Order fulfillment can be the bane of many an ecommerce retailer. Issues can arise in every step of the process, from warehousing to packaging, to shipping and delivery, and it can feel like everything that can go wrong inevitably will.
To combat this, many successful online businesses outsource their fulfillment to dedicated third parties who can streamline the process. You do yourself a favor by taking the plunge as well, but if you are an ecommerce business owner who still needs more convincing, read on for some of the most common order fulfillment challenges and how outsourcing fulfillment can address them:
Inefficient Pick-and-Pack Process
Currently, there are 95 million people in the United States who have Amazon Prime membership. The figure is up a whopping 10 million from 2017, now accounting for 59% of Amazon’s total US customers. The number illustrates how so many Americans value speed and efficiency—enough that they’re willing to pay a premium for the benefit. With Amazon Prime, orders are picked, packed, and out the door on the same day, getting items into the customer’s hands in as little as 2 hours in select metro areas. If ecommerce retailers want to keep up, they’ll have to match or beat the online shopping juggernaut at its own game.
The need for a third-party order fulfillment service in the USA presents itself on its own once the business has gained a large enough online following, such as when orders are coming in faster than the owner can get them out the door. With an order fulfillment service, you can leave the picking and packing of orders to the professionals, shaving waiting time off and minimizing packing errors.
Improper Inventory Management
While it may not seem connected at first, keeping your inventory up to date is crucial to maintaining customer satisfaction. When best-selling products are frequently out of stock, you lose valuable sales opportunities and risk the ire of your customer base, who will not hesitate to go elsewhere to find what they need.
Third-party order fulfillment services often include inventory management systems that can help straighten yours out. They can communicate with you or your suppliers when they notice stocks of a certain product running low or are on backorder. Having a comprehensive system like this at your disposal will also help you visualize your inventory by identifying items that are frequently in high demand and guiding your purchasing choices at the supplier.
Shipping and Logistics Issues
Small ecommerce business owners who are just starting out often find themselves plagued by costly shipping fees. This is because shipping and logistics providers often have different rates for individual and business customers. Businesses can be offered discounted shipping rates depending on the volume of products that they ship out, but these numbers may not yet be attainable for small businesses just starting to establish themselves. Linking up with an order fulfillment service easily solves this issue.
Another challenge that small ecommerce businesses face is offering free shipping without it becoming unmanageable from a business standpoint. Customers love free shipping, but small businesses may find it difficult to offer if doing so takes a significant cut out of the profits. Order fulfillment services can also assist here; putting products in strategic warehouse locations owned by professional fulfillment services can allow a business to offer free shipping to its customers without finding themselves in the red.
We live in the age of instant gratification. Convenience is the primary reason why people are shopping online in the first place, and most customers don’t wish to go through a complicated return process if they receive a damaged or incorrect product. As such, minimizing returns should be one of your foremost priorities as a business owner.
Order fulfillment services can help you achieve this by reducing administrative errors and minimizing merchandise waste, thereby optimizing the picking and packing process. Providers can also help process your customers’ returns more efficiently. When they already have the replacement product on hand, sending it off to the customer is a simple matter.
If you are an ecommerce retailer currently facing any of the problems listed above, it could be a good idea to let a professional help you fulfill orders. Taking a step back and letting an order fulfillment service handle the finer details of getting your products to your customers takes the weight off your shoulders, allowing you to focus on other aspects of the business that you may have been neglecting.