Improving Your E-commerce Order Fulfillment Process: Tips and Strategies
If you really sit down and think about it, can you even fully recall the days before Amazon?
For many of us, it can feel like Amazon has always been around to deliver our favorite products in as little as two to three days.
Amazon’s wild success as the world’s largest online retailer changed everything for e-commerce businesses that suddenly found themselves in a rat race to fulfill orders faster than ever before.
In 2023, more than 60% of customers say they now have higher customer service standards, and brands everywhere are pressured to keep up with demand or risk losing business to competitors that can ship products faster and easier.
What is e-commerce fulfillment and why does proper e-commerce order management matter?
E-commerce order fulfillment is a critical business process that involves managing orders placed online by customers and getting them shipped and delivered to their destinations on time.
This process typically starts with inventory and supply chain management, order processing, quality control, and customer service for inquiries including returns, exchanges, and troubleshooting.
To give a quick overview of the e-commerce fulfillment process, we’ve condensed it into a few main stages:
- Inventory management: Before you can sell your products, you must have them available for purchase in your warehouse. Therefore, warehouse management also comes into play in this step, as once you receive inventory from your manufacturer, you must organize and sort it into a logical order for easy packing and shipping.
- Order management: Once your inventory is available on your online store, customers will place orders. Proper e-commerce order management must include tracking the progress and shipment of each order to ensure it is delivered to it’s final destination on time.
- Order fulfillment: Where order management pertains to the process of handling orders as they are received, order fulfillment pertains to the final stages of handling, packing, and shipping products to your customers.
- Customer service: Customer service is crucial to the order fulfillment process because it helps regulate and maintain customer satisfaction after orders have been delivered. If a customer receives their order on time, but the product is defective or their request for a return is frustrating, the entire process that came before is moot.
Just as you must keep customer service working smoothly to maintain customer satisfaction, it’s also important to effectively manage the other stages of your e-commerce fulfillment process so that everything functions like a well-oiled machine.
If one part of the process fails, the experience will likely fall flat for the customer.
Tips & strategies for optimizing your order fulfillment process
There are many challenges to managing your order fulfillment process, and many opportunities for the process to hit a snag and fall apart.
To ensure that this doesn’t happen to your e-commerce business, we’ve put together a quick list of tips & strategies for optimizing your order fulfillment process to meet the needs of your customers and create opportunities for your brand to grow and scale.
1. Automate fulfillment where possible
Automation is helpful in nearly every aspect of your business, but we cannot even begin to overstate the benefits of automation specifically to your brand’s e-commerce order fulfillment process.
When it comes to electronic fulfillment, the more time you spend on repetitive tasks, like creating invoices and choosing the best packaging, the more room you create for silly mistakes and human error to disrupt your processes and impact customer experience.
Implementing Shopify apps like Order Automator or Auto Fulfill into your online store will save you and your team time on both basic and more complex stages of the fulfillment process, from printing packing slips to managing dropship suppliers.
Not only does automation make order fulfillment easier and more efficient, but it will also save on operational costs and create a consistent customer experience that encourages repeat business.
2. Organize & optimize your inventory management
Inventory management can have a significant impact on how well your overall order fulfillment process functions day-to-day.
Without a clear understanding of how your warehouse and inventory are organized, your brand may find it difficult to not only keep up with orders and pack items properly but also maintain an appropriate amount of inventory to match demand.
By strategically managing inventory, you’ll be better equipped to identify how much of each product to stock so that your customers receive their items without any delays.
3. Keep an open line of communication with customers
At the end of the day, your customers are your business, and you must ensure each facet of your business – including your electronic fulfillment process – keeps them feeling valued and cared for by your brand.
Therefore, be sure to set clear expectations from the beginning that you can realistically meet.
For example, if your brand promises two or three-day shipping in your marketing and on your online store, you must deliver on that promise by preparing your manufacturers and warehouse managers for the quick turnarounds.
It’s equally important to keep your customers in the loop in the event of order delays or out-of-stock products.
When you practice proactive customer service rather than taking a passive approach, your customers will trust that you truly care about their experience and feel less inclined to track their orders obsessively or reach out repeatedly.
4. Be prepared for customer service inquiries for returns & exchanges
Returns and exchanges are a part of every e-commerce business, and how well a brand manages these requests directly affects the caliber of your customer experience.
Though there are certainly cross-selling and upselling strategies your customer service team can practice to save a sale and protect your bottom line, it’s important to prepare your warehouse team and shipping services for returns and exchanges.
Just as you would for customer service, you’ll want to have clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place that your teams can follow to ensure that returns and exchanges are managed properly and completed in a timely manner.
5. Outsource fulfillment to a trusted partner
There are just some parts of running a successful business that you can’t do alone, and often, e-commerce order fulfillment is one of them. With so many moving parts from manufacturing to packing and shipping orders, having a trusted partner to streamline your electronic fulfillment process can be an absolute game-changer.
If you’re considering outsourcing your order fulfillment process, we recommend first selecting a system that offers end-to-end tracking and integrates well with your suppliers and vendors.
Having one system where all data and information is stored will make everything easier and more efficient when you’re ready to outsource and give you greater opportunities to implement automation.
Elevate your customer experience by perfecting your order fulfillment process with TalentPop’s tips & strategies
Online order fulfillment is a huge component of running an e-commerce business, and creating an electronic fulfillment process that gets orders out on time to customers will greatly impact your ability to scale.
If you’re ready to elevate your customer experience by improving your order fulfillment process, TalentPop is here to help.
From providing skilled agents to perform proactive outreach and handle inquiries during order delays to interfacing with your 3PL team to keep customer info up to date, we can ensure that each facet of electronic fulfillment within your brand is set up for success.
Start by scheduling a call with our team today, and we’ll show you how we can support your e-commerce business.