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Why D2C brands need custom fulfillment services

Illustration of a watch in packaging.

[Updated post from October 19, 2021]

Two things brands typically focus on when it comes to e-commerce fulfillment are:

  1. Cost
  2. Speed

But thanks to the growing popularity of same-day delivery services and rapid shipping, the role order fulfillment plays in creating memorable customer experiences can easily be lost.

When direct to consumer (D2C) fulfillment is dominated by plain cardboard boxes and third-party marketplaces, it’s near impossible to build a meaningful relationship with your customer during the post-purchase phase.

This phenomenon is what we like to call the ‘Amazonization’ of e-commerce: generic, forgettable brand interactions that do little to increase customer loyalty. 

Custom fulfillment services offer D2C brands a way to extend their brand storytelling across multiple touchpoints in the post-purchase experience. By partnering with a 3PL (third-party logistics) provider that offers these capabilities, you can curate memorable brand experiences that increase loyalty and retention – one order at a time.

What are custom fulfillment services?

Custom fulfillment refers to additional fulfillment services offered by a 3PL that is tailored to the precise needs of a particular business. These services are in addition to the standard fulfillment service workflow, which includes essential steps in the order fulfillment process such as warehousing, inventory management, picking and packing, shipping, and reverse logistics.

The biggest difference between a custom fulfillment service and a regular service is that custom fulfillment services are tailored to a specific business, including the products it sells, its order volume, and the locations they routinely ship orders to. Unlike standard fulfillment services, which are designed for economy of scale, custom fulfillment is all about ensuring a positive customer experience.

A fabulous unboxing experience, complete with a custom box and a thank-you card, is the ultimate example of all the moving pieces of custom fulfillment at work. It requires a 3PL to design a bespoke packing strategy with unique branded elements in a way that’s cost-effective and maximizes efficiency. This is the kind of expertise that direct-to-consumer brands are paying for when contracting a fulfillment company for custom order fulfillment services.

Custom fulfillment services include but are not limited to:

Customized packaging

In addition to protecting your products in transit, your packaging design is a valuable opportunity to showcase your brand identity and delight your customer upon delivery. Custom packaging elements such as custom boxes, mailer bags, and custom tissue paper are all great ways to differentiate your packaging from the plain brown boxes used by most e-commerce brands. However, it’s important to note that the more elaborate your custom packaging is, the longer it will take to pick and pack orders for shipping.

Custom inserts

Packaging inserts are a wonderful way to extend brand storytelling beyond your storefront or website into the post-purchase experience. Think of a cute handwritten note thanking customers for their purchase, or a coupon for 15% off their next order. These kinds of additions to your packages help to boost customer engagement during the unboxing experience and increase the likelihood of repeat purchases.


Kitting refers to the process of grouping, packaging, and selling multiple SKUs together as one product available for purchase. While kitting may seem like a pretty mundane fulfillment service, it holds the key to merchants boosting their catalog with unique offerings and enhancing convenience for customers. Subscription boxes, gift sets, and pre-assembled kits all require kitting services to reach the shelves, making it an extremely valuable custom fulfillment service.

Repairs and alterations

Having repair and alteration services available at your fulfillment service provider enables businesses to protect their inventory, recondition merchandise for resale, and even offer product customization services to their customers for an additional cost. This is a great way to gain a competitive advantage and boost your brand’s value proposition – all via custom fulfillment.

Why custom fulfillment matters for direct-to-consumer brands

Differentiating yourself as a merchant. In today’s saturated marketplace, D2C brands can’t stand out based on price or product alone. But by investing in the customer experience via the order fulfillment process, your brand can stand out from the crowd post-purchase and build a much stronger emotional connection with customers.

Boost your value proposition. If you want to be viewed as a premium brand with premium products, every touchpoint in the customer journey has to reflect this – especially the moment of delivery. When customers feel like they’re receiving an exclusive experience, it’s much easier to justify high-end pricing. According to a report by Capgemini, 81% of consumers are willing to pay extra to a business that guarantees a better customer experience.

Surprise and delight your customers. The moment of delivery is the first tactile impression that customers have of your brand in e-commerce, so you need to make this count. When customers can see a brand’s touch throughout the fulfillment process in the form of branded packaging or a handwritten note, this inspires trust and a stronger emotional connection.

Scalability: The biggest challenge of custom fulfillment

Custom fulfillment services are a fantastic opportunity for merchants to enhance the customer experience – but they also represent one of the biggest challenges of D2C fulfillment. 

Why? Because e-commerce businesses that have made highly customized fulfillment processes part of the brand experience can be faced with tough decisions as their order volumes grow.

One of the biggest advantages of self-fulfillment is that D2C brands have full creative control over each stage of the fulfillment process. They get to oversee every step in the packing process and experiment with new ways to surprise and delight customers. Want printed tissue paper or free branded stickers? No problem! The brand is in charge of sourcing the materials and figuring out how to implement it.

But an in-house fulfillment approach is only realistic if you’re managing a handful of e-commerce orders per day. As order volumes increase, these value-added additions to the fulfillment process can easily overwhelm your operation.

No merchant wants to remove custom enhancements that make their post-purchase experience unique. But if your operation is unable to scale effectively, you’re looking at lengthy delays to order processing and fulfillment that can damage your brand’s reputation.

But D2C brands have an alternative: Partnering with a fulfillment service provider who can execute custom fulfillment flawlessly – every time.  

Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash: Your scalable custom fulfillment partner

Managing the end-to-end customer experience gives D2C brands a significant advantage over wholesale retailers. Their ability to build a consistent brand identity and voice across multiple touchpoints has enabled remarkable success stories, including the likes of Glossier and Warby Parker.

But it’s the fear of losing this competitive edge that holds many D2C brands back from partnering with 3PLs. Nobody wants to lose control over the customer experience and dilute what makes their brand unique, especially as their business grows.

This is why merchants need a responsive, scalable custom fulfillment solution that enables their operation to weather the peaks and troughs in the e-commerce sales calendar.

By partnering with Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash for your custom fulfillment needs, your business will gain access to an advanced fulfillment network and decades of expertise – without undermining the integrity of your brand experience.

What does custom fulfillment look like at Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash?

A full suite of value-added services. Whether you’re after an elaborate unboxing experience or just require a return shipping label to be added to your packages, Ryder E-commerce can provide your e-commerce business with a wide range of value-added services that can be tailored to suit you and your customer’s unique needs. 

Set custom rules for order fulfillment. Want online orders that contain certain SKUs to qualify for special packaging, or for free samples to be added? With the Whiplash platform’s Order Rules functionality, your business has a granular level of control over the end-to-end packing process. Order Rules will trigger when certain criteria are present within an order, such as specific SKUs, order values, or shipping methods. You can pause, change, or cancel your rules in real-time to keep up with the ever-changing demands of your customers.

Flawless integration with your online store. Ryder E-commerce hosts native two-way integrations via our open API with major e-commerce platforms including Shopify, making it effortless to send order information directly through to your facility to ensure order accuracy and time-sensitive fulfillment.

Want some proof? Check out these testimonials from our customers: “Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash has added value at every stage of our adventure.” Andy Person, CEO of Baboon To The Moon.

Desktop with a computer monitor and Baboon to the Moon merch.

With a brand image that reflects love and expertise for travel, luggage, and accessories, Baboon to the Moon wanted these values to extend throughout the end-to-end customer experience. 

As order volumes grew, it was vital to CEO Andy Person that the brand could continue with its quirky, colorful custom fulfillment strategy. This involves including free tote bags and branded stickers with each order, in addition to inserts telling the story behind the brand.

By partnering with Ryder E-commerce, Baboon to the Moon was able to take advantage of a seamless Shopify integration and advanced automation to streamline order processing and free up more time to focus on refining their packing process. By being able to rely on Ryder E-commerce to execute flawless custom order fulfillment every time, Baboon To The Moon can focus on leading a new wave of conscious, connected travelers.

Check out our full Baboon To The Moon case study here.

“When we started to look seriously at scaling our e-commerce fulfillment operation with Ryder E-commerce Whiplash, it was their embroidery capabilities that won us over. The ability, experience, and willingness to adapt that Whiplash has shown via their value-added services has made them the ideal 3PL for us.” Steven Feczko, Senior Director of Operations at Hedley & Bennett.

Textiles and apparel company Hedley & Bennett weren’t just looking for a 3PL that could assist them with fast shipping or rapid fulfillment, but to enable the brand to continue offering their unique competitive differentiator: custom embroidered aprons.

Such high-level customization is not available at many 3PLs, due to the cost and expertise required to execute it. Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash made it possible for Hedley & Bennett to maintain their value proposition, with the added support of an advanced inventory management system to keep everything running smoothly.

Read Hedley & Bennett’s full story here.

As the e-commerce marketplace becomes more crowded, customer experience matters like never before. A pretty box or a thank you note might not seem like a lot, yet it makes a world of difference to how your customer perceives your brand. But to offer these experiences at scale, you need a fulfillment provider who can coordinate these custom fulfillment services on your behalf.Interested in how custom fulfillment services? Contact us today to find out how Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash can help you to add that personal touch to your order.

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