You Thought the ASN Was Challenging: 4 Tips To Help Retailers Scale Drop Ship Programs

    Do you remember when the ASN – the advanced ship notice – was first introduced, and what a headache it was? The ASN was often called “the document from hell” earning this nickname because of the laborious process required to accurately complete the document and the potential for problems once a shipment reached a retailer’s distribution center.

    Today, the ASN is a standard part of doing business for bulk shipments . However, if you are a EDI manager, there is another, more complex, process with the potential to match the headaches of the ASN.

    Vendor drop ship.

    Omnichannel Dropship Process

    Four Steps to Dropship Vendor Onboarding

    What makes drop shipment more complex is the end-consumer is part of the process from the get-go, and are exposed to the entire process. As a result, there are plenty of processes to juggle: inventory information accuracy, order tracking and shipment tracking. The potential for stock-outs increases when the exchange of trading documents with your vendor community are not communicated in an accurate and timely manner. This can lead to unmet customer expectations and lost revenue opportunities.

    Adding trading partners to your drop ship program requires more than just ensuring trading documents are flowing. Your vendor management program must include end-to-end process visibility with collaborative tools to resolve supply chain exceptions quickly.  

    Use the following four steps as a baseline for drop ship trading partner on-boarding.

    1. Make Sure Product Information Is Accurate

    A seamless dropship program starts with accurate product information, everything from price to weight to product images. Add the ecommerce extended attributes for the product catalog to your Vendor Standards Manual so that you receive all the information necessary to populate your ecommerce website.

    2. Integrate Available Inventory in Real Time

    To take an order from the ecommerce consumer and have it fulfilled by a dropship vendor, you need accurate and timely inventory visibility. We often find that updating inventory multiple times throughout the day is sufficient for most retailers. To accomplish this, it may be necessary to have these documents prioritized in your communication queue. Also, consider how third-party providers can assist vendors with maintaining and communicating inventory so it’s available for your website.

    3. Have Rigorous Shipment Standards

    Remember, shipments are going straight to the consumer; a package will never be in the retailer’s hands. Ensure that your ecommerce consumers are updated on the status by integrating small parcel carrier package shipment tracking into your process. That means taking the shipment documents from your vendor and extracting the carrier tracking number and updating your ecommerce website with up-to-date shipping information. With the volume of ecommerce orders, particularly around peak seasons like holidays, there is potential for errors. Many vendors are handling hundreds of ecommerce orders each day, and none of them are the same. Make sure you maintain rigorous standards for physical shipments. This will help track compliance and better manage orders when they leave the vendor.

    4. Consider a Third-Party Dropship Solution Provider

    Trying to handle these details yourself, particularly with smaller vendors who lack IT resources, can be challenging. A third-party dropship solution provider can help you control the direct-to-consumer order and fulfillment process, on-board vendors quickly and keep meticulous score of vendor performance with online dashboards and real-time notifications.

    Similar to when you implemented the ASN to support automated receiving and cross-docking for bulk shipments; you’re squarely in the middle of a complex coordination process between your merchants, customer service and your vendors.

    Having ready access to vendor performance trends from a partner can help you quickly identify and solve any compliance issues before they become major customer service problems.

    Report: The State of Drop Ship Compliance