Sales and Fulfillment

How to plan your order fulfilment strategy?

Order fulfilment, as the name indicates, relates to fulfilling customers’ orders. If we take the phrase ‘customers’ orders’ literally, it means to delight the customer. As customers become more demanding, the onus is on businesses to offer a great customer experience so that the customer keeps returning to them for more!

Customer expectations have increased in today’s world where players like Amazon offer same-day or next-day delivery of products. E-commerce stores need to develop order fulfilment strategies that can meet the expectations of customers else they stand to lose out to competitors that have a more robust order fulfilment strategy.

A typical order fulfilment cycle goes through the following stages:

  1. The customer places an order with an e-commerce store.
  2. The order fulfilment team receives the order.
  3. The ordered product is picked from the warehouse and packed.
  4. The order is shipped to the customer.

The factors that impact customer experience in order fulfilment are:

  1. The right product must be shipped.
  2. The ordered product must be delivered as quickly as possible.
  3. The product must be in good condition and free from defects or damage.
  4. The delivery must be within the time indicated at the time of placing the order.

Meeting all these demands of the customers can be a tall order each time, and failure to do so can cost the business a valued customer. Hence, it becomes imperative to have a well-planned order fulfilment strategy that can meet the demands of the customer.

How to plan your order fulfilment strategy?

  1. Identify the Bottlenecks

    Analyse your current strategy and identify the areas of improvement. Customer surveys and feedback are a good yardstick to assess if you are meeting customer demands. Encourage your buyers to post reviews. Reviews also provide clarity on the customer experience with the product quality and delivery.

  2. Ensure that you have Warehouses Close to the Location of Customers

    Given that customers have high expectations for swift deliveries, it is advisable to store your inventory in warehouses that are in close proximity to customer locations. Considering that today’s customers are not restricted by geographical borders and purchase goods in a global market, it becomes all the more necessary to have warehouses close to buyers’ locations. Since it is not possible for an e-commerce store to have storage close to every customer, it is recommended that you check your database to identify areas where there is a concentration of customers and locate your warehouse close to such locations.

  3. Check and Recheck your Product

    Sending the right product in a good condition is vital for a great customer experience. Hence, you must check the product multiple times before packing it to ensure that it meets the specifications of the buyer. Packaging is another important factor to be focused on. You must ensure that the product is packed such that it doesn’t get damaged in transit.

  4. Assess your Sales

    Analyse your sales data to predict demand and manage your inventory accurately. This will ensure that you have the products in the warehouse when the order is placed and can be delivered quickly.

  5. Manage Returns

    Fulfilling orders correctly is not enough. Many times, it may happen that the customer may not be satisfied with the product even though you have met all the criteria specified by the customer. It is also possible that the wrong product may have been delivered or it may have got damaged on the way. As such, including a returns form alongside the shipping label is a recommended practice to facilitate customer returns and make the process more convenient for them.

  6. Maintain Transparency

    Supply chain bottlenecks may impact your order fulfilment process and you may not be able to keep up with the promised delivery date. It is recommended that you proactively inform the customer well in advance about any delays in delivery instead of waiting for them to ask you why they haven't received the product. Maintaining transparency helps build trust and customer loyalty.

  7. Partner with a Third-party Logistics (3PL) Company

    Partnering with a 3PL company offers the benefit of providing storage closer to customer locations. Besides, they provide storage at multiple locations so the e-commerce company can explore remote markets easily. 3PL companies also manage the packing and delivery of products. Partnering with a 3PL company makes it easier to scale the business.

  8. Automate

    A highly effective approach for improving the precision and efficiency of your order fulfilment process is through the automation of all feasible processes. The order fulfilment process involves several manual processes like generating shipping labels, updating order details, and more. Such processes can easily be performed by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) bots and the efficiency can be improved. This positively impacts the customer experience.

    Artificial Intelligence can analyse large volumes of data and provide insights into sales data, customer data, and more. These insights help in making data-based decisions that streamline the order fulfilment process.

    Machine Learning algorithms can forecast demands accurately. This data helps optimise inventory management.

    AI-based chatbots can perform the customer support function and respond to customer queries 24/7 thereby enhancing customer experience.

    Automation technologies offer flexibility and scalability to e-commerce businesses by facilitating a hassle-free order fulfilment process.

    Although this list is not exhaustive, these are some areas that e-commerce businesses need to focus on to enhance the efficiency of their order fulfilment process. A robust order fulfilment strategy has the potential to meet customer demands and delight customers.

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