Improving your eCommerce Fulfillment Process
What happens after people order a product from your online store? What concerns do those customers have after they place their order?
In today’s digital age we find that online consumers demand convenience. It is this convenience that has driven the ecommerce marketplace in North America, Asia, and Western Europe to surpass over $1.9 trillion dollars in online global shopping sales. These consumers aren’t “going” shopping but rather “are” shopping literally every time they open their smartphone or sit down on a computer. Without ever realizing it those consumers are continually being introduced to ecommerce websites and products through strategically placed advertising links. It’s these same consumers that average 15-20 online purchases per year, but they also have two major concerns before and after a purchase. These are: how quickly the order fulfillment process is completed, and how quickly will the product be delivered.
What exactly is the order fulfillment process? It’s all the steps companies take from the moment they receive an order until the time it gets into their customers’ hands. It is a time-consuming and complicated process, which challenges many online retailers regardless of how much experience they may or may not have in the ecommerce world. The process can be simplified into its bare components:
1. Logistic Planning
When orders are ready to be shipped, how are you going to deliver them to your customers? Do you have reliable shipping partners? Will the packages be handled carefully and arrive to the customers in good condition? How long will it take for the delivery? All these questions relate to your customers’ shipping experience.
When it comes to improving the order fulfillment process,
Inventory management is a key process to make your customers happy. Why? If a customer wants a product that is currently out of stock in your store they will be disappointed. However, all is not lost at this point. If you can at least inform your customers when you will expect stock to complete their purchase or at least be able to give them a specific timeframe for the order to be shipped this negative experience will turn into a positive one. I’m not saying the customer isn’t going to find it somewhere else but at least they now have the information to make an informed decision. If you cannot inform the customer of any of the above, then you will most definitely loose them and even worse direct them to a competitor’s store that has that item for a slightly lower price.
3.Supply Chain Management
When items are out of stock, how quickly can you get them back in stock? How quickly can your suppliers provide more products? Do you have other supply channels? How long will it take to get goods to your warehouse? The answers to these questions also have an impact on your order fulfillment process. Through real time updates from a warehouse management system, you can now take control of low inventories, see what products are moving in and out of your fulfillment center and what needs to be ordered based on availability.
4.Outsource to A Third-Party Order Fulfillment Company
Using the technology, shipping discounts and the workforce of a third-party order fulfillment company is one of the fastest and most cost-effective ways to fine tune your order fulfillment process. They can easily integrate your shopping cart with their order management system, and in real time can receive orders automatically instead of through human input. This reduces the chance of human error and can greatly improve the efficiency of the fulfillment process. Many 3PL’s (fulfillment centers), utilize barcode scanning technology for their fulfillment services which can improve accuracy and help avoid costly errors. Ecommerce sellers can also take advantage of the strong business relations many of the fulfillment companies have with various shipping carriers, and subsequently reduce their overall shipping costs. Inevitably its these carriers that will be delivering your goods to your consumer. Why not make it a quick and cost-effective part of your business. With their warehouse management system, product weights and dimensions are recorded. You will also have real-time control of inventory levels and get alerts for low inventory in time. Thus, your only need is to focus on continuing to grow your business while someone else handles the logistics of shipping.
5.Keep Your Inventory Well-organized
Many fulfillment centers will group and classify your items in several ways. Largest to smallest (since space equals revenue) Popular to least popular, overstocked and dead inventory. They will arrange your products in ways that are both easily accessible, can be picked and packed easily and can be handled in a way that is both time and cost effective. A well-organized arrangement of inventory helps to greatly improve the efficiency of processing orders. Every dollar that can be saved should be passed along onto you the client. To ensure accuracy on your side put your most popular items on the top of a spreadsheet that you can review with a 3rd party fulfillment provider. Classify and group your inventory from the best sellers to overstocked products so that you are taking an active part in handing off the logistics side of your business to someone else. You need to start focusing on growth while letting someone else deal with the shipping headaches.
What are the challenges you face with fulfillment process? What is your way to deal with it? Share them with us in the comments!