IMO, I remember reading reviews on Shopify forums about Shipbob and people were having lots of complains with them, and as for Shipmonk, their rates seem pretty high.

I'm currently looking at eFulfilment Serivce Inc (EFS), their reviews and rates seem pretty good and affordable.
There's another one, Snapstics.com, but it seems like they're out of business or something. Their rates are VERY very cheap, but it feels too good to be true. I emailed them and they haven't replied yet, who knows. Their FB haven't been updated since 2017 lol
 

biophase

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Could you elaborate on how I could make my processes more efficient?
Well since I don't know your business I can only guess. But it sounds like you don't get a case of 100 widgets at a time. Are you sourcing single items or very low quantities? And it sounds like they aren't the same items month after month.

So I would do this:

1) Catalog everything you have. When it arrives, receive it, catalog it into a spreadsheet
2) Get a VA to enter all these products into your online channel
3) Standardize your shipping boxes and packing materials
4) Get software to print your labels for you.
5) Pack them yourself and dropoff.
5a) Prepack hot sellers.
6) Also think about switching to shipping on M, W, F only.
 
OP
OP
ay47

ay47

Contributor
Read Millionaire Fastlane
Mar 29, 2018
54
94
115
Well since I don't know your business I can only guess. But it sounds like you don't get a case of 100 widgets at a time. Are you sourcing single items or very low quantities? And it sounds like they aren't the same items month after month.

So I would do this:

1) Catalog everything you have. When it arrives, receive it, catalog it into a spreadsheet
2) Get a VA to enter all these products into your online channel
3) Standardize your shipping boxes and packing materials
4) Get software to print your labels for you.
5) Pack them yourself and dropoff.
5a) Prepack hot sellers.
6) Also think about switching to shipping on M, W, F only.
Yup. It's small quantities of many different kinds of items. Sizes range from wallets to backpacks. I've got about a 100 SKUs.

Thanks, I think 2, 4, 5a are something I could look at improving. Thanks for the ideas! Would you know where can I find a good VA?
 

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