Shipping orders sound easy, but getting it right every time is key to gaining loyal customers. The supply chain has many moving parts. Failing at any one of them, even just once, can result in losing customers. As the adage goes, it is easier to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one.
What is order Fulfillment, and How Does it Help You Get Repeat Customers?
When a customer places an order, the fulfillment process begins. For eCommerce businesses, that usually means printing invoices, picking inventory, packaging items correctly, and choosing the shipping service are all tasks you will need to do.
Once the customer finalizes the order, the clock starts ticking. There are many steps from getting your product out of the warehouse and delivered to the customer. Getting it done promptly — without any errors — is crucial to avoid delays, customer complaints, and lost money.
In our fast-paced world, customers wanted their orders yesterday. Improper packaging, damage in transit, slow shipping speeds, and incorrect orders are not something they are willing to tolerate. Make a mistake, and the customer might never do business with you again.
Fulfilling orders quickly and correctly is important
Customers are counting on you to get it right. They may have a birthday or holiday and choose your item as a gift. Even everyday items such as housewares and toiletries should be treated with just as much attention when you ship them.
Customers want to receive goods fast, and they will not tolerate mistakes. Shipping promptly and getting the correct items to their doorstep is no longer considered “good” or “above-average” customer service. It is the minimum expectation.
Amazon re-defined fast shipping ever since they introduced “free” two-day shipping. Heck, they have even pioneered overnight and same-day delivery for a growing number of items. Customers view speedy and precise order fulfillment as the norm. To survive, your e-commerce startup may need to offer similar incentives it can. If not, there ought to be another unique selling point to make up for it. Either way, prompt order fulfillment is still essential to keeping customers happy.
Mistakes will happen from time to time. Despite doing your best, there is always the chance that errors will happen. Let’s explore what happens when order fulfillment mistakes occur.
Mistakes cost you money
Delayed orders, damage during shipping, and incorrect shipments mean you have to pay to ship replacement items again. Small mistakes can add up over time.
eCommerce retailers sometimes operate on small margins. Supply chain mistakes not only cut your profit, but sometimes you can even lose money on the sale. Minimizing mistakes keeps your operating costs down. That is why having an efficient order fulfillment process is so important.
Dealing with unhappy customers
Even the most streamlined operations can suffer from shipping delays, damages, incorrect orders, and other failures along the supply chain journey. So, how do you retain customers when order fulfillment mistakes happen?
This is where stellar customer service comes in. We won’t get into the details of how to keep customers after you’ve made a mistake because that is too big a topic for this blog post. But suffice it to say online retailers must respond to complaints quickly and correctly to stay in business.
Your reputation is on the line, and customers judge everything from your tone to response time. It is a tightrope to walk, and even the best customer service will not remedy the situation every time.
The takeaway is to prevent order fulfillment mistakes in the first place so you don’t lose profits or try to convince dissatisfied customers to stay.
The main advantage of handling your eCommerce order fulfillment in-house is that you have complete control over the process. You can ensure that every step is done to your standards without relying on anyone else.
You also don’t have to worry about minimum order requirements or sharing space with other businesses. On the downside, it can be costly to set up an in-house fulfillment operation, especially if you are just starting out.
You will need to invest in warehouse space, shipping supplies, packaging materials, and hire fulfillment staff. There is also a learning curve to master the fulfillment process. In-house fulfillment can be time-consuming, which takes away from other areas of running your business.
Outsourcing your fulfillment to a third-party provider (3PL) has its own set of advantages and disadvantages that we will explore next.
The biggest advantage of using a third-party fulfillment center is that it frees up your time so you can focus on more important aspects of running your eCommerce business. It can also save you money because fulfillment providers have economies of scale. They can pass on the savings to you in the form of lower shipping rates and other discounts.
Third-party fulfillment companies also have the infrastructure and technology in place to streamline the fulfillment process. The best ones use order management systems (OMS) and warehouse management systems (WMS) to automate and keep track of orders from start to finish.
Of course, there are downsides to using a third-party fulfillment provider as well. One is that you lose some control over the process because you are relying on someone else to get your orders out the door. Make sure you do your due diligence when choosing a fulfillment company. There have been stories of fulfillment centers losing inventory, shipping orders late, and damaged goods.
Another downside to using a third-party fulfillment company is that you will have to share space with other businesses. This can lead to fulfillment errors if the fulfillment center is not well organized.
How To Choose The Right Order fulfillment Service For Your Business
Now that we’ve explored the pros and cons of in-house fulfillment and third-party fulfillment, it’s time to decide which option is right for your eCommerce business.
Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:
1. Shipping volume - If you are starting or have a low volume of orders, in-house fulfillment may be the way to go. Once you start to scale and have more orders, you will need to consider using a third-party fulfillment company.
2. Cost - In-house fulfillment can be costly, especially if you need to lease warehouse space. Third-party fulfillment companies typically charge by the order, so your costs will increase as you sell more.
3. Shipping rates -fulfillment companies get discounts from shipping carriers because they ship large orders. These discounts are passed on to you through lower shipping rates.
4. Time - In-house fulfillment can be time-consuming, which takes away from other areas of running your business. If you outsource fulfillment to a third-party provider, you can focus on growing your business while they take care of fulfillment.
5. Technology - Third-party fulfillment companies have order and warehouse management systems to streamline the fulfillment process. If you have an in-house fulfillment operation, you will need to invest in these technologies
How you fulfill orders directly impacts the customer’s experience. To encourage customers to come back, you need to provide a seamless experience from start to finish. That means having enough stock to ship orders quickly, using quality packaging to protect products during shipping, and providing excellent customer service if there are any problems.
Offer Fast Shipping Options
Customers today expect fast shipping and are willing to pay for it. Offering fast shipping options is a great way to encourage customers to shop with you again. You can provide standard shipping for free and charge for expedited shipping options. Or, you can offer free expedited shipping for orders over a certain amount. Either way, allowing customers to get their orders faster will improve the chances of them shopping with you again.
Include A “Thank You” Note
A small gesture like a thank-you note can make a big impression on customers. Including a thank-you note with each order shows that you appreciate their business and makes them more likely to shop with you again. You can also use the thank-you note as an opportunity to include a coupon or discount code for your next purchase.
Make It Easy To Return Items
No one is perfect, and mistakes happen. That’s why it’s essential to make it easy for customers to return items if needed. Include a return form and shipping label with every order so customers can send back unwanted or damaged items. And process returns quickly to minimize any inconvenience for the customer.
Offer A Loyalty Program
Customer loyalty programs are a great way to encourage customers to shop with you again. Offer rewards like discounts, free shipping, or exclusive products to customers who make repeated purchases. The key is ensuring your loyalty program is valuable enough to encourage customers to sign up and keep coming back.
Tips On How to Use Order fulfillment To Get Repeat Customers
1. Know your products
You need to know your products inside and out to fulfill orders correctly. That means understanding what each product is made of, how it works, and what kind of customer it is designed for. This knowledge will help you ensure orders are fulfilled correctly and that customers are happy with their purchases.
2. Keep an eye on inventory
It’s essential to keep an eye on your inventory levels to fulfill orders quickly and without any delays. That means having enough stock to meet customer demand and knowing when to reorder products from your suppliers.
3. Use quality packaging
How you package products can impact the customer’s experience. So it’s essential to use quality packaging that protects products during shipping and arrival. This will help ensure orders arrive in perfect condition and that customers are happy with their purchase.
Order fulfillment may not sound like rocket science, but there is plenty of room for error when you are busy running a business. As you can see, small mistakes can be a big deal in the customer’s eyes. It can also drain your wallet. Enough mistakes can put you in the red. The worst-case scenario is you can go out of business thanks to wrong order fulfillment practices. Outsourcing order fulfillment tasks to a pro can save you time, stress, and money by ensuring orders are fulfilled correctly every time.
Order fulfillment is a critical part of any business, and it’s essential to get it right to encourage customers to shop with you again. Use these tips to improve your order fulfillment process and keep customers coming back for more.