From a sourcing standpoint, fulfillment services have struggled since the pandemic to clinch the right product. But after considerable hardship has come considerable improvement in delivery times, with a greater ability to get inventory.
Businesses will surely benefit from this good news on the horizon — coupled with tried-and-true strategic approaches that will enable faster and more efficient responses to the needs of customers and team members.
Reexamine your fulfillment strategies
At the risk of stating the obvious, you may have realized that something about your fulfillment strategy isn’t working the way it used to. Processes may seem less efficient, and it may seem like more of a hassle to obtain things that came quickly or easily in the past.
Even if now isn’t the time to splash on a big new investment — such as hiring five more people to join your team or switching to more expensive software —think about smaller changes that will at least smooth out the bumps. This may mean outsourcing certain processes or considering how often you order the essential supplies that power events if they take longer to arrive.
Replenish your inventory, just don’t overdo it
Especially if you encounter a deal on something, it’s obviously incredibly tempting to buy it in bulk and keep it in storage. Before doing so, carefully consider the likelihood of actually needing it and weigh that against the cost of the items taking up storage space that could be otherwise used. Also, remember that it isn’t simply food that would need to be stored at special temperatures or even thrown out after a while.
On the other hand, if the product in question is something routinely used or needed, it might make more sense to stock up on those items when you find them, compared to an item that only one or two clients use.
Examine the scalability of your systems
A core guiding question is: Can you meet or even beat expectations when you need something? If you work with third-party suppliers or partners, how quickly could they do so? In the latter case, alignment of both goals and execution capabilities is paramount.
This is also where the ability to strategically assess your data and internal knowledge comes in handy. Even for something as relatively straightforward as a set of company-branded pens or drinking cups, is there a specific time of year when they are more popular or well-used and your locations run low on them as a result?
If you needed a large quantity of a specific item on short notice, such as for an office party or another event, how quickly could you and your partners move to obtain them? Lastly, if your order management system is hosted and managed internally, consider what would happen if you needed to replace or supplement that system, in terms of both potential disruption and added delays.
Know where your partners stand
It’s vital to check in on your partner or supplier network routinely, as a matter of course, just to see where they are, how they are coping with the current times, and where they stand with supply procurement or shortages. Many will be able to report good news. But keep the option of diversifying your roster of partners — looking for more specialists in product supply — if you’re still encountering repeated difficulties. Particularly because they’re right in your backyard, relying on local companies or suppliers is a great idea.
Fulfillment is perhaps the most essential part of the customer experience. In its simplest form, it means keeping a promise being made to deliver a service. Still, the pressures businesses have faced this year need no introduction. Challenges and complexities abound in today’s economy — yet with proper planning and well-placed friends and partnerships, your brand or organization can feel confident about beating them.