Apparel Fulfillment Fundamentals for E-Commerce

The apparel industry is taking e-commerce by storm in terms of volume and revenue– how can sellers be competitive in this saturated market?

By now, we’re all aware of the extraordinary rise of e-commerce, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, but let’s take a look at the industry that has seen the biggest rise of all– fashion and apparel. With a global market value of $759.5 billion in 2021, apparel, accessories, and footwear are the number one e-commerce sector in the world, according to Statista.

While the e-commerce industry continues to evolve and respond to consumer demands, brand and retailer operations are also constantly changing. One of the most crucial aspects of running a successful e-commerce apparel business is fulfillment– storing products, picking and packing orders, and ultimately delivering your brand to customers. Apparel is a highly complex industry to manage when it comes to e-commerce fulfillment thanks to large product catalogs, high returns rates, and consumer expectations on delivery timelines and brand experience.

A third-party logistics provider, specializing in fashion and apparel fulfillment, can help brands reduce shipping costs and delivery times—hello happy customers!—all while managing complex product inventory. Shipwire is a full-service 3PL provider with a global warehouse network, fulfilling e-commerce orders for direct-to-consumer, retail, and dropship channels. We support many industries, including apparel, using specialized warehouse partners. Let’s talk about the benefits of leveraging a 3PL specialized in apparel.

Returns Management

Due to the complexities of fit and personal preferences, apparel boasts one of the highest return rates compared to other e-commerce verticals. There are many nuances when it comes to how apparel products should be received back into inventory upon return. Some articles of clothing are unsuitable for resale without treatment, like bathing suits or intimates while some apparel items require steaming and re-poly bagging, for example. As such, the dispositioning of apparel returns is best managed by professionals.

Shipwire partners with Happy Returns – a 3PL specializing in apparel fulfillment – which means that we have the operational procedures, technology, and expertise to ensure you turn your high return rate into resale opportunities while maintaining brand integrity. Beyond the operational and logistical aspects of apparel returns, the customer experience is also crucial. By teaming up with Happy Returns, we’re able to create the best customer experience when it comes to returns– ease of initiating and completing returns, eco-friendly packaging, and cost savings for your business.

Specialized Storage and Handling

Apparel brands generally have high volumes of product SKUs to support numerous styles, colors, and sizes. The products can look very similar at a glance, posing a challenge in the fulfillment process when it comes to picking and packing orders. Shipwire is well-versed in operational procedures and related technology to ensure order accuracy and maintain inventory integrity. Our apparel warehouse partner uses event-pick modules – which allow for accurate, efficient picking and an integrated parcel carrier selection/optimization service – providing you with real-time feedback on shipping costs.

As a Shipwire customer, you gain access to our cloud-based inventory and order management platform – which provides you with insights on stock levels across all fulfillment locations you leverage – as well as data insights on sales geographies, trends, and other business analytics. The Shipwire platform runs in sync with our warehouse network, providing accurate, real-time data to help manage your business.

Value-Added Services

Brand experience is more important to today’s consumers than ever before. Our warehouse partners are specialized in a wide range of value-added services specific to the apparel industry, including labeling, gift cards, custom packaging, custom hang tags, marketing material inserts, garment hanging, merchandise barcoding, etc. Apparel brands often run campaigns and need to quickly and easily pivot their brand image accordingly. Being able to rely on a professional fulfillment provider to execute special requests and drive brand image is important in today’s competitive market.

Shipwire offers a wide variety of services to support apparel brands and retailers, including:

  • Merchandise barcoding systems
  • Custom hang tags
  • Returns and exchange management
  • Real-time inventory monitoring
  • Two-day shipping
  • Clean and secure warehouse storage
  • Strategic warehouse locations around the world
  • Packaging solutions, including environmentally friendly options
  • Garment hanging
  • Custom branding options including marketing materials insertion
As a brand, it’s helpful to have these white-glove services available in the fulfillment process to reduce touchpoints and product movement– which saves a business both time and money.

We’d love to learn more about your business and show you the power of a professional fulfillment partnership. Let’s connect and see how Shipwire can help your business grow.

Shipwire, a CEVA Logistics Company, is a full-service 3PL provider that fulfills ecommerce orders for direct-to-consumer, retail and drop shipping channels by leveraging a suite of advanced technology and a network of global warehouses. With a cloud-based platform for order and inventory management and real-time business intelligence and customizable reporting, we help brands and retailers expand their businesses across sales channels to reach more customers.
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