My story is one many manufacturers and 'e-tailers' will understand. Ten years ago I co-founded a business with Peter Gasca, a fellow Inc columnist. For the first couple of years, we didn't worry about shipping the product because our customer base was relatively local and we could just throw some product in a van and make a delivery. We got a huge break at Toy Fair in 2009 and walked away with hundreds of new customers. The problem was that these new stores were all over the country. We were excited about the opportunity, but we had several major issues to overcome before we could fulfill these orders. We were broke and had to make deals with suppliers, but that's another column. The other huge challenge was that our product had major shipping problems. Our science kit had live animals, needed stable temperatures and was easily breakable. That did not faze our fearless FedEx representative Adrianne Purselley.
She went to bat for us and used the resources at FedEx to help us figure out how to best ship our complex product. She sent notes to drivers to be extra careful with the handling. She made sure that on cold nights in the winter and the hot days of summer that drivers took extra care with our boxes. She went the extra mile to make sure our customers got a great product. It was a turning point in our business and its growth. The help with our logistics helped us grow as the largest shipper in the region.
Fast forward nearly a decade later, shipping and fulfillment logistics have served as the engine that, quite literally, drives e-commerce today. No matter what company you go with it might be time to outsource your fulfillment. I've had the chance to reconnect with FedEx, this time in light of their newest arm, FedEx Fulfillment, which was launched under FedEx Supply Chain. FedEx has created this new service aiming to help small and medium-sized businesses succeed by assisting with order fulfillment. This assistance includes warehousing, fulfillment, packaging, transportation and reverse logistics. The patented platform will merge channels of sale while still managing inventory. The platform is described as "easy-to-use" and provides complete visibility to the small business, allowing them to track items, manage inventory and investigate and capitalize on trends.
Quite similar to an obvious competitor, Amazon's Fulfillment program, FedEx Fulfillment boasts its new platform to have the "latest same-day fulfillment cut-off times, two-day ground shipping to the majority of the U.S. population, and the capabilities for a hassle-free returns process."
So how does FedEx fulfillment help small business? Ryan Kelly, SVP FedEx Supply Chain told me the new unit will help smaller businesses expand their reach by fulfilling orders from multiple channels, even some orders that are placed on their competitor's (Amazon) website. By also helping the business to manage its customers' inventories, using FedEx Fulfillment could save a small business the salary and headache of a full-time inventory manager. "One of the added value features we offer customers is the insights provided through analytics," Kelly highlighted, listing shoppers' spending patterns and other information on the market as a sought-after data that they may not normally have.
The ability now to outsource high-cost functions of your business is a huge benefit. Cooper Smith, a Research Director at L2 Inc. thinks Amazon is rapidly becoming more of a services company than a retailer in the traditional sense of the word. "By offering its shipping and logistics capabilities as a service to third-party merchants Amazon can offset the cost burden of transporting goods that so many retailers grapple with," he told Inc.
And with FedEx Fulfillment, the outsourcing doesn't end with only the transportation component. Another unique feature of the program is the ability to brand your product. FedEx works with customers to develop custom branded packaging. There is an additional charge, but this creates so much opportunity when it comes to brand recognition and giving yourself an edge over the competition. As an entrepreneur who went through this and had to do things the hard way, this platform looks like it could be perfect for the small guy that has lots of business but not enough money to invest in a distribution network of their own.
That's why Dagne Dover, the high-end luxury accessory manufacturer went with FedEx Fulfillment. Deepa Gandhi, COO at Dagne Dover told me that "the program has allowed the company to focus on what it is good at and that is designing the perfect bag. It enabled us to allocate resources where we need them the most which is not running a packing and shipping operation. FedEx has treated our products and our customers the same as if they worked on our team."
FedEx Fulfillment is directly taking on Amazon in this new program, but the greatest beneficiaries are you. The merchants, retailers, and e-commerce companies.