If you want to compete against the eCommerce giants (and win), you need to fulfill orders as quickly as they do. But unlike you, they've got an unfair advantage...the economy of scale. Here's guest author Michael Krakaris of Deliverr to teach you how fulfillment automation can help your business grow. Sheer size usually means access to multiple warehouses, competitive shipping rates, and advanced custom-made software. How do you keep up with that? How do you provide the same level of service as the resource-rich behemoths?
Simple: Fulfillment automation.
Let's take a look at how you can automate your fulfillment process to improve speed and quality and delight customers.
Automating fulfillment is your future
Order fulfillment is the lifeblood of e-commerce. This lengthy process starts when the order comes in, and ends when the customer receives their package and decides to keep it.
Automating and streamlining the multiple stages of this journey has big benefits.1. Faster processing and delivery times give shoppers what they want
Your customers want speed. In fact, 80% of shoppers want same-day shipping, but only 53% of online stores offer it. Slow or expensive shipping also accounts for the top reasons for cart abandonment, which means slow fulfillment will cost you sales.
Join the Flash-like minority by automating all the steps that lead up to shipping, and gain an immediate advantage.2. A better customer experience helps retention rates
Smart automation helps you streamline your entire fulfillment process, from quick delivery to great customer service.
This helps you create a better overall experience by crafting and following a process to eliminate system inefficiencies. This frees up your team to focus on improving the customer experience, so they can spend more time on retention projects instead of soul-sucking repetitive tasks that can be outsourced.3. Streamlined processes future-proof your business
Customer expectations aren't about to go back in time to the slow old days. If anything, modern tech like drones and driverless cars, alongside same-day delivery will continue to raise expectations.
By streamlining your processes, you set yourself up for long-term success.
Preparing for fulfillment automation
Mike O'Brian, senior editor at MultiChannel Merchant, advises sellers to conduct an assessment of the current state of their fulfillment process before jumping into automation.
By identifying what's working, what isn't, and where your system is lagging you can make better choices and get your automation process off the ground much faster.
Your automation success hangs on two main decisions. Let’s take a look at both.
1. Choosing the right software
Software powers the modern e–commerce store. Everything from inventory management and shipping to repricing and customer service can be handled (or at least greatly improved) through integrated solutions.
To automate your fulfillment process, look for specialized software that handles the entire process from start to finish. This makes it easier to set specific rules and stay on top of them. Whatever provider you choose, make sure they integrate with your existing solutions. And if you’re a fan of full-scale automation, look into order management systems.
2. Packing and shipping orders
The actual business of packing and shipping the goods is the most time consuming part of the fulfillment process. Getting it to function as smoothly as possible is essential.
Whether you handle fulfillment in-house or you use an outsourced fulfillment solution, there are steps you can take to make things flow faster.
Managing your own order fulfillment
Fulfilling your own orders has distinct advantages. It makes it easy to add that personal on-brand touch and can help you ensure package quality.
If you fulfill orders through your own warehouse, here are some things you can do to improve your process:
- Organize your warehouse to support a repeatable step-by-step process. When everything has a specific place, packing and shipping move much faster.
- Automate package management and reordering. Few things slow you down more than running out of the basics-- make sure those get reordered automatically as soon as inventory drops under a threshold that’s right for you.
- Streamline the personal touch. If you handle your own fulfillment, you’ve got the perfect opportunity to add branded marketing materials, a personalized thank you note, or use branded packaging.
Outsourcing gets you 1) speed and 2) cost advantage, without having to invest too much time and capital.
However, you also hand over the responsibility of quality control to a partner. That’s why you need to make sure they’re right for you.
Look for partners that leverage tech to improve their processes. Your fulfillment partner should:
- Use automation to streamline their own processes. You’re putting a big part of customer satisfaction into someone else’s hands, so before partnering up, check how they do business and how they’ll handle your orders.
- Prioritize fast shipping. Prime is the new standard. You should offer free 2-day shipping everywhere you sell, and look into Walmart and eBay’s new fast shipping programs.
- Use software that talks to yours. You’ll need to sync up your inventory management software so make sure the two solutions are compatible.
- Have a high customer approval rate. Social proof matters. Check the reviews and make sure your selected solution does what they can to minimize damaged packages and misplaced orders.
You should also make sure they are upfront about their charges. For example, a typical 3PL can charge fees to receive, store, box, pick and pack, print labels, ship, and more. As a reference, Deliverr only charges 2 fees; fulfillment and storage. Look for a solution that keeps things as simple as possible.Setting yourself up for success
Streamlining and automating your fulfillment process is about looking for breaks in the system and fixing them. It doesn’t stop with partnering with a fulfillment provider or developing a proprietary high-speed system for getting orders out the door in your own warehouse. Instead, tweak and improve fulfillment as you go.
About the author
This is a guest post from Michael Krakaris of Deliverr.
Deliverr provides fast and affordable fulfillment for your eBay, Walmart and Shopify stores, helping to boost sales through programs like Walmart Free 2-Day Shipping and eBay Guaranteed Delivery. Deliverr’s FBA-like multi-channel fulfillment comes with clear pricing, easy on-boarding and a hassle free experience so you can focus on growing your eCommerce business.