eCommerce fulfilment involves the picking, packaging and shipping of products to customers. Starting at the purchase of a product online and ending with a satisfied customer, everything in between makes up the fulfilment process. It’s the unsung hero of the order roadmap. Commonly overlooked due to its systematic nature, eCommerce fulfilment is a much more complex operation than you may think..
The eCommerce fulfilment process can be broken down into four main steps:
Initially, important software such as a warehouse management system (WMS) is used to connect orders made online with the products stored in the fulfilment centre, allowing for a smooth and efficient fulfilment process. Warehouse management systems allow for mobile scanning which increases the accuracy of picking which ultimately means the customer always gets the right product delivered.
Any inventory sent to a fulfilment centre is counted in to ensure that there is an accurate stock count from day one. The inventory is then stored either on a pallet or in a pick bin.
Next, orders are picked and packed, sent to a packing bench to be packed using appropriate packaging. These orders are then dispatched via a courier to your doorstep.
The final responsibility of the fulfilment service involves processing any returns. A customer might not be happy as it may not meet their expectations. Upon arrival back at the warehouse, products are inspected for damages and either sent back to the client if damaged or reallocated back to the fulfilment centre to be picked again.
Ultimately, the customer is either left satisfied with the product or refunded at no loss.
Logistics can be defined as the implementation of a complex operation; fulfilment services fit this description perfectly. The integration of software with the fulfilment centre is an example of this. An eCommerce store needs to be updated in real-time when a product is taken off the fulfilment shelf to avoid selling more than the stock available. Employees need to be trained, equipment needs to be synced, computers need to be connected; the complexity continues.
As previously touched on, after the fulfilment of products, returns are processed back at the warehouse by employees. All other customer queries are dealt with by the client, such as customer reviews and complaints.
However, the relationship doesn’t stop there. If the client has any concerns the fulfilment service should be available to address them, and vice versa. Building up a sense of trust between both parties is key to success.
Shopify is a popular eCommerce platform, designed to facilitate both online and offline shopping. Currently, it’s in the early stages of offering fulfilment as part of its service in the US. However, for all stores outside of the US fulfilment needs to be outsourced by a third party. Through using WMS software, clients are able to connect their online stores to third-party fulfilment providers with relative ease.