Although eCommerce is a household term at this point in time, not everyone has an adequate level of insight into what it is and how one can benefit from it properly. As a business, this lack of knowledge and understanding of eCommerce fulfilment can put you at a disadvantage. This is mainly because in order to make decisions that actually benefit your brand, you need to be equipped with enough information on eCommerce and eCommerce fulfilment.
If you are not sure about where to begin when it comes to that, well; you’ve come to the right place. This guide will give you a clear idea about not only what eCommerce fulfilment is, but also how it can be perfected using just a handful of tips and tricks!
Ready to learn more? Then keep reading!
eCommerce fulfilment is an interesting topic and by understanding it in depth, you can make sure that as a business, you are making all the right choices that actually contribute towards a considerably longer-lasting success of your brand. Hence, this section is focused entirely towards helping you understand what eCommerce fulfilment is, and the role it plays in the grand scheme of things regarding your business.
First things first; what is eCommerce order fulfilment? Essentially, fulfilment is the comprehensive process which involves “fulfilling” any order that is placed. When it comes to eCommerce, fulfilment begins exactly when an order is placed online, and entails each and every task that takes place after that, right until the order is actually delivered to the customer.
Once an order has been placed, it becomes the responsibility of your business to execute it. This will often involve order processing, picking, packing, and shipping; all of which should be done speedily, so that the fulfilment process can be quickly mastered.
So, if eCommerce fulfilment is more or less a term that covers the taking and delivering of orders, then it is pretty obvious that it is quite an important component in your overall success strategy, and hence should be prioritised to a great extent.
Now that we know eCommerce fulfilment, we can understand the different types of order fulfilment events better.
A lot of businesses nowadays are opting to outsource their order fulfilment processes. This is known as third party fulfilment. It involves contracting a third party organisation to manage everything that goes into the fulfilment processes; from receiving inventory to shipping orders out.
If you are wondering why any business would want to go for something like this, well, it’s obvious, isn’t it? Third party logistics services make it easier for businesses to manage fulfilment. If you find the procedures complicated and overwhelming to complete on your own, you can benefit from 3PL. Not only that, but 3PL is also a cheaper option, so if you are trying to save on money, then 3PLs and 3PL solutions can help.
Essentially, for anyone looking to perfect the eCommerce fulfilment experience they offer, third party eCommerce fulfilment will be a good choice to look into.
Another type of eCommerce fulfilment is merchant fulfilment. This is known as self-fulfilment, which is pretty self-explanatory for the process itself. It takes place when the merchant handles their orders themselves, without getting help from any other parties.
So, if you can’t employ a third party to help you with your fulfilment because you are saving up cash or because you generally don’t need help, you can very well do it yourself as well. It is always an option, and if you invest in the right tools and technology to help you, you can easily get it done.
If you sell your products on an eCommerce platform like Magento, Shopify, BigCommerce, or WooCommerce, then this one’s definitely for you.
This is another order fulfilment method that involves getting help, in this case from your manufacturer. Essentially, the order placed goes directly to the manufacturer when it comes to drop shipping, and the manufacturer then handles the fulfilment process themselves.
If your business is new in the market and you don’t really want to invest in fulfilment services for the time being, drop shipping is a great option that can help you divide the workload between yourself and the manufacturer of the product.
Although, do keep in mind that drop shipping is one of the slower eCommerce fulfilment processes and therefore, if the fast delivery of your orders is your number one concern, then maybe this isn’t for you.
Taking a deeper look into the following stages will give you a better idea regarding what exactly goes on during your eCommerce fulfilment procedures.
Although technically the fulfilment process begins once the customer places an order, the actual work that makes that possible begins even before that – i.e. when you receive inventory. ‘Receiving inventory” means gathering the products that are available to be sold from manufacturers and suppliers at your own fulfilment centres.
This process needs to be executed meticulously, because it involves numbers and you need to make sure that your count of anything is not off in any possible way. Otherwise, you are creating a serious gap in your overall fulfilment procedure.
Not only that, but this stage is also likely to include things like an inspection of products for any damage, arranging stock with the help of SKUs, and making the right product entry into your warehouse management software.
Next, the fulfilment process requires you to properly organise your inventory. Ideally, this will be done in a proper order, so perhaps you will arrange your stock on shelves in a category-wise manner. The reason that this is such a crucial part of the whole fulfilment process is that the better your inventory is organised, the more likely it is that you will be able to fulfil your orders more quickly.
You should be arranging your stock category-wise using SKUs, mainly because this will make it easier for your team to navigate the inventory and execute the other processes of the fulfilment process with utmost seamlessness.
The first two stages had more to do with what happens before the order takes place, but what about what happens after you get an order? Well, that’s what stage number 3 is all about!
After an order is placed on your eCommerce platform, the fulfilment process involves tracking it across existing inventories to be picked, packed, and shipped to the customer. Once it is successfully traced, it will be picked by the concerned team, which will then prepare it for the next stage, i.e. packing.
Your products and the customer’s order will be packaged properly for shipment during the stage. It is one of the most important processes of the whole fulfilment procedure because you have to choose the right type of packaging and make sure that boosts the safety of your products, and enables them to be shipped safely and securely to the customer.
The kind of material you use during this stage will vary, but usually packaging material like packaging tapes, bubble wrap, air fills, and boxes of different sizes are involved and chosen in accordance with the nature of the products that need to be shipped.
And then, of course, we have shipping! Once you are done preparing the order properly, it is then collected from your warehouse and shipped. Shipment during the fulfilment process can be done through a range of different mediums; you can opt for drop shipping, merchant shipping, or even 3PL shipping if it is more convenient for you.
Remember; the faster and more flexible you are with your shipping experience, the better impression your customer will have of you! Flat rate, free shipping, table rates, and in-store delivery are just few of the options customers are used to having when it comes to eCommerce fulfilment, which makes it necessary to be just as accommodating.
Not all businesses treat exchange and return as a part of the fulfilment process, and that’s where they go wrong. Exchange and return is a solid part of your overall eCommerce fulfilment, and should be paid just as much attention.
In fact, your fulfilment is not successful when you make the delivery – it is successful when any returns and exchanges are sorted out! Therefore, reverse logistics make up quite an important chunk of eCommerce fulfilment.
The overall eCommerce fulfilment procedure is made up of multiple layers and hence, contains multiple eCommerce processes that need to be streamlined in order to get to a point where everything remains top-notch.
Let’s start off by looking at inventory management. In essence, inventory management is the process that involves taking care of your stock and streamlining multiple aspects that go towards ensuring an optimal functioning of all things inventory in your warehouse.
In order to make sure the eCommerce fulfilment procedure as a whole operates without hindrances, it is very important to take a look at the way your stock and storage works and take active steps to make it a better process.
Believe it or not, the way your warehouse operates as a whole has a direct impact on your eCommerce fulfilment processes and the framework you work within. This is because the better organised your warehouse is, the more efficiently you can turn out orders and provide your customers with just the customer experience they are looking for.
For this reason, every little process that takes place within your warehouse has value and deserves your attention. From your workforce to your equipment right down to the stock that goes in and out of your premises: everything comes under the ambit of warehouse management and hence, should be managed properly.
Managing your orders, needless to say, is directly linked to eCommerce fulfilment. Essentially, you want to start managing your orders the second it is placed on your platform. This will involve communication with the client, as well as streamlining of processes taking place at the back end of your business.
It is your responsibility to smoothen all of that and make sure that you are making efforts to bring efficiency to all of that. An optimal order management system will make all of this possible in the most productive of ways.
Labour management is also very important, although it is neglected quite a lot! The way your labour workforce operates feeds into the overall eCommerce fulfilment procedure, and has an effect on how the customers perceive you and your brand.
For this reason, it becomes completely important for you to take steps to improve the way your labour works. This will entail providing the right support and technology that can equip them with everything they need to work through the challenges they face and create the perfect eCommerce fulfilment strategy.
Now that you know eCommerce fulfilment inside out, it’s time to start applying this to your business. You can do this by starting your work on your eCommerce fulfilment strategy.
However, this is not something that should be rushed. You should do this with proper planning and execution, and that will involve a good level of research. This will ensure that every decision you take in this area contributes towards the overall success of your business.
Luckily, the following subsections can be a great kick start to this research – so keep reading and don’t forget to take some notes.
Here are a few parameters you should consider before getting to creating your content strategy:
The first is order volume. This one’s pretty obvious: the decisions you make in terms of your eCommerce fulfilment processes should ultimately be aligned with the amount of orders you usually get.
For example, your shipping methods as well as order fulfilment methods will be determined in accordance with your order volume. If your order volume is low, it is recommended that you choose merchant order fulfilment, as it is likely that no matter what the size of your business is, you can easily deal with a few orders.
However, if your order volume is high and chances are that it is likely to increase in upcoming periods, then the best approach would be to choose third-party fulfilment, which will make your job considerably easier.
The other parameter that you are advised to consider is your eCommerce platform. The type of eCommerce platform you are selling on will also help you decide the kind of order fulfilment processes you should be incorporating into your strategy. This is because the features offered by each platform will vary, and it would be in your best interests to make decisions that resonate with these features in order to achieve the best results.
For example, if you are selling on Magento, you will need an order management system, as the platform more or less lacks in that department. For Shopify, you could go for inventory management support in order to make sure there are no hindrances. The point is, it’s better if everything corresponds with one and other.
Your geographical location also matters a lot. So, if you are a local seller, then perhaps you can manage your order fulfilment services on your own, i.e. by incorporating merchant fulfilment methods in your strategy. However, if you are an international player and have your deliveries going all over the world, then maybe it would be wise to collaborate with a 3PL for third party fulfilment, as that would be considerably more convenient.
You can also go for drop shipping, especially if you have a restricted number of merchants located in the same or nearby locations. This will make it easier for you to get your orders out, and may also help you save up on a considerable amount of money.
Again, the main point to keep in mind is that your geographical location is a key player in determining your eCommerce fulfillment strategy, and hence your decisions should take it into consideration.
Next, think about the kind of delivery time you are offering. For example, if you are a business that is promising a one-day or a two-day delivery model to your customers, then you have to step up your fulfillment strategy as well.
Within your strategy, you will have to focus on delivering your products as fast as you can as well as aiming towards improving your overall customer service, which can then, in tangent, make your customer experience better as well.
Now that that’s out of the way, here is a list of all the things you should keep in mind while working on your eCommerce fulfilment procedure. Treat this list as a checklist, and whenever you have doubts about whether or not you are on the right track with your eCommerce fulfilment, refer to it! The more items you check off this list, the better your eCommerce strategy is.
Of course, if you check everything off here – then voila! You have a perfect eCommerce strategy in place, and there is not much that you can’t possibly achieve with something as great as that.
eCommerce fulfilment is not a straightforward process, so if you are struggling with it – we get you. However, it’s not rocket science either, and with just a little bit of effort, you can create an eCommerce fulfilment strategy straight out of dreams, which will ultimately enable you to become even better at what you do.
One thing that can help you with that is the right kind of automation, which is exactly what Canary7 provides. We have comprehensive solutions dedicated towards different aspects of the eCommerce fulfilment process, including inventory management, order management, warehouse management, labour management, and even warehouse control.
We hope this guide helped you and wish you good luck for your eCommerce journey.
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