A customer expects his order to arrive on time and in top condition. So, an eCommerce vendor is always on the lookout for ways that ensure that deliveries take place with little or no issues. Order fulfillment process is a matter to be looked into with a great bit of scrutiny.
Order fulfillment processes are sometimes perceived to be complicated, which they need not be. In this article, we will see that order fulfillment processes can be broken down into seven simple steps for an easier understanding. This will cover the fulfillment process from the start, right till the very end.
Majorly, we’ll understand in the article the definition of the order fulfillment process, and the key steps involved within. Also are covered the benefits of the order fulfillment process and the best practices to be kept in mind when implementing it.
Defining order fulfillment
Order fulfillment is best defined as an inventory method. Companies adhere to the method when they receive orders and process the goods that are to be delivered to the customers in time.
The order fulfillment process is said to be successful when sales orders are so processed that the product being distributed meets up all benchmarks of customer expectations.
The process sets out into action when a customer places an order and is through when the end customer successfully receives the order. Ultimately, customer satisfaction levels play an important role in defining how successful the order fulfillment process is.
Order fulfillment process in 7 steps
For the order fulfillment process to be smooth, several phases are involved. This will ensure that consumers receive correct and high-quality inventory items in time.
Let us take a look at the key steps involved in the order fulfillment process:
1. Receiving Inventory
Characteristically, when a consumer buys an item at an eCommerce website; the company sets into action instantly. It buys the inventory and makes preparations for shipping it.
As an owner of an eCommerce business, one could source the inventory from a host of places. This may include the company’s warehouse or a third-party vendor.
Upon getting this inventory from a supplier or a third-party vendor, the eCommerce company is responsible for quality checks over the inventory and verifying that the expected number of items has been received. The products should meet the end customers’ specifications and standards.
If a section of the inventory is expected to be used later, the eCommerce company may choose to place bar codes on the products, which will aid with the easier identification of the products.
2. Inventory storage
Upon sorting, labeling, and organizing the inventory items, they may be moved to short-term or long-term storage areas. Short-term storage areas are useful for briefly holding the products that are to be sent for active orders. This keeps it easy for the eCommerce company to conduct an additional inspection before the items are shipped over to the end customers.
But, long-term storage areas are more useful for products that are stored for longer. The products can be sourced from these storage areas when customers unexpectedly buy items in bulk.
Long-term storage areas ensure that the inventory keeps stocked. This way, there are no delays in shipments.
3. Processing orders
When a customer places his orders, this is the best time to prepare these products for delivery. The right way to go about it is to visit the warehouse to select the items. Or, a third-party vendor may have to be contacted, depending on what the case may be.
It is possible to automate this process. Hence, it is recommendable for an eCommerce company to use an Order Processing Management System. This system will be integrated with the shopping cart on your website and will create a packing slip automatically. On this packing slip will be listed the details and specifications of the products that the customer has selected.
4. Picking teams
First, the customer places an order. Then, its processing is conducted via the Order Processing Management System.
It then becomes possible for the eCommerce company to select the specific items that have been purchased. If we consider the case of a few of the larger organizations, warehouse robots are used for selecting these items automatically, based on the details that have been mentioned on the packing slip.
Otherwise, an eCommerce company may hire a packing team that selects the correct items upon reviewing the packing slip and the information that they withhold about colors, sizes, amounts, and other specifications.
The items are then prepared for packing.
5. Packing materials
Upon sorting the items and gathering the inventory to be shipped, they need to be packed in the ideally suited containers. Either a packing team can do this task or additional automated robots. The containers for packing these items are typically chosen based on the fragility or weight of these items. There are also cases wherein fragile items need bubble wrap for the packaging.
These implements ensure that the items reach their destination safely and free from damage. The packing team should be instructed to record each item’s weight. This ensures that delivery trucks can manage their size.
6. Shipping orders
When you source the inventory from a third party, they can send it over to their location or yours, such that the inventory can be shipped.
Next, it is likely that you will deliver the goods to any of the transportation channels available, such as the airline, freight line, or postal carrier. It is recommendable to check the items’ weight again. This helps verify that carriers reference the correct amount that you have recorded.
If the carrier shipping the inventory has any packaging rules, they should be reviewed. This makes you surer that the carrier will accept the freight and that there will be no delays.
7. Processing returns
When a customer chooses to send his product back, it is the right time to start processing a return. It is then recommendable that all orders that you ship should include a return label. This allows the customer to paste the label on his package and send back the item hassle-free without having to make any payments.
After you receive the return, make sure that the returned product is still in top working condition. After recording the item, process a refund for the customer.
Next, as the conditions permit, sort, clean, and restock the item such that it can be used for future orders.
Why is having an order fulfillment process a must?
1. Ensures that the shipments reach in time
When order fulfillment processes are smooth, it implies that you have room to prepare all your shipments. This way, you’d have the right inventory amounts, ready with you to ship on time.
When you meet customer expectations this way, your company projects itself as being reliable. This is one of the best ways to ensure positive reviews, customer retention, and repeat orders.
2. Make deliveries based on customer requirements
There are cases wherein customers share some requirements on the products that will be delivered. This may cover product customizations, time constraints, and budgets. Meeting these requirements helps an eCommerce company earn customer confidence.
3. Earn a competitive advantage
We live in an era of strong market competition. When the purchase experience being offered by your brand is up to the mark, you will attract more customers and make more sales.
Best practices to be kept in mind for your order fulfillment process
1. Choose the process that is ideally suited for your business
This should be done after a meticulous evaluation of your goals for manufacturing, sales, and purchasing. Your capabilities should also be evaluated. This covers the order volumes that you typically receive, the channels from which you make sales, and the locations from which you garner the maximum sales. After these evaluations, you can figure out the order evaluation process that works best based on your requirements.
2. Adorn technology
An eCommerce firm has to keep an eye out for the latest in the world of technology. New technology can be implemented after reviewing your budget. This will refine your order fulfillment process.
The top options for inculcating technology within the processes of an eCommerce firm come in the form of automation. Automation can be introduced in labeling processes, ordering, and shipping.
Similarly, when you base decision-making on data, efficiency scales to a new high.
3. Keeping communication clear
When you work with third parties or manufacturing teams, the dealings should be kept transparent in all cases. This helps with inventory levels, product orders, and deliveries.
Similarly, transparency should be maintained when interacting with your teams as well. If everyone is well informed, they will be more involved and the productivity levels will be higher. There will be no shipping delays.