If you’ve ordered at least one thing online, then congrats, you aren’t a stranger to the world of eCommerce. With the global pandemic still on the loom and nationwide lockdowns imposed, more and more merchants are choosing to take up their shops online. But what exactly goes behind the process from adding an item to a cart to receiving it on your front porch? That’s where eCommerce fulfillment comes in.
Let’s get down to the basics and define fulfillment. If you’re a merchant, simply put, eCommerce fulfillment is the entire process behind getting your orders from the website channel where you’re selling them on delivered to your customer. This implies everything from receiving the order, getting the product from the warehouse, inspecting its quality, adhering to compliance procedures, to the storage of inventory, and then ultimately to shipping the product to your customer.
Image taken from Beauty INU’s website
There are different methods you can use to fulfill orders, and some factors to consider when choosing the best model that would work for you include whether you want to outsource or have full control of your inventory, if you have your own warehouse facility, or if you want to manage and train employees of your own.
3 Common Types of Fulfillment
- In-store Fulfillment - The traditional way of things, in-store fulfillment is done in a brick and mortar set-up. Also known as ship-from-store, this uses the actual shop as a warehouse and distribution center.
- Location - Customers will be familiar with the shop location and they can choose to pick their purchase up at their convenience. If your shop is located in many areas, loyal customers have more options as to where to pick up the item.
- Lower rent cost - You can reduce some overhead expenses since you won’t need to invest in a whole new warehouse to store your goods
- Lower shipping cost - By doing the order fulfillment yourself versus outsourcing your delivery, shipping costs will be greatly reduced.
- Less staff cost - You won’t need to pay warehouse personnel if all your staff works at your shop.
- Speed - By reducing the distribution channels your inventory touches, the delivery speed it takes to reach your customer increases.
- Reduce inventory problems - Since the goods won’t be redirected to other locations, you don’t need to worry about the stockpiling of inventory at the wrong places.
- 3rd Party Fulfillment - The process of fulfillment is outsourced to a third-party where you will be hands-off on the distribution infrastructure.
- Scalability - If you’ve been doing things solely on your own, you might be too busy to be handling other parts of the business such as research, sales, and marketing. By freeing up space on your to-do list, your business can scale up more rapidly.
- Space for inventory - If your business is steadily growing, you might find that your brick and mortar shop lacks the space to contain all the things you need. By hiring and outsourcing to a distribution channel, you can take advantage of their warehouse and make your shop as tidy and presentable as possible, without equipment and inventory overspilling left and right.
- Lower standard retail price - Since you can finally purchase your inventory in bulk with your newfound space, you can, in turn, sell your products for a much lower price by the newly increased margins.
- Expertise - By outsourcing your logistics to those who are well-versed in the niche, you won’t have to worry when something goes wrong in the process than if you were handling the fulfillment process yourself. Let a trusted professional do the nitty-gritty work for you.
- Dropshipping - A business model wherein as a seller, you won’t need to handle any inventory as the supplier you order from will be the one to ship the order to the customer.
- Easy to start - As you won’t be handling the products nor the shipment personally, you can just focus on acquiring as many sales as possible. In short, the process of setting up your business will be more streamlined.
- More product variety - By integrating the dropshipper’s products into your own product catalog, you will be able to have more products at a faster speed. In turn, by having more products, you can have a wider market and not just a specific clientele.
- Test before committing - With a lower overhead overall, you can keep testing out which products actually sell. This is because all you need to pay for is a product when a sale is made, and not necessarily all the products the drop shipper has. In short, you will have more time to ensure the profitability of a product.
7 Steps to the Order Fulfillment Process
- Receive an order - Your supplier or manufacturer sends you incoming inventory and you accept it. This includes inspection of the goods received and recording the number of each SKU.
- Storage - Once you receive the inventory, you store it in its proper place. Make sure that you organize your inventory well as this prevents spending unnecessary time in the next step. Proper organization also ensures that your products won’t be damaged or spoiled if they are perishable.
- Order picking - When a customer places an order online, it begins to be processed. Sellers use a pick list to check where the item is located and how many of each item was ordered. A pick list can either be automatically generated electronically or you can write it manually on paper.
- Order packing - Packing involves wrapping the items to protect them from damage while in transit. You can wrap them using bubble wraps, carton boxes, or airbags and secure them with tape to avoid customer complaints and possible returns that will affect your profits.
Shipping - Once the package is secure, ship out your products as soon as possible and make sure to give out the tracking number to your customers, whenever possible. This can be the tricky part of the whole process since a number of factors can affect shipping:
- Choosing the right courier to use
- Shipping time
- International fees
As a business owner, you would want to make this step as seamless as possible. You’d want your website to contain different shipping options for your customer. With Strikingly store’s shipping feature, you won’t need to stress about this. The feature allows you to add multiple shipping options such as standard or expedited shipping and makes checking out easier.
Image taken from Wooddy’s website
Of course, the rates may vary. But as we all know, customers love free shipping, and this feature is available in Strikingly as well. Not only that but make sure to boost your sales and expand your market reach by allowing international shipping.
- Delivery - This refers to the time your customer receives the product, confirms it, and doesn’t appeal for a refund.
- Fulfillment complete!
If there are no returns, then it’s safe to say that is the completion of the fulfillment process. You can now sit back and relax, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
3 Fulfillment Companies to Consider
Start out your eCommerce journey by choosing reputable fulfillment services. When talking about a good fulfillment service, do thorough research to ensure the maximum growth potential of your business. These companies can make your life easier and assist you with your fulfillment needs:
- FedEx - Starting the year 2017, the global courier FedEx has now added eCommerce fulfillment service to put their global network (200 countries and territories) to good use. Some features they offer include warehousing, managing your inventory for you, packaging, transportation, and even returns logistics management. Small to medium-sized eCommerce and multi-channel businesses would benefit the most from their 130 US distribution centers.
- Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) - Custom fulfillment services are growing in number, but Amazon remains to be one of the most popular companies out there. Established in 2006, Amazon already has distribution centers in the USA, Canada, Brazil, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Mexico. One of the reasons why small business owners choose Amazon is because they have 24/7 world-class customer service and faster processing and delivery. Not only that but those who want to turn their eCommerce business into a multi-channel business can do so using Amazon Prime. They also offer discounted shipping rates and take on the bulk of logistics responsibilities, so you can cash in your profits faster.
- Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN) - Founded in 2006, Shopify makes it easy for entrepreneurs to launch an online store quickly without the fuss over server maintenance and website design and development costs. By 2019, it launched its Shopify Fulfillment Network platform that offers shipping and fulfillment to small businesses in the US and Canada. What makes it different from other fulfillment services is that it allows you to customize your own packaging, design your own packing slips, and even include unique packaging inserts like stickers or samples.
Lao Tzu once said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So if you’re an aspiring online entrepreneur, what are you waiting for? If you currently already have an online platform for your goods and services, don’t forget to integrate a shipping feature to make buying your products easier for your customers. You surely won’t regret it.