How to make e-commerce order fulfillment your competitive advantage
You already know what e-commerce order fulfillment stands for — storing inventory, picking the right products, packing them, and shipping the orders to customers.
E-commerce order fulfillment can be done in-house by the e-commerce company itself or as an outsourced process by a third-party service provider (3PL for short) – that’s what companies like us do.
The fulfillment process begins when the customer completes the purchase. After that, the fun stuff begins.
You might even argue that this is the make or break moment for your e-commerce business. The way you manage the process after purchase affects the customer relationships, the company’s profitability, and, realistically, the future of the business.
The e-commerce fulfillment process has at least these crucial steps and considerations:
- Before you can ship anything, you need to have inventory.
- You need storage to store the inventory. Each product or SKU has to have a dedicated place on your shelf, pallet, or equivalent.
- When an order is placed, order processing begins. That includes picking the product, packing it ready for shipping, using the right packing materials, applying custom packaging if needed, and labeling the product correctly for shipping.
- The next step is to get the product shipped. If an e-commerce merchant does fulfillment by themselves, this involves running to the nearest post office or having someone to pick up the orders. If a 3PL partner does the fulfillment, the partner will use the logistics service providers the customer wants to use in their portfolio.
- Once the order has been shipped, you need a tracking code you can share with the customer.
- Finally, you need to have a solid and cost-effective process to handle the returns.
Those steps are all very familiar to anyone who has ever worked with anything related to e-commerce before. But what’s lesser-known is that you can easily make e-commerce order fulfillment your e-commerce store’s competitive advantage.
5 ways to make e-commerce order fulfillment your competitive advantage
If you want to make order fulfillment what sets you apart, there are a few things you need to consider. The order fulfillment process has many steps where process optimization can bring significant cost savings and efficiency. Let’s walk through the most common scenarios.
Pick Process: accuracy and speed
Removing all the unnecessary actions from the picking process is essential. The process should always be optimized for accuracy and speed.
Speed should not override accuracy, though. If you are doing fulfillment yourself, it may be worthwhile to invest in scannable barcodes and CRM software capable of tracking order accuracy. You might also want to implement a checking process and designate some resources to check and verify picking accuracy. Consider smart slotting and sales velocity. Organize items so that the picker can pick efficiently and not spend time wandering around the storage space.
If you outsource fulfillment, your 3PL partner should have a streamlined and accurate professional picking process, which is continuously optimized.