How does e-commerce work? A client places an order in an e-shop and gets it delivered. As simple as that. But only if you’re a shopper.
For the e-commerce business itself, every new order triggers a complex operational and organisational maze. But, as a rule, the company which finds its way through it makes a fortune.
When a client feels fulfilled and wants to return to the online store repeatedly? When one’s chosen business handles the order in the most satisfactory manner possible.
So no wonder that the entire circle of preparing and delivering online orders is called e-commerce fulfilment. Usually, it involves warehousing, inventory management, product picking, packing, delivery, returns. But it isn’t limited only to these.
Fulfilment puzzle: make sure you match up the pieces
Let’s be honest; when we order something online, we want to have it now, don’t we? We demand extra speed when the parcel is on the way from the other part of the globe. Do we even need to say how quickly customers want to have their items delivered from the neighbouring district in the same city?
City residents would be happy to get their parcels within a couple of hours. From the business perspective - it’s a challenge. But with a neatly organised and managed fulfilment - possible to deal with.
For this reason, fulfilment is integral from the start, as it mainly defines the e-commerce business’s success. Of course, merchants can pull out all the stops to market and sell the product, but there is no long way to go without adequate fulfilment.
So which areas gather together under the fulfilment umbrella? In general, we can split fulfilment into two parts: inventory management and order preparation/logistics. Let’s quickly go through the first one. As the name suggests, the inventory management part primarily focuses on:
First of all, it’s about the items an e-shop sells, right? It would have been funny if not.
But for all the products to be within quick and easy reach and in necessary quantities, it is crucial to have space for:
No matter how big or small the online store is and if it runs the physical shop at all. Every e-commerce needs a location to keep the products safe and ready unless it uses a drop shipping fulfilment model (when a wholesaler or manufacturer ships products directly to a shopper).
It is important to note that warehouse location matters not only in terms of space available inside (although it’s critical, especially for a scaling business) but also in terms of a geographical position. The closer it is to customers, the more e-commerce can save on delivery costs. One more thing that can help cut spending and help prepare orders faster is effective:
Try to remember when you couldn’t find your keys or phone because you forgot where you put it. It’s always stressful to check every pocket, unpack every bag and, in the end, be late for a meeting.
Imagine the chaos if there is no proper storing scheme and you need to find several items within minutes in a warehouse full of different products. Disaster guaranteed.
For a team to quickly fulfil an order, every product needs to have its dedicated space for better visibility and accessibility.
In addition, hassle-free sorting can significantly reduce the time necessary for picking the order and preparing it for delivery. Also, well-structured storage is an excellent help in:
Keeping the record and managing the inventory is essential to stay up-to-date about the items available in stock and replenish them in time.
Either it is an excel file or dedicated software, this keeps the e-store organised and ensures a seamless product supply chain. Of course, inventory management comes in complete sync with:
No customer is happy to receive half of the order or get something else instead. So, to always be on top of the service and process everything correctly, effective order management is a must. After a customer places an order, a chain of preparatory works begin.
At first sight, it might look like an easy task, just to prepare an order. However, it is a complex puzzle where one action triggers another, so even the tiniest error can come at a great price. Or, in case of excellent execution, bring a lot of added value. Back to topic, when the order comes in, follows:
picking & packing.
Order picking is closely related to inventory and order management. When these two go like clockwork from beginning to end, selecting the items creates a minimum fuss.
No less complex task is to impressively, accurately and safely pack the items. If the parcel is damaged on delivery, usually the responsibility lies with the team of those who prepared the order for shipping.
Packing doesn’t end with taping the box, though. The last thing - labelling. And here we talk not about the branded labels of the company, but the document for delivery staff. For the parcel to reach the correct address and, if needed, to be returned to the right place, the label must contain correct details for:
Usually delivery is the last step, concluding the entire fulfilment process. It can either make it or break it; eventually, everything depends on the delivery partner e-commerce chooses.
In most cases, couriers are the sole physical contact throughout the entire shopping experience, so it is vital to have quality cooperation and ensure that customers' expectations are satisfied.
Fulfilment model reflects individual business needs
The aspects mentioned above of the fulfilment are the most common; no one-size-fits-all magic formula exists. There is no one way to do it right, and it can vary depending on the e-commerce business type and preferences.
Mainly fulfilment process is defined by:
- the number of orders;
- product specification;
- requirements for the way orders are handled;
- whether the company manages fulfilment in-house, trusts it to a third party vendor or goes for drop shipping.
At ZITICITY, we tailor the processes individually to every fulfilment customer; as the companies are unique, so are their requirements demanding diverse approaches and resources.
All in all, it doesn’t matter how good and quality products are, how great e-shop is or how effective the sales funnel is. But, if the fulfilment of the online store is messed up, well, Houston, there is a problem.