Ron Popeil and his Pocket Fisherman.
Billy Mays and OxiClean.
Phil Swift and Flex Seal.
These were all pioneers in an industry known as Direct Response TV advertising. They’d perfect their pitch, produce infomercials, buy TV time and hire an army of call center reps to receive orders when the spot aired.
They also leveraged flexible order fulfillment partners ready to ship these products immediately to satisfy impulse purchases. Companies like Moulton Logistics (now part of Amware Fulfillment) became known as specialists in DRTV fulfillment.
Like most things, DRTV advertising has changed drastically over the years. Decades ago, TV watchers had only a few networks to choose from, so it was easier to target them with an infomercial. Now people consume their news and entertainment across thousands of cable channels, streaming services and social media sites. DRTV hasn’t gone away; it’s just part of broader and more complex media strategy often developed by specialized media buying companies.
While making the phone ring immediately is still a very successful strategy for DRTV marketers, promotions these days are just as likely to direct buyers to a retail partner like Target or Home Depot, where the product is also sold. In fact, you’ll often see the product displayed in the store’s special “As Seen on TV” section. Typical DRTV products that gain traction and expand into retail channels have the potential to sell 5–10 units in retail for every 1 unit sold via infomercial.
As the marketing of these products has changed, so has order fulfillment. Where once the only concern was shipping out individual orders to consumers, in today’s omni-channel world you have the challenge of adhering to the many distribution requirements of large retailers. Not all fulfillment companies are equally adept at high-volume B2C fulfillment and retail distribution. But hiring different partners to handle each segment complicates inventory management and adds space and labor costs.
The New DRTV Fulfillment
For inventors and entrepreneurs looking to grow a brand through TV and other marketing channels, they need to align with a new breed of DRTV fulfillment specialist. Following are four things you should be looking for in a fulfillment partner.
1. Flexible, scalable operations. With DRTV products, you can go from 0 to thousands of orders overnight. You need a partner with flexible fulfillment operations that can cope with large demand swings. 3PLs like Amware Fulfillment handle that, in part, through cross-training of staff in a multi-client facility. Associates can switch between accounts, depending on which ones are busier. 3PLs also have strong relationships with temporary agencies and a robust process for training new associates quickly to maximize productivity with minimal errors. The right 3PL will help keep your fulfillment costs variable and in line with sales revenue. As one goes up or down, so does the other.
Never choose a fulfillment partner based on your needs today. Every DRTV entrepreneur wants the kind of success experienced by The Snuggie or the George Foreman Grill. While it doesn’t make sense for you to invest in building a distribution infrastructure to support that kind of success, it does make sense to align with a 3PL that can scale its space and services to any volume requirement. You don’t want your fulfillment operation to be a barrier to growth.
2. Excellent systems and reporting. It goes without saying that you want your partner to have an advanced warehouse management system that is able to manage your inventory and direct the picking process in the most efficient way. After all, warehouse labor is your biggest fulfillment expense after parcel shipping costs. But DRTV marketers need a level of visibility to sales and operational data that allows them to constantly adjust media buys and promotions.
- If one promotional channel is outperforming others 10:1, you want to funnel more dollars there
- If you’re running promos for a product that is almost out of stock, you’ll want to switch it up to avoid a backorder situation
Work with a partner that gives you web access to a dashboard with real-time data on the metrics that matter most to your business.
3. Strong retail distribution. If your product gains traction online or via DRTV and you land a deal with a national retailer, make sure you have the fulfillment expertise to handle it. Retailers’ requirements are all different for how they want products boxed, labeled and delivered – and how they want to receive and transmit EDI feeds. Get it wrong and they’ll issue a chargeback penalty that is automatically deducted from their next invoice payment. You need a fulfillment partner that understands this world and, ideally, is already integrated with and shipping to your new retailer partners.
4. Call center capabilities. Online buyers can pretty much do everything on the website – buy, chat, manage a return, change a payment type. But with impulse purchases, often via phone, there is more of a need for post-sales call center support. It’s a real advantage to work with a warehouse fulfillment partner that also offers call center services with advanced telecommunications technology. They are able to give you a real-time read on customer issues, and that can come in handy.
For one customer, Amware’s call center flagged a quality issue with a product. As a result, further orders from the factory were stopped and Amware was able to send the overseas supplier taped recordings of customer complaints so they could listen and troubleshoot the problem. Your average fulfillment warehouse will not provide that level of integration and support to clients.
The advantages of integrated services
Order fulfillment in direct response marketing is not just about picking and shipping a product out of a warehouse. DRTV fulfillment involves inventory control, customer service, order processing and revenue collection. To achieve seamless fulfillment, it’s wise to work with partners that combine multiple services under one roof. A company with the experience, technology and processes to run a successful DRTV campaign, from planning to execution to post-campaign analytics.
A single-source partner eliminates the potential for mis-steps due to poor communication among your different suppliers. It also makes it easier and less time-consuming for you to manage the effort. To learn more about the advantages of synchronizing your order processing, fulfillment and customer service functions for DRTV fulfillment products, contact Amware Fulfillment to start a discussion.