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Why Outsource Pet Accessories And Supplies Fulfillment To A 3PL?

The pet accessories and supplies industry was recorded at $246.66 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $427.75 billion by 2032.

As more households welcome furry friends, the demand has skyrocketed for specialized pet products. This presents both opportunities and challenges for pet retailers and eCommerce brands in this space. 

One of the most frequent issues that most brands face includes fulfillment and shipping of pet accessories. These processes require unique processes and protocols. While many companies attempt to handle these operations in-house, outsourcing to a specialized third-party logistics (3PL) provider is often the smarter choice. 

Partnering with a dedicated pet fulfillment center provides numerous advantages. Their expertise, infrastructure, and technology enable brands to optimize the customer experience while reducing costs.

Challenges of In-House Fulfillment of Pet Supplies 

With USD 4.54 Billion in sales(CommonThread), the pet supplies and accessories industry has become one of the leading eCommerce industries in the United States. That said, fulfilling pet accessories and supplies in-house has become extremely challenging for brands. 

Here are some of the key difficulties:

1. Complexities of Shipping Pet Products

Shipping pet products come with unique complexities. Certain items like pet food and litter can be heavy and bulky, requiring special shipping considerations. Perishable items or medications may need temperature control or expedited delivery. Hazardous materials like flea/tick medication have restrictions. Managing compliance across a catalog of pet products is difficult without expertise.

2. Managing Varying Volumes and Seasonality 

Pet product sales often see major spikes around holidays and seasons. Brands may lack the capacity to handle 4 times normal volumes during peak periods. Excess inventory and staff must be brought on just for seasonal needs. Forecasting is difficult with volatile demand swings. This results in poor customer service during peaks and excess costs during slower periods.

3. High Costs of In-House Warehouse and Labor

Operating your own pet fulfillment requires real estate/rent for warehouse space, material handling equipment, IT systems, and labor. As a non-core function, per-unit fulfillment costs are often high. Management must oversee the complex warehouse operations and deal with the churn of seasonal blue-collar workers. Maintaining compliance and service levels is challenging without fulfillment expertise.

3 Benefits of Outsourced Fulfillment of Pet Products 

As per a report published by Armstrong & Associates, 90% of Fortune 500 companies have outsourced their fulfillment to a 3PL. Let’s understand the key benefits that these companies saw in outsourcing product fulfillment to a 3PL over managing it in-house.

1. Access to Advanced Fulfillment Technology and Systems

A dedicated fulfillment center has the scale to invest in state-of-the-art warehouse management systems, inventory tracking software, automated picking and packaging equipment, and other technologies. This level of automation and optimization is difficult for a small pet business to achieve on its own. Partnering with a 3PL gives you access to best-in-class fulfillment infrastructure.

2. Cost Savings from Economies of Scale

By combining inventory from multiple clients under one roof, 3PL benefits from economies of scale. They can negotiate better rates from shipping carriers, lower equipment costs, and spread fixed overhead expenses. These savings are passed on to clients. Fulfilling orders in-house means you pay retail rates for everything.  

3. Improved Shipping Rates and Capabilities

A full-service 3PL has established contracts with major carriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS. They have access to discounts and service levels that individual businesses cannot obtain. Their shipping volume also unlocks additional options like zone skipping. You benefit from the lower rates and enhanced delivery capabilities.

4 Specialized Needs for Pet Fulfillment

Fulfilling pet products comes with unique requirements that many standard warehouses aren't equipped to handle. Here are some of the specialized needs for pet fulfillment:

1. Temperature-Controlled Environments

Many pet foods and treats are perishable and require temperature-controlled environments. Pet food that is exposed to extreme heat or cold can go bad quickly and become unsafe. Choose a fulfillment center with climate-controlled warehouses to properly store and ship your pet products. Temperatures should remain consistently between 60-75 °F.

2. Avoiding Cross-Contamination 

Pet foods, especially those containing meat, can easily cross-contaminate with other products if not stored and handled properly. Make sure your fulfillment partner follows rigorous processes to avoid cross-contamination between pet food/treats and any toxic or hazardous materials. Dedicated warehouse space for pet products is ideal.

3. Lot Tracking for Recalls

Pet food recalls are not uncommon. If a recall occurs, you need to be able to quickly identify which lots are affected. An experienced pet fulfillment provider will implement lot number tracking and inventory management to enable targeted recalls. This protects your customers and your brand reputation.

4. Fast Shipping for Consumables

Pet owners purchase consumable products like food, treats, and medications on a recurring basis. They expect fast fulfillment and shipping times. Choose a partner with expedited shipping options to quickly deliver recurring orders. Strategically located warehouses can also help shorten delivery times.

Key Considerations for a Pet Fulfillment Partner

When evaluating 3PLs for pet accessory and supply fulfillment, some key considerations include:

1. Proximity to Key Markets

It's important to find a fulfillment partner with warehouses located near your major markets. This reduces shipping times and costs. For a pet brand based in the US, having fulfillment centers on both coasts or near large population centers can ensure quick delivery around the country. 

International reach may also be a consideration if you export products globally. Partnering with a global 3PL with warehouses in Europe, Asia, etc. helps improve delivery times abroad.

2. Organic Certification Options 

Many pet foods and treats are now organic. For brands that offer organic SKUs, partnering with a 3PL that provides certified organic fulfillment is crucial. They should have dedicated organic storage, picking, packing, and shipping processes to ensure no cross-contamination.

Some 3PLs also offer chain-of-custody audits and documentation to verify organic integrity throughout the supply chain. This provides peace of mind for brands and consumers.

3. Subscription Management Capabilities

Subscription sales are popular in the pet industry. Partnering with a 3PL experienced in subscription management and recurring orders can streamline fulfillment. 

Look for a provider that offers automated re-ordering, flexible subscription management, and integration with subscription commerce platforms. This makes the recurring order process seamless.

4. Emotional Brand Experience

Pet products are emotional purchases. Ensuring your 3PL provides a branded customer experience that aligns with your brand values is key. 

Look for small touches like custom packing slips, branded boxes, personalized notes, and surprise treats for pets that can delight customers. This brings your brand to life during the unboxing experience.

Questions to Ask Potential Pet Product Fulfillment Partners

When evaluating potential pet fulfillment partners, there are several key questions you should ask to ensure they can properly handle your products and meet your business needs:

1. Warehouse Locations and Transportation Routes

  • Where are your fulfillment centers located? 

Having warehouses strategically positioned near your suppliers and end customers can optimize transportation routes and reduce costs.

  • How do you determine optimal warehouse locations and inventory allocation strategies? 

You want a partner who analyzes data to place inventory where it's most efficient.

  • What transportation partners and routes do you utilize for deliveries? 

Look for a partner with strong logistics networks to facilitate quick, low-cost shipping.

  • Can you provide same-day or next-day delivery to key markets? 

Getting products to customers quickly is important, especially for subscription services.

2. Food Safety Certifications 

  • Are your facilities FDA/USDA/CFIA registered? 

Confirm they follow strict food safety protocols.

  • What food safety certifications do you maintain? 

Look for SQF, BRC, ISO 22000, or other GFSI certifications to ensure proper food handling.

3. Inventory and Order Management System

  • What WMS/OMS systems do you use? 

Choose a partner whose systems provide inventory visibility, order automation, and integration with your eCommerce platform. 

  • How do you track expiration dates and manage product recalls if needed? 

You need a partner who can ensure freshness and handle recalls appropriately.

  • How are your reporting capabilities and inventory analytics?

Their systems should provide the data and insights you need to optimize operations.

4. Reporting and Analytics

  • What inventory, order and fulfillment reports can you provide? 

Make sure they offer the KPIs and reporting you need to monitor the business.

  • Can you help analyze the data to uncover optimization opportunities? 

Look for a partner who goes beyond reporting to provide strategic insights.

  • How can you help us improve forecasting and inventory planning? 

Choose a partner focused on using data analytics to improve your operations over time.

Wrapping Up 

Outsourcing fulfillment of pet accessories and supplies to a specialized 3PL provider offers numerous benefits compared to managing it in-house. Pet products have unique considerations such as proper storage conditions, subscription services, urgent delivery needs, and emotional connections with the brand. An experienced partner like ShipTop who understands these nuances can provide greater efficiency, reliability, and expertise.

When exploring outsourced pet supply chain management, carefully assess potential partners on their experience, capabilities, and services to determine the right fit. The ideal partner will provide end-to-end pet fulfillment that delivers exceptional customer experiences. Reach out to top providers today to start maximizing the benefits for your growing pet accessories and supplies business.

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