Bonobos’ Outsourced Fulfillment Strategy

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Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Bryan Wolff, CFO at Bonobos, and most notably, the company’s first customer as well as one of the very first investors.

I wanted to understand how Bonobos’ fulfillment strategy has grown up with the company. As most of you probably know by now, Bonobos is killing it! They believe in combining very high end products with exceptional service to deliver a customer experience that keeps fanatical customers coming back. The original problem that Bonobos set out to solve was ‘why do men’s pants fit so terribly?’ They focused on designing the best fitting pants and have since expanded to other apparel with a core focus on customer service.

Bonobos was founded in 2007. The first ‘warehouse’ was founder Andy Dunn’s bedroom outfitted with shelves right above his bed to store inventory. From there the company expanded to their first office in Manhattan of approximately 2500 square feet, followed by one double that size and finally now in their 30K square foot office since 2011.

In the first couple of years, it was necessary to touch and feel each pair of pants as they vetted out the best suppliers. At that time they were fulfilling about 75 orders per day and dedicating one full time person to handle the fulfillment. As they grew, they reached a point where they were confident in their suppliers and the quality of the product and did not feel the need to touch and feel each product. As their business and inventory grew they also reached a point where it was no longer cost effective to store inventory in their Manhattan office location. The time was right to look for a partner to help with fulfillment.

Keeping their core value of exceptional service at heart, the team set out to find the right partner. In 2009 they found what they were looking for and outsourced fulfillment to Quiet Logistics. The key to the success of their partnership is to treat the Quiet Logistics team as a natural extension of the Bonobos team. The companies meet regularly at the executive level as well as the manager and operations level to ensure that Bonobos retains their high level of customer service. It is a symbiotic relationship as Bonobos counts on them to deliver world-class fulfillment, and Bonobos is one of Quiet Logistics’ top three customers. As Bryan put it ‘It feels like one team.’ The companies have been working together for five years now.

One aspect of shipping that has never changed is the company’s commitment to offer free shipping on all orders. Remember 2007 when buying online was not yet mainstream? Now imagine asking men to buy pants online that they have never tried on. As Bryan put it, they had to remove any possible barrier to purchasing, and offering free shipping was an easy decision for them to make from the onset.

Since support is such core value of the Bonobos brand and company culture, they continue to provide all customer support in house. They work closely with Quiet Logistics to resolve customer requests and questions on shipping. By outsourcing fulfillment, which was not core to their business, the team could continue to focus on building the Bonobos brand, sourcing the highest quality suppliers and manufacturers, providing world-class service, and ultimately expanding into new areas such as the Bonobos Guideshops.