Cosmetics is big business. Globally, people spent $12.8 billion in 2022 to look and smell good. Many of those sales are online. That requires a cosmetic and beauty product fulfillment operation that can keep up with increasing volumes, but also handle unique storage and shipping requirements. Here’s what to look for when shopping for cosmetic fulfillment services.
Prime Inventory Storage Conditions
Many cosmetics and beauty products have ingredients that are sensitive to temperature and humidity. For instance, lip gloss can easily melt, or the formula of certain lotions can be compromised if they are kept at extreme or fluctuating temperatures. This leads to poor online reviews, disappointed customers and, ultimately, lower sales.
It’s critical to maintain the correct warehouse environment to avoid compromising the physical and chemical properties of sensitive cosmetic products. Look for a cosmetic fulfillment partner with experience storing and shipping these types of products. Additionally, one that has strong operational rigor around temperature monitoring.
The number of warehouses could make a ifferrence, as well. Cosmetics, especially natural products, don’t have the kind of shelf life that other products do. That’s why it may make sense to have a multi-location fulfillment network for cosmetics fulfillment that puts product closer to customers. A product moving across the country via parcel ground might take 5–6 days. During that time, quality can degrade.
Some cosmetics lose their effectiveness after their expiration date, so it’s essential to rotate your inventory so that the oldest products are the first to ship. Work with fulfillment 3PLs that are experienced in shipping according to First Expired/First Out (FEFO) or First In/First Out (FIFO) strategies.
If you sell through multiple channels, it also helps to have a 3PL cosmetics fulfillment provider that can choose products to ship based on the specific customer.
For example, let’s say your company sells to both consumers, who tend to use the product immediately after they receive it, and retailers who will store the product for a time before it hits the shelf. In these cases, your fulfillment partner may want to send the retailer the newest lots while consumers receive products from older lots that will be used well before their expiration time.
Naturally, providers of cosmetic fulfillment services should also offer real-time inventory visibility so you always know what’s in storage, how long it’s been there, and when it will expire.
Beauty products require a beautiful presentation. You see it when you walk the aisles of Ulta, Sephora or other beauty product retailers. When it comes to online sales, the experience of receiving and unboxing the product replaces this traditional retail experience. So, it’s essential that products are carefully packaged to convey the feeling you want your brand to elicit.
Cosmetics packaging should reflect the fun, luxury, and glamour of cosmetics. That could mean special filler material that not only protects the product but is your primary brand color. Not all fulfillment providers are willing to customize to this degree. Fulfillment By Amazon, for instance, doesn’t allow any kind of customization that slows down its one-size-fits-all fulfillment machine.
Packaging must be practical, as well as pretty. Many cosmetic products are small, lightweight and durable, making them good candidates for shipping in a polybag instead of a box. The weight differential between the two packaging types can make a significant difference in parcel shipping rates per package. High-volume shippers can achieve 6-figure savings annually from making the switch if bags make sense for their products.
In the world of 3PL cosmetics companies, not all providers are set up for successful beauty fulfillment. Search for a provider of cosmetic fulfillment services that will take the time to package the product in a way that matches your brand’s DNA.
Understanding the Customer Experience
Attractive, branded packaging is only part of the overall experience. Your beauty brand is more than just packaging and advertisements. Customers will remember how your brand made them feel, starting from the shopping experience and ending with the actual product use. It may not seem obvious on the surface, but how your business handles cosmetic fulfillment plays an essential role in enhancing the eCommerce customer experience.
For example, on-time shipping is essential for a good customer experience. A fulfillment house needs the right capabilities to ensure cosmetic shipments get out the door quickly. A standard warehouse often can’t handle unique requirements like custom packaging, managing a large volume of SKUs, protection from cross-contamination, and numerous other factors. If your fulfillment partner has little experience with these and other requirements of beauty fulfillment, it can result in picking delays, shipping errors, and more.
If customers receive a shipment late, get a wrong or missing item, or have another problem with delivery, your brand becomes associated their frustration moving forward. Cosmetics is a highly competitive market, and your customers can easily find another brand. As such, effective fulfillment has a direct impact on sales revenue.
In the cosmetics market, customers like to try out different things. As a result, the customer experience doesn’t always end when consumers receive and use beauty products. Shoppers may find themselves unhappy with a shade they chose or may order multiple options and return what they don’t need. Whatever the reason, cosmetic brands must provide easy, hassle-free returns as part of the post-purchase nurturing process if they hope to win customer loyalty.
This often means that cosmetics brands must accept opened and used products for return. As a result, the flow of returns necessarily includes an unpredictable mix of unopened products and items that buyers tried out and didn’t like. Managing this messy mix of returns is an essential capability for cosmetic fulfillment. Your fulfillment partner must be able to assess which returned items require disposal and which can be restocked and resold to recoup the most value.
Warehouse kitting involves bundling multiple SKUs to create a new product. Kitting is an essential cosmetic fulfillment capability since health and beauty shoppers tend to buy an array of products. In fact, when buying products that they use regularly, 96% of beauty product shoppers say they are somewhat likely to also purchase a product that’s new to them. This statistic presents a huge opportunity for beauty retailers to upsell customers with additional items. Good ideas for kitting include:
- Putting similar items together, such as blushes, eye shadows, eyeliners, or lipsticks in multiple shades
- Bundling complementary items like powder and brushes, foundation and sponges, eyeliner and mascara, etc.
- Pairing new or low-selling items with best sellers to expose consumers to other options in your product line
- Combining and discounting products that need to sell before they expire
- Offering subscription boxes full of high-value items that regularly ship to customers
Here’s another quick tip for inventory management. When kitting, ensure you can track the multiple SKUs as they combine into a single SKU. Otherwise, your inventory records will quickly become inaccurate.
From welcome kits to holiday product bundles, direct selling companies like Seacret have a greater need for kitting services, which can get quite complex. “For holidays like Black Friday, we might do 30 different kits – 30,000 orders in total – and those orders might all drop within a day and a half,” says logistics director Lane Tenney.
To handle kitting services, Seacret turns to Amware Fulfillment, which has systems-aided kitbuilding processes honed from decades of serving the direct selling industry. As new SKUs are created, the WMS adjusts inventory, and a quality check makes sure every kit exactly matches the prototype. That level of precise execution is maintained during the highest-volume periods.
Video: Custom Kitting
Check out this short video to see how kitting services are a key part of Amware's scalable fulfillment solution.
Multi-Channel Fulfillment for Cosmetic Products
If you sell your cosmetic products through online and retail channels, you’re faced with a different set of fulfillment requirements for each channel. For B2C, it’s about fast, efficient, and accurate processing of individual orders to shorten order-to-delivery cycle times to consumers. For B2B, it’s more about bulk storage/shipping and strict adherence to the routing guide requirements of larger retailers. These are very different environments, but things can go south quickly if you use separate facilities and systems to manage the channels.
When looking for multi-channel fulfillment services, find a partner with experience handling many different types and sizes of products and fulfilling orders to different end users. A B2C fulfillment company may not understand the complexities of retail distribution and a B2B-focused 3PL may not have the know-how and processes to handle high-volume consumer fulfillment. You want a 3PL fulfillment partner with a demonstrated ability to manage both channels from a single inventory pool and system.
Cosmetic Fulfillment Services That Can Scale
Cosmetic products are one celebrity tweet or one great new product introduction away from exponential growth. But, when that day comes, the last thing you want is a fulfillment operation that can’t keep up. That’s why it’s so important to create a scalable fulfillment infrastructure.
Image Skincare (Image) recognized that and shifted its fulfillment strategy to align with its aggressive growth goals. At one point, Image shipped to spas and licensed estheticians, specialty retailers and consumers throughout the country from a single warehouse in Florida. But the Florida facility was simply not capable of efficiently supporting the company’s 25% year-over-year growth, so the company tapped Amware Fulfillment to handle national fulfillment (except Florida and Georgia) from a more central Dallas location. Today, the company has a reliable fulfillment engine that can handle its current needs and can expand, if needed, to support future growth.
You might not think cosmetics are dangerous, but many beauty products must be classified as hazardous materials. Any cosmetic fulfillment provider must understand which products require special storage, handling, and transportation for safety purposes. For example, many aerosol sprays will fall under HAZMAT Class 2 for gases under pressure, HAZMAT Class 3 for flammable materials, or both. Examples include:
- Aerosol sprays, such as body sprays, deodorants, dry shampoo, hairspray, makeup setting sprays, or self-tanners
- Flammable liquids, like aftershaves, colognes, perfumes, nail polish, and nail polish remover
- Pressurized creams, including shaving creams and some foundations
Though shipping these items individually usually doesn’t require special certifications or licenses, beauty fulfillment necessarily requires proper HAZMAT labeling on storage containers when such items get stored in bulk. Improper handling can result in lost product, injuries, and other issues that could pose risks to your brand.
Find a Cosmetic and Beauty Fulfillment Partner That Makes You Look Good
Fulfillment companies boast similar capabilities: rigorous inventory management, efficient pick and packing processes, and fast shipping. But cosmetics brands should seek out specialized providers of cosmetic fulfillment services — companies experienced in the unique handling and shipping requirements of health and beauty products.
Connect with the Amware team to talk about the fulfillment requirements unique to your brand.