Businesses operate to make a profit by planning, sourcing, manufacturing, producing, advertising and marketing products and services to other businesses and the general public. Almost all business transactions are a form of commerce where goods and services are distributed through buying and selling.
This trading of goods and services is done through a fulfillment process that includes the following:
- Receiving orders
- Fulfillment request
- Order retrieval
While it seems simple, it can get complicated with supply issues, third-party carriers, staffing shortages and storage concerns, lost shipments, damage and returns. These potential issues impact customer satisfaction and the bottom line and are even more difficult with online shopping and e-commerce sites that expand your company’s global reach.
Are you looking for how to improve your order fulfillment process? Here are seven great strategies.
1. Nail Down Your Order Fulfillment Cycle Time
You need to measure your process from order placement to customer delivery to improve it. This throughput time needs to be as streamlined as possible to maintain happy, repeat customers, which means shortening your cycle time.
To do this, you must clear up bottlenecks, watch inventory levels, and have adequate staffing to handle orders throughout the cycle. These internal systems should work seamlessly, so pay attention and monitor the process as well as get feedback from team members on where improvements can be made. This will nail down your cycle time, so it’s more efficient. Alternatively, you can use ecommerce fulfillment services, which aim to make all processes more streamlined and efficient.
2. Storage Capacity
If your business operations include manufacturing, you need warehouse space to store your products until they are sold. Even for products you don’t make yourself, you often order inventory to keep stock to fulfill future orders.
In your warehouse, optimize the layout for a good workflow, from picking to packing and onward to shipping. Maximize your storage capacity using vertical racking systems, detailed product storage and placement and robust warehouse management software to track your inventory. You can also use third-party storage solutions to help store inventory and keep track of your products.
3. Partner With Solid Suppliers
What you sell is important, but your ability to get it when needed is vital. If you are working with a supplier that isn’t reliable, you may not be able to fulfill orders promptly, which means dissatisfied customers.
B2B transactions must be seamless and provide high-quality merchandise you ship to customers without defects. Also, make sure they can scale as you do. Clear communication with your suppliers builds a strong relationship and will prevent issues like incorrect items or supply shortages.
4. Provide Multiple Order Options
People shop differently, and you want to capture all those potential purchases to satisfy and build your customer base. Different ways you can take orders:
- In person at your brick-and-mortar location
- Over the phone
- Online through your e-commerce store
- Using an app
Having lots of options for ordering makes it easier for customers and is an effective way to improve your fulfillment process.
5. Less Employee Decision Making
One of the ways order fulfillment slows down is when employees have to stop and make decisions. If your team doesn’t have a set process, it slows them down, making you more prone to errors. Using an automated order-picking system will help.
This technology tracks your inventory and uses wave picking to select the most efficient route for orders. Bar code systems also allow quick scanning and tracking of incoming and outgoing material. These key technologies will speed up your fulfillment process.
6. Outsource Your Order Fulfillment
While many companies take care of all their operations, depending on your demand, facility size and staffing levels, you may want to consider having a third-party logistics provider take care of your order fulfillment.
3PL is an efficient way of doing business and frees up your time to do what you do best; marketing products and making sales. These companies will store, manage and track your inventory for you at their warehouse locations. They use the latest e-commerce applications and technology platforms to maintain operational control and sync inventory in real-time, so you know exactly where you stand. Outsourcing your order fulfillment may be the best business decision you make.
7. Real-Time Updates To Customers
Once you receive and order from a customer, your interactions with them have just started. You must keep them informed throughout the process until their packages are delivered. Communication is key to a happy customer, so send frequent notifications and updates on their order and delivery. You can use your parcel monitoring information or provide that from a third-party delivery service.
We all want our businesses to run more efficiently, and improving your order fulfillment process is vital to your success. Implement these seven strategies and watch your customer satisfaction and sales growth.