While product quality, site performance, and digital presence are important to online sales, the fulfillment process is absolutely vital to e-commerce success.
Order fulfillment is one of the most tedious aspects of running an e-commerce business. From managing inventory, to shipping orders, to processing returns, there are multiple steps involved to ensure orders arrive at customers’ doorsteps right on schedule.
While it may seem arduous, the success of an online enterprise greatly relies on this process. Many digital shoppers consider an e-commerce business’ processing speed and shipping policies before purchasing. In fact, at least 45% of online buyers prefer to purchase from e-commerce brands with excellent customer service and optimized fulfillment processes. Customers put a high premium on convenience, speed, and flexibility.
Certainly, online enterprises can benefit from smart e-fulfillment strategies. They not only do improve operational efficiencies, but also enhance customer satisfaction at large.
There are great opportunities for e-commerce businesses to grow their revenues and boost their bottom lines by optimizing logistics and shipping operations. So what are some methods to make the process of fulfillment more efficient and hassle-free?
Many burgeoning businesses make the mistake of adopting a self-fulfillment or in-house fulfillment model at the early stage of their operations. This means they have to manage their own distribution infrastructure, from manufacturing and storage to warehousing and shipping. While self-fulfillment can offer them full control over their logistical operations, it might put a strain on other business processes such as product development and promotions. Without outsourced support, businesses must spend significant time and resources on warehouse space, logistical equipment, software integrations, packaging materials, and additional staff. It’s not only time-consuming but also quite expensive.
This is why third-party fulfillment is a much more suitable option for growing businesses. It helps increase productivity in their strategic endeavors while reducing overhead costs incurred in the extensive process of fulfillment. Aside from that, hiring third-party logistics providers can enhance companies’ performance in core fulfillment processes such as receiving inventory, packing orders, processing returns, and shipping. This prevents shipping delays and other problems that arise during this process. Opting for third-party fulfillment also offers better scalability to e-commerce businesses. It becomes easier to accommodate a rise in demand, especially during peak season, since the core of the fulfillment operations can already be handled by experienced service providers. Indeed, third-party fulfillment is a much more sustainable and profitable option than self-fulfillment.
Aside from choosing a sustainable fulfillment model, selecting a fulfillment partner with a well-distributed network is essential.
It’s also important to consider the location of a fulfillment warehouse—as well as its distribution networks—as this could impact shipping schedules and distribution routes. This factor is particularly crucial for e-commerce brands needing to achieve fast delivery timetables.
Companies targeting nationwide distribution should choose fulfillment partners with multiple warehouse locations and distribution hubs near their customers. This ensures that parcels are received in no less than three days and with fewer shipping costs. Aside from speeding up shipping, multiple warehouses and fulfillment centers can also help reduce shipping expenses for e-commerce brands since products can be directly sent to hubs closest to customers, minimizing shipping zones.
Your fulfillment partner’s e-commerce platform should also be considered, as this can make a huge impact on the fulfillment process of any online enterprise.
An e-commerce platform can affect the management of inventory, tracking of orders, and dissemination of shipping details. When the right software is integrated, the whole process of fulfillment becomes automated, increasing efficiency and reducing human-related errors. Customer experience is ultimately enhanced.
Of course, it’s important that e-commerce platforms are aligned with business processes. There are e-commerce platforms that are better suited to some marketing channels than others. For instance, Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, and NetSuite are more tilted towards omnichannel marketing.
Aside from that, the software of choice must work well with your existing systems since integration options are not always 100% compatible. Thus, to eliminate problems as well as additional implementation costs, e-commerce brands must be able to plot out all areas in the fulfillment infrastructure. Indeed, if e-commerce brands want to stay ahead of the competition, they have to strengthen the core foundation of their operations.