Order Fulfillment Process
When it comes to eCommerce, whether you’re just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, you already know that dealing with shipping can take a big bite out of your work day. Instead of focusing on marketing, customer service, and developing your product line, you have to spend time packing and shipping your stuff to your customers. And the more product you ship, the more time you spend. But there’s good news:
The right fulfillment company can take a lot of the hassle out of the shipping end of your business. They can handle your orders, pretty much start to finish. You’ll get help with everything from getting your product from the manufacturer to the warehouse, assistance with documentation and importing inventory from the supplier, and working with just the right freight forwarder for your personal business.
The best fulfillment companies will use a premiere software to track everything through their system for you. That means that you can focus on the more important things — things like growing your business, or getting home at a reasonable hour to spend time with your family, or just being able to take a breather instead of running to the post office every other minute or calling UPS quick to catch their last delivery of the day. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
It is great, and it’s totally doable with the right fulfillment company. They can take the shipping load off your shoulders and here’s how:
First, you find — or design — a totally cool product, then set it up with a manufacturer or distributor. Then you set up your online ordering system, be it website and marketplace orders, shopping carts and/or retail sales. Then you hook up with a fulfillment company.
Let’s assume you (very wisely) chose a fulfillment company that uses software as savvy as you are. This software can track your orders and integrate for multichannel shipping. The right company with the right software can even handle dropshipping for you. They’ll also receive your products, assist with quality control, and even take pictures as needed, so you’ll know what product is where in the warehouse and what condition it’s in.
So now you’re partnered with a great fulfillment company with super-smart software. This is what happens next:
The first thing that software looks for is your product. Is it in the fulfillment company’s warehouse already? Is there enough of the product to complete the entire order? Do you need to order more from the manufacturer? If it’s in the company’s warehouse, no problem, and the order goes out pretty much in a heartbeat. If it needs to be ordered, that’s still no problem. Why not?
Because the software also keeps track of how much inventory you have on the shelves and will flag you when stock runs low. That lets you order from the manufacturer ahead of time, so there’s no delay in filling your customer’s order. Your fulfillment company can also handle freight forwarding and receiving and then log your inventory. The software will let you know every step of the way — pretty much the best possible tracking system on the planet!
The next step is relatively straightforward:
The fulfillment company’s team picks, packs and ships your order to your customer using the standards you’ve set for your brand. That means they (literally) pick your product off the shelf, pack it properly for safe shipping, then get you the lowest rate possible for the carrier most appropriate for your needs.
You can also ship pretty much anywhere in the world if you want, because a great fulfillment partner will pave the way with all that tricky international documentation. And you won’t have to build a warehouse overseas to handle your overseas orders.
Another great feature of a good fulfillment company’s packing step is that they’ll also include whatever non-order materials you’ve asked for. That includes leaflets, flyers, coupons and other printed materials as well as a quality filler to pad the product appropriately. Then they’ll either send it out in a generic box or another package that fits the product — always working to avoid that sticky volumetric weight “bag of potato chips” problem — or they’ll pack and ship your things in the package you supply such as a custom size box with your brand
The right fulfillment company — like ShipMonk, for instance — can also help you ramp up your customer’s unpacking experience by supplying niceties like colored crinkle cut paper, snappy bubble wrap, and all kinds of things to make the unboxing experience one your customer remembers.
Once the order is picked and packed just right and shipped to your customer, one of two things happens:
1) You have a super-happy customer who got exactly what he or she ordered, “had fun” unpacking your product, and is off to make good use of what they purchased from you.
2) Something went wrong along the way. Maybe the order got mixed up between the shopping cart and the warehouse. Maybe something in the package is wrong or got broken or damaged, or maybe your customer is unhappy for some other reason. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what your fulfillment partner can and will do:
With the help of — once again — that trusty software, they’ll accept the return and do whatever it takes to make your customer smile. They can return the product to their warehouse. They can hold it — or dispose of it — whichever you want them to do. Or they can refurbish it to your specifications. Then, depending on how you tell them to handle things, the process starts all over:
A new order comes in — it’s picked, packed and shipped — and this time (hopefully) you have a happy customer who will reorder from you because the return process was so easy, they almost couldn’t believe it.
To sum it all up, the real trick to a great fulfillment company’s shipping magic is three-fold:
First, there’s the custom software. It flags you. It flags the company. It tracks the product all the way from your inbound order through shipping from the manufacturer to pick, pack & ship to your customer.
Second, and actually crucial, is help with customer support, especially on returns. So as you’re interviewing fulfillment firms, ask their process on customer returns.
Third, and possibly most important of all, you want a company with a dedicated team that will keep a personal eye on your shipping needs. You also want a team that can answer pretty much any question you have — anything from what size box to use to how you can solve a particularly sticky return issue.
So, there you have it. In a nutshell, your customer calls or clicks to place an order through any one of the available ordering systems — the order travels through the fulfillment company’s system — then it ends up on your customer’s doorstep.
No more wasting time running around finding product, putting it in a box, then running to the post office or the UPS office. No more overpaying for shipping because you didn’t have quite enough volume to get a really good rate. No more worries about running out of storage space and having to rent. And no more worries about expanding your business, especially overseas, not when you’re partnered with a fulfillment company that really knows its stuff.
Just be sure to choose your fulfillment partner very, very carefully. Make sure they have good software, that they’ll help you with paperwork, and that they have a dedicated team to answer your questions and look out for your interests.
When you find all of that in one company — and you can with a fulfillment firm like ShipMonk — you’ll feel like your shipping process is almost running itself!