The Process of Ecommerce Order Fulfillment and Choosing the Best Strategy for Your Business
You have many responsibilities when it comes to running your ecommerce store. You have to have the advertising and marketing strategies in place to bring in customers, the staff and support to handle ecommerce fulfillment services, an IT team to keep the website up and ready to accept orders, a customer service team to handle questions and complaints, and countless other duties. Consumers have many choices in most marketplaces, and if they read bad reviews or have a bad experience with your company, someone else is a click away. You need to have a quality customer experience to really stand out, as it’s considered one of the most important differentiators that a company can have.
Sometimes maintaining or improving the customer experience requires more resources than you have in-house. One of the most common areas that get outsourced in ecommerce is the order fulfillment. Prompt order processing and delivery plays such a key role in giving the customer the best possible experience. It makes sense to partner with experts that have the specialized skills and tools in place to take that order from processing to delivery.
You work with a third-party logistics provider, also known as ecommerce fulfillment companies, to get access to these types of services. The 3PL has the capabilities to handle part or all of your ecommerce fulfillment process. If you’re happy with parts of your order fulfillment workflow, but you want to outsource the problem areas, then that’s an option.
In some cases, it makes more sense to have the 3PL provider take over that entire operation, so you can focus on the areas that have led your business to success thus far. When less of your time is taken up by an area that you’re not as familiar with, you have more resources to focus on your primary business functions.
A warehouse is simply a storage facility that holds your inventory. You may have warehouses set up for your company currently or are planning on acquiring this space as you begin scaling. 3PL companies offer an order distribution and fulfillment service center, which does hold inventory like a warehouse, but it does so much more for your organization.
Your orders get handled end-to-end at the fulfillment center, with the 3PL handling all parts of this process from the time the order data gets sent to them to the moment it gets delivered to the buyer.
You receive many services through the 3PL fulfillment service center that you wouldn’t at a basic warehouse. Here are a few of the most common options that you’ll find when you start looking for a 3PL provider.
Freight management: The 3PL uses specialized tools to more effectively manage freight operations. They can see how inventory and orders are allocated quickly and make adjustments as needed throughout the process.
Pick and pack: You need a way to get your product off of the warehouse shelves and into the shipping box. Pick and pack services provide the manual labor needed to pick the orders, choose the appropriate packing material, and send it down to the loading dock.
Supply chain logistics systems: An e-commerce logistics and inventory management company has access to all sorts of cutting-edge order fulfillment technology that is typically reserved for the biggest ecommerce companies. You don’t want to lose a competitive edge by your shipments going out too slowly, so having this backend technology supporting your operations is critical. Shipping services: The 3PL has existing relationships with shipping companies, which give them the leverage for acquiring better rates, have access to specialized services, and makes it possible to speed up the delivery process for your customers.
The 3PL provider also has additional e-commerce services that may be relevant to your order fulfillment needs.
Customer support: Do you have enough customer service representatives on-hand to handle order related questions? If you have hold times that constantly go higher and bad reviews complaining about the time it takes to get in touch with your company, consider outsourcing order-related calls to the 3PL’s support resources.
Instant access to data: Get real-time updates as orders come in, get processed, and go out the fulfillment center’s doors. With up to the minute information, you don’t have to worry about overselling your inventory or running into other stocking issues as a result of old data.
Warehousing: If you need more space for your inventory, the 3PL service offers cost-effective, pay for what you need warehousing available. In many cases, the cost to work with the 3PL’s warehouses is better than trying to find a good deal on a space on your own.
Fast fulfillment: If your 3PL provider has warehouses located near your largest shipping locations, then you’re able to drastically reduce the time it takes for packages to get to the customers. If people are spread throughout the country, then look for ecommerce order fulfillment centers that are centrally located.
Expert packing: You don’t want to deal with returns from broken products. The experts at the 3PL fulfillment centers have plenty of experience with safely packaging and transporting your inventory. Returns and recall management: Get a better way to handle returns – have the 3PL handle that entire part of the process too.
You see several direct and indirect benefits when you start using order fulfillment centers for your ecommerce companies.
The cost savings is one of the most apparent benefits when you switch over your retail fulfillment solutions. You cut out administrative overhead, property overhead, and more by using a company that specializes in this area.
Scaling business growth becomes possible with a 3PL partner at your side, as you decrease the complaints from customers unhappy with their order processing and delivery. You won’t have to fear sudden spikes in demand. Instead, it becomes an opportunity to make a great first impression with new customers.
The 3PL service has a full staff dedicated to order fulfillment, so the quality control is done by people that are dedicated to the task. They don’t have to help with other parts of the business after they get done with the order processing, so their attention isn’t being split between two different functions. Making a good first and repeat impression on customers is critical to scaling your business. As you build a customer base full of happy people, you’re going to see the benefits to your bottom line.
Avoid employee overhead by working with the existing staff in-place at the 3PL provider. It takes a lot of time to recruit, hire, and train new employees. When you encounter turnover, that sets the entire order fulfillment process back significantly. Avoid all that hassle with the help of a 3PL provider.