3 signs you’re ready to outsource ecommerce order fulfilment
Every day I speak to a number of ecommerce business owners about outsourcing ecommerce order fulfilment.
Sure, some are operations directors of global behemoths moving into the Australian market or those wanting to change providers because their current one doesn’t fit the bill. But, by and large, most of the people I talk to are the founders of small businesses they’ve started. And because they started the business and built it from the ground up, they’re mostly still trying to do all their ecommerce order fulfilment themselves.
One awesome guy I talked to the other day, let’s call him Pete, is 22 years old, 8 months into his business and fulfilling 200-500 orders a week from his parents’ garage. HE IS A ROCKSTAR!! He’s also very, very tired! Waaaay too many 4am-esque all-nighters are required in order to get all those orders done in a timely fashion.
And he’s also very aware that he can’t scale his business too much more because;
- there’s not enough 4am to get double or triple his orders done
- he probably can’t double or triple his orders anyway because he doesn’t have time for much more marketing at this point
- he’s already at capacity in his parent’s garage (and maybe, just maybe his parents would prefer to use their garage for their cars?)
Absolutely he could hire staff, a warehouse, a marketing team, etc and free himself up to focus on running/building his business. But he wants to stay close to his customers – which is, frankly, as it should be. Staying close to your ideal customers is a basic business building requirement in my eyes. The more you know about your customers’ likes, dislikes, annoyances, quirks, the better.
So, if he’s going to spend time on anything it should be talking to his customers online and tweaking his marketing efforts and funnels to fit their needs.
Luckily he comes from a family with several really successful online businesses where the lesson of outsourcing ecommerce order fulfilment early on is well and truly ingrained. He’s now looking forward to getting some sleep at 4am.
Is 200+ orders a week the benchmark for outsourcing ecommerce order fulfilment?
Gosh no. Pete’s growth is unusual. 200+ orders a week inside a year is pretty high – definitely do-able, but unusual. Still doing everything yourself at that point is also unusual too. And it’s a recipe for burnout.
So if it’s not 200+ orders a week, what is it then?
3 signs you should seriously consider outsourcing ecommerce order fulfilment
1. You often feel overwhelmed by all the things on your to-do list
Running an online business sounds so easy. Pick a product, get it in, put it on your website, package it up and voila, job done. But in reality, there’s so much more to it. Finding suppliers, broadening out your product range, doing initial quality checks/stock counts, putting items away when they arrive, finding your customer tribe, engaging them, keeping them engaged, finding new content for them to consume, managing your website(s) and making sure the orders flow properly, creating a system for making sure it’s all done properly, keeping a watching brief on your inventory including your packaging materials, packing those orders, getting the orders right, taking them to Australia Post, negotiating freight pricing, tracking those orders, dealing with customer complaints and supplier issues, dealing with returns. Oh and then you’ve got to deal with your bookkeeping, paying bills, BAS, IT updates, etc. And if you have staff, you’ve got to deal with the stuff that goes along with that too. What if you could take some of that off your plate?
2. You need to focus on new customer acquisition
You’ve got proof of concept. People like your products – hooray! And you get a little high anytime someone buys something from your store. But in order to get more of that, you need to spend more time hanging out with customers, creating engaging content and beautiful stories for Insta. The problem is by the time you’ve sorted orders, picked, packed, shipped, etc – there’s not a lot of time (or brain capacity) left to create things of beauty. In a nutshell you have to figure out where your time is going to get its best return. And I can pretty much guarantee, it’s not the hours you spend picking and packing your product and then organising its shipping.
In fact, if you do the maths, you’re likely to be horrified at the time it’s actually taking. For example if you take just 5 minutes to pick and pack/label 200 orders a month (50 a week) that’s 16.5hrs – if you take 10 mins (which is probably more likely) per order that’s 33 hours. Plus 10 mins to and from the post office and 5 minutes whilst there 3 times a week – that’s 5.5hrs. Then there’s the time to put away your deliveries in an organised fashion and deal with returns. All up it’s a minimum of around 25-40hrs a month – a solid week a month (and let’s face it probably more) just on pick/pack/ship. Think how many more customers you could reel in if you spent that time on them.
3. You really want to scale your business and take it to the next level
So using the numbers above, if suddenly your latest insta post goes viral and orders pour in (yay!), tripling or quadrupling the time required from you on pick/pack/ship, you’re going to hit a pretty immovable wall called capacity constraints. First on available time and second, likely on space.
Although you could likely maintain that effort for a week or two, by recruiting some help, if you want to keep your business at this level or grow beyond it and still keep your customers happy via fast order turnaround, you’ll need to find a sustainable way to manage not just all the orders but still be able to fit in all the other things your business requires of you (see point 1) including converting more customer orders and/or working out how to grow your cart to increase your profits.
So if your ecommerce store is consistently doing around 25-50 orders a week (or more) and you have growth aspirations or you’re doing a lot more than that and you’re burning out trying to keep up, you might want to give me a call to chat through your options.
And if you’re still doing 200+ orders a week on your own, go you!! But we should definitely talk.
Get in touch via the form below and don’t forget to include your email and phone number and we’ll be in touch.