noissue Compostable Mailers, Kraft Boxes, and Recycled Stickers by @nozzi_bazzar

The majority of shoppers (83%) expect more flexible shipping and fulfillment options. To accommodate this demand, businesses must learn how to scale up their fulfillment processes.

Otherwise, your customers will be craning their necks to find better shopping options. That’s the last thing you want as an eCommerce business owner.

Strive to provide your customers with the best shopping experience possible by optimizing order fulfillment. This article will show you how and why you should do so.

noissue Kraft Boxes and Custom Packing Tape by @hellomagicstudio

What is order fulfillment?

Order fulfillment covers everything from receiving and storing stocks to processing orders, picking, packing, shipping, and handling returns. Here’s how a product moves through the fulfillment process:

  • Receiving. It's when you receive your stocks from suppliers and evaluate their quality. It can be done in-house or through a third-party logistics (3PL) provider.
  • Storage. If you handle your fulfillment in-house, you'd be in charge of stock management and warehouse operations. The purpose is to keep your goods safe and accessible at all times.
  • Processing. Here is where you gather all the relevant information about a customer and their order, either manually or through your order processing software.
  • Picking. It's when you pick up the ordered items from the warehouse and transport them to the packing station.
  • Packing. The final quality inspection is performed here. You sort products into individual shipments and have to pack and transport items to the shipping station.
  • Shipping. You can hire a third-party carrier to handle order shipments. 3PLs, on the other hand, work with their preferred carriers to select the best shipping method. Either way, the carrier notifies you when orders have been shipped.
  • Returns. When the products received don't meet customer expectations, product return transactions happen. This stage is a crucial element in your order fulfillment process as nearly 30% of all online purchases are likely to end up as returns.

Successful order fulfillment has the potential to do a lot of good. Let's take a closer look at how it can best serve your growing online business.

Why is it important to optimize order fulfillment?

Fulfilling orders can be a simple task for small businesses handling fewer than a hundred monthly orders. But as your eCommerce business grows, rethinking your procedures could save you from fulfillment problems — such as incorrect orders and delayed shipments — that lead to unsatisfied customers.

As a result of streamlining your fulfillment process, you’ll be able to:

  • Reduce unnecessary costs. Do you know that human errors in the warehouse cost 12% of profits? Eliminating errors and inefficiencies in your process can help reduce that figure.
  • Improve supply chain reliability. Schedule reliability for global carriers has reached an all-time low of 33.6%. While you have no control over supply chain delays (e.g., congested ports and extreme weather), coordinating your partners' efforts can minimize their impact.
  • Enjoy more satisfied, repeat customers. About 81% of consumers say a positive experience increases their likelihood of making another purchase. That experience is attainable only without delayed shipments, order defects or errors, and stockout situations.
  • Support business scalability. eCommerce is taking the world by storm, achieving a ten-year growth in 3 months. A well-streamlined fulfillment process can help you avoid getting swamped up by rapid spikes in order volumes.

Now that we've covered the basics, here's a reminder to take things in stride during your rapid growth phase. Follow these sustainable order fulfillment strategies to improve your processes as your firm grows.

5 ways to streamline your order fulfillment process

Observe your current order fulfillment procedures. Is there a bottleneck slowing down your fulfillment? Use these five strategies as a guide to decide your next step in process improvement.

1. Maintain optimal inventory levels

Order fulfillment is your online store's economic engine, and you can't keep it running unless you have enough products to sell.

No stock means no orders. And no orders mean no fulfillment. That's why keeping track of balances and reordering inventory on time should be your utmost priority. Analyze your stock movements and set the minimum thresholds for when to replenish them.

Let’s say Product A has a daily demand of 10 units, and orders from suppliers take five working days to arrive. Multiply the daily demand by the waiting time to calculate the threshold (i.e., 10 units x 5 days = 50 units). That means if Product A is nearly down to 50 units, you should place your order immediately.

However, for scaling businesses with a diverse product line, monitoring your stocks manually can be inefficient. Use an automated replenishment system instead to save time, improve accuracy, and even cut stock-outs by up to 60%. Some inventory management software can provide real-time visibility to keep online balances updated, discouraging customers from purchasing out-of-stock items.

2. Invest in warehousing technology

Storage in the fulfillment process isn’t about stacking boxes on top of each other until someone buys them. Apart from safekeeping, it also affects how you regulate product flows within the warehouse (i.e., receiving, inspecting, and dispatching goods). The right warehousing technology can help you achieve this by providing end-to-end visibility.

Warehousing automation also provides maximum convenience in cutting expenses from labor and delivery errors. You can use scanners, object sensors, counting tools, self-driving vehicles, and mobile robots for this purpose. These innovations take away the manual, repetitive work — which is a lot for thriving businesses — allowing your warehouse staff to concentrate on more complex tasks.

And while you’re at it, redesign your warehouse layout to improve product flow further. Plan where you'll store the products, so they're easy to find when it's time to pick up the orders.

3. Improve packaging line efficiency

As your eCommerce business grows, so does the packaging problem. Over 45% of eCommerce companies believe in sustainability, which is why they opt to invest in recyclable products for their customers. From packing stations to personal branding, here are some ideas on how to improve your packing processes:

  • Set up packing stations. For each station, set up a table and allot an adequate storage space for your packaging products, such as cartons, fillers, and packing tapes. Place your best-selling items near the packing stations to speed up the process.
  • Select the right packaging sizes. Reduce waste by going circular and using the right size of packaging. You can measure your product's dimensions to customize the sizes of your boxes and mailers. The more compact the packaging is, the more secure the parcel. noissue’s eco-friendly Custom shipping/mailer boxes are available in a variety of sizes and can be printed in a range of colors to create an unparalleled unboxing experience.
  • Add your brand’s personal touch. Customize your packing fillers, wrappers, and labels to improve customers' unboxing experience. According to NRF, your best shoppers make the most returns. So it's a wise move to go all out in fulfilling their orders, including the packaging.
noissue Custom Mailer Boxes by @coaxedbythesiren
noissue Custom Tissue Paper and Stickers by @oliviafayeco

4. Implement eCommerce order tracking

About 64% of customers trust companies to meet their needs and expectations. In an eCommerce setting, those expectations include on-time delivery and frequent order updates. In fact, 80% of shoppers want to be able to track their orders both online and on mobile devices.

Sending each customer's tracking number via email may work for a shop that receives 5 to 10 orders per day, but not for one with 100 daily orders or more. Here’s where real-time order tracking comes to the rescue for growing businesses.

Before reaching your peak growth, use third-party order management software to cater to even thousands of daily orders. These systems can send updates to customers once there's a tracking number available. It also includes a link redirecting buyers to a website where they can track their orders in real-time. This would prepare them for the delivery day, ensuring they'll receive the package.

5. Partner with 3PL providers

As an expanding eCommerce business, outsourcing can go a long way. Let's say, your growth suddenly makes it toilsome to fulfill orders during peak seasons. A 3PL provider can help you get back on track by providing extra warehouse space, faster delivery times, and other tech solutions.

Research suggests that using at least 3 fulfillment centers in different regions instead of one can save you up to 25% on average costs. With 3PL fulfillment centers, you won't have to rent more warehouse space or open new physical distribution centers. Additionally, costly warehouse equipment and large cargo trucks won’t be an issue.

Your eCommerce business has a chance to go national — maybe even global. You don’t have to stress yourself in scaling your processes right away because your third-party partner does all the logistics-related tasks for you.

It may feel a bit comfortable handing over control of the fulfillment process to an outsider. But in reality, you can use the time to strategize the growth of your company.

🎁 Wrapping it up

Order fulfillment requires active planning, strategic thinking, and tons of experience to master. You have to streamline most internal processes, such as inventory, warehouse, and packaging, before finally optimizing your fulfillment.

With noissue, you can solve your packaging problems with ease. You're only a click away from treating your customers with an efficient and remarkable unboxing experience. So, make every order count. Browse your sustainable packaging options today.