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Strategies for Cost-Efficient Ecommerce Fulfillment

Phuc Le
September 14, 2023

Every year in the United States, over 20 billion packages are delivered, equating to a staggering 50 million packages per day. Within this massive logistics landscape, businesses invest nearly $200 billion annually to transport orders to their customers. This substantial market share, however, is just one facet of a company's overall fulfillment expenditures.

In the realm of your ecommerce business, shipping and fulfillment constitute a significant portion of your expenses. With consumer expectations centered around swift delivery, ensuring your products are promptly packaged and delivered can incur considerable costs. As a vigilant business owner, comprehending these expenses and implementing strategies to minimize them is paramount for sustaining a thriving and financially sound operation.

WHAT ARE FULFILLMENT AND 3PL COSTS?

WHAT ARE FULFILLMENT AND 3PL COSTS?

Fulfillment costs encompass the expenses associated with efficiently processing and delivering customer orders. These expenses can fluctuate based on the complexity of the fulfillment process, order volume, and the range of services required. Key components of fulfillment costs include warehousing expenditures for storing products before shipment, labor costs for employees handling tasks like picking and packing, expenses related to packaging materials such as boxes and labels, the cost of shipping items to customers, fees tied to returns processing, and investments in technology to streamline operations.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL) costs pertain to the financial outlays incurred when outsourcing certain or all aspects of logistics and supply chain management to a specialized provider. Businesses frequently collaborate with 3PL providers to enhance supply chain efficiency and reduce expenses. Typical elements of 3PL costs consist of service fees for specific logistics functions like warehousing, storage fees based on factors like space and duration, charges for order processing and transportation services, expenses related to technology integration, value-added services such as custom packaging, and fees associated with customs clearance for international shipping.

  • Considerations and Decision-Making:

The specific costs associated with both fulfillment and 3PL services can vary considerably based on factors such as the intricacy of the supply chain, the scale of operations, geographic scope, and customization requirements. When deciding whether to manage fulfillment in-house or partner with a 3PL provider, businesses must carefully evaluate these costs. The choice between in-house fulfillment and 3PL partnership can have a profound impact on overall logistics efficiency and the profitability of operations. Proper cost analysis and strategic decision-making are vital to maintaining a cost-effective and streamlined fulfillment process.

A DEEP DIVE INTO ECOMMERCE FULFILLMENT COST ANALYSIS

 

Understanding your fulfillment costs is pivotal in optimizing your e-commerce business. There are three effective methods for calculating these costs, each shedding light on different aspects of your financial performance, ultimately helping you make informed decisions and trim unnecessary expenses.

1. Cost per Order (CPO):

CPO is the go-to metric for assessing the average fulfillment cost for each order. By calculating CPO, you can ensure that the pricing of your products covers all related expenses. To determine CPO, divide your total order expenses by the number of orders you received during a specific period.

CPO = Total Order Expenses / Orders Received

Suppose SuperGoods had total order expenses of $5,000 in a given month, and during that same month, they received 500 orders. To calculate CPO, they would divide the total order expenses by the number of orders:

CPO = $5,000 / 500 orders = $10 per order

So, the average fulfillment cost per order for SuperGoods is $10.

2. Cost per Box (CPB):

For businesses that frequently ship multiple boxes within a single order, CPB provides a more granular perspective on fulfillment spending. To compute CPB, divide the total order expenses by the number of boxes you dispatched.

CPB = Total Order Expenses / Boxes Sent

A DEEP DIVE INTO ECOMMERCE FULFILLMENT COST ANALYSIS

Now, let's say that out of those 500 orders, SuperGoods shipped a total of 700 boxes (some orders contained multiple boxes due to the nature of their products). If their total order expenses remain $5,000, they can calculate CPB as follows:

CPB = $5,000 / 700 boxes = $7.14 per box

This means that, on average, it costs SuperGoods approximately $7.14 to fulfill each box in their orders.

3. Cost as a Percentage of Sales:

This metric helps gauge the proportion of your revenue allocated to order fulfillment. It is particularly valuable for benchmarking against competitors and evaluating your industry standing. Keep in mind that this percentage can fluctuate based on factors like business size and sales performance over a specific duration. To calculate cost as a percentage of sales, divide your total fulfillment costs by your net sales, then multiply the result by 100.

Cost as a Percentage of Sales = (Total Fulfillment Costs / Net Sales) x 100

In the same month, SuperGoods generated $20,000 in net sales. To find out what percentage of their sales revenue goes towards fulfillment costs, they can use the following formula:

Cost as a Percentage of Sales = ($5,000 / $20,000) x 100 = 25%

So, SuperGoods' fulfillment costs account for 25% of their total net sales for that month.

Utilizing these calculation methods empowers you to gain insights into your fulfillment costs, enabling more effective cost management. Regularly reviewing and optimizing your fulfillment processes based on these metrics can contribute significantly to the financial health and competitiveness of your e-commerce venture.

SOME FACTOR AFFECT TO ECOMMERCE FULFILLMENT COST

SOME FACTOR AFFECT TO ECOMMERCE FULFILLMENT COST
1. Returns and customer service: 

Critical factors that substantially influence fulfillment costs. Restocking and managing returns incur expenses that can significantly impact a business's overall fulfillment expenditures. On average, returns cost businesses between 20% to 65% of the item's cost, including restocking, processing, and potential resale at a discount. This represents a substantial portion of fulfillment expenses, highlighting the importance of efficient returns management.

Customer service is closely tied to returns. A study by Microsoft found that 56% of consumers worldwide have stopped doing business with a company because of poor customer service. Inefficient returns processes or unsatisfactory customer service interactions during returns can lead to increased costs as returns become more complex and resource-intensive. Therefore, investing in quality customer service practices can help prevent costly returns and ensure smoother, cost-effective fulfillment operations.

Shipping costs constitute a significant portion of overall fulfillment expenses. Offering various shipping options or prioritizing expedited deliveries can escalate these costs. According to Statista, the global average cost of shipping a 2 kg package domestically in 2020 was approximately $9.59. Negotiating directly with carriers or collaborating with a 3PL provider can help businesses optimize shipping costs. For instance, working with a 3PL can result in an average transportation cost reduction of 15% to 20%, according to a study by Armstrong & Associates.

2. Product size and weight:

A pivotal role in determining fulfillment costs. Larger and heavier products require more storage space in warehouses, contributing to increased warehousing expenses. Additionally, shipping costs are directly impacted by the size and weight of products. The larger and heavier the items, the higher the shipping expenses. To mitigate these costs, businesses should consider efficient inventory management practices and strategic product selection based on size and weight. This approach can lead to cost savings and enhanced fulfillment efficiency, as demonstrated by case studies from companies like Amazon and Walmart, which have optimized their product offerings to reduce fulfillment expenses.

KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SELECTING A 3PL PROVIDER TO OPTIMIZE FULFILLMENT COSTS

KEY CONSIDERATIONS FOR SELECTING A 3PL PROVIDER TO OPTIMIZE FULFILLMENT COSTS

1. Software Compatibility:

When considering a 3PL provider, prioritize compatibility with your existing software systems, including Warehouse Management Systems (WMS) and Order Management Systems (OMS). Many 3PLs offer integration with various software tools, such as CRM and inventory management systems, as well as dedicated WMS and OMS platforms. Ensure that the chosen 3PL employs software and systems capable of seamlessly integrating with your WMS and OMS, enabling efficient order processing, inventory management, and real-time tracking.

Integration of software systems is a common practice, with 85% of supply chain executives surveyed in a report by Accenture stating that integrating their WMS and Omni-Channel Management Systems (OMS) led to improved overall efficiency.

2. Geographical Advantage:

Opt for a strategically located 3PL provider that aligns with your customer base. Choosing a 3PL close to your target audience can result in reduced shipping costs and quicker delivery times, enhancing overall customer satisfaction. Moreover, ensure that the 3PL's distribution centers are equipped with advanced WMS to manage inventory efficiently and OMS for streamlined order processing. A study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) found that transportation costs can vary significantly depending on the location. Proximity to major customer hubs can indeed reduce these costs.

3. Industry Expertise:

Recognize that different 3PLs cater to varying industries. While selecting a 3PL, assess their expertise in your specific field. For example, if your business specializes in boutique cosmetics, partnering with a 3PL experienced in cold chain logistics for frozen foods may not be the most suitable choice. Industry-specific knowledge can lead to improved service quality, efficient WMS and OMS utilization, and potential cost efficiencies. Specific industry expertise can significantly impact cost savings and efficiency. For example, a report by Logistics Management found that companies that partner with 3PLs experienced a 6% cost reduction on average, primarily due to industry specialization.

4. Negotiating Power:

3PLs operate within contractual agreements with carriers and shipping companies. Prioritize fulfillment providers with established relationships in the industry, as they can negotiate favorable rates for shipping and transportation, including volume-based discounts. These negotiations can significantly contribute to cost optimization and efficient WMS and OMS utilization, making it a crucial factor in your decision-making process. An example of the impact of negotiation is evident in a case study by the Journal of Business Logistics, which showcased how a company was able to reduce transportation costs by 12% through negotiations with carriers.

 

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