When is the last time you assessed your fulfillment performance? If you want to keep up with Amazon and their two-day shipping, you better get ready. They shipped over 5 billion items in 2017!
Fast shipping, reliable tracking, and proper and protective packaging are all things your customers will expect. If you drop the ball on even just one, they may take their business elsewhere.
Ready to improve your order fulfillment process? Need a push or shove in the right direction? Keep reading below for six steps you can take to improve your fulfillment process now. Your customers will be very thankful!
Understanding the Basics
No two businesses are identical, but many must deal with filling orders quickly and accurately to keep customers happy. The fulfillment process always begins with an online order, followed by some processing in your database system.
After a customer gets confirmation that the order was received, typically a request goes to warehouses to be filled. After picking, packing, and shipping, the package will be on its way to the customer.
Does this sound like your processes? Is there a weak point somewhere along the line? Keep reading to change that all around.
1. Don’t Neglect International Customers
To compete globally, your payment process must cater to every customer, regardless of where they live. At the forefront, this means allowing shoppers to see prices in their local currency.
Expecting a potential customer to do the exchange themselves (or to just buy without concern) is a dangerous thought process. You want to limit the number of steps a customer must take to get to purchase point.
There are a variety of solutions to enable this. Geofilters are a good place to start. When placed on your website, prices will adjust depending on the customer’s region.
2. Warehouse Location is Crucial
People want their packages faster than ever before. One option for meeting this demand is to rely on air delivery. This can get expensive fast.
To accomplish this in a more fiscally conservative manner, you must strategically place warehouses. Warehouses should be central to your largest customer populations. This will allow ground shipping to be fast and economical.
If you aren’t sure where you should place new warehouses, take time to look at your data. Collect all orders over the last 12 months and see what towns, cities, neighborhoods, and even states order the most products.
3. Partner with the Best Shipping Service
Even if you have all your processes perfected, all that can be ruined with a poor shipping service. If they drop the ball, customers will get mad at you, not their local mailperson.
During your search, we suggest looking for some of these great shipping service qualities.
Keep tabs on any service you partner with. Do audits every quarter. Document late or delayed shipments and any packages that have been lost. If the quality overall begins to decline, it may be time to check out another service.
4. Ensure All Parties Can Access Inventory
How quickly would you be able to answer a question about inventory levels? If you are just scratching your head, you need to make some big changes.
Your order management system should be directly connected with your supplier’s systems. This prevents an order from being taken for something that doesn’t exist or is currently out of stock.
This connection means you should always have an up to date count on item counts and location. It’s a good idea to take this a step further and allow shopping customers to see stock numbers.
Number available alerts for low counts or sold-out notices give customers more information about items. This cuts down on confusion later on when orders are delayed due to restocking obligations.
Customers are also more likely to move quickly to purchase if they believe an item may sell out. Creating a sense of urgency is one of the pivotal cornerstones of marketing.
5. Communication Throughout the Order Fulfillment Process
Sending a generic “Thank you for your order.” email is no longer good enough. Customers expect detailed tracking information throughout the entire fulfillment process.
This means a personalized confirmation email with order details and a tracking number. Knowing when an order is sent out for delivery is helpful for customers that are eagerly waiting for an item.
Work to integrate your systems with your shipping so that customers only need to have one order or tracking number to get information.
No business can control everything. As such, delays and mistakes will happen. Packages will also go missing. Instead of trying to ignore when these happen, be honest.
Communicate with your customers to tell them their orders are delayed. If you are especially worried about how they will take it, offer a free gift or a coupon for a future offer. As long as you are upfront, most people will understand.
6. Have a Streamlined Return and Refund Process
Don’t freak out over customers wanting to return something. It happens to every retailer. Especially ones based online, as choosing the perfect size and color can be difficult.
If your return and/or refund process is simple and straightforward for a customer, they will likely continue to do business with you. If it takes weeks or a customer fails to get a refund, you may lose them as a customer forever.
When you are partnering up with suppliers, seek ones that will accept returns without a restocking fee.
Get Products Into Customer Hands Fast
We hope with these six tips, you feel empowered to improve your order fulfillment process no matter what. Taking just a few steps can drastically improve the experience of your customers.
Have some additional questions? Want to discuss the challenges you are experiencing with order fulfillment? Please contact us, we would love to help!