Weigh Your Options
By Hallie Mummert
Climbing fuel prices coupled with consumers' desire for instant gratification create a challenge for direct marketers trying to keep their shipping costs under control. Target Marketing turned to several fulfillment experts for ideas on how direct marketers can walk the fine line between customer service and shipping cost management.
1. According to the experts, while the order handling and kit/order assembly processes benefit from continual improvements, the "rules of delivery" don't seem likely to change much in the coming years. So the insights that follow represent a set of best practices for delivering product and literature in the most economical fashion.
2. When time and tracking are not an issue, consolidators offer the best value on parcel shipments. Consol-idators typically take eight to nine days to deliver packages, where a carrier—i.e., FedEx, UPS, DHL, USPS—usually delivers in three to four days, says Marc Klein, director of sales for SC Fulfillment Services, a full-service fulfillment and call center operation in Monroe, Wisc. You can save 80 cents to $1 per parcel, he continues, depending on the weight of the package.
3. Delivery through a carrier is more economical for low-volume parcel shipments. Besides the fact that consolidators won't accept low-volume jobs, the longer delivery times involved in consolidating small shipments might result in increased contact center costs, explains Craig Collins, director of marketing, MCRB Fulfillment, a full-service fulfillment and telemarketing company with headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif. Orders are likely to sit on a trailer, waiting for it to fill up before the consolidator will truck it to the U.S. Postal Service entry destination. In the meantime, customers may be calling in to ask why their orders haven't arrived. Carrier shipping prices are reasonable compared to the customer service and brand equity costs associated with disappointed customers.
4. Match the delivery method to the customer. For high-end products, high-value customers or lead generation prospects where conversion is dependent on fast delivery of the fulfillment kit, Collins advises using a carrier to ensure prompt receipt. Otherwise, you're safe shipping standard orders via a consolidator.