A webstore is only as good as its fulfillment house, plain and simple. The finest website, the widest array of products or the most interesting niche line of offerings are useless if the products do not ship to the consumers in a timely, reliable and secure manner. Just as a sports car is nothing without a road, a webstore is literally nothing without a great relationship with a reliable fulfillment house – it is just a website if the customers stop shopping there! That’s why webstore and fulfillment house integration can never be valued highly enough.
Since the second half of the 1990s, the rise of ecommerce has been one of the defining characteristics of the digital age. Never before could a consumer find the exact product they wanted, compare styles and prices and availability from multiple suppliers, and then, with a click, know that the product – from a magazine to a vintage guitar to a kayak and beyond! – was headed their way. But many of the early days of the so-called “dot com era” were cautionary tales: companies appeared, rose to lofty heights and folded, virtually overnight. The world is much more accustomed to the digital age and its inherent bonuses and pitfalls today. In fact, the guiding principal of webstore and fulfillment house integration may well be said to well pre-date the dot com era, and merely be a call for good, honest business sense: take care of your customers and watch that bottom line!
The reasons customers choose an ecommerce outlet over a bricks and mortar store are multiple: from better prices through greater competition and seller options, a wider array of products available to view in one (digital) place to the ease of shopping from home, there is most every reason to use webstores for purchases these days. That is, unless your orders are never fulfilled, they arrive damaged or simply just take a long time to be completed. Often a consumer will indeed hop into their car and drive to a store – will even pay more for a product – for the immediacy we have all come to expect out of modern life. But with proper webstore and fulfillment house integration and optimization, an ecommerce retailer can build up a reputation of such reliability that a consumer can feel confident that as soon as they hit that “Buy it Now” keystroke, their goods are indeed on the way.
The key to a successful relationship between a webstore and its fulfillment house partner (which is to say specifically the way they relate to one another) is quality data integration. Only when the two partners are “speaking the same language,” so to speak, can the relationship flourish. That means a synchronicity of file storage systems, operational vernacular, and shared access to myriad types and stores of data. It can be complicated stuff, to put it mildly! But with smoothly integrated data sharing comes faster, better business.
Another reason why it behooves an online retail shop to partner with only the best fulfillment house is yet again a principle derived from basic business practices: a well-managed, efficient company saves time and money simply by not wasting time and money! Especially for many smaller webstores, much of the reason to operate only in an online market is to save precious capital on not keeping retail and storage space, and merely needing to maintain w decent webpage and solid customer relationships. The more capital a good fulfillment house can save by using efficient practices in-house, the best shipping rates and competitive fees for its clients, the more its partnered web store owner (or manager) is left with cash on hand to be used to expand. Thus one hand washes the other when it comes to web store and fulfillment house integration!
While there is no “magic bullet” – no proven formula for a perfect arrangement – when it comes to the partnership and working practices between a webstore and the fulfillment house it chooses, the sheer necessity of those two entities for one another breeds the need for constant reflection on and adjustment to said partnership. It is still “early days” for this new type of commerce. But, as noted above, the guiding principles that have made for the best business practices since time immemorial still speak to this new frontier of sales: take care of your customers and your bottom line. Today this means efficient, streamlined communication between customers, retailers, fulfillment houses and shipping companies, whereas in the past it was all face-to-face sales. But the driving force behind both of these things remains that same. There is no substitute for a job well done.