Generally, retail order fulfillment refers to the whole order process ranging from customer inquiry on specific products, your business processing and packaging the product, and the safe delivery to the customer.
In this fast-paced e-commerce world, having an effective and efficient order fulfillment process might be the difference between keeping or losing your customers to your competitors. To that end, here are six ways to improve the process and drive your business growth:
1. Incorporate Technology To Automate Your Process
Manual order fulfillment processes are a good game when your business is just starting. However, incorporating technology becomes the norm rather than the exception when you scale.
Common technologies that can benefit your retail business include warehouse management systems, which can assist your business with inventory tracking and shipping products. Also, order management technology can help track orders from when the customers first put them out to when they finally get fulfilled.
Several technological integrations can streamline your order fulfillment process. However, keep in mind that the optimal technical integration for your business will primarily depend on factors such as your specific business needs, the scale of your operation, and your budget.
2. Guarantee Reliable And Fast Delivery
According to statistics, 22% of customers leave a shopping session because they find the shipping too slow. Moreover, other sources show that almost half of all customers will only transact with a business after seeing the delivery conditions. These statistics show that focusing on optimal delivery times may significantly benefit your business.
With the billions of people shopping online every year exposed to same-day or two-day delivery timelines, your business is under pressure to ensure you achieve more or less the same speed without compromising product quality. To that end, the best practice is to ensure that your delivery speed is optimal.
How can you achieve that?
- By working with a logistics company with a proven and efficient order fulfillment record to ensure your customers get their products quickly and safely.
- By incorporating tags such as same-day delivery and two-day delivery to let your customers know beforehand how long it’d be before they receive their orders.
- While expensive, you can opt for multiple locations or zones in different areas. With this arrangement, you can fulfill orders to your customers faster by getting their products from the zone closest to them.
- By going for expedited services. While they’re often expensive, you can leverage overnight delivery services from leading logistics companies to deliver the orders to your customers faster.
These measures can go a long way towards ensuring reliable and fast delivery, thereby boosting customer confidence in your retail store.
3. Consider Outsourcing
Outsourcing delivery is getting a third party to manage a few or every aspects of your order fulfillment process. If you opt for this route, you’ll encounter many third-party logistics companies (3PLs) that provide services like packaging, shipping, storing inventory, etc.
Some major services you can outsource include:
- Warehousing to store and manage your inventory.
- Packaging items using the relevant materials and adding shipping labels afterward.
- Shipping orders, etc.
When you outsource such services, you get to focus on service delivery while others worry about keeping in step with the delivery timelines and other logistical issues. Focusing on these crucial tasks can help your retail business grow further and reach a broader customer base.
Some good 3PL companies even have strategic warehouses in different locations, which, as mentioned earlier, could help you deliver orders faster to your customers. Moreover, you may leverage the expertise that 3PL companies offer to improve your business processes. Leveraging outsourced services is, therefore, a good practice for order fulfillment.
4. Improve Accountability On The Order Fulfillment Process
Accountability in order fulfillment is another best practice that immensely benefits your retail business. To develop accountability, it’s critical to implement transparency. Transparency reinforces accountability, enhancing customer trust and satisfaction and improving your reputation.
One way of maintaining transparency is by providing real-time updates to your customers about the progress of their orders. This way, you may improve the customer’s trust in your brand, making them likely to recommend your products to others.
Also, you can incorporate the relevant technology that enables customers to track the whereabouts of their orders, from when they are in the warehouse to when they are in shipping. Whichever route you settle for, ensure transparency in your business dealings to help get new customers and retain the ones already on your roster.
5. Improve The Product Return Process
As a retailer, getting products returned is a reality you’ve learned to deal with. Often, customers may return the packages for reasons such as the product being different from what they ordered or receiving a damaged product.
Data from insights firm, Invesp, reports that an average of 30% of products ordered online are returned for one reason or another. The silver lining in this return process is that 92% of customers who found the return process easier stated that they were likely to buy from the same retailer if they found the return process hassle-free. Therefore, establishing a return process that simplifies the return of packages for customers and your business is crucial.
One of the ways to do this is the incorporation of return management software. These systems help reduce the turnaround time for returns, reducing the returns processing costs incurred while simplifying the refund process.
6. Double Check Your Orders Before Shipping
Innocent as it may seem, double-checking an order ready for shipping against the order made by the customer can save you from drowning in returned goods. This is especially true when you process too many distinct orders quickly.
Double-checking will help you correct errors like wrong sizes, double-picked items, etc. Like many other points in the article, you may consider incorporating the relevant technologies to save the time you would have spent manually checking all your shipments.
With competition rife in the retail business, getting orders right from the point of processing to the end of delivery is paramount for your business’s survival. As you’ve learned from this article, adding extra effort to the order fulfillment process may get you in good standing with your customers and raise your profit margin in the long term. Ensure that your business follows the best practices mentioned in this article and any others to make the best of your retail space.