Your ecommerce order fulfillment process can determine the success of an online store. Speed of delivery is one of the key expectations of your customers, with statistics showing that an overwhelming majority of customers search elsewhere if an order delivery takes too long.
If you don’t know, slow delivery is one of the reasons why customers abandon shopping carts.
To stay ahead of your competitors, you must strive to fulfill orders as fast as possible. Luckily, you have come to this post. Here we look at tips to improve your order fulfillment process for better customer experience and operations effectiveness.
What makes a successful order fulfillment process?
Before we look at how to improve your order fulfillment process, it is crucial to define what makes a successful order fulfillment. Ideally, here’s what are the steps of a good order fulfillment process:
- The customer places an order
- The company process the order in their back-office system and notifies the customer that the order has been received
- Send fulfillment request to the warehouse
- The order is picked and packed
- Order is shipped, and a shipping notification is sent to the customer
- Order arrives at the location of the customer’s choice on time
If your company can achieve this, your customers will receive the item on time and in good condition. Read along to learn how your company can achieve this.
Determine your order fulfillment cycle time
Understanding your order fulfillment cycle time is paramount when trying to improve your order fulfillment. Among other things, this will help you know how effective your current order fulfillment is and where you need to improve.
As earlier stated, customers are more likely to choose a company with a fast order fulfillment process than one that fulfills orders slowly.
A fulfillment cycle that takes days or weeks (which is not uncommon in ecommerce) means low customer satisfaction rates and a decline in your online business.
That said, here’s how you can understand your order fulfillment:
- Expected order cycle time — This refers to the order fulfillment time you promise your customers, which forms the basis of understanding your order fulfillment cycle.
- Actual order fulfillment time — What is the average time it took for a customer to receive an item after ordering on your website? Aim to fulfill your orders as fast as possible.
- Supply chain cycle time — How long does it take to fulfill an order if you order raw materials?
Understanding your order fulfillment cycle time will help identify any loopholes in order fulfillment and make the necessary adjustments.
Assess your item details
When it comes to ecommerce, people want as much information about a product as possible before deciding to purchase. Ensure that you have all the available product details, including photos and inventory.
Unlike brick-and-mortar business models, customers need to trust you before purchasing from your online store. Having enough product details will help customers have the confidence to buy from you.
Additionally, you need to ensure that the inventory information on your ecommerce website is correct. What you indicate on your website should be available in stock. This way, you won’t inform customers (days after) that their purchase is in backorder, which is a quick way to lose them.
Utilize seamless integration
If you source your products from various distributors or store your goods in warehouses, it’s crucial to demand seamless integration with your suppliers. In that case, having an order management system (OMS) will come in handy to enable smooth communications between your company and your suppliers.
Classify your inventory
Another great way to improve your ecommerce order fulfillment is by organizing your inventory. One way to organize your warehouse is to classify your stock according to demand. This is beneficial to your business because:
- It helps maintain enough stock for fast-moving products at all times
- Ensures faster tracing of fast- and slow-moving inventory in your warehouse
- Ultimately, this will significantly reduce order processing time, improving your order fulfillment process.
Automate your order fulfillment process
The need for automation in shipping and logistics cannot be overstated. While automation might sound overwhelming for beginners, it is vital for an effective order fulfillment process.
Automating your order process doesn’t mean that robots will run your warehouse. Not at all. It means eliminating time-consuming manual, repetitive tasks prone to human errors.
Entering data manually into each system will decrease efficiency and lead to low-quality work.
This is especially the case if you have orders coming in from different channels. With a standard automated fulfillment process, fulfilling these orders is straightforward.
Automation helps generate orders, choose the best packaging option, prepare invoices, choose the best courier service, and follow up with customers for better customer experience and repeat sales.
Automating your order fulfillment processes will not only reduce human error. It will also reduce operational costs.
Enable end-to-end order visibility
An order management system (OMS) enhances communication within the supply chain. It can also help improve visibility across your supply chain.
End-to-end visibility means that you and your suppliers can see information about ordered items, order processing status, and inventory levels in real-time. This helps determine the items available in your inventory, quantities, and location.
Your customers will also see your available stock, quantity, quality and track their order. This will help improve transparency and encourage them to purchase from your website.
Pick the right shipper
All the above back-end operations will help ensure that things run smoothly within your company. Now let’s look at the major stumbling block to ecommerce — shipping.
Amazon has “spoiled” customers with its one-day, two-day, or even same-day shipping. Even if you cannot offer these levels of delivery speeds to your customers, you need to choose an excellent and efficient shipper.
Delivery times are among the major determiners in customer decision-making for ecommerce orders. If possible, work with a shipper who can guarantee two-day shipping. The most important thing is to ensure that your shipper offers real-time and accurate order tracking.
Don’t ignore reverse logistics
For some ecommerce companies, all that matters is to get products to the customers. While this is a good thing, you need to think about the reverse process — how a returned item from the customer will get back to you.
Yes, returned products are part of your order fulfillment process.
You cannot completely avoid getting returns. However, the process can be less painful if you plan for it from the beginning.
Ensuring that returned items get to your inventory as quickly as possible helps in two ways: Firstly, it allows customers to return damaged items back to you easily.
And secondly, it reduces problems in your fulfillment chain — you won’t over-order on stock or reject orders thinking you don’t have the item in stock.
Communicate with your customer
Last but not least, you need to communicate with your customer throughout the entire process. And we don’t just mean informing your customer that their order has been received. But rather on-demand, up-to-date, and real-time updates regarding the order status, including when the order is received, in process, shipping, and when the item is delivered.
The bottom line is to ensure that your customer knows what is happening regarding their order and create a more transparent order fulfillment process for more customer satisfaction.