If you’re in the business of e-commerce, focusing on order fulfilment seems like a given. After all, if you can’t deliver the goods and services, you won’t be in the business for long. There are a lot of small details that go into improving your order fulfilment, but we will focus on those that are absolutely crucial.
Platform is the foundation
Whenever possible, make sure to use the same platform throughout the process, even if you have fulfilment service partners. Perhaps they do some things differently, which is understandable and can be worked around, but having the same platform allows seamless integration.
Of course, you will be spoiled for choice. E-commerce platforms have certainly had a boom in recent years, providing options for endless storefronts that wished to sell products (and services) online. Most of them offer full packages as well, where they will host, launch and manage your store. Use this opportunity if it fits your growth strategy. Why have a team dedicated to this if you are struggling with other, more important areas of business?
How soon is now?
Speed is of the essence, of course, when it comes to fulfilling orders, and it is something that will keep your customers satisfied, especially when it applies to returning orders as well. Same-day shipping options is a must – when you show that the package is on the way, it will be much easier to survive the waiting period without getting restless. The workflow can always be improved upon and one of the best ways is to use something like a NetSuite ERP solution to make sure there is no bottlenecking that might appear if the process is more or less manual.
Location is another thing to worry about when we are talking about speed. As various businesses require global competition for customers, this includes having warehouses on optimal locations for your needs. Choose large customer populations as your centers for warehouse placing. If you look at orders over time, you should have a strong idea where you would most benefit from the warehouse location.
Outsource your weakness
If your business is still having some teething troubles, using a fulfilment centre instead of your own warehouse and distribution centres is a good choice. Of course, once it becomes feasible, you can always invest in these expansions.
Another option is drop-shipping, where, instead of having a third-party dealing with storing and distribution, you work directly with the manufacturer. They become the ones who actually deliver the goods and you have no need for a warehouse in this case. Of course, this affects the business on many layers, including the profits, as you need to split them with the manufacturers. This is a solution that might work for some, but do consider it carefully first.
Silence is golden, but communication is brilliant
Always inform the customer of the order and allow them the option to track it. They will expect detailed information every step of the way and it is up to you to integrate your systems so that it is easy for the customer. There will always be issues with things you can’t control, which is also up to you to work out. An option is always to offer free shipping (if you aren’t already) for returns, if not for all shipments.
An additional step that should help you in preventing situations that you have to deal with later is by allowing customers to see stock numbers as well. This provides more information to the customers and clears up confusion before it has the chance to actually take root. No delays, no angry e-mails, it’s certainly a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Social is as social does
Never forget the ubiquity of social networks today. While you might think you can get away because your customers order directly from you, don’t think you will be saved from anyone who would like to complain, because they will do it regardless, using their own social network accounts. There is pretty much nothing you can do, as they might not even tag you while doing this. However, if you still want to make this work in your favour, why not try your hand at media monitoring tools?
If you would like to increase your customers’ loyalty, you will definitely need to interact with them on social networks. That is if you would like them to spend 20% to 40% more money, as those who engage with business on social networks are prone to doing. In the end, you don’t really have a choice in this – the population is there and you have to follow, or else you might fall behind your competition. Think about it this way: customer care is customer care and it should be the priority in today’s extremely well connected world because the word of mouth has a much higher soapbox than ever before.