The Japanese e-commerce market is expanding rapidly, providing numerous opportunities for foreign merchants to conduct online business in Japan. However, managing order fulfillment can be a major challenge without the right infrastructure and processes. This is where a product fulfillment center can make all the difference for businesses. A fulfillment center handles key operations like order processing, inventory storage and shipping on behalf of sellers. Using a specialized fulfillment partner brings in several benefits that enable online businesses to scale efficiently in Japan.
What is a product fulfillment center?
A product fulfillment center also known as a warehouse fulfillment center, is a facility that handles order processing and shipping for e-commerce businesses selling physical goods. They are equipped with infrastructure like storage racks, picking stations, packaging equipment and shipping docks to manage fulfillment operations. Some key responsibilities handled by fulfillment centers include:
Receiving and inspecting inventory from suppliers
Safely storing inventory with proper racks, bins and security
Receiving orders and managing entire order workflow from picking to packing and shipping
Integrating with online sales channels to automatically import orders
Picking, packing and shipping orders with accuracy and speed
Handling product returns and providing inventory reports to clients
By outsourcing fulfillment to a specialized provider, e-commerce sellers can focus on sales and marketing while fulfillment experts handle the back-end operations.
How product fulfillment centers work?
Let us look at the typical workflow in a product fulfillment center:
Inventory storage - Inventory is received in bulk from suppliers and accurately stored in appropriate racks, bins or pallets for easy access. Advanced fulfillment centers use warehouse management software to organize inventory and maximize storage density. Barcodes and serial numbers enable easy tracking of each inventory unit.
Order management - Whenever an order is placed on the seller's e-commerce platform, it is imported into the fulfillment software in real-time. New orders are queued for processing according to shipment deadlines.
Picking - Using pick lists generated by fulfillment software, workers go to the storage racks and pick the items in each order. Barcode scanners ensure accuracy during picking. Batch picking optimizes the process when multiple orders have common items.
Packing - Orders are packed with proper cushioning and seals to prevent damage. Packages may be customized with the seller's branding, messaging and invoices as needed.
Shipping - The packed orders are handed over to shipping carriers like FedEx, DHL, UPS, USPS etc. to deliver to customers. Advanced facilities can integrate with carrier APIs for label printing and tracking.
Understanding the challenges of online stores
For any business selling online, fulfillment logistics quickly become complex at scale:
Managing a growing inventory across multiple sales channels is difficult without a warehouse management system. Items can go out of stock due to poor visibility.
As order volumes grow, self-fulfillment from home or a small warehouse becomes chaotic and risky. Lack of systems and skilled staff leads to errors.
Promising fast shipping like next-day or 2-day delivery requires seamless processes. Even a small delay or mistake can ruin customer experience.
Returns management becomes a huge burden without efficient workflows. Unhappy customers and losses increase.
Reporting and analytics are weak without a proper fulfillment software. It gets difficult to identify problems and optimize processes.
By partnering with a professional fulfillment center, sellers can relieve themselves of these liabilities and focus their energy on sales and growth.
Benefits of using a product fulfillment center
Here are some major benefits eCommerce businesses enjoy by using a product fulfillment center:
1. Improved efficiency and accuracy
Specialized providers have trained resources, right tools and streamlined processes to swiftly handle order fulfillment without errors. Their productivity per staff is much higher compared to makeshift in-house operations.
2. Faster shipping times
Fulfillment centers strategically located across regions enable sellers to promise fast shipping times to customers. A national network of fulfillment centers allows most orders to be dispatched from a location nearest to the customer.
3. Lower operational costs
A shared fulfillment center brings economies of scale which significantly reduces logistics costs for sellers. Energy, equipment and workforce costs are optimized across clients. Inventory storage costs also go down.
4. Flexible, scalable capacity
As eCommerce sales fluctuate, fulfillment centers provide flexible capacity that can scale up or down as per needs. No need to build and manage your own warehouses across regions.
5. Improved customer satisfaction
By outsourcing fulfillment to experts, sellers can deliver consistent, premium service to boost customer loyalty and brand image. Customers appreciate fast and accurate deliveries.
6. Focus on core business
Without juggling fulfillment in-house, online businesses get more bandwidth to acquire customers, launch marketing campaigns, add new product lines etc. Their core capability fuels growth.
Features of a good product fulfillment center
There are many key aspects to evaluate when choosing a product fulfillment center for your eCommerce business:
National presence - Look for a fulfillment partner with warehouses located across your target regions to enable local fulfillment.
Inventory management - They must have robust warehousing software to handle inventory planning, organization, tracking and reporting.
Order processing - Seamless integration, real-time data exchange with your sales channels and efficient workflows for order processing are vital.
Branding - Ability to customize packaging, invoices and tracking information to match your brand experience.
Support - Partnership approach with account management, customer support and proactive communication.
Security - State-of-the-art security protocols, access control and surveillance to protect your inventory.
Compliance - Fulfillment facilities must adhere to safety, labor and environmental regulations in their region.
Analytics - Actionable insights, performance metrics and reports to identify improvement areas.
Scalability - Flexible capacity to easily ramp up storage, staffing and operations during peak seasons.
Choosing the right product fulfillment center for your business
We suggest some tips for selecting an optimal fulfillment partner:
Evaluate services against your current and projected order volumes. Ask about their peak capacity.
Ensure their locations allow you to meet delivery timelines for a majority of your customers.
Review their onboarding process. Seek support for inventory transfers and channel integrations.
Understand their pricing model. Compare with other players on total landed costs.
Ask for client references to check reliability and service levels.
Review contracts carefully. Check for hidden costs, service commitments and exit clauses.
Start small. Test response times, accuracy and scalability before committing higher volumes.
Have periodic reviews to discuss performance metrics, bottlenecks and improvement plans.
How Ezbuy Japan makes fulfillment easy
Ezbuy Japan is one of the leading enablers of eCommerce fulfillment solutions in Japan. They have a nationwide network of facilities and provide flexible, scalable solutions tailored to client needs:
Same-day or Next-day delivery
Our country-wide presence combined with integrations with major shipping companies like Yamato Transport, Sagawa Express, Nippon Express,... allows Ezbuy Japan to offer same-day or next-day delivery to customers across Japan. This enables online businesses to provide market-leading shipping times.
Nationwide fulfillment center network
We have large-scale fulfillment centers located across Japan including Tokyo, Osaka and other regions. This extensive coverage allows them to provide fast nationwide delivery at optimized costs.
Integrations with your eCommerce platform
Seamless integration and real-time order sync with all major eCommerce platforms eliminate manual efforts. Orders flow into Ezbuy automatically for processing.
Transparent fulfillment fees
Ezbuy Japan offers simple, transparent pricing for fulfillment without any hidden costs. Volume-based discounts allow overall costs to reduce as clients grow.
The final word
Fulfillment operations are complex, constant and critical for any foreign business wanting to enter the Japanese market. Rather than sub-optimizing them in-house, non-native sellers can leverage specialists like ezbuy.jp. This allows brands to stay focused on what they do best while experts manage the back-end. The result is faster growth, reduced costs and superior customer experience.