Proving your product viability and eCommerce design will often lead you to consider how to best physically distribute your product and keep consumers happy once they make an online purchase. 

In most cases, streamlining distribution logistics is easier said than done. Getting your small business off the ground and making the leap from a time-consuming and strenuous self-fulfillment approach to a scalable 3rd party fulfillment strategy undoubtedly comes with some complexities and questions to consider. 

It can be challenging to find a reliable and affordable fulfillment partner capable of helping your company along its growth journey. That said, the time and concentrated effort are often well worth the investment. Boosting sales and revenue while cutting excess costs helps free up more time and capital to focus on entering new markets and growing your reach, rather than focusing on logistical intricacies. 

As a result, let’s dive into what makes a good distribution partner? When it’s most appropriate to take one on? and how Drive Fulfillment can take your business and distribution logistics to the next level.  

What is a distribution partner? 

A distribution partner is an entity charged to market, distribute, and/or resell products to a final destination. The responsibilities of a distribution partner are to increase visibility and get your products into the hands of a customer or marketplace to make a purchase. 

Depending on your sales channel, market, and customer demographics, distribution logistics can take on a variety of different meanings and forms. For example, retail distribution implies getting products into retail stores, whereas eCommerce channel distributors focus on getting products from a fulfillment center or processing facility to end-users. 

When do you need a distribution partner? 

In almost all cases, it doesn’t make sense to partner with a distribution provider until your business grows to the point when it requires outside expertise and logistical support. While the time to branch out may be different for everyone, here are a couple of telltale signs that it might be time to consider a distribution partner. 

Shipping Internationally 

In this day and age, international shipping is a must. While simple in principle, shipping internationally is a process with intricate complications for small businesses to overcome. Tariffs, import duties, customs, restrictions, and regulatory requirements make it more difficult to save on costs while keeping customers happy and satisfied with their products and shipping services. Distribution partners are more informed and accustomed to working around these expensive and time-consuming obstacles, which can come in handy. 

Delayed shipping times 

On average, customers expect efficient and quick delivery times on domestic packages arriving within 2-3 days of the order confirmation. While there are still customers that will happily wait an extra day or two, falling behind on orders will often come with a slew of complaints from anxious customers. With so many online retailers and marketplaces, tainting the customer experience via shipping times will only hurt your business and force customers to look elsewhere for competitive products. If you are looking for more affordable and efficient shipping, start the discussion with a distribution partner like Drive Fulfillment today. 

Tighter supply chain logistics 

While increasing the speed and efficiency of your shipping operation is well worth the investment, an automated and technologically advanced distribution partner gives you the peace of mind that human errors are left behind. For example, using an automated SKU inventory tracking ensures that every product is accounted for along the entire supply chain, from receiving to final delivery at a customer’s address. Eliminating small and seemingly inconsequential errors is well worth the time and investment. 

How to recognize a good distribution partner? 

Reach 

The modern global eCommerce world virtually has no bounds, and neither should your fulfillment reach. From coast to coast or country to country, quickly and effectively shipping your products post-conversion is a must. An extensive network of fulfillment centers helps distribute your products so that they are processed, picked, packed and prepared for shipping from the closest possible location. 

Infrastructure

The most efficient and successful distribution partners almost always have the infrastructure and technology to streamline and track performance. The right partner will have all the basic necessities, plus the additional equipment and capability to support the highest functioning eCommerce operations. Look for the following components of infrastructure in your search for a potential distribution partner: 

  • Enough warehouse space to house and store your products safely and efficiently. 
  • Modern warehousing equipment (Forlifts, pallet jackets, shrink wrapping machines, pallet wrapping machines, etc.)
  • A diverse selection of packaging supplies (from reusable custom poly mailers to boxes of all shapes and sizes) 
  • Inventory scanners, barcode machines, labels, and other inventory management tools 
  • Automated sorting equipment and order processing tools. 
  • A custom warehouse management software, inventory management systems, real-time analytical tools, and inventory tracking capabilities. 

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Infrastructure upgrades are not only a vote of confidence in your partner’s past success but an investment in the growth and potential success you bring to the table as a partner and merchant. 

Reliability 

When it comes to distribution partners, reliability should be a no-brainer requirement. Their ability to follow through on delivery and distribution commitments directly affects your ability to satisfy customers and turn a profit. Be clear, upfront, and prioritize the concerns you have. A consistent relationship of trust is essential in avoiding misunderstandings like packaging details or design. If a problem or necessary pivot arises, your distribution partner should be readily available to resolve your concerns rather than passing them down the supply chain or making bandaid solutions. 

Scalability 

In general, work with a distribution partner that is comparable or bigger than in size to accommodate growth and future market demands. The best and most profitable partnerships work when two entities can successfully scale and grow together. Smaller brands should look for a partner who can support your current growth and grow alongside you in the future. 

Partnering with Drive 

As a tech-enabled 3PL and full-scale fulfillment entity, Drive Fulfillment does more so you don’t have to. We believe that no two customers are the same, neither are their fulfillment processes. As a result, we build customized solutions optimized for your business, no matter the size. With a range of custom fulfillment services and years of tested distribution expertise, there is nothing we cant handle. For more information regarding tours, pricing, shipping capabilities, or explore 6 Benefits of Outsourcing eCommerce Store Fulfillment, contact us, or visit the Drive Fulfillment blog today.