When your customer orders something from your online store, they will want to know that their item will arrive when and where they’ve specified and in good condition. Your eCommerce order fulfilment process has, most likely, not even crossed their mind.
However, in your eyes, the typical journey of the eCommerce fulfilment process is anything but a simple occurrence, it will have to be a well oiled and fine-tuned machine that works tirelessly to get all your customer orders where they need to go, and on time, in order to achieve the greatest levels of customer satisfaction.
From the moment your customer checks out and pays for their order online, to the moment your customer receives your item and is happy with what they’ve received, there are multiple steps and numerous amounts of people involved in getting that item to your customer’s doorstep.
Within the eCommerce fulfilment process, getting these many steps coordinated is a process that is constantly being refined and improved. This is to ensure things are kept cost-effective, achieve the greatest possible levels of customer satisfaction, and ensure warehouse staff are working as efficiently as possible.
If you’re looking for different ways to improve your eCommerce order fulfilment process, this handy guide has full of our top tips on how to do just that.
Before getting to work on the improvement of your order fulfilment process, it is good to have an idea about what you really want to achieve with its improvement. In most cases, a good procedure will adhere to the following steps:
Orders that do meet all of these requirements can be referred to as the ‘fill rate’, which is the number of orders that are fulfilled successfully with the immediately available stock, without the need for backorders or the loss of sales.
There is even more going on behind the scenes in order to achieve an ideal fill rate – meaning that inventory will need to be tracked efficiently and effectively, along with data needing to be collected during the maintenance of visibility over each step.
It is hard to guarantee that every single order you fulfil will be perfect as mistakes do, unfortunately, happen. However in order to minimise these risks as much as possible, here are some of our top tips for things that you should be doing:
The best jumping-off point when looking at how to improve your order fulfilment process is the very beginning. Before you’ve even received an order, you must prepare to control your stock and complete effective inventory management; otherwise, your business will be susceptible to various issues.
It is a great idea to stay aware and ready with demand forecasting so that you can anticipate peaks and valleys in demand – this will allow you to order the right level of stock year-round. Stay aware of lead times from suppliers too, so you can combat seasonal sales fluctuations. In order to do this, you must know the exact number of products you currently have in your supply chain: this means what you have on order, what is sitting in your warehouse, and any open returns requests from customers.
Not knowing your stock levels at all times, in real-time, could lead to you taking orders for products that are actually out of stock. This will lead to a blockage in your supply chain, and unfulfilled orders to deal with.
Being new to automation can make the whole process sound daunting – can you really trust your business in the hands of a computer? Whilst many businesses stick to what they know, being away from the inefficiencies it may bring, automation means that any manual steps that run the risk of being badly affected by human error can be eliminated.
For example, in the event your warehouse operators receive an order, the automated system will let them know which packaging option to use, which order to pick items in, the best shipping process, and the shipping methods for the item, in order to provide the most efficient and cost-effective service possible.
Having orders coming in from different channels can make the eCommerce order fulfilment process very complicated and confusing to humans, so having a standardised and automated fulfilment process will prevent any confusion and will allow everything to be done quickly and efficiently.
Automation can help to reduce the order fulfilment time spent on picking and packing to a minimum, whilst also helping to reduce errors. There are also other things that can be done in the warehouse to help improve your order fulfilment process.
Firstly, consider how your products have been placed within the shelves in different warehouse locations. If you haven’t already, moving your best selling, fastest moving, and any other items that are frequently bought together to the most easily accessible spot will greatly improve efficiency.
In the same field, making sure that your stock keeping units (SKUs) are clear unique, and easy to understand will help to reduce errors within the order picking and packing process. If your warehouse is complicated and disorganised, it can lead to more returns from customers and a huge drop in inefficiency.
Whilst it may be easy to focus all your attention on getting your customer orders to their doors quickly and efficiently, how much thought have you put into reverse logistics?
Returns are inevitable when running any eCommerce business, so when customers return an item; it adds a whole new chain to your order fulfilment process.
Making sure you get items that have been returned, and are in good condition, back into inventory as quickly as possible should be another of your main goals. The longer the returned item sits unaccounted for will cause more problems within your fulfilment chain – such as the over-ordering of stock, or rejecting orders because you think an item isn’t in stock.
Quality control is another thing to stay on top of, so make sure your warehouse team is fully prepared on what to do with damaged items. If a customer receives an item that isn’t in perfect condition, it is highly likely that they will want to return it – so quality control can make great strides in reducing damage related returns.
It is also important that you can’t find ways of how to improve your order fulfilment process unless you have a good level of visibility over the entire thing.
Important data hidden away in spreadsheets will cause difficulties when looking to identify key areas for improvement and growth. Inventory management software and order management software can remedy this, however, by keeping everything succinct for you.
Delving into the insights you have available, you can make the most effective decisions around areas that are lacking, for example: are there more errors being made when picking and packing than any other area? Is a certain supplier not delivering stock quickly enough? Identifying the real, root, cause of any order fulfilment issue will help you in figuring out the best way to tackle the problem.
When putting new systems in place to improve your order fulfilment process, it is a good chance to ask whether or not the way you’re doing things is sustainable and scalable. Many small businesses start out lean in their early years, which allows their profit to grow. Putting some investment into your order fulfilment process will allow you to make the most of new opportunities.
Are you looking for the best order fulfilment services on the market? The Delivery Group is the UK’s favourite third-party logistics company that can help with the optimisation of your business. With quality picking and packing teams and shipping services on offer, getting in touch with our team of experts will help you understand why we’re your number one choice.