Lee Thompson from eCommerce fulfilment and technology specialist, Exact Abacus, discusses the benefits of ‘White Glove’ fulfilment services
If we think of someone who wears spotless white gloves as an integral part of what they do, it instantly conjures up images of roles that require attention to detail and high levels of service: a butler, the doorman of a five star hotel or a snooker referee, perhaps. There is a prestige in the image of the white glove and that philosophy sits at the heart of white glove fulfilment.
In essence, white glove fulfilment has successfully overcome one of the last obstacles in the ecommerce sector by enabling both the retailer and the consumer to trust high value and/or delicate items to the online channel.
But white glove fulfilment is much more than a literal interpretation of a warehouse team that handles products with white gloves. Done correctly, white glove fulfilment is a mark of quality that assures both the retailer and the customer that the service will go above and beyond standard practice in every aspect, ensuring that each item is handled, packaged and dispatched according to strict parameters agreed between the retailer and their fulfilment partner.
From exotic fruit to evening dresses
So what kind of retailers can benefit from white glove fulfilment?
One of the reasons that there is such an opportunity in white glove fulfilment is that it has so much potential to raise service levels and offer enhanced quality assurance across so many product categories.
Anything that is high value, delicate or needs special treatment is suitable for a white glove service but motivations for using the service will vary. For example, a pair of platinum wedding rings might easily arrive intact with standard handling but they are special items of high sentimental value on top of their obvious monetary price. Consequently, offering a white glove service is part of the customer journey and an investment in brand endorsement.
Meanwhile, the need for delicate medical instruments and equipment to arrive undamaged within their original sterile container may be both business critical and quite literally a matter of life and death for the recipient.
Other categories that often opt for a white glove service include fresh foods and perishable items, delicate fabrics and clothing items, antiques and rare items, cosmetics, fragile electronics, high-value tech and products that require customisation or embellishment.
When looking for a white glove fulfilment partner it’s essential to select a company that can offer a service aligned to the needs of the specific products and customer demographic: white glove fulfilment should not be perceived as a generic one-size-fits-all service.
Depending on the nature of white glove services offered, the fulfilment specialist may provide isolated, sealable cleanrooms, separate from their normal warehouses, to guarantee clean and hygienic conditions are maintained. They may also offer temperature- and humidity-controlled areas to cater for delicate and perishable items.
Advanced security systems is also a key requirement for fulfilment partners handling high-value products. If customisation is required, the fulfilment partner will need to demonstrate they have the facilities and skills to handle those needs, such as gift-wrapping stations, for example.
Finally, it is advisable to select a white glove fulfilment partner with the integrated technology and management processes to ensure a trackable and accurate flow of products from shelf to shipping, as the quality of service is just as important to the concept of white glove as product handling.
Prizing value over cost
While white glove fulfilment will cost more than a standard service, it can deliver immeasurable value to a retailer’s business. Not only can it support repeat business but it also ensures positive reviews and customer endorsement, helping to build business while delighting customers and adding value to their selected product.
Lee Thompson is from eCommerce fulfilment and technology specialist, Exact Abacus