For ecommerce e-tailers, perhaps the most important steps to begin working with a third party ecommerce order fulfillment is to connect your shopping cart/ ecommerce platform to the fulfillment center. You need a way to send the orders that come into your online store to the warehouse for packing and shipping.
The order data you will send to the fulfillment center contains information like customer name, shipping address, the method to ship (USPS Flat Rate, FedEx Air, UPS Ground, etc.) and the sku's and their quantity.
After an order had shipping, data will then also be sent back to your ecommerce/ logistics software from the fulfillment center such as shipping confirmation number and inventory updates.
The data exchange can happen a number of ways.
API – Most ecommerce software programs offer an API plug in that will connect directly with the fulfillment company's warehouse management system (WMS). The WMS is the system that controls all the operations within the warehouse including inventory, pick tickets, shipping, etc. This may require some custom programming.
FTP, via Email – Order files (as a csv, txt, xml etc) can typically be created automatically from a shopping cart program and placed on an FTP site and then imported into a WMS. The files can also be emailed. This can be completely automated end to end or may involve some manual file handling depending on how it is set up.
Web Portal – For lower volume clients, some prefer to enter the orders manually via our web portal.
When you are evaluating third party fulfillment centers make sure you discuss how the exchange of order information will work right at the outset. Some fulfillment centers may be limited in how they can work with certain ecommerce platforms so it is important to know that up front.