The following is a guest post about order fulfillment.
Order fulfillment is crucial for any startup or even existing ecommerce business. Unfortunately the term can be misleading, but this broad category actually encompasses a variety of separate services. In general, fulfillment includes necessary steps such as receiving, shipping, processing, etc. — the essential steps to bring a customer’s order to his/her door.
Fulfillment applies to multiple types of e-commerce companies and industries. It doesn’t matter what you’re selling, if you don’t have reliable order fulfillment, you could potentially lose current customers or discourage customers from returning to buy in the future. Therefore, to have a reliable order fulfillment service, you need to know what fulfilment actually entails.
Receiving applies when you outsource your fulfilment practices to a third party or you handle orders in-house. You receive the orders for your inventory from the manufacturer directly and it is the first step in fulfillment, because without the products in your inventory, you cannot deliver to the customer. The receiving process is rather straight-forward, but some steps taken during this portion include:
Counting items received and cross-checking them with the packing list sent from the supplier or manufacturer — verifying the right number of items was received.
Inspecting for any signs of damage.
Adding product information to your management software to keep track of inventory counts, location, etc.
Applying any necessary barcodes, labels, etc. to the products for tracking.
After the inventory items have been received from the supplier they are then sent to the inventory. Managing your inventory is important, because improper management could result in lost inventory, damaged inventory or items that are not cycled properly. Also, it’s imperative that you are methodical in your inventory storage. Because if your inventory isn’t properly organized it could cause delays that impact your brand’s order fulfillment accuracy and speed. Whether you’re handling your own storage or you have a third-party handling it for you, make sure a properly organized system is in place.
Once your inventory is stocked and ready to go, you’ll be ready for processing. Processing occurs after an order is received. For eCommerce businesses the order is placed over the web and then the order is fulfilled by your facility or the third party you use for order fulfillment.
Once the order is confirmed and received, it goes to the warehouse where your inventory is stored. The items that are requested in the order are located in your inventory and packaged for shipping. Most likely you’ll have the inventory go through a quality control checkpoint – ensuring that the right products were pulled (including any customization or special requests) and that the quality of the products are alright. Then you will package the materials, create a packing slip and remove the items from your inventory software.
Shipping Your Orders
After your customer’s order is packed, it’s ready for the shipping phase of order fulfillment. You should always double check the weight of a package and make sure it is being shipped in the most economical way — while still reaching the customer in the stated delivery timeframe. When an order ships, you should always notify the customer of the update. By keeping customers up-to-date you can increase customer loyalty. In some cases you might need to do returns or claims processing as part of your fulfillment process. As an online seller, you’re likely to have returns. You’ll need to create a clear return policy for not only your customers, but any third party order fulfillment services you might use. Your policy should clearly state what can be returned, when and how the returns process works so that there is no confusion on either end.