Can prospects rely on your e-commerce shipping policies? How often do you miss out shipping, or ship the wrong item?
In case you are unaware, a negative shipping experience can hurt your e-commerce business. Concerning this, 84% of consumers say that they will not come back to a brand after a poor delivery experience.
Thus, all it takes is for one mistake to erode your customer’s loyalty with your brand. These mistakes can add up and affect your bottom line in the long run.
If there is one strategy that you need to focus on, that is your e-commerce shipping.
When you provide an excellent shipping experience, you can improve customer retention.
What is Order Fulfillment?
Before we start, let’s first define what order fulfillment is.
In a nutshell, order fulfillment is the process of receiving, packing, and shipping an online order to customers. This process also involves collecting, packing, and sending an online request.
Most of the time, successful order fulfillment depends on a third-party provider. That’s because they ease the burden of completing your online business’s fulfillment process.
How Does it Work?
When utilizing order fulfillment services, the whole fulfillment process goes this way:
- Retailers will forward the inventory to a fulfillment company.
- The fulfillment company will be the one responsible for sorting and storing the stock.
- Customers will place their online orders.
- Retailers will route the requests to the nearest fulfillment company.
- The fulfillment company will then pick, pack, label, and ship the order to customers.
Now that we know what order fulfillment is and how it works, it is time to learn how to leverage it for your e-commerce business:
1. Ensure Inventory Accuracy
Although you’re not listing your exact inventory, you need to have up to date information on your inventory.
Once you reach a certain number of units, come up with a threshold or reorders so that you’ll never run out of products.
If you have issues with filling up your inventory, you can develop a catalog assortment solution. This enables you to look for new suppliers or use a retail community network.
You also need to be aware if ever your suppliers have any problems fulfilling your orders. You need to be able to provide visibility for your stock levels as well as knowing what currently are the items that are in stock.
This prevents your customers from feeling disappointed if ever there will be delays or backorders.
2. Get a Proper E-commerce shipping
One of the most efficient ways to improve your shipping process is to have proper shipping insurance.
This protects you from emergencies that might happen in the delivery process. Instances like theft, damage, or undue returns can add up to your total shipping expenses.
When you have the right e-commerce shipping insurance in place, you can help decrease these unnecessary costs.
Moreover, several financial agencies provide shipping insurance policies.
Come up with a comparison of these policies and choose the one that gives you the best coverage and benefits.
3. Use Appropriate Fulfillment Model
If you want to speed up the order fulfillment cycle, you need to choose the right fulfillment model for your business. Doing so also allows you to cut back on operational costs.
There are four different kinds of fulfillment options, each with their pros and cons:
a. In-house order fulfillment
Startups tend to prefer this method to cut back on costs. Some retailers use in-house order fulfillment. That’s because it helps them ensure the quality of their order fulfillment process.
This option also allows them to focus on their energy on innovation, marketing, and customer engagement.
b. Third-party fulfillment partner
You can also opt to outsource your order fulfillment process with a 3PL company.
When searching for a concise 3PL definition online, the common denominator is these are logistics companies that can store retail products in their warehouse. They can also help with your order fulfillment process.
One main advantage of going with this option is that you don’t need to invest in your own software. Look for a warehouse, hire staff, and so on.
This is another type of order fulfillment strategy wherein you don’t have physical stock over the goods that you sell.
You’ll only be buying goods from a distributor after you place an order. The order is routed to a third-party distributor who packs, picks, and ships it straight to the customer.
d. Hybrid Fulfillment
This model integrates the unique strengths of humans and robots via real-time intelligence.
In turn, this generates full-circle solutions. Doing so allows you to remain competitive and agile in a world where expectations are always changing.
The key here is knowing what e-commerce shipping solutions will work best for your business. This will depend on your e-commerce business’ order volumes, products, and management systems.
4. Have Seamless Integration
We are half-way through 2020, and you don’t have to manufacture every good that you sell.
Chances are, your products are from online distributors. It is then stored in a fulfillment provider’s warehouse before shipping to customers.
Now, if this is the case, then you must integrate a seamless connection with suppliers via an order management system (OMS).
This allows you to come up with a smooth communication with your suppliers and systems.
That way, you can say goodbye to the dreadful “ships in 2 to 4 weeks” message.
5. Use an Order Fulfillment Software
To create a successful e-commerce fulfillment strategy, you need to have an order fulfillment software.
That’s because it can automate the repetitive part of the fulfillment process. This includes filling out your online waybills or updating your online store’s inventory.
An order fulfillment software can also give you real-time updates about your stocks in a distribution center. Thus, it ensures a high level of customer satisfaction.
6. Leverage Product Kitting
Product kitting is helpful when decreasing your order processing time and fulfillment costs.
In a nutshell, this refers to a process wherein you group various but related items. As a result, you get to pack and supply your products as one unit.
This process has a lot of benefits. You can use this to enhance productivity while decreasing the costs in labor when you store products in separate kits.
Apart from that, you can reduce your inventory and improve your cash flow.
7. Use Proper Labeling
Labeling is an essential process of the shipping process. This makes sure that the products will go where they need to go.
Moreover, a specific marking enables you to meet shipping regulations. Other benefits are knowing the origins of the package, ensuring proper handling, and complying with safety and environment standards.
It also helps secure the privacy of the content and allows receivers to know and identify shipments.
8. Implement Seamless Returns Policy
Where will people return their online orders? Do they have to return it to your physical store, or do they have to ship it back to your warehouse?
If you’re using dropshipping, the customers can choose whether to return the product to you or the supplier’s warehouse.
By evaluating, establishing, and streamlining your return process, you’ll avoid confusion among your customers.
It’s also vital that you establish a clear returns policy that will favor your customer and make their lives a lot easier.
If you have a returns policy that’s too complicated, chances are, they won’t be returning the product. They are less likely to buy from you again, either.
So, make the returns process simple. Place returns shipment with the order, offer free returns whenever you can, and provide an option for your customers to return their orders in your physical store.
9. Communicate with Your Customers
People who order on Amazon might find themselves overwhelmed. That’s because the online retail giant tends to send a message with every package handoff.
It will inform you when your item arrived in a hub near you. It also notifies if your item is ready for shipping and when it is in transit.
Although this may seem a lot to take in, it’s better than not hearing from the retailer—more so when a retailer encounters an issue with your order.
Retailers love to receive any advanced notifications from their inventory, and so does your buyers.
Look for ways how you can communicate with them throughout the entire ordering and shipping process.
10. Offer a 2-day Shipping
Amazon has offered the world two-day, one-day, and even same-day shipping.
Although most customers aren’t expecting the same level of services from e-commerce providers, this has become a more popular option.
Delivery times can play a significant role in a customer’s decision making when making an online order. Here are some helpful tips:
- Provide customers 2-day shipping via FedEx and UPS for an extra charge.
- Work closely with drop shippers who can give that service, and make it possible.
- Fulfill orders via a retail store that’s near your customers.
- Open warehouses or distribution centers in different areas of the country that provides a lot of requests.
You might be unable to provide 2-day shipping because of the costs- both for you and your customer.
That’s alright, as long as you provide the delivery options that can deliver within three to five days.
Thus, you can give an e-commerce fulfillment process that’s flawless. The timing is also perfect, as you maintain lines of communication with the customers about where the package will be en route.
11. Train Your Staff Well
If you want your e-commerce business to succeed, it’s also essential to train your staff well.
As much as possible, cover every bit of your new employees’ tasks. As for your existing employees, it would help if you can provide them with a refresher course. Moreso when you will introduce new technology.
Everyone who has potential impacts on orders needs to know what is expected of them. This includes warehouse inventory recovery, shipping specialists, pickers and packers, in-store clerks, and customer service representatives.
Remember that customer satisfaction will depend on these people.
If you don’t get things right, you will have a lot of apologizing for angry and upset customers. Returns to pay for or even come up with items to give away.
12. Provide Order Transparency
Ideally, you want products to arrive at your customers on time. To achieve that, you should at least have a system in place, allowing you to track everything.
When customers use an e-commerce platform to buy a product, they want a fast and orderly shipping process.
If there are any issues or delays in their orders, your order fulfillment partner should be able to search where the products are. Moreover, they should also provide an estimated delivery time.
It would be better if you have a warehouse management system in place. This allows your employees to track and control product handling.
13. Set Shipping Terms and Conditions
Setting shipping terms and conditions from the get-go helps decrease your expenses. It also helps enhance your e-commerce shipping
It also helps promote transparency between you and your customer.
Here are examples of the terms and conditions that you can create:
- Provide the customer with the right delivery date.
- Have a written contract with the shipping agency or party courier.
- For every product, have proper returns policies.
- You can also provide free shipping once they reach a certain amount in purchasing your products.
By implementing the strategies we mentioned above, you can enhance your online business‘ shipping experience. This can increase sales and revenue.
Over to You
You need to develop a plan that works for you. What will set you apart from your competition is that they qualify for more substantial shipping discounts than you do.
Luckily, you can still be creative when it comes to how you ship your products.
Apply several tips that we’ve mentioned in this article and try implementing it for a month or so. Consider the change in shipping costs as well.
You might also want to test and experiment with these strategies until you find something that works for you, allowing you to save money in the long run.