How to make sure a fulfillment vendor can deliver

An IRCE speaker will offer tips about how to vet fulfillment providers.

Paul Demery

Great online shopping features are nice, but if an online retailer doesn’t deliver the goods according to a customer’s expectations, that customer may never return.

Bill Shea, general manager of e-retailer Wine Country Gift Baskets, a high-volume shipper, will offer advice on how to get the best service from a fulfillment vendor at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition 2012 in a session entitled “10 questions to ask your fulfillment vendor.

Wine Country Gift Baskets, No. 610 in the Internet Retailer Second 500 Guide, does about 85% of its business in the month of December. With order volumes that can reach thousands of shipments per day, the e-retailer has relied on logistics providers to ensure its baskets get delivered to customers on time and in good condition.

But things haven’t always worked as well as the retailer would like, and it has had to change its logistics vendor to get to a better level of service—a challenge Shea will describe in his IRCE session. “I’ll discuss the factors which drove us to change vendors,” he says.

One of his most important tips, he says, is to ensure that a retailer’s fulfillment program is not crimping on customer service—and upsetting customers in the process—in an effort to save on costs. “Balancing customer service and costs savings can be a win-win for you and your customers,” he says.

Another piece of advice he offers is to ensure that a logistics vendor can handle a retailer’s particular needs. At Wine Country, for example, that has meant its logistics provider must be capable of handling the shipment of wine throughout the country. “As the nation’s leader in wine gift baskets, we face a lot of regulatory hurdles that the [vendor] needs to address and support,” he says.

Internet Retailer’s editors asked Shea to speak at the conference because of his expertise and extensive background in managing retail fulfillment operations. Prior to Wine Country Gift Baskets, Shea was an executive overseeing fulfillment and related operations at apparel, accessories and gifts retailer Norm Thompson and at apparel and outdoor gear retailer L.L. Bean. Norm Thompson is a unit of Orchard Brands Corp., No. 79 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide; L.L. Bean is No. 21.


Bill Shea, fulfillment, IRCE 2012, online wine sales, Second 500 Guide, shipping, Wine Country Gift Baskets