It is estimated that by the time 2021 rolls in, e-commerce will account for 17.5 percent of the world’s total retail sales. But as demands grow, the challenge of running an e-commerce store also starts to increase.
One process that has become a lot more complex is fulfilling online orders.
E-commerce order fulfillment is one of the most essential processes for any online store. Without the right order fulfillment process in place, you are unable to deliver your products to your customers when they expect them.
In this post, we will discuss the order fulfillment and the various processes you need to undergo to fulfill that.
What is order fulfillment?
Order fulfillment is the task of getting and delivering the completed order to a customer. For a lot of business, here are the standard steps to successful order fulfillment:
- Online order is received
- Customer is notified that the order is received
- Request sent to the back-office system
- Order is processed in the back-office system
- Request sent for the fulfillment of warehouse
- Order is picked, packed, and shipped
- Customer is notified of the shipping
- Order arrives at the customer
If everything goes smoothly, the customer’s order arrives on time, is undamaged, and has the correct item(s). Now, how can you achieve this?
Here are effective tips to fulfilling orders:
1. Choose the right order fulfillment options
E-commerce businesses have different needs. The order fulfillment strategy that works well for your competitors might not go well for you. So, you must pick the right order fulfillment method for your business.
Here are the most commonly used order fulfillment methods:
- Third-party fulfillment: It usually involves outsourcing the order fulfillment process to a third-party service provider. Processes usually include creating optimized picking lists, management of inventory, packing boxes, shipping orders, and dealing with product returns.
- Merchant fulfillment: Also known as self or in-house fulfillment. This usually happens when an e-commerce seller completes the entire order fulfillment process without a third-party.
- Dropshipping: Has a more hands-on approach to order fulfillment and manufacturing. Inventory is produced, stored, and then shipped by the manufacturer of the product.
2. Invest in automation and technology
Having an order fulfillment software that will automate the communication between the warehouse and fulfillment center will help your business thrive.
The software usually stores vital data like tracking code, order number, and other important information that is relevant to the delivery. An automated order system will give you an advantage over your competitors because you can achieve any order with almost 100 percent accuracy.
You can also know the effect of inaccuracy in a manual fulfillment system when you calculate the ratio of the orders that are error-free over the total orders that are shipped. This helps you create a useful performance metric that will keep you one step ahead of the competition.
By using automation and technology to your advantage, you will save more time and money, especially when you process hundreds of orders on a daily basis.
3. Consider a robotic warehouse system
A robotic warehouse system significantly reduces unnecessary walking by delivering the work to the operators in an active area.
These collaborative robots will navigate long distances on their own, plan their routes effectively, and avoid saturated areas that significantly reduces travel time.
Most of them have sensors to help them distinguish boxes from humans, moving past them safely and quickly.
4. Create a seamless invoice process
Billing is one of the most crucial yet time-consuming processes in an order fulfillment strategy. Because cash flow and payment is important, having an accurate invoice process is key.
You can hire individuals to process these invoices manually. However, if you are expecting high demand, this process can be exhausting and can slow you down. Through automation, you can have an accurate invoice process, enabling you to process data quickly.
5. Make employee training a constant process
Consider the need for employee training every three months.
Your employees’ tenure with your company should not be a factor. That’s because even your most experienced staff might need to take a refresher course on how to use a specific technology that is available to them.
Continuous system training is vital to make workers more efficient and productive in their jobs.
6. Outsource your shipping
If you feel that everything is a bit overwhelming, consider outsourcing your shipping process.
There are various services available out there, depending on what type of support you need. For instance, you can consider drop shipping your products. Meaning, it is the manufacturer who will send the products directly to your customers.
Doing so will help you save more time and you do not have to deal with the shipping process. A potential drawback, though, is that you lose control of how items are shipped and delivered to your customers.
Alternatively, you can also try a third-party logistics provider to store your items, process your orders, and then ship it directly to your customers. All you need is to pick the right one that will cater to your shipping needs.
7. Consider courier pickups
Instead of piling all your packages in the car, and waiting in line in the post office, schedule a pick-up with your courier.
The carrier representative is usually will be the one coming over to your house, warehouse, or office to get your packages and input them to the mail.
8. Streamline functions whenever possible
If you are doing in-house order fulfillment, make sure that your packing stations are ergonomically designed to boost production. You can also test low-tech solutions like box builders and envelope inserters to speed up production.
Summing It Up
Order fulfillment is key to the success of any e-commerce business. But the ability to fulfill your customer’s online orders as quickly and as accurately as possible is a task that most retailers often struggle with.
Hopefully, the tips that we have mentioned will help you create a better shopping experience for your customers, all the way through delivery. It helps you avoid costly mistakes later on, like frustrated customers who are not likely to return and shop again.