With more and more retailers expanding into ecommerce, careful attention is being paid to improving order management and fulfillment. Business owners who previously only had brick and mortar stores are having to adjust to the differences of order fulfillment for online enterprises. Improving order management for online stores is almost completely different from that of physical storefronts, so the process isn’t always easy.
Related: Are you a retailer expanding into ecommerce for the first time? Check out our free in-depth guide on converting your retail operation into online sales.
If you are making the shift from brick and mortar to include online retailing, or if you are looking for ways to improve your existing order fulfillment system, the following tips are for you to help with improving order management.
1. Integration with Suppliers
Most products that online retailers sell are sourced from distributers, dropshippers, or directly from the manufacturer itself. In each of those situations, establishing a good working relationship with them is essential. Having a healthy rapport and good reputation with your suppliers will benefit you when something goes wrong. Also, just as important is how you relate to them technologically. Integration between your ordering system and theirs is key to providing your customers with excellent service and fast delivery. Software can automate droshipping to make running your business nearly hands-off. Make sure as you hunt for suppliers that their systems will integrate easily with yours. It will save you a lot of headaches.
2. Maintain Visibility and Tracking
As you work with your suppliers, you will want to make sure that you are able to maintain visibility and tracking of all of your products. Additionally, it’s beneficial if you have access to your suppliers’ catalogs, and inventory and order fulfillment processes. That way you will know if your supplier is running low on stock.
Being able to track orders and notify customers in real-time about the status of their orders will greatly increase customer satisfaction and improve the overall perception of your store’s brand.
3. Use an Exception-Based Order Management System
When you have great visibility into your order fulfillment system, you will be able to tell if there are issues that come up that may prevent your customers from receiving their purchases on time. You could try notifying customers to let them know about whatever the snafu is and when they can expect their products. However, there is another way to deal with this type of scenario – exception-based order management. Exception-based order management systems alert you when anything other than business as usual is happening with your orders. That allows you to take action and upgrade the delivery carrier or method so that your buyers are not even aware that there was ever a problem. You don’t have to be on guard watching for problems, no news is definitely good news with exception-based order management.
4. Employ Smart Warehousing Tactics
Nowadays, it’s expected that online purchases be delivered quickly, and when it’s not quick enough some customers are happy to pay extra for faster shipping. As an ecommerce retailer that means that you have a very tight window for delivery in order to maintain customer satisfaction. There are basically two ways to do that:
- Ship everything by air so everyone receives their orders next-day. Of course, this option is very costly and may run you right out of business.
- Ship items from warehouses that are geographically close to your customers’ locations. That way customers may still get next-day delivery and you only pay ground shipping.
Obviously, you will want to go with option 2, but how exactly do you do that? Go with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that has multiple warehouses nationwide, so there is as little shipping time as possible. Make sure you’re using an ecommerce software that supports multiple warehouses like ecomdash.
5. Choose the Best Shipping Method
As you can see by the above tip, customers expect fast delivery, but the fastest shipping options aren’t always practical for sellers. What you need is a fulfillment method that is based on the customer’s location, warehouse location, and shipping time – and that will also pick, package, and ship the item. That may sound like a lot to ask for, but you can get that. There are smart shipping algorithms that can do all of that, and the peace of mind and satisfied customers will make it worth the expense.
6. Communicate with Your Customers
Another way to ensure customer satisfaction is to always keep them in the loop when it comes to order processing, shipping and delivery. That means letting them know as each step of order fulfillment is completed. You can easily use email notifications to keep them informed of exactly where their orders are, and when they can expect them on the doorstep.
7. Streamline Refunds and Returns
Unfortunately, refunds and returns are always going to be a part of the sales process. That means that you have to consider how to manage reverse logistics and payment refunds. Be sure that you prominently post your return policies on each product page and in your order confirmation email. Only work with suppliers that accept returns, refunds, and replacements as a part of their system. By following these improving order management tips, you are on the right track to improving your business.