Even before online stores became the ascendant way of selling and doing business, one of the most important concerns of businesses was how to shorten the time they pack items from their warehouse and deliver these to customers. Of course, ensuring item quality is a given. Sellers would go to lengths to make sure items are packed well so they won’t break or be damaged while in transit.
But even before the items leave the warehouse, sellers have enormous opportunities to improve their own order fulfillment systems and processes. Some of these gaps can be found right inside their warehouses. There are also opportunities to improve their storefront management and order processing. Here are a few practices you can employ to streamline your order fulfillment process.
1: Implement A Smart Warehouse Management System
One of the first things you ought to consider if you want to adopt practices which will streamline your order fulfillment process is to get a smart warehouse management system. Your warehouse contains everything that’s part of your company that would be sent out to your customers and buyers.
They’re the physical aspects of your business which would sooner or later be bought, pulled off from the shelves, packed, sent out, and delivered to your buyers. Oftentimes, though, unless you’re manufacturing your own item, you have no control over your product quality.
What you do have control over is the process by which orders are processed from checkout to delivery. If you’re still using manual processes to pull off items from your storage room or inventory shelves, there’s quite a high tendency for errors or mistakes to be committed. You might want to consider outsourcing your order fulfillment systems and processes.
There are still online stores and ecommerce warehouses where the online orders are printed out on paper, and then given to the inventory staff or warehouse crew. The warehouse crew would then go around the warehouse with the order lists tacked in folder clips. They would then search for the items on the list. Once they find the items, they’ll pull them off and bring it to a central sorting section. They’re going to repeat this process every time a new order list comes in.
You can streamline your order fulfillment process by automating some if not all of the functions in your warehouse management operations. If you can’t afford robot pickers and haulers yet, then maybe you could at least consider using a software for your inventory management. This will help you track what’s being taken out and what stocks are being delivered to your warehouse.
2: Integrate Your Online Store With Your Inventory
The second practice which you can adopt to streamline your order fulfillment process is if you can integrate your online store database software with your inventory and warehouse management software.
One of the primary causes of mistakes in processing and handling order fulfillment is that data is sometimes lost or erroneously processed from the online store to the warehouse inventory system. This is also the gap which tends to take up a lot of time. If the online store is fully automated but the warehouse isn’t, there will be gaps in the processing and turnaround time.
It’s important to have a streamlined and user-friendly online store. Customer’s experiences with navigating and surfing your online store can make lasting impressions and influence their decision whether or not to buy again from your store. If they find it very easy and convenient to surf your online store and product listings, they’d be more likely to come back and even endorse your store to their friends.
Aside from your online store, though, it’s also important for your store software to be integrated with your warehouse and inventory management software. By linking the two with each other, you’d be able to attain higher accuracy in managing pull out of items from your warehouse.
In short, integrating them will enable you to make sure your warehouse crew is pulling out the correct items based on what customers ordered. Aside from accuracy and correctness in processing customer orders, linking them will also make for a more efficient process.
3: Integrate The Tracking App With Your Customer GUI
Another important aspect of order fulfillment is monitoring and tracking the progress of deliveries. Once an item is packed and sorted, they’re handed to the cargo forwarding or delivery company. This is usually outsourced to a forwarding or logistics company which specializes in cargo pick-up and delivery.
These logistics providers usually offer door-to-door deliver services. This means they pick up the item from your door and deliver the item right at the doorstep of the buyer or recipient. If the item is delivered, then there’s no problem.
In the meantime, however, from the time the item leaves the warehouse or sorting hub, to the time it reaches the door of the recipient, both seller and buyer are often quite anxious and concerned.
This is usually the time when both are hoping nothing bad happens to the item, and it would be delivered in one piece within the range of days promised by the seller to the buyer. The seller wants to make sure nothing awry happens to the sold item. The buyer, of course, is concerned because oftentimes they already paid for the item.
It’s a good thing that in recent years, numerous cargo delivery and forwarding companies have come up with a tracking section where customers can get periodic updates about the progress of the delivery. This is usually found in the website of the cargo delivery or forwarding company.
To further streamline your order fulfilment, though, what you can do is integrate this tracking application to your own website or customer graphic user interface (GUI). This way, your customer won’t need to shift from one website or application to another to track the item.
4: Use Order Fulfillment Analytics For Customer Experience
Another aspect which you can streamline is by using order fulfilment analytics for customer service and experience. Your company gathers a ton of data from all the customer visits to your website, product listings, saved pages of product listings, order checkouts, and confirmed deliveries. This vast database of information about your customers’ behaviour and preferences has a huge potential for further improving the way you deliver customer service and experience.
To do this, you should mine your data analytics from order fulfilment and compare this with your data analytics from store activity. For example, you can try to find out whether customers who received their item ahead or within the expected delivery time were more likely to buy again from your store or not.
If there’s a correlation, then you should increase efforts to fulfil all deliveries on time or ahead of time. Maybe you can also offer a faster delivery time if they buy another item, buy several other items, or buy in bulk. It’s up to you how to innovate.
Delivering ordered items in good condition and on time is essential to providing excellent customer service. It’s the best way to make sure your customers have an enjoyable customer experience whenever they buy from your store. Adopting practices to streamline your order fulfillment process is indispensable if you want to attain both operational excellence and excellent customer experience.