Georgia-based a2b Fulfillment takes the worries of order fulfillment and customer care off its clients’ plates.
By Chris Petersen
Nearly 15 years ago, Ayal Latz decided he needed a change. At the time, the young entrepreneur was running just about every aspect of his family’s successful toy business, Latz Chance Games. The business had spawned from a board game about Dinosaurs that he and his family invented in the late 90’s, titled ‘Survival or Extinction.’ That game quickly grew into an award-winning toy company offering a small line of educational products and garnering 11 awards in the toy industry along the way.
But Latz was finding his passion for selling the products to retail outlets was quickly becoming in danger of being extinct. “I guess it’s no surprise, but I really love the operations and logistics side of the business,” explains Latz. “Plus, we were running out of new product options to introduce to the market.”
Through the company’s warehouse, Latz saw much more opportunity. He had witnessed the pros and cons of owning that much space, and he had made a few relationships with other toy vendors that recognized the value in outsourcing those services rather than take on the risk and hassle of doing it themselves. After reaching out to a few companies he had worked with in the past, Latz formed a2b Fulfillment in 2001.
Today, a2b Fulfillment is a leading provider of warehousing and order fulfillment services, with more than 100 clients throughout the country. According to Latz, nearly three-quarters of the company’s work is for consumer-direct marketers, with the remaining business taken up by retail distributors. Latz says the value a2b Fulfillment provides to these customers is its ability to handle virtually any and every aspect of the order fulfillment process, from the point of order acquisition to the moment consumers receive their orders.
By taking some of the most complex elements of their operations out of their hands, a2b Fulfillment helps retailers and consumer-direct marketers work more efficiently and better serve their customers, Latz says. By focusing on customizing solutions that meet the individual needs of clients and always seeking out new ways to improve on its services, a2b Fulfillment isfocused on being partnership minded as opposed to simply seeking out new customers..
What a2b Fulfillment brings to the table for its clients is a more complete solution to their needs than any of its competitors, according to Latz. “There’s certainly no shortage of fulfillment providers out there, but where we excel is in developing specific solutions for companies that operate in certain verticals,” he says.
The company’s services are concentrated on three categories – order fulfillment, customer care and value-added services. a2b Fulfillment’s warehousing and order fulfillment services are built on both speed and accuracy and fit the needs of clients in the ecommerce, direct response and retail spaces
Customer care services were added several years ago to help facilitate the complexities that arise from Direct Response order fulfillment. However, many clients are seeking this aspect of the business due to the increasing need for companies to provide phone and web support to its customers . The company also provides services such as chargeback management and social media management to help its clients interact with their customers. Value-added services provided by a2b Fulfillment include reverse logistics, product refurbishment and kitting and assembly.
In all of these areas, Latz says, the company is focused on meeting the needs of their clients in an ever-changing business landscape. “Whether it’s integration with a new system or technology or taking the time to better understand what the (customers’) goals are for a business, we remain flexible to ensure we can develop a successful pathway for our clients.”
Taking on Challenges
One of the biggest challenges a2b Fulfillment faces is the complex nature of the very industry it’s in – order fulfillment. “There are no shortages of challenges, as we’re providing so many different services and the environment is constantly changing,” Latz says. “But we like to think we have a very effective approach to meeting the demands of the industry.”
Education is one of the most powerful weapons a2b Fulfillment has in combatting the market demand, and Latz says the company is vigilant about staying on top of the latest developments in the industry. The company is an active member in numerous organizations and associations locally, regionally and nationally, and Latz says he has a rolodex full of trusted advisors to call upon at any given moment to help keep the company educated about the market.
Technology also plays a critical role, and Latz says a2b Fulfillment is dedicated to utilizing the best systems to meet the demand for all of its clients. From their ability to integrate with just about any shopping cart platform to the shipping intelligence system that chooses the optimal carrier based on lowest cost or time-in-transit, a2b seeks to make client setup a snap and the ongoing customer process extremely efficient. a2b maintains a paperless distribution environment where an intelligent system orchestrates all the activity.
All of these elements are important because, as Latz explains, a2b Fulfillment’s clients are running up against customers’ increasing expectations every day. He says the rise of ecommerce has shifted the playing field and made it more important than ever for the companies a2b Fulfillment serves to have their fulfillment processes on point. “What was the norm five years ago is no longer the norm today,” Latz says. “People are expecting to receive their orders quicker, and at lower costs.”
In this challenging new environment, Latz says, the importance of the services a2b Fulfillment provides cannot be overstated, and the company looks forward to helping its clients even more in the future. “The whole goal is how fast can we communicate to the customer that their order has shipped,” he says. “But also exceed the expectations of the customer so that our clients shine throughout the entire process.”