Your One-Stop Guide to Understanding Retail Fulfilment

With the retail industry seeing exponential growth in 2019, the effects of the pandemic caused demand for retail to explode into unseen levels. Primarily because many merchants were forced to adapt with the times, closing their physical doors and rushing to create a successful retail space to sustain their revenue. 

Unlike Primark, which remained closed throughout the entire lockdown in the UK and reopened to millions of customers waiting to spend their money, Topshop closed its physical doors and was absorbed by ASOS. Stores being absorbed into the eCommerce retail space subsequently caused online sales to skyrocket, however, they had the added hurdle of discovering how different it is to securely deliver items to loyal customers, rather than simply passing their item over the counter in a physical space. 

This route to discovering how to efficiently complete eCommerce deliveries to your new eagerly waiting consumer-base, is known as the retail order fulfilment process; and it requires the following steps for each order that is placed by your customers on your online store:

  • The efficient manual picking of your stock from inventory.
  • Quickly and carefully packing boxes, taking care to add a shipping label to each personal shipment.
  • Either running to the post office by yourself or having a carrier alleviate the weight off your shoulders, literally and figuratively, to ship items to your customers.

As well as these crucial steps, there are important retail fulfilment costs that are necessary to get to know, as well as other tactics that include:

  • Inventory management
  • Competing with Amazon and other huge conglomerates
  • Effectively tracking a shipment’s status
  • And many more
warehouse packing operations with a worker packing a parcel with a tape gun

What is Retail Fulfilment? 

Retail fulfilment is the process of having to pick, pack, and ship a customer order. Unlike having your customers inconveniently travel all the way to a brick and mortar store to painstakingly select and purchase the items themselves, an eCommerce merchant is responsible for efficiently and correctly packing their online order with their purchased items; and ensuring their package gets into transit safely and 

What are the Benefits of Retail Fulfilment?

Optimising the often tedious retail fulfilment process is usually a priority for most eCommerce businesses, as this will have a real and significant benefit to your overall levels of customer satisfaction and profit levels. Managing the retail fulfilment process yourself can see the costs spiral out of control, with packaging, shipping, and other hidden costs. Moreover, eCommerce businesses unable to deliver high volumes of orders in a fast and efficient manner will see their levels of returning customers and profits fall as they are seen as untrustworthy. 

In order to ensure the continued growth of your business, you will need a successful retail fulfilment process that will assist your business in managing customer orders with greater efficiency. Additionally, your profits will increase as your order volume picks up with the scaling of your business. 

The 6 Important Steps of Retail Fulfilment

As an essential part of supply chain management, retail fulfilment guarantees that orders are delivered right on time. This process involves the following greatly important steps that are necessary for maintaining operations and high levels of customer satisfaction. 

1: Receiving New Inventory

As an online retailer, you will begin to sell more products as your customer base grows at a steady rate, you’ll need to order more inventory. eCommerce helps you expand your business out of the local, and into the global, so managing your reorder levels requires a deep understanding and knowledge about the forecasting of inventory. This means you need a close relationship with your manufacturers. 

Your inventory restocks but is efficiently sent to your retail fulfilment centre to be stored cleverly and effectively. Each stock-keeping unit will require its own location in your warehouse after being processed, organised, and documented, as this will make the locating and procurement of items to send out simple and speedy. 

If you undertake fulfilment alone, you’ll need a watertight warehouse inventory management strategy that encompasses organisation, infrastructure, software integration, and processes to track inventory with dedicated stations to complete each task. 

2: Warehousing

Once the inventory stage is completed in a timely manner, you will then be able to use those products to effectively and efficiently fulfil customer orders. You’ll need to be attentive and vigilant when it comes to stock levels, making sure you reorder quickly before stock runs low – leaving customers disappointed and upset that they can’t get your great and unique products. 

3: Efficiently Picking Items

When your customer takes the plunge and places an order, deciding to invest in your business, the order processing systems produce a picking list. Thus, your team will retrieve each product needed to fill every order. 

4: Correctly Packing Orders

Once all items from an order have been picked efficiently, they can begin to be packed. Choosing boxes, poly mailers, and packaging materials that will allow your products to arrive safely and undamaged is essential – as well as ensuring the lowest dimensional weight to remain practical will help make shipping costs affordable. 

5: Fast Shipping of Orders

When the time comes to ship your orders, you must be aware of the ship date and promised delivery date or estimated timeline. If your policy is to ship orders the same day, you’ll need to honour those promises in order to keep your customers happy and loyal to your brand. 

6: Effective Returns Processing

After picking, packing and shipping orders, It is an unfortunate fact that customers will return eCommerce orders from time to time. Being ready and prepared for that will make the entire process uncomplicated and effortless. An empathetic customer services team and returns system that has been designed with care will keep things cost-effective and keep headaches to a minimum. 

How to Optimise your Retail Fulfilment Method

Major retailers and players in the eCommerce sphere take numerous measures that effectively optimise the fulfilment process, making the whole process streamlined and simple. Here’s how you can adapt, and utilise these same strategies for your business:

Location, Location, Location

Strategising by choosing a well-located and well-connected warehouse and fulfilment centre will assist you greatly in terms of improving your overall customer experience. A location that is close enough to the majority of your customers will ensure that deliveries are on time, all with low shipping costs. 

A third-party fulfilment service, such as The Delivery Group, will offer the ability to split your inventory across multiple warehouses and fulfilment centres across the globe to cater to a bigger selection of consumers with great speed and efficiency. 

Integrated Fulfilment Software is Key

As retail fulfilment methods are often complex, bigger brands typically rely on enterprise resource planning systems that make it possible to account for all aspects of fulfilment and multichannel inventory management. 

Smaller-scale merchants will need software that covers inventory management and order tracking, whilst seamlessly integrating with your online store. The Delivery Group can provide these services all at no extra cost – how great is that!

Keep to your Promise of Fast Shipping Times

With the popularity of Amazon being tough competition, they have set the standard for at least 2-day shipping industry-wide. Online shoppers don’t want to wait around to receive their order when low delivery times are expected, so when a customer places an order, they want their order shipped and arrived on their doorstep by yesterday.

By having distribution centres placed strategically, you can significantly reduce shipping times and costs. So rather than facing skyrocketing costs, you can keep things cheap and cheerful by having your orders arrive with your customers as quickly and securely as possible.

Keeping Retail Fulfilment Painless and Headache-Free

Here at The Delivery Group, provide the UK’s best retail fulfilment process that will completely improve your customer experience – allowing you to focus on more niche areas of your business, or to strategise your growth. Rather than dealing with the painstaking process of in-house fulfilment by yourself, our knowledgeable delivery experts can logically and methodically package and ship items to your expanding customer base for you instead; all while providing fulfilment technology and support that is unrivalled in the UK.

We know that running a growing business can be tough and difficult at times, which is why we aim to save you valuable time and money.

Make the best decision you’ve ever made for your business, choose the nation’s favourite fulfilment provider, The Delivery Group, today.

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