With the rapid acceleration of eCommerce demand, particularly during the pandemic, consumer expectations have become increasingly challenging for retailers. Not only do online retailers have to balance frequently unpredictable shifts in demand across channels, but to capture and retain consumer loyalty, they must always support consumer expectations for premier service.
Global 3PL, PFS, enables brands to provide seamless omnichannel experiences that exceed expectations through a global, multi-node fulfillment network. They combine multiple strategically located distribution points with their Distributed Order Management (DOM) technology to enable intelligent order routing across locations. Fulfillment points include PFS-operated distribution centers (DCs), metro-fulfillment centers, pop-up DCs, retail stores, and more. This approach equips brands to optimize inventory across geographies and support consumer expectations for rapid delivery and consistent quality.
Under Mike Willoughby’s leadership, the company has witnessed unprecedented growth. Mike has continuously worked to keep PFS operations world-class and ensure PFS’ service offerings remain the premier solution available to brands selling online. PFS team members are encouraged and equipped to constantly seek ways to improve operations in line with the company mission to create exceptional client and consumer experiences. This entrepreneurial spirit is evident across all business areas within
Supporting Growing eCommerce Demand
Modern consumers continue to crave a more personalized shopping experience. Despite consumers adopting a digital-first approach to shopping post-COVID, they still want to feel seen by the retailers and brands they choose to shop from. For example, in a consumer research survey PFS conducted following the outbreak of COVID-19, 39% of shoppers stated they would instead shop on a brand’s website over an online marketplace.
Brand image remains critical. PFS solutions ensure clients’ brand image remain front and center throughout the post-purchase experience. Moreover, the company’s value-added services engage consumers in a personalized way, encouraging loyalty to the brand. Its operations are designed to scale as needed, whether that means a sudden spike in demand, seasonal peaks, promotions, etc. – all while maintaining a positive brand image.
Brand-centric operations at PFS include branded packing materials, SKU-driven inserts, personalization services such as product engraving or custom bundles, QR codes for further brand messaging, customer service infused with the brand’s spirit and values, and more.
PFS’ ability to offer a brand-forward operation at scale is one of their key differentiators. PFS applies almost three decades of industry experience in designing and customizing each client’s solution to meet their unique business needs and the expectations of their consumers. Additionally, as part of its ongoing continuous innovation initiatives, PFS is constantly implementing new technologies and processes to improve the efficiency of its solutions while keeping costs as low as possible.
PFS designs solutions to support each brand’s unique requirements and expectations. They promote everything from custom pack-outs to value-added services such as engraving, embroidery, and returns processing services such as refurbishment. Whatever a brand requires, PFS supports the operation to reflect its spirit and values transparently, accurately and positively to the customer. For instance, its proprietary distributed order management (DOM) technology empowers retailers to route orders across multiple fulfillment points depending on parameters set by each brand, including delivery preferences, shipping time and costs, inventory optimization at stores, and even the option for more sustainable delivery methods. Using a DOM, brands can support multiple distribution centers across geographies (for example, shipping from DCs in the UK and mainland Europe to support faster delivery times for customers in each region). The DOM also supports alternative delivery methods ranging from store fulfillment offerings (e.g., curbside pick-up and buy online pick-up in-store [BOPIS], ship-from-store, etc.) to micro-fulfillment centers and temporary pop-up DCs.
Instances showcasing PFS’ expertise include the provision of order management and payment processing services for SkinCeutical’s direct-to-consumer (DTC) eCommerce channel. Although not a current PFS order fulfillment client, they had a loyalty merchandise program that required a one-time fulfillment operation. SkinCeuticals needed a quick and cost-effective pick-pack-ship solution without a complex 3PL integration to fulfill a customer loyalty program redemption event. With minimal set-up time and utilizing PFS staff, a pop-up fulfillment center was deployed using PFS’ RetailConnectTM product to satisfy the loyalty program orders.
The pop-up took just two days to implement, required no expensive technology integrations or long-term commitments, and was completed after processing 300+ multi-line orders in a few hours. As part of the set-up, PFS created UPC labels for some of the products (which ranged from skincare bottles to hats), packed items using custom-branded packaging, and processed shipping labels using rate shopping software.
PFS has also provided order fulfillment for a major jewelry brand’s direct-to-consumer and selected B2B channels since 2012. PFS has played an instrumental role in furthering their expansion into the U.S. market from Europe and has scaled the solution each year to keep up with its rapid growth. Its fulfillment solution for this major jewelry brand includes secure, caged picking areas in PFS’ distribution centers, custom packaging for fragile products, and scalable operations that can handle 20x standard daily output capacity during the busiest peak periods. Today, PFS manages their solution in four fulfillment nodes across the U.S., UK, and Europe, providing transportation programs for local markets based on volume across each fulfillment center. Over the years, PFS has also supported the brand’s jewelry hallmarking process and operated pop-up fulfillment operations in Canada and Germany to meet increased peak demand quickly.
PFS is continuously looking to further its multi-node capabilities and broaden its clients’ reach with the highest service levels by adding more facilities in different geographies. They are always seeking new and innovative technologies to help make these facilities as efficient as possible. PFS’ 3–5-year automation roadmap includes expansion of existing technology at its facilities (including light-driven pick carts/walls and paperless picking), introducing more mechanization that complements or enhances human tasks (e.g., inventory counting with drones and autonomous mobile robots), and experimenting with fully automated and smart distribution centers.
Sustainability is another essential item on the PFS roadmap. “In December of 2022 we kicked off a formal Sustainability Initiative, through which we are working with a sustainability consultant to determine an action plan for measuring and building sustainability into our operations,” says Mike. “PFS strives to move towards a sustainable future in partnership with our clients by supporting the sustainability objectives our clients are working towards and offering sustainable alternatives within our own operations. Environmentally, this means supporting clients in their initiatives, sourcing recyclable materials, and adopting technology that reduces paper use.”