Receiving, processing and delivering orders – these all fall into order fulfilment, and are absolutely crucial when it comes to making sure the customer gets their delivery. It may not be the most exciting of topics, but as an online seller, there’s nothing more important that getting your order fulfilment right, whether you’re sending orders out to large businesses or straight to individual buyers, fulfilment matters every time.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the journey from the order been received to the delivery being made, and any hints and tips along the way.
First thing’s first. Receiving.
The fulfilment process starts from the moment you receive inventory from your manufacturers or suppliers. It’s at that point that you – or your fulfilment provider – counts every item to make sure the number of items received is the same as the number of items ordered. After that comes inspection – to make none of the goods are damaged, and the addition of SKUs – to keep track of the items and how they’re selling.
Have you ever thought about outsourcing your fulfilment process? You may be able to save on things like warehouse rent, insurance and staffing, and you only pay for the labour you need – no staff holidays to pay, or wages to fork out in quieter times. The third-party option may be the way forward.
Next up, it’s Inventory Storage
So you’ve counted your items. All present and correct, no damage, and SKUs added. Next, you’ve got to get it on the shelf. Getting this part right will help make the process of order fulfilment faster and more accurate.
Each SKU will usually be given its own storage area which will result in quicker and more efficient processing. Usually it’s just a small proportion of the inventory that’s put into bins – the rest of it will be placed in overflow storage areas elsewhere in the warehouse. The best and fastest-selling items should be put within close proximity to where the orders are packed. To ensure your SKUs are managed optimally you could look into using someone like SkuVault.
If you’re not using a fulfilment provider, then you can look to save money on storage. The cost of storage can be so expensive, so think outside the box (no pun intended). You might be able to get a deal on some unused garages locally. You could buy a big, cheap vehicle. Or if you have room, why not buy a garden shed or even a shipping container? You could save a lot of money, and you might even be able to sell your storage space on when you’re done with it.
When a customer places an order, you’ve got to get that order to your fulfilment warehouse. This is done most simply by incorporating fulfilment software into your shopping cart, so any orders are sent straight through to the warehouse without you having to do anything.
The items that make up an order are then picked off the shelves and taken to a packing station. This is where quality control should happen and the item correctly packaged. From here, it goes to the shipping station.
If you’ve outsourced your fulfilment to external suppliers, go and visit them. You’ll get a real insight into how it all works and learn the tips of the trade.
Having weighed the package, the shipping station will decide best way to get it shipped. The bigger or more unusual the package, or the more specific the shipping requirements, the more complex a job shipping becomes. The shipping station will keep track of where the order has got to, so customers can in turn track their order. You could use someone like Seko Synergy for this service.
When shipping internationally, consider trackable ship options. While there are less expensive options out there, it is generally in the best of interests of merchants to choose a higher quality service. Not only will transit times be shortened and overall customer satisfaction higher, by receiving tracking data and delivery confirmation, it will help to better protect sellers from possible fraud. Steve Bulger from E Fulfilment Service – www.efulfillmentservice.com
Some online sellers forget about returns in the fulfilment process, but for many customers, it’s one of the things that makes customers choose a product in the first place – knowing they can return it if they’re not happy. So make it totally clear on your website how a customer can return goods, and make it clear to fulfilment providers / your staff how such returns should be dealt with.
If you deal well with customers though the returns process, you’re more likely to reap the rewards when they use you again. It’s well worth looking into how you’ll deal with international returns before you sell internationally.
There’s more to the eCommerce fulfilment than sometimes meets the eye, and getting it right is one of the keys to the success of your online business. If you’re selling overseas, one of the other important considerations is the opening of international bank accounts, where you can put your profits from overseas sales, before repatriating your funds. World First can help set up accounts for free, and will get you a competitive exchange rate when sending your money home. Find out more by clicking here.