Five Ways to Troubleshoot a Ho-Hum Fulfillment Program
The CEO wants to know: "Are my marketing and fulfillment operations really working?" Analytics are only useful if you ask the right questions. Here's where you start.
Amazon and Wal-Mart are considered masters of fulfillment—and with good reason. Most recently, Amazon generated buzz when it claimed predictive shipping capabilities: Yes, it's true. Using robust analytics, the retailer can use past purchase history to predict future demand for products, and then ship a product before customers even think to order it.
This is perhaps a really extreme case of a retail brand hustling hard to get materials to the right place at the right time, as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. But it goes to show the tremendous value of measurement and analysis.
Of course, when you're outsourcing your fulfillment program, measurement and analysis can only happen if you're checking in regularly. Fail to ask the right questions at the right time, and you run the risk of greater overhead, unhappy customers and perhaps, even lost revenue.
Here are five great questions to always ask your fulfillment provider:
1. Who are our primary end users for a given program?
If you're providing sales and marketing materials to a sales force, which salespeople are making the most requests for various items? Which companies? In what regions? Can you draw a correlation between these requests and sales, either by salesperson or location? How are orders being placed—by phone or email? Through which browsers? Via mobile?
2. What kind of materials are these users requesting?
You should always know what your internal clients are requesting, the quantities of these items, and the desired turnaround times. Cyclical usage patterns may mean that inventory should ebb and flow seasonally—or they may indicate the need for a more flexible print-on-demand solution. You should also consider order frequency, orders by user and usage rates.
3. How long does it actually take?
By necessity, this is a multi-part question. Think about the order process from start to finish and consider:
- The average time it takes for fulfillment and the range from shortest to longest turnaround
- How delivery times may vary by time of day, day of week or time of year
- Locations or types of orders that may show unnecessary variance
- How fill rates compare with backorder rates for each product
You'll also want to consider delivery costs, with an eye toward cutting those costs, without diminishing service, whenever possible.
4. Are we incurring waste? (And if so, how much?)
Keeping popular collateral in stock is a great idea. However, you don't want that stock taking up valuable inventory space or turning into costly waste. To avoid these situations, you'll need to know your real-time inventory levels and days on hand for each item. To do this, you'll need to have a firm grasp on these quantities:
- The amount of inventory discarded annually
- Dollar amount spent on postage for bad addresses
- Sales lost because of backorders
The costs of carrying unnecessary inventory can be significant—and in some cases can be potentially greater than annual revenue (see Fast Fact).
5. Which items can we retire?
Items that languish in inventory typically drive up costs. Which items in your inventory are now obsolete and ripe for replacement? To determine this accurately, you'll need to know how long you've had each item on hand, and how often you're receiving orders for them.
Turning Answers Into Profit
These five uber-questions are your big buckets of marketing analytics. They can help you optimize your fulfillment program and boost revenues. Carefully analyzing these analytics will help you:
- Reduce backlogs on end-user requests
- Speed collateral deliveries
- Provide insights that may drive decisions to pursue different channel options (ex. print-on-demand (POD) or digital fulfillment).
When you focus on the right analytics—the ones that provide insights that can drive bottom line results—you'll boost your ability to get the right information, to the right person, at the right time, using the right medium. Isn't that what fulfillment is all about?
Iron Mountain Recommends:
Ask Your Partner for a Progress Report
Don't leave your ability to get the data you need to chance. Take time up front to explore with your vendor the specific types of information its team can provide. Start with these key questions:
- What metrics will I be able to track, and will I have access to real-time data? Iron Mountain can work with you to identify the metrics you need to gauge your progress and help you set targets to improve your programs.
- How will you help me eliminate waste? A firm will never use as much as 90 percent of all marketing materials. Let Iron Mountain help you use your data to better manage your inventory.
- Is print-on-demand (POD) a good option for us? Iron Mountain has helped its clients save as much as 40 percent in printing costs—and can work with you to determine the viability of POD services.
- How will you help us optimize our order management process? Marketing fulfillment must be both cost-effective and beneficial to your end users. Leverage Iron Mountain's extensive background and expertise to lower costs and boost end-user satisfaction.
Do you have questions about fulfillment service? Read additional Knowledge Centerstories on this subject, or contactIron Mountain's Fulfillment Services team. You'll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.