Order fulfillment is an essential process for e-commerce businesses. It starts with a client order and doesn’t end until the product is in that client’s hands and they are satisfied with it. In between, you have order notifications and back-office systems, warehouse picking and packing, shipping, and updates.
This is a multistep, complex process that demands time and resources to do it right. Automating the process is becoming essential in the competitive e-commerce industry. Customers now expect to get products sooner; it may be time to automate to streamline order fulfillment for your business.
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Scaling Order Fulfillment Processes
Order fulfillment is the backbone of an e-commerce business. If you fail at this process—taking too long, not providing transparency, delivering damaged or incorrect products—you lose customers.
You have to get this right to succeed, but fulfilling orders presents a lot of potential issues:
Incorrectly Filled Orders
If you’ve ever ordered something and got the wrong product, you know the frustration. It presents a delay for customers and financial loss for the e-commerce business. The error can arise during the order recording or picking in the warehouse.
Running Out of Stock
Understanding customer demand is complicated. If you don’t get it right, you may be out of stock when shoppers want a particular product. Managing inventory is essential to avoid this issue.
As COVID has shown, disruptions to the supply chain can lead to significant delays, especially in international orders. If you deal in international goods, you must stay ahead of potential issues.
Packaging products in the warehouse can introduce errors and delays. Fulfillment by workers requires finding the product, packaging it, adding shipping material, and getting it out the door.
The benefits of auto-fulfillment are tough to overstate. If every other business is doing it, you’ll fall behind in customer satisfaction. If nothing else, it’s the future.
At least for some of the steps in the process, using auto-fulfillment improves speed and efficiency. Your customers get their orders sooner, which boosts satisfaction and long-term loyalty. There is less room for error, so you’ll have fewer incidents of customers getting the wrong item.
Auto-fulfillment processes also help streamline the backend steps. It can improve warehousing, inventory management, and order processing.
Get Your Money’s Worth
Auto-fulfillment is increasingly necessary, but there is room for error here too. Make sure you make the most of an automation system to avoid wasting money and other resources.
There are several factors to consider here. For instance, who are your customers, and where are they? Do you mostly ship products internationally or restrict your fulfillment to the U.S.? These questions are important for finding the right automated processes. International shipping is much more complicated and requires a specific system for getting it right.
The best auto-fulfillment meets the exact needs of your e-commerce store. There may not be one system or tool that hits everything for your company, so consider using multiple services. For example, you may need one tool for warehouse and inventory management and others to process and organize orders and returns.
As you automate, keep customers in the loop. Transparency is increasingly important for consumers. By sharing the process with them, including potential delays or lack of inventory, you prove the integrity of your business. It will help build loyalty from your customers.
Transparency is also important for other involved parties. Make sure retailers, warehouse staff, manufacturers, and other partners know all steps of the process. Open communication helps everyone work more efficiently and streamlines fulfillment.
Third Party Fulfillment
Don’t forget the details as you automated fulfillment processes. You can get a third party to automate your shipping, but what about the packaging? Packing materials represent an important marketing and branding opportunity. Make sure your customers don’t get generic boxes and labels. They should communicate important information about your brand and store information, not just practical details like the website address, but also your style and tone.
As you choose automation products and systems, take time to compare. For instance, look at Microsoft Power Automate vs UiPath. There are many different tools available, from those that cover individual steps to systems that take over the entire process of order fulfillment.
Auto-Fulfillment is the Future of Ecommerce
Don’t let your e-commerce business fall behind the competition. As auto-fulfillment becomes the norm, it’s an essential step if you want to compete and keep customers happy. Do it well by choosing the right tools and systems for your business and making the most of each automated step.