Effective order fulfilment carries more weight than you might expect. Not only does it keep customers happy, but it also presents you with a chance to edge competitors, drive revenue, and provide an elevated experience that supports plans for future growth.
However, anyone with experience in managing order fulfilment will understand just how difficult refining the process can be. With a myriad of external factors affecting the fulfilment cycle, levelling up post-purchase logistics requires a deft touch and increased investment in inventory management and resources.
To help you improve your order fulfilment, we’ve put together this guide covering some of the practical measures you can implement to refine and enhance the process.
- Evaluating Your Order Fulfilment Processes: Questions You Need to Answer
- What Effective Order Fulfilment Looks Like
- Essential Tips for Improving Order Fulfilment
Improving order fulfilment starts with taking stock of current processes. You need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your existing strategy in order to implement the appropriate means of improvement.
Self-evaluating your fulfilment process can be challenging. But by answering the following questions honestly, you’ll be well on the way to course-correcting your approach and attaining the improvements you’re looking for.
Here are some of the key questions you need to be asking – and answering – when assessing your fulfilment processes:
- In general, how satisfied are our customers with the order fulfilment process? Has the business gathered recent customer feedback on delivery and service times? What would customers like to see?
- Are order fulfilment workflows sufficiently resourced within the business? Could increased technological investment bring immediate benefit? Or perhaps hiring new starters could unlock greater fulfilment capabilities?
- How much is the business paying for its current fulfilment logistics? Is this in line with industry norms? Where could cash be saved to support increased investment in fulfilment delivery (if necessary)?
- Does our warehousing and logistics capacity match the ambitions of our fulfilment offering? What improvements may be required to bolster warehousing and logistics to support enhanced fulfilment?
- What impact is the health and efficiency of our supply chain having on our fulfilment capabilities? Could new partnerships or contracts help support enhanced fulfilment in the long term?
These are just some of the questions you should look to answer to get a handle on the strength of your fulfilment process. Even if they’re not all relevant to your business and aspirations, the point is that you need to take stock of your current fulfilment state of play to refine it going forward.
Improved order fulfilment can bring a raft of benefits to your operations, but what does it look like in practice?
The goalposts surrounding fulfilment change often, influenced as they are by emerging tech, new logistics capabilities, and fluctuating customer demands. So, how do you set about improving your own fulfilment processes when the parameters of best practice are forever marching forward?
A good place to start is by understanding what effective, forward-looking order fulfilment looks like. This not only provides a good benchmark for comparison, but also some KPIs for measuring the effectiveness of your improvement strategy.
Below, we list the trademarks of efficient, customer-first order fulfilment – do you recognise these in your own logistics offering?
- When a customer places an order, they receive a confirmation email and an estimated delivery time. This should happen almost immediately.
- The e-commerce platform sends details of this order to an inventory management system, which is, in turn, transferred to warehousing.
- Warehousing teams have the tools and resources required to pick, process, and pack the order ready for shipping.
- The item is despatched via a cost-effective and prompt courier service to either the recipient or an agreed Click-and-Collect location. The customer receives an automatic despatch note with an accurate time of delivery notification and a means of tracking their order in transit.
- The courier delivers the package within the designated timeframe, providing the customer with flexible redelivery or safe-place drop-off if required. The item arrives in an undamaged condition with an accurate invoice and returns information.
- The customer receives a notification alerting them that their order has been delivered. This also includes returns information and a feedback form.
So, this is a typical order fulfilment cycle, with all bases covered to ensure customer satisfaction at each stage of the process. One thing that’s immediately clear is the need for consistent communication; keeping a customer in the loop on the status of their order can make all the difference, even in cases where there’s a delay or issue.
While the steps required to improve order fulfilment will look different for every business, the following tips will help you attain fulfilment best practice – introducing measures that help refine the process.
Develop an attractive and simple returns policy
A convoluted returns policy won’t do you any favours. Indeed, it can be a major deterrent.
The fulfilment process doesn’t end when an item reaches a customer. Instead, the cycle completes when a customer is satisfied – even if that means they’ve returned the item for a refund.
Free, no-quibble returns may sound like a bitter pill to swallow – particularly for small businesses that rely on every sale – but the impact of offering this type of policy will pay dividends in the long term. Customers will be more likely to return even if they’ve previously sent orders back, helping to establish greater brand advocacy and trust.
Always have safety stock on standby
Quick, consistent, and issue-free order fulfilment relies on accurate inventory management. But sometimes, errors can arise within even the most robust inventory management strategies.
When this happens, you’ll be relieved you procured that surplus safety stock. This is when you always purchase more of a particular item from wholesale, so that you’re guaranteed to never run out and always able to fulfil incoming customer orders.
Of course, this relies on an efficient and well-managed inventory system. Trusted technologies, such as ERP software, can make purchasing and tracking safety stock simple – offering peace of mind that stock problems won’t interfere with your order fulfilment obligations.
Automate order fulfilment processes
One of the very best means of improving order fulfilment is to look at ways to automate your existing logistics chain. What steps within the cycle should you look to automate as a means of speeding up fulfilment (or making it more accurate)? And what tools can you leverage to streamline different aspects of the cycle?
Automation is without doubt an essential component of modern e-commerce management. Seamlessly connecting your sales, inventory, and logistics functions, it accelerates each step of the fulfilment cycle, with no personnel-related downtime or delays.
If you’re yet to automate certain aspects of your order and delivery chain, we’d encourage you to invest in the latest automation technology. Doing so will not only reduce costs, free up resources, and improve the consistency of your order fulfilment; it can help you scale and grow your business by saving your team from time-intensive manual processes, so they can focus their skills on other areas of the business.
Are you looking to take your order fulfilment up a gear? We can help. Our future-aligned solutions, which include a full ERP platform and a standalone management system designed for SMEs, can help you optimise and refine your order fulfilment strategy – and much more besides. For more information, visit the homepage or contact us today.