Fulfilment 101

How to optimise your fulfilment processes and increase customer loyalty

We know you absolutely love getting more and more sales in your eommerce store.

But we also know that there is a threshold for doing everything yourself. That’s when it’s time to start optimising your fulfilment process.

The fulfilment process is everything that happens once a customer hits “buy”. It includes how you process orders, pick products, and arrange shipping.

While it is possible to do this yourself, being overwhelmed by orders and fulfilment will eventually affect your customer purchasing experience and therefore how they see your brand.

Now is the time to start optimising your post-purchase process! Keep reading to find out what fulfilment is, the different ways of doing it efficiently, mistakes to avoid and tips for how to optimise your own fulfilment process.

Overview on eCommerce fulfilment process

Your fulfilment process is probably the most important part of running an eCommerce business.

Once someone makes a purchase, they expect to get what they paid for! According to 2022 stats by Zendesk, 81% of consumers say that a positive customer service experience increases their chance of repurchasing. Your order fulfilment process matters.

The eCommerce fulfilment process includes everything from order processing, to packaging, to shipping, to processing returns. It also includes your system for things like product quality control and storing stock in a way that makes it easy to pack orders.

All of these small factors add up to faster order fulfilment and therefore happier customers.

How is eCommerce fulfilment different from ecommerce shipping?

Fulfilling orders is a multi-faceted system that gets customer orders out to them. eCommerce shipping is just one part of the fulfilment process.

Where eCommerce fulfilment covers everything from customer service to packaging, shipping is the physical process of getting the order couriered.

This has lots of subtasks such as:

  • Choosing the right courier (e.g. local or international)
  • Inputting addresses
  • Creating labels
  • Setting up courier tracking
  • Sending confirmation and thank you emails

For the best customer experience, some or all of your fulfilment and shipping processes should be automated.

Top models of eCommerce fulfilment

Depending on where you are in your business journey, your order fulfilment will look different. Whether you are doing it yourself, outsourcing some or all of it, or some combination of the two, all fulfilment can be optimised.

Self-fulfillment

Self-fulfilment is when you are doing everything yourself.

This includes every step from ordering stock, storing it, picking and packing orders, and shipping logistics on top of that. If you are just starting out or have a relatively small number of orders per week, you are probably using this method.

When you are starting out, this is usually the most cost effective method for fulfilling orders. It also means you have complete control over orders, so if something goes wrong you can fix it relatively quickly instead of waiting on a third party and potentially hurting your brand image.

However, as your business grows, it becomes more cost effective to outsource some or all of the fulfilment steps.

Third-party logistics

Using third party logistics means you are outsourcing some or all of the order fulfilment.

For example, you might use a fulfilment center to hold inventory and pack orders for you. It might also look like using shipping integrations for your eCommerce store so that you aren’t doing everything manually or arranging couriers for every individual order.

This is of course more expensive than self-fulfilment.

You would start to use third party logistics when your time is more important than the expense. For example, if you have a lot of daily or weekly orders, you could start scaling by outsourcing logistics and focus on marketing and customer experience instead.

Hybrid

Lastly you might just use some combination of these methods. For example you might use drop shipping for some products but self-fulfil some others. This might mean using some kind of fulfilment service to make all orders seamless whether they come from you or a third party.

Challenges associated with order fulfilment

Although efficient order fulfilment is crucial to success in eCommerce, it isn’t always simple to put into practice!

Let’s go through some common eCommerce challenges and tips to overcome them.

Demand planning/handling higher order volumes quickly

Higher order numbers can cause issues if you don’t have automated order fulfilment processes. The best way to overcome this is to put systems like shipping integration and inventory management in place early on in your business, even if you aren’t overwhelmed yet. That way you can easily adapt and grow as orders increase.

Manufacturing capacity

Are you using a manufacturer? Are you making products yourself? Do you use a dropshipping service? Managing expectations of supply and keeping your eCommerce website up to date with accurate figures avoids customer dissatisfaction if you run into manufacturing issues.

Inventory management

You need to have a system for inventory management! Like demand planning, it is important to set yourself up for success early. If you don’t have a third party warehouse who is managing inventory and SKUs for you, make sure you have a clear system for storing inventory and doing quality control checks when stock arrives. This will save you time when you are picking orders.

Supply chain execution

Supply chains can create issues if you are running low on popular items. How long does it take to get items back in stock? What expectations do you set for customers who want to purchase it now but can’t? This is all about knowing how long your manufacturers take and what to expect from your delivery services. Having a system for notifying customers when items are back in stock is one way to get them to come back instead of going to competitors.

Customer order tracking

Dealing with a lot of “where’s my parcel” inquiries? Online shoppers want to know exactly where their products are! 61% of customers will switch to competitors after just one poor customer experience. Using an efficient shipping fulfilment service like Starshipit means that order fulfilment is fast, effective, and customers can know exactly where their parcel is without you having to spend extra time on customer service. Win-win!

Tips to optimise your eCommerce fulfilment strategy

Automating and optimising your fulfilment process is the best way to keep customers happy. And when customers are happy, your bottom line grows as well.

Here are a few tips to optimise your eCommerce fulfilment and improve your customer experience.

Evaluate your current fulfilment strategy

The first thing you need to do is to decide if you actually need to improve your fulfilment strategy.

Take some time to look at your order fulfilment and ask questions like:

  • Where are there bottlenecks in my order fulfilment?
  • Where do I feel like I am wasting my own time? Do I spend a lot of time on frustrating tasks like chasing couriers?
  • Is my current shipping and courier service efficient?
  • Where are me and my workers making a lot of errors? What admin do I spend a lot of time fixing?
  • Are there too many orders for me to do efficiently by myself?

You should evaluate your fulfilment process at least twice a year to make sure you are keeping up with orders to a high standard.

Consider other business priorities

Once your eCommerce business starts to grow, your time might be more important than saving money. Automating your fulfilment process gives you more time to do big picture strategy and growth. Are you at the customer service stage, or is your fulfilment process efficient and it’s time to scale?

Hire or outsource roles

Once you have reached capacity for fulfilling orders yourself, it might be worth investing in outside help. However, you need to have good systems in place first! There is no point hiring a second pair of hands if they are going to be doing the same inefficient fulfilment. Make sure you have the right shipping integrations and order processing software in place before outsourcing.

Choose tech solutions to streamline operations

Although self-fulfilment can save money, you might be losing money if your order fulfilment is too slow. That’s where tech can help with automation in ecommerce fulfilment.

For example, Starshipit is a fulfilment software that takes care of shipping for you. It automatically calculates accurate shipping costs at the checkout, creates bulk shipping labels for orders, and lets customers track their orders in real time. Shipping often creates bottlenecks in the fulfilment process so it is important to have a solid system in place as you grow.

Adjust your eCommerce fulfilment model

Your eCommerce fulfilment process will grow and change as your business does. Regularly evaluate factors like your 3PL contracts, how much time you spend fulfilling orders, your customer reviews and your shipping partners. It’s your business so you can change when you want or need to!

Take home message

Your fulfilment process is the secret step to eCommerce success. By focusing on efficiency and automation, you can give your customers the experience they deserve and build long-term loyalty and brand trust.

Looking to automate your fulfilment process? Whether it’s dispatch, checkout, or post-purchase customer engagement, Starshipit’s automates every step of your fulfilment process. Deliver more products to more people while Starshipit’s fulfilment automation does all the heavy lifting for you!