Flexible fulfillment has a lot of different meanings. You can look at it as the ability to offer flexibility in a fulfillment solution, or it can refer to the use of physical storefronts as fulfillment spaces.
If you’re looking for flexibility in your fulfillment strategy, you’ll want to consider warehouse options and locations, agile technology, and other solutions to meet your needs. Read on to learn more about flexible fulfillment, and how a fulfillment provider like ShipBob can provide flexibility for growing ecommerce brands.
What is flexible fulfillment?
Flexible fulfillment relates to when a brick-and-mortar retailer transform their physical store into distribution space capable of fulfilling orders. This includes picking, packing, and shipping orders to customers, or preparing orders to have it picked up in store.
Why flexible fulfillment may not be the best option for online shops
Also known as a dark store, flexible fulfillment have been highly beneficial for retailers of all sizes during the COVID-19 pandemic, it might not be the best option for online shops. Flexible fulfillment is ideal for stores that have several physical locations and have already invested in space that they can use to fulfill orders rather than displaying products. Here are some of the other reasons why flexible fulfillment may not be the best option.
1. Lack of storage space
To efficiently fulfill orders quickly, you will need room to store inventory as well room to fulfill orders. If you don’t have enough room to store inventory, then it can slow down the fulfillment process if you don’t have enough space to fill monthly order demand.
2. Lack of packing and processing space
Flexible fulfillment only works if there is enough space to take care of the entire fulfillment process, from receiving inventory to picking, packing, and shipping boxes. If you don’t have the space available to be efficient, then flexible fulfillment might not be the best option.
3. Higher order inaccuracy
Flexible fulfillment gives you a lot of room to create a space to store inventory and fulfill orders, but not having oversight on how to properly manage a “warehousing” space, then it can lead to inefficiencies and disorganization. It’s always best to make sure that you have the right people with the expertise to help you set up a fulfillment space that is efficient and improves order accuracy.
Why distributed fulfillment could be a better option
Distributed fulfillment is a solution provided by third-party logistics (3PL) companies like ShipBob. 3PLs offer a full suite of fulfillment services, including multiple fulfillment center locations, technology, and expertise. Here are reasons why distributed fulfillment might be a better option.
1. Professional picking/packing
Pick and pack fulfillment must be streamlined to reduce the cost of ecommerce fulfillment. For picking, this means reducing the labor required to choose the right products for an order. Warehouses that do pick and pack fulfillment have a few different ways to do this: piece picking, batch picking, zone picking, and wave picking.
2. Higher order accuracy
Distributed fulfillment allows for quick fulfillment turnaround without compromising a high accuracy rate. 3PLs that specialize in distributed fulfillment have processes in place to quality control, and eases the shipping process to maintain high customer satisfaction.
3. Multiple warehouses
Multiple warehouses allows for more flexibility. You can start off in one warehouse location based on where your customers are. As you grow, you have the option to split inventory across multiple warehouse locations to expand your customer reach. This is also known as distributed inventory, and it allows for brands to track inventory and order fulfillment all from one dashboard.
4. Faster shipping and processing
A distributed fulfillment provider uses a propriety warehouse management software (WMS) across its fulfillment network and same-day fulfillment for orders imported by noon local time, you can have orders processed quickly and automatically from the fulfillment center closest to the end customer. As soon as a customer places an order on your online store, the fulfillment platform processes it and you can stay up-to-date as it gets picked, packed, and shipped.
With ShipBob, you get more than just shipping
ShipBob is a best-in-class logistics and fulfillment solution that offers more than storage, picking and packing, and shipping. Here is how ShipBob can help you streamline your fulfillment strategy.
Inventory management software
Once your store is connected to ShipBob’s dashboard, you get access to a built-in inventory management software at your disposal. View inventory levels in real-time, set reorder points, keep a safety stock, and distribute your inventory strategically so you always have product in the right place at the right time.
2-day shipping capabilities
Storing your inventory closer to your customers allows you to offer faster shipping options at a lower cost, such 2-day shipping via ground. Whether your customers are in the South, the Midwest, the East Coast, or the West Coast, ShipBob has the fulfillment centers to broaden your reach and help you ship more speedily than ever.
Fulfillment partner networks
ShipBob partners with leading ecommerce solutions and built-in integrations, from inventory management to accounting. This allows you to create an end-to-end ecommerce solution that connects seamlessly with your fulfillment provider’s technology.
Here’s why SubSubmarine made the switch
SubSubmarine is an Australian-based independent music label with an online store that sells cassettes, vinyl, and merchandise. SubSubmarine partnered with ShipBob to simplify cross-border shipping and to offer competitive shipping rates for US-based orders.
After contacting a few 3PLs, they learned that many 3PLs are not conducive to startups, as they have minimums just to have an account, with fee after fee (“$50 for this, $50 for that”). Once it all adds up, it comes out to be $250 a month just for running costs (excluding storage, shipping, and more). However, ShipBob was the only 3PL that had a startup program that allows them to outsource fulfillment without worrying about monthly order minimums.
“I found ShipBob’s self-onboarding Growth Plan program to be straightforward and the user interface is really easy. The instructions on how to get started with ShipBob are step-by-step. Whenever I got stuck, I just emailed ShipBob’s support team, and they came back with screenshots or fixed the issue for me.”
Lee Nania, Founder of SubSubmarine
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ShipBob is a best-in-class 3PL that offers a growing distribution network, advanced technology, and no monthly order minimums. To learn more, fill out the form below to get in touch with a fulfillment expert.
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FAQs on flexible fulfillment
Here are some common questions about flexible fulfillment.
Do you need a physical store to do flexible fulfillment?
Why do businesses use flexible fulfillment?
Does flexible fulfillment save money?
Yes and no. If you have the physical space already, then yes. But in most cases, an on-demand warehouse is needed, which increases overhead cost.