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Why it’s time to invest in fulfillment marketing

illustration of a person standing at a table with a laptop. symbols representing marketing are coming from the laptop.

Order fulfillment and marketing are not strategies that are commonly discussed in the same sentence. In fact, marketing teams and 3PLs are usually several miles apart in how they engage with ecommerce brands.

After all, fulfillment companies make sure that your orders reach your end customer. Marketers focus on, well, marketing…right?

If fulfillment is not playing a major role in your marketing strategy (and vice versa) you’re missing out on a major opportunity to build better customer experiences and foster lasting brand loyalty. 

This is where fulfillment marketing is your brand’s best tool for success in ecommerce.

Fulfillment marketing definition

What is fulfillment?

Order fulfillment refers to the process of picking, packing, and shipping online orders for delivery. This can be done either via in-house fulfillment methods or by outsourcing order fulfillment to an external provider, such as a dropshipper or a 3PL. With either option, order fulfillment usually involves the following services:

  • Warehousing/storage of SKUs
  • Picking SKUs to assemble customer orders
  • Packing/labeling orders
  • Shipping orders
  • Managing returns

The complexity of the order fulfillment process will depend on the blueprint decided by the company. The addition of elements such as branded packaging or marketing materials means a longer and more involved packing process – but also more opportunities to surprise and delight your customers at the point of delivery.

What is fulfillment marketing?

Fulfillment marketing, also known as promotional fulfillment or marketing fulfillment, is a set of fulfillment services designed to assist brands with adding customization and personalization to the post-purchase experience without losing scalability.

Fulfillment marketing can a variety of different forms, depending on what the business is selling and who they are selling to. For example, a B2B company may want to include a ‘look book’ with their delivery of new season merchandise to wholesalers. Meanwhile, D2C brands who are shipping hundreds of unique orders may want to personalize the experience by including product samples that complement the purchase. 

What do marketing and fulfillment services have in common? 

The value proposition behind fulfillment marketing is simple: In the post-purchase experience, your marketing and fulfillment capabilities are one and the same.

Why? Because the moment of delivery in ecommerce is the first opportunity customers have to properly interact with your products – and by extension, with your brand. 

That anticipated package on the doorstep is the final impression that your customer is left with at the end of the shopping journey, and it needs to positive one if you want them to return to your store.

In sum, your fulfillment solution will determine how satisfied customers are by the post-purchase experience. Ensuring proper alignment between your marketing and fulfillment strategies unlocks numerous opportunities for brand storytelling and personalization. 

Why fulfillment marketing is essential in ecommerce

Build brand awareness and engagement

Ecommerce is no longer an untapped frontier for customer acquisition and growth. In fact, it’s never been more challenging for brands to stand out from the crowd. 

This is due to wholesale products and rapid delivery becoming ubiquitous offerings online. When consumers have multiple orders arriving on a daily basis, another brown cardboard box as hardly going to spark brand recognition.

Fulfillment marketing enables you to extend your brand identity into one of the most important touchpoints in the customer experience. From colorful mailer boxes to thank-you notes, these elements of marketing collateral all serve to build a favorable impression of your brand in the eyes of customers.

Surprise and delight customers with unique experiences

In a time when almost every product can be purchased from anywhere, it’s unique, value-added experiences that hold the key to enticing consumers to choose your brand over another. According to a Walker study, experiences have become the biggest brand differentiator in ecommerce – above even product and price.

Investing in personalization at the point of delivery via ecommerce fulfillment is a powerful vehicle to increase customer lifetime value. It’s about maximizing opportunities to curate memorable, personalized experiences for customers that prime them to purchase from your brand again – not just once, but many times over.

Create more opportunities for omnichannel engagement

Engaging delivery experiences aren’t just a tool to bridge the experience gap between buying and receiving an order. They also serve as a kind of direct mail campaign to break down the silos between ecommerce selling channels. 

For example, a customer who discovers your online store via Google search might not engage with your social media channels at all during the shopping journey. This is a huge missed opportunity to draw them further into your brand community and inspire future purchases. 

A fulfillment program that embraces an omnichannel approach to post-purchase marketing and retention provides numerous opportunities to connect customers with other channels and initiatives. This means higher levels of brand engagement and in turn more sales activity.

4 Popular fulfillment marketing services

Branded packaging

As we said earlier, the moment of delivery represents the first tangible contact that a customer has with your brand. This makes it your best opportunity to shape customer perceptions of value.

When customers receive an eagerly anticipated order dressed up like a gift in branded packaging, it’s a powerful statement that your brand goes the extra mile to create a customer-centric experience. In sum, it’s one of the best marketing campaigns your brand can create.

It’s important that every element of your packaging is reflective of your brand identity and story. By the time an online order has been picked, packed, and is on its way to the end customer, you want to be certain that they instantly think of you when it arrives on their doorstep.

Custom boxes. A shipping box or mailer box embossed with your logo and brand colors makes quite a statement when it arrives on your customer’s doorstep. It primes customers to feel excited about the unboxing experience, meaning a positive customer experience.

Custom tissue paper. Colorful or custom-branded tissue paper is a versatile packaging element which can serve many different purposes, such as lining the inside of boxes, wrapping products, or as a form of packing filler.

Custom packing tape and stickers. Custom boxes can be expensive, especially if you don’t have the order volumes to take advantage of MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities). Smaller custom elements, like custom stickers or packing tape, are a great way to liven up plain boxes with important brand elements.

Eco-friendly packaging. Opting for a sustainable packaging design is a massive branding statement in its own right. By avoiding unrecyclable plastic packaging and embracing renewable materials like paper, cardboard, or compostable designs, you can lower your carbon footprint and assist your customers in making more conscious decisions.

Packaging inserts

Including marketing materials such as coupons, thank you notes, or catalogs with your online orders is a great way to extend your brand’s storytelling. Inserts provide customers with more context for the rest of your fulfillment marketing efforts, such as product sampling or freebies. 

For example, if you’ve hand-picked a specific product sample based on a customer’s order contents or purchasing history, including a flyer that explains how this sample selection was personalized just for them is a great way to build a stronger relationship with your customer. Without an insert, the brand story surrounding this aspect of fulfillment marketing is lost.

Moreover, packaging inserts have the advantage of being easy to kit and add to orders in bulk, without adding significantly to the DIM weight of your packages.

Thank you notes. Adding a note to your packages is the perfect way to show how much you appreciate your customers supporting your brand. It’s a small touch that reflects the extra time your brand is taking to make your customers feel special.

Coupons. Priming customers to purchase from you again is one of the trickiest parts of ecommerce. When there’s so many alternatives available, consumers need a solid incentive to return to a brand. Including a 15% off voucher within their order, rather than sending it via email or the mailbox, is sure to get their attention.

Cross-channel marketing collateral. The point of delivery are a huge opportunity to set up a new purchasing cycle by connecting customers with other online marketing/selling channels. You could include a flyer with a QR code that directs customers to your Instagram feed, or an email sign-up form that sends them regular offers and updates on a frequent basis.

Product sampling

Product sampling, where brands include samples or freebies with their online orders, is a common strategy within ecommerce to drive repeat purchases and foster customer loyalty. Samples may be curated i.e. chosen by or for each customer, or part of a broader marketing campaign that’s promoting a specific product. 

Product sampling is considered one of the most successful fulfillment marketing strategies, as it’s hard to find an online shopper who doesn’t like getting something for free. Free merchandise helps to transforms an online order from an everyday purchase into a more gift-like experience, which reflects positively on their impressions of your brand.

Miniature versions of full-size products. Products such as cosmetics and specialist foods can be expensive to purchase, which is a big risk for consumers if they’ve never tried it before. Offering free samples helps brands to nurture customers on a path to making a big-ticket purchase with confidence.

Branded merchandise. Branded freebies such as stickers or tote bags make a fantastic addition to online orders because they provide customers with an ongoing reminder of your brand after their purchase has taken place. Who knows? Seeing that collateral might be enough of prompt to get existing customers to check out your website to see what’s new.

Soft product launch. Launching a new product is a nerve-wracking process, especially if you aren’t sure what your customers’ response will be. Sampling offers a way for brands to trial new offerings with existing consumers who are most likely to be interested.

Product kitting

Product kits refer to pre-assembled sets of products and promotional items that are grouped, packaged, and sold together. Product kits can either be sold one-off products or as part of recurring offering. Kitting can also be used to boost slow-moving inventory by combining them with more popular items to prevent excess inventory from accumulating.

Having pre-assembled kits that are ready to ship out to customers not only streamlines your fulfillment marketing efforts; it also helps to reduce the number of unique multi-item orders that you need to pick and pack. Because product kits are assigned their own unique SKU for inventory management purposes, this makes it straightforward to assign certain packing rules or promotional materials to be included in the order fulfillment process.

Influencer kits. When working with influencers, it’s important to put your best foot forward. Consumers trust what fellow consumers have to say more than any of a brand’s own communications, so first impressions really do count. Assembling a special PR package for them to share on social media with their followers is a savvy fulfillment marketing strategy that boosts customer acquisition.

Subscription boxes. The value proposition of subscription boxes isn’t just product and brand discovery; it’s also knowing that you’re going to receive an exciting surprise in the mail on a monthly or quarterly basis. Thoughtfully kitted subscription boxes – especially when they involve a curation element – provide a major incentive for customers to stay subscribed. 

Limited edition product/sample kits. There’s nothing like the idea of scarcity or exclusivity to drive urgency to purchase. Limited edition product collections or sample kits are a compelling offering that help brands to increase average order values. When combined with other promotional materials like branded packaging, this is a powerful fulfillment marketing strategy.

How to execute marketing fulfillment effectively

Set aside a budget for fulfillment marketing services

The cost of branded packaging and print collateral quickly adds up, so it’s important for your business to decide at the start how much you are happy to spend on fulfillment marketing per order. Although it’s tempting to consider these additional costs as fulfillment-related, it’s worth exploring whether you have room within your marketing budget to support them. Remember: fulfillment is a vital part of your post-purchase marketing strategy!

Set a clear goal

If you’re going to invest in fulfillment marketing, you need to know what you want to achieve by doing it. Otherwise, it’s impossible to measure whether your efforts have been successful. For example, if you’ve interested in implementing a product sampling strategy, there’s a range of ways you can go about it depending on your business goals. If you’re promoting a specific product, you might have all orders within a certain time period receive the same sample. But if you’re wanting to personalize the delivery experience, you need to utilize customer data to select the appropriate products for different customer segments.

Search for a 3PL with experience in marketing fulfillment

Not every ecommerce fulfillment company will offer customized fulfillment marketing services, since it requires a break with the cheaper and more efficient economy of scale approach that’s used by most 3PLs to achieve rapid order fulfillment. This is why it’s important to seek out a technologically-advanced partner who uses automation to create marketing fulfillment strategies that can scale successfully and meet customer expectations.

Find a fulfillment and marketing partner with Whiplash

Built from decades of industry experience and best-in-class ecommerce technology, Whiplash is the perfect fulfillment partner for all of your marketing needs. Our proprietary ecommerce fulfillment platform makes it easy for brands to maintain a granular level of control over their fulfillment marketing strategy: 

  • Create unique SKUs for freebies and samples so they can be stored and picked with ease.
  • Generate packing blueprints via fully customizable Order Rules that enable you to stipulate adding inserts, freebies, or branded packaging to different types of orders at your fulfillment center.
  • Access a full spectrum of kitting services at Whiplash facilities, from subscription boxes to influencer kits. 
  • Access wholesale rates from major parcel carriers in real-time to keep your shipping costs as low as possible while optimizing for speed.

Interested in leveling up your delivery experience with marketing fulfillment? Talk to Whiplash today about how we can help.

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