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Having an effective order fulfillment process for your eCommerce store has never been so important. Thanks to large retail giants such as Amazon that offer free 2-day shipping, consumer expectations around the cost and speed of shipping have shifted.

Today, consumers want purchases now, not later. But as a seller, fulfilling these demands can be more challenging than it sounds. And while order fulfillment isn’t the most glamorous aspect of operating an eCommerce store, it’s a function that directly impacts the merchant’s bottom line.

To help you understand why knowing how to fulfill orders for your eCommerce business is so important, check out these statistics:

⦁ 53% of consumers report that shipping speed is a key factor when evaluating online purchases.
⦁ 61% of consumers admit to abandoning shopping carts when taxes, shipping, and other fees are too expensive.
⦁ 25% of consumers have canceled orders due to slow shipping speeds.
⦁ 38% of consumers say they will not shop from an online retailer after having negative delivery experiences.

Before you can master online order fulfillment, it’s vital to understand precisely what it is and how it works. So, today we will discuss how to fulfill orders for your eCommerce business and everything you need to know during the process.

Table of Contents

What is Order Fulfillment?

Order fulfillment is the process of receiving an order that will be packed, shipped, and delivered to a customer. While there is no exclusive system that works for every eCommerce store, there are some ways to go about this process that are better than others.

Some businesses utilize an in-house team to fulfill orders, while other larger companies either handle their own warehousing and delivery or hire 3PL (third-party logistics) services. The good news is that regardless if you choose to handle order fulfillment in-house or hire someone to do it, the process is always the same.

Let’s take a quick look at how order fulfillment works from start to finish:

  • Receiving: The merchant receives goods to sell.
  • Storage: Maintain an organized and coordinated warehouse that provides easy access to said goods.
  • Processing: The store receives and reviews an order to determine what products were purchased by the customer.
  • Picking: The purchased items are picked from storage.
  • Packing: The items are packaged for shipment.
  • Delivery: The package leaves the warehouse and is mailed to the customer.
  • Returns: You will find that some clients will return parcels, so you’ll need a good system for handling returns.

As you can see, choosing an order fulfillment method that works for your company’s needs is crucial, so be sure to keep reading if you’re still unsure of which one is best for you.

Why Would You Fulfill Orders Yourself?

If hiring a 3PL or other company to fulfill orders for you is so easy, why do some people choose to handle the process themselves? Well, the truth is, there are a couple of reasons why you would fulfill orders yourself.

The first reason is that getting started with self-fulfillment is simple and is the best route for newly-created eCommerce stores. Taking care of the process in-house just requires you to set aside storage areas in your office or home and then simply purchase packing materials, print labels, and start fulfilling. Choosing this option to start is ideal because it will keep fulfillment costs down so you can focus on ordering larger volumes of merchandise.

The other reason you may want to fulfill orders yourself is that it gives you direct control over the entire process from start to finish. In other words, your in-house team can package your items the way you want them to look and feel and quickly make changes to the process as needed, based on customer feedback.

How To Fulfill Orders Yourself

In reality, there are two ideal times to fulfill orders yourself: when an online business is brand-new and when they are so large that they can afford their own world-class warehouse and team to staff it. However, if you’re reading this article, you most likely fit into the category of new business owners.

By now, you probably know that the majority of eCommerce businesses start with meager sales. While this isn’t ideal for your balance sheet, it does present an excellent cost-saving opportunity for the owner. But what if you’re new and don’t know where to start? No worries, here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to fulfill orders yourself:

Getting Started

As with most other things in life, consistency is key. Just because you run your own company doesn’t mean you should put off tasks that need to be done. So, the best place to start is by creating a routine that you will follow exactly for each and every order that you receive. Once this process is designed, you’re ready to start accepting orders.

Processing The Order

As you’ve probably gathered, accuracy and timeliness are vital in terms of order fulfillment. For this reason, we can’t stress enough how important it is to set a routine and follow it each time you have an order.

The first step to order fulfillment is processing the order. This means the first thing you should do is review it to see exactly what products have been sold and how many of each. Then, go ahead and pick each item from storage.

Packing Materials

When handling this process in-house, you should always keep the right packing materials available. Doing so will help you avoid making costly mistakes such as using the wrong type or size of packaging materials, resulting in overpaying for shipping or the item arriving to the customer damaged.

Packaging

For some customers, it’s all about the unboxing experience, so you must ensure that each item is packaged neatly and professionally. It’s also vital to avoid mistakes such as not packaging the item for safety or shipping the wrong thing.

Printing Labels and Shipping

Once orders start pouring in, you’ll make numerous trips to a carrier’s store or the post office to send out packages. Be sure that you have everything you need including a partnership with a carrier and supplies for printing labels. Typical items you’ll need include a printer, ink, car, shipping account, etc. As your business grows, it may be wise to begin scheduling pickups from carriers to relieve yourself of the burden.

Tracking and Delivery

Your job is not done after dropping the package off with the carrier. Customers want to know exactly where their package is and when it will arrive. To make this process easier for you and the customer, don’t forget to share the tracking information with them.

Returns

While some people don’t return online purchases, others do, so it’s essential to have a return process in place. And even if you don’t like the thought of accepting merchandise back after a sale, it’s worth considering since many online consumers check a store’s return policy before making a purchase. Remember that it’s usually cheaper to keep an established customer than to attract a new one.

"Tips and tricks for order fulfillment: Set a routine. Allow orders to collect and arrange a time each day for the cutoff period. Record how long it takes you to pick SKUs from your warehouse about ten times"

Tips and Tricks for Making Order Fulfillment Easier

Conducting a quick Google search will provide you with endless amounts of tips and tricks for making order fulfillment easier. So, we won’t reiterate the same information. Instead, we’ve compiled a shortlist of our favorite tips that actually help.

  • Set a routine. Yes, we’ve said this before, but your company will suffer if you don’t have a daily/weekly routine for operations. Choose the hours that work for you and stick to them every day.
  • Allow orders to collect and arrange a time each day for the cutoff period. For example, the local post office closes at 5 pm. It may be wise to go ahead and pick and pack each order as they arrive but wait until 4 pm to drop the packages at the carrier. This reduces your travel expenses and allows you to spend more time on important tasks.
  • Record how long it takes you to pick SKUs from your warehouse about ten times. Use these figures to determine the average amount of time you spend preparing each order. This helps with expenses, time management, and growth.

Pros and Cons of Self-Fulfillment

Self-fulfillment is an easy process that works great for those just starting out, but there are some pros and cons of which you should know:

Self-Fulfillment Pros

⦁ The process is much cheaper in-house than when it’s outsourced.
⦁ Anyone can handle self-fulfillment, as the process is easy and relatively straightforward.
⦁ This method puts you in the driver’s seat, which is especially useful for those who don’t like wrinkled tape and crushed corners.

Self-Fulfillment Cons

⦁ The process is tedious and time-consuming.
⦁ You must have an ample amount of storage space.
⦁ Self-fulfillment takes your attention away from other more critical aspects of the business.

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Conclusion

In the end, order fulfillment is arguably the most important aspect of running an online store. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you choose to outsource the process to a 3PL or handle it in-house. What does matter is that there’s a clear process for handling order fulfillment that is the same every time and effective.

Regardless of which strategy you choose, invest time ensuring that it meets your company’s capacities and needs while also remembering that companies evolve over time, so your order fulfillment process will too!

Read more on the benefits of using a 3PL by clicking here!

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