When starting an ecommerce business, getting your order fulfillment process down is a must. But with that, you need to also make sure your process can scale alongside your business. Having that process that can grow with you is important but let’s say you are fulfilling in-house, and you are not able to handle the amount of orders coming in, you can outsource your fulfillment and let your process be in their hands.
Now what is order fulfillment? Order fulfillment is the process of what happens to an order from the moment it is placed all the way to when the package is delivered to the customer. Understanding the process and what works best for your company is key to having a very successful business.
Order Fulfillment Process
The order fulfillment process can seem a little daunting when you first hear about it. It really is quite simple to explain while being a little more complex to implement. A third-party logistics (3PL) company can help you by taking care of this process for you. The process starts with receiving the products. Then the orders get put into picking lists to be picked from the inventory. The orders are then packed in the best and most protective way ready for the last step of being shipped out to the customers.
Every 3PL has a different process for how they receive the inventory. It is often that the merchant submits documentation. This makes things more organized and done in a faster way. The faster you can get your receiving process the sooner you can get orders out and shipped.
The section where you are actually fulfilling the orders starts with picking. A picker is given a picking slip with a list of items. It will have details like how many of each item and where they are located in the warehouse or facility. The picker will get the items needed and prep them to be packed.
After all the items in an order have been picked, it then needs to be packed securely to be shipped to the customer.
The 3PL will pick the packing materials that they will be packing the products in. They will make sure to pick the packaging that will keep the product secure and protected while also making sure it is the lowest dimensional weight that it can be.
There are 3PLs that will use custom packaging for your company if you wish to have your brand front and center. Just make sure they have all the information to keep that packaging stocked and ready to be used for the orders.
Once your order is in the correct package, has the shipping label on it, and is secure, it’s ready to be shipped.
If you are using a 3PL, they could have one shipping carrier that they work with and prefer to use. Although most 3PLs will compare the shipping rates of multiple carriers to make sure you are getting the best rates for what you are shipping out. Using a 3PL can be very beneficial through the shipping process. They have a relationship with the shipping carriers and can help find the best prices, so the shipping rates aren’t too heavy.
Tips On Order Fulfillment Process
Some simple tips that might be useful to plan and create your fulfillment process might help you when deciding if you want to fulfill your orders in-house or through a 3PL.
One tip is to make sure to keep your receiving process as simple and in a quick manner. The faster you can receive the items the faster you can fulfill orders to be shipped out to your customers.
Another way to ensure you have a successful fulfillment process is to have a backup plan. You never know what might happen to a shipment. So, if you have a backup plan, it can prevent you from having late deliveries or paying way too much money to make things right.
Last tip, keep an eye on your inventory numbers. If you are using those numbers to your advantage, it can change a lot. You can predict how much you will do in sales, based on last year’s numbers. Analyzing that data can get you in a good spot to keep your inventory levels at the right amount.
How to Put Together your Order Fulfillment Strategy
Every business is going to have a different fulfillment strategy. It all depends on what works best for your business and schedule. Here are some important details to keep in mind when deciding how you want your fulfillment strategy laid out.
1. Business Size and Order Volume
Your monthly order volume and the exact number of products you sell are important in finding the right fulfillment strategy that fits you and your company. If you have a low order volume, keeping your fulfillment in-house would be most cost-effective. If you have a limited array of products and are only shipping a small number of orders a week, you most likely do not need full inventory or a warehouse management system to help you keep track of your inventory and operations. Now if your business is quickly growing and your order volume is steadily increasing, you are likely going to outgrow your strategy. You need to make sure your ecommerce fulfillment strategy can grow and change with you.
2. Sales Channels and Technology
Your fulfillment strategy should support and complement your online sales channels. From a technology perspective, you will need to find an order fulfillment software that integrates with your ecommerce platform so you can manage the entire fulfillment process without having to do any developer work. Having technology that integrates well is very important especially when you are selling across more than one channel. Technology should make things easier, not complicate it. So, as soon as an order is made on any of your sales channels, the order is sent to your fulfillment operations so it can be picked, packed and shipped as quickly as possible.
3. Location, Location, Location
Where you are shipping to and from are two very important aspects of your fulfillment, so you need to be sure to keep that in consideration while creating your fulfillment strategy. When ordering online, people want ecommerce delivery to be fast and not too expensive.
To make sure you are delivering on those wants, try to not have your packages travel through too many shipping zones. This can reduce shipping times as well as costs, helping your customers and keeping them happy.
You might want to try to ship from multiple locations that are near your customers that can help get those logistics costs and shipping times down.
4. Customization Needs
Selling custom made, specially gift wrapped, or extremely fragile products might call for a more hands-on approach to your fulfillment strategy. Taking care of your fulfillment yourself in that situation would make sure you have the flexibility, freedom and reassurance that your customization is correct for each customer.
Order Fulfillment Options
When it comes to your order fulfillment process, you have a few different options that how successful it is depends on how big your business is and what it needs to fulfill all your orders.
Let’s say your business is booming and you don’t have the bandwidth or space in your home/garage to fulfill all your orders. Outsourcing to a 3PL might be the thing for you. It would save you time by automating time-consuming tasks. Outsourcing your fulfillment logistics doesn’t just mean the 3PL takes care of just the orders. The 3PL will take care of your inventory management, creating optimized picking lists for the pickers, packing boxes, shipping orders, as well as managing returns. 3PLs have expertise that your business should use. They can help you in so many ways.
This is also known as in-house fulfillment or self-fulfillment. This option is where the ecommerce business owner (that’s you) takes care of the entire order fulfillment process with no help from a third-party. This gives you more control over your retail supply chain. You are able to make things a little more custom and create the customer experience yourself.
This one is the simplest for you. The entire process of creating and shipping the product is done by the manufacturer. They produce, store, and ship out every order. All you have to do is sell the item.
Order Fulfillment Pros
Here at Launch Fulfillment, we know the ins and outs of fulfillment. We have our carriers we work with to get the best rates. We have warehouses in multiple places around the USA. We are here to help you fulfill orders and take care of the little details of it all so you can work on other aspects of your business. Let us, the pros, take care of your fulfillment needs. Contact us to get a quote and ask us any questions you may have.