The one thing that every e-commerce business must deal with — regardless of size, industry, and experience — is order fulfillment. While some businesses own warehouses and manage their own orders, many opt to outsource to a 3PL service company.

If you’re unsure about which direction to go, ask yourself the following questions to determine which is the right option for your business:

Do I know anything about fulfillment?

If you’ve never managed your own order fulfillment, you likely don’t know about all of the various pieces that make up the process. Unless you know how to manage a warehouse, acquire the necessary supplies at a low cost, use the correct packaging, work with the right shipping carriers and more, fulfilling orders in-house can get time-consuming, expensive and overwhelming.

Outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL services company allows you to use your time focusing on what you already know while feeling confident that your orders are being managed in the most professional, cost-efficient way.

Am I shipping perishable products like food, beverages, drugs or vitamins?

If the answer is “yes,” you are required by law to register with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and follow all safety guidelines. If your company sells drug products, you must also become cGMP compliant. Failure to follow the FDA’s regulations can result in hefty fines or the suspension of your business license, so it’s important that you take the steps to ensure that products arrive at customers’ doors safe for consumption.

If all of this seems like a lot to manage while also keeping up with your order volume and running your business, you may want to consider outsourcing to an FDA-registered fulfillment services company. In addition to being FDA-registered, Global Response is proud to be one of the few fulfillment centers that are fully cGMP 211-compliant.

Is my company equipped to handle returns efficiently?

Any time orders are shipped to customers, it is inevitable that some will be returned. In fact, it is wise for e-commerce merchants to assume that around 30% of all products shipped will be returned.

Customers return products for all types of reasons- sometimes it’s the merchant’s fault, such as when they ship an incorrect or damaged product. Other times, shoppers purposely over-purchase and subsequently return unwanted items. Barclaycard research studied serial returners and found that 19% order multiple versions of the same item so they could make their mind up when they’re delivered.

That same Barclaycard study found that 57% of retailers felt that dealing with returns has a negative impact on the day-to-day running of their business. As with the fulfillment process, if you’re inexperienced on how reverse logistics works, you may want to consider outsourcing to a 3PL services provider that can manage both. Having an effective reverse logistics system in place will lead to cost savings, happier customers, less waste, and improved sustainability. When you outsource, the best part is that you don’t have to manage the process, freeing up more of your time to focus on what you do best.