Online vitamin purchases are increasing 12% faster than the average of all eCommerce categories combined, and sales are expected to reach $56.7 billion by 2024. Adding supplements to your online product offerings could be a great way to enhance your revenue stream – if you have the right vitamin fulfillment partner.
Here are a few key criteria to look for in selecting a 3PL for this exciting, but exacting, market segment.
Individuals who purchase vitamins are looking for health benefits. They expect the supplements they purchase to be safe and effective. Delivering on that expectation starts with good storage practices.
Do any of your products require temperature control for warehousing and/or shipping? Many supplements are fine when stored at “room temperature.” But others – soft gels, gummies and oils, for example – may require storage and shipping within a specific temperature range, especially during summer months in hot climates. Make sure your 3PL’s fulfillment centers can accommodate those requirements.
Stock rotation and expiration management
Supplements carry expiration dates to ensure that they’re effective when taken. While it may be fine to ship product that expires in 60 days to individual customers, bulk shipments to retailers require longer expiration dates so they don’t age out before purchase. Choose a 3PL with systems that can handle FIFO and FEFO rotation protocols and exceptions, including whether inventory nearing expiration should be shipped, held, destroyed or sent back.
Supplements also carry lot numbers in case a manufacturing mishap requires a recall. If that happens, you need to be able to quickly notify customers who received the product. Your vitamin fulfillment company’s systems should track and report every lot from the time it’s received at the warehouse through delivery to the individual or retailer that purchased it. This applies to fulfillment of vitamins, fulfillment of natural products and many other food and wellness products.
It goes without saying that you want your products to arrive in good condition. Beyond that, your 3PL should offer packaging options that reduce overall costs while still offering good product protection.
- Supplements supplied in hard plastic containers are more resistant to breakage or crushing during transport and can be shipped in bubble mailers or polybags. This will save money by reducing shipping weight, as well as the cost of the packaging itself.
- Oils and other liquids should be enclosed in a leak-proof pouch, then cushioned with bubble wrap or similar padding inside the box for maximum protection.
- Adding inserts, coupons and product samples to orders is a great way to cross-sell to your customers. You may even want to create a custom kit. Be sure to choose a 3PL that can customize the pack-out process to handle these requirements.
Ability to handle returns
It happens: sometimes orders are returned. If destruction is one of your product disposition options, your 3PL should be able to securely dispose of those products and give you a certificate of destruction through its retail and eCommerce returns process. If you plan to put some of that returned product back into inventory, verify that fulfillment personnel will inspect the items for tampering and verify lot numbers and expiration dates before restocking.
A few additional considerations
Depending on who and where your customers are, you should also consider looking for a fulfillment partner with:
- True multi-channel capabilities, equally adept at fulfilling bulk retail and direct-to-consumer orders.
- A nationwide network that can provide one- to two-day shipping to 95% of the country, while lowering your shipping costs.
If you’re not sure where to begin your search, contact Amware Fulfillment. We ship more than 50,000 health and wellness orders each day, using FDA-compliant distribution practices. We can help your business implement a vitamin fulfillment program that will build you a healthier bottom line.