No one plans to fail when they start an eCommerce business but many do fail. That is because they are underfunded, ill-prepared, don’t make the marketing effort needed, or do not give their customers good service. It is important to start a business online with a plan to succeed. Do your homework and research before you start. Get professional advice and assistance in setting up the business. Understand all the processes involved in running a successful eCommerce business. Have a good product that will be in demand and treat customers well. Do not skimp on order fulfillment.
Delivery or product fulfillment is Everything
When a person starts an eCommerce business they must pay close attention to the delivery of their product to customers. Online customers expect fast delivery times and excellent customer service. If they are unhappy with how they are treated or how long their order takes to be delivered, they will go elsewhere. This is a business where you do not get second chances.
Before opening the eCommerce business, have all your ducks in a row. It is especially important to have sufficient products to ship and to have fast shipping services online. Slow fulfillment of orders and delayed shipping can kill an online business faster than anything. It takes a carefully planned and executed e-commerce fulfillment operations process to keep costs down and delivery time fast. When your business is in the planning stages, get professional help to develop the fulfillment process. It will pay off.
Your Logistics must include a fulfillment center that provides important technology for streamlined packing and delivery services. A warehouse is not enough without complete fulfillment capabilities.
Just What is a Fulfillment Center?
A fulfillment center is more than a warehouse, it is a place that stores, processes, and ships customer orders for your business.
A fulfillment center might be a third-party logistics company that fulfills orders on behalf of your company and others. This service includes storing products, packing customer orders, labeling them, and shipping them promptly.
A warehouse is a building where your company products can be delivered and stored as inventory. Products are often delivered in bulk on a weekly or monthly basis or as ordered. This is a warehouse’s main function. Additional fulfillment services are required with additional warehouse personnel or a third-party service.
A fulfillment service or center has the goal of shipping out orders for their client’s customers on a daily basis or as needed. The fulfillment center employees will read customer orders and assemble the orders into packages to ship. They will then label the packages with the customer’s name and address. A shipping company picks up these packages quickly to deliver.
How Do Fulfillment Centers Operate?
General fulfillment center operations follow these steps with variations to meet customer needs.
- The eCommerce business ships inventory to the fulfillment company center. This can be done routinely to keep stock available or as needed.
- The customer pays the eCommerce company.
- The fulfillment center is notified and checks to see if the product is in stock. It is then processed. They mark the new order on their software to help the eCommerce client track their customer order’s progress.
- The fulfillment service assembles the order and packages it.
- The assembled package is labeled for shipping according to the brand’s directions.
- A designated carrier picks up the package to ship within a day.
- The package is delivered to the waiting customer.
- Fulfillment centers can also be charged with handling customer returns.
Improving eCommerce Order Fulfillment
Not all order fulfillment companies or strategies are equal. Do you want a large facility to handle all your business, or do you want smaller strategically located fulfillment centers to facilitate faster delivery times? Does your company have the ability to handle its own fulfillment services or is it better to hire a third party? There are four strategies every eCommerce business owner should think about when striving to improve fulfillment outcomes.
- Do you want to handle fulfillment services internally or hire third-party fulfillment logistics providers? Consider all the cost/benefit areas such as space rental, personnel, automation, and packaging. Gain an understanding of the time it takes to achieve order fulfillment, then seek ways to shorten that time. It may turn out that hiring a third party will shorten the fulfillment time more than anything you could do in-house.
- If a company has both brick-and-mortar locations and eCommerce capabilities, it may be wise to use the brick-and-mortar buildings and stock to augment order fulfillment for the eCommerce side of the business.
- Is it better for your eCommerce company to have one large fulfillment center working for you or to have several strategically located smaller fulfillment centers? The smaller fulfillment centers located closer to large customer areas could speed up delivery times.
- The eCommerce company owner should consider adding automation to their fulfillment facilities. Using a combination of robotics and computer programming can improve speed and precision. Combining these improvements with well-trained employees can be a winning combination. It is important to accelerate eCommerce order fulfillment to keep customers with high expectations demanding ever faster product delivery.
In addition, you should consider automating the ordering procedures. Automation lets a company to input data once for all areas of the fulfillment process. it can save time and money for the company and eliminate human error.
In addition to the above strategies, the business owner should classify and better organize warehouse inventory. Organize merchandise by how fast it moves and by logical categories. Well-organized and classified inventory allows for a faster time in pulling orders and faster fulfillment times.
Returns happen. You should have an attractive return policy handled by the fulfillment service whether it is internal or by a third party. An attractive return policy will give customers the confidence in your company they need to complete their ordering process. When a customer is ordering merchandise without seeing or touching it in person, they need to know that if it is not what they want, they can return it and order a product that is a better fit for them. Deciding under which circumstances customers will get a refund and which ones they will get an exchange is important. The return conditions must be clearly stated during the ordering process.
The company goal should be to have happy, satisfied customers who will return to purchase more merchandise. A speedy fulfillment process and friendly return policy will contribute to return customers and customer loyalty.