The process of order fulfillment in e-commerce covers everything between a customer’s placement of an order on the site, all the way up to the delivery of the item on their doorstep. That “in-between” involves routing the order to an inventory facility, then locating it, then sorting it, and then ultimately shipping it to its given destination. The goal of this whole process is for the customer to experience—even without seeing any of it transpire—the seamless and timely delivery of their item.
On the outset, this may seem fairly simple to achieve. But the truth is, a lot of things can go wrong along the way. Staying on top of order fulfillment is often one of the biggest challenges of e-commerce entrepreneurs, with the pain points becoming even more pronounced as the business grows.
That said, what can eCommerce entrepreneurs do to step up their performance—and therefore, keep their customer retention rates positive? This feature tackles five common pain points to eCommerce order fulfillment, plus some tips on how to relieve them.
- Pain Point #1: It takes too long or there are too many steps to completing an order on the site. Too many steps to checkout, or too long a duration to wait, will turn off customers. This leads to shopping cart abandonment, and some serious losses if orders don’t push through as a result.Solution: Streamline the ordering process to take no more than three steps. After that, all the customer should worry about is waiting until their shipment arrives.
- Pain Point #2: The eCommerce business has an outdated order fulfillment system and depends on archaic practices like manual order processing.Processing orders manually may have been acceptance in the past. But even smaller eCommerce businesses have upgraded to electronic systems. And the bigger the business gets, the harder it will be to accurately handle a massive volume of orders. That order fulfillment approach will then be prone to errors like shipping delays, wrong tracking numbers, or the wrong products being shipped out—all of which will elicit negative feedback from customers.Solution: Upgrade to an electronic system or partner up with third-party order fulfillment services USA customers trust. One key advantage that a third-party logistician (3PL) can offer you is the capacity to track many orders in real-time. That lessens the chances of inaccuracies, as well as the burdens placed on you as an eCommerce entrepreneur.
- Pain Point #3: The business’s warehouse is disorganized and cluttered.Ecommerce entrepreneurs are required to run a tight ship. This applies especially to the warehousing facilities, especially if they are company-owned. A disorganized and cluttered warehouse will cause staff members to delay in their duties, ship out products that aren’t of the best quality, or even lose items. All of these are threats to the eCommerce business’s revenues.
Solution: If you have a separate warehouse facility for your products, do take the steps to keep it organized, accessible, and easy for staff to do sorting and shipping work. Have copies of the warehouse plan, both in digital and in hardcopy format, readily accessible to warehouse workers. Also follow the practice of first-in, first-out (FIFO), meaning that the older products get shipped out first. This practice prevents spoilage, damage, and wear-and-tear caused by long periods spent in storage.
- Pain Point #4: There’s a lack of integration within the order fulfillment, inventory management, and shipping technologies.
You may have invested in high-tech gadgetry and software for your order fulfillment needs, but is the technology actually serving you well? It could very well be the case that these systems are disconnected from each other, which means they won’t be living up to their collective potential.
It’s not enough to have all of these technologies at your disposal. Your objective is to have all of these working in perfect synchrony. If you haven’t already, do link up your enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems with your warehousing technologies, such as what you use for inventory management. Lastly, make sure that your chosen eCommerce platform also supports all these.
- Pain Point #5: Staff members do not communicate often enough, and sometimes this weighs down on the efficiency of order fulfillment.This is often an issue rooted in the company’s culture, bureaucracy, and unique set of SOPs. Granted, employees of an eCommerce business may learn to get over these problems in time, but you should nudge them in the right direction as a business leader.
Solution: Touch base with your employees every now and then. Find out the root causes of inefficiencies in order fulfillment, as well as in other areas of business operation. Make sure staff members know who the point people are for warehousing, IT, customer care, and the like. Lastly, make it such that your staff members can work in a positive environment, as high morale drives great performance in order fulfillment-related tasks, as well as other tasks that have to do with keeping the site afloat.
The pain points may always be there, but they’re inevitable to a growing eCommerce business. What you need to do is meet these challenges in order fulfillment. When you do, you will become a better business for it.