Receiving, processing and delivering orders – these all fall into order fulfillment, 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 crucial to customer service than getting your order fulfillment right. Whether you’re sending orders out to large businesses or straight to individual buyers, fulfillment matters every time.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the journey from receiving the order to the delivery being made, and share some hints and tips along the way.
First thing’s first. Receiving.
The fulfillment process starts from the moment you receive inventory from your manufacturers or suppliers. It’s at that point that you, or your fulfillment provider, counts every item to make sure the number of items received matches the number of items ordered. After that comes inspection – checking to see that the goods aren’t damaged, and the addition of SKUs – to keep track of the items and how they’re selling.
Have you considered outsourcing your fulfillment process? You may be able to save on things like warehouse rent, insurance and staffing, and you only pay for the labor 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 fulfillment 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.
Save money on storage. The cost of storage can be so expensive, so think outside the box (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 when you’re finished with it.
When a customer places an order, you’ve got to get that order through to your fulfillment warehouse. This is done most simply by incorporating fulfillment software into your shopping cart, so any orders are sent straight through to the warehouse without you having to lift a finger.
The items that make up an order are then picked from the shelves and taken to a packing station. This is where quality control steps in and then the item can be correctly packaged. From here, it goes to the shipping station.
If you’ve outsourced your fulfillment 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, as well as know how to best do quality and process checks if need be.
After weighing 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 tabs on the package so customers can in turn track their order.
Don’t overpromise. Make sure the parcels arrive with your customers by the time you say they will. Keep your promise, and the chances are they’ll be back again, and give you a good rating to boot. If you don’t, that’s a sure fire way to quickly fall out of favor with your customer.
Some online sellers forget about returns when thinking about the fulfillment process. For many customers, it’s one of the things that makes customers choose a product in the first place – knowing that returning an item they’re unhappy with is an option. So make it totally clear on your website how a customer can return goods, and make it clear to fulfilment providers and/or your staff how such returns should be dealt with.
If you deal well with customers through the returns process, you’re more likely to reap the rewards when they use you again.
There’s more to the eCommerce fulfillment 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.