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.
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. Integrate 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 your contact is essential to running a successful business. Having a healthy rapport and good reputation with your suppliers will benefit you when something goes wrong.
You also need to streamline the technology side. Integrating your ordering system and theirs is key to providing your customers with excellent service and fast delivery. Make sure as you choose suppliers that have the capability to integrate with your systems, whether through a flat file feed, an API, or other feed system. It will save you a lot of headaches.
As you work with suppliers and 3PLs, you’ll want to maintain visibility and tracking of all of your products as they are funneled through the fulfillment cycle. 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.
2. 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 you have a very tight window for delivery in order to maintain customer satisfaction. There are basically two methods:
- 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’ll 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. Make sure you’re using an software that supports multiple warehouses like ecomdash.
3. Choose the Best Shipping Option
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.
4. 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 the order fulfillment process is completed. Use email notifications to keep them informed of exactly where their orders are, and when they can expect them on the doorstep.
5. 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. Here are some great tips to use returns as a sales tool.
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.