It’s important to find supply chain partners who can match the requirements you have as a seller. The type of product you have will determine what type of fulfillment partner you seek out.
Consumer electronics brands require special attention to the following: packaging and handling lithium batteries which are considered dangerous goods, premium products that are high value goods, items that are sensitive to damage, and items that require tracking throughout the supply chain journey. Working with a 3PL with experience in these areas will ensure your products get to customers accurately, timely, and in perfect condition.
Handling Dangerous Goods
Batteries are in so many electronic devices, gadgets, toys, tools, mobile phones, laptops, and tablets. Specific to many consumer electronics are lithium batteries. These have an incredible amount of electrical energy contained in their small size which leaves them very sensitive during transport. If packaged incorrectly they may incur damage and leak toxic substances. They are also highly susceptible to heat and can degrade quickly if exposed to high temperatures. If they are short circuited they can burst into flames which is the most dangerous possible outcome.
To ship lithium batteries properly, a 3PL must know how to package them so they do not get damaged en route to the distribution center or consumer. All carriers have detailed specifications that need to be followed in order to comply with shipping standards. UPS has a long guide for all types of batteries—a reputable 3PL will know which products fall into which category within their guidelines.
When shipping lithium batteries internationally, they must be properly declared at customs. Your shipping partners must be able to help you fill out a dangerous goods declaration form. This is quite common with consumer electronics devices as many of the products in this vertical are manufactured and assembled overseas.
Efficiency with Pick, Pack, and Ship
The retail value of consumer electronics devices is usually a lot higher for replacement. This means a fulfillment partner needs to provide comprehensive packaging and shipping solutions so that sellers do not lose revenue for damaged inventory due to packing errors.
The standard rated carriers—USPS, UPS, and FedEx included—have a set amount of insurance they will provide on lost or damaged parcels. So, if your 3PL doesn’t include bubble wrap or dunnage, or puts a product in an oversized box, your product will get damaged and broken. Let’s say that item is $1500. The standard insurance for any package is $100. No matter the cost of your product, the carrier will still only provide replacement insurance totaling $100. The remaining $1400 is unredeemable money, which is a big loss that could have been avoided.
Packaging and Branding
Not only does packaging matter greatly when minimizing damage, it’s also important from a branding standpoint. Consumer electronics are often premium products that are purchased less frequently than consumable goods. If someone orders boxes of facial tissue or cereal, there isn’t a great need to provide a fabulous unboxing experience. That customer is likely to buy those goods again anyway. Plus consumables aren’t very expensive, so to spend lots of money on packaging might seem misplaced. But a computer, speaker set, or other devices are high value items, purchased once every few years. The packaging must be sturdy and efficient to protect the items, but also give the consumer a sense of the brand’s style. The unboxing experience is also important to help the customer walk through any setup that needs to happen with the device.
There is a rub between specialized packaging and low cost shipping. Working with a 3PL who has experience shipping consumer electronics will ensure your brand gets the best of both worlds. Plus if you work closely with your 3PL to figure out the right packing materials for your product, they will likely also work with the automation systems within the warehouse. This is one aspect of fulfillment that sellers don’t think enough about: how package design affects your shipping costs and efficiency through the fulfillment process.
Tracking and Electronic Activation
The serial number is really critical for consumer electronics. A 3PL who specializes in this vertical needs to have the ability to scan and record the device serial number in order to help track it’s activation.
“At DCL we scan items when we receive them in the warehouse so that the seller is able to track it within their inventory. Then when a purchase is made, we have the technology to allow the consumer to also track when it has left the warehouse, when it’s on the truck, and when it arrives at their doorstep.”
For sellers this provides them with peace of mind that their products are secure, not lost or damaged. It also helps them with inventory management, including returns. Sellers can run a database report to access the data in regards to movement of inventory.
For the consumer, the serial number and activation data is important for warranty and usage. For example, if you purchase a device from Target, and they have a 90 day warranty, if the device stops working at 120 days and you call the device company, they’ll know exactly when you purchased it, and when you activated it to start using it.
Sellers need to think about this entire journey, plus the return journey when picking a 3PL. Having a fulfillment partner who can seamlessly help manage tracking and activation, but also replacement and refurbishment is a deal breaker for consumer electronics companies.
Capacity and Efficiency
When choosing your fulfillment partners, you want to ensure you have the right fit for your brand. To feel confident that your 3PL can meet your SLAs and can ship your product out quickly and accurately will give you freedom to focus on other aspects of your business. Ask your 3PL if they have the capacity to scale with you and match your growth. Ask them if they can compete with Amazon and Amazon Prime delivery windows. These, plus the specific needs you have to fulfill your types of products will keep you competitive in the market.
If you are a consumer electronics brand looking for fulfillment support we want to hear from you. Reach out, our team of dedicated experts can answer any questions you may have about what is needed to successfully ship consumer electronics.