Receiving the inventory is the first step of ecommerce order fulfilment. This can be at a warehouse, distribution centre or retail store. If you receive the goods and decide to store them “in-house” then you will be responsible for auditing and recording your own stock. This includes labelling, quality checking and managing your own inventory systems. However, there is also the option to outsource all of this to an order fulfilment partner.
Once all of the inventory is checked and accounted for, it is time to store the goods. It is incredibly important at this stage to maintain organisation and keep track of the inventory that is going in and out. The layout of your warehouse should also be optimised to ensure efficiency at this stage. This could look like keeping the items that have the highest turnover closer to the fulfilment areas or having a clear system of locating products.
Now that your stock is stored in the warehouse and catalogued, it is time to start receiving orders. Once a customer places an order, your business will be alerted and it is time to start packaging your products.
The warehouse will be alerted of the incoming order, and an employee will then locate the items to be picked and packed. This is where an inventory management system can be extremely useful as it will display the item’s location and update the stock quantities rather than using a manual system of paper and pen. They will then pick the items, bring them to the packing station, complete a quality check and box up the items.
Depending on the item, it will have different packaging requirements. This will be determined by size, weight, fragility, or any other specific requirements. Employees will then package the items using bubble wrap, tissue paper, or packing peanuts depending on these requirements. Businesses will then print off an invoice before sealing the box, ready to be sent to the customer.
There are many different options for businesses wanting to ship their products. Although customers often want the quickest delivery option, this is not always the most cost-effective for your business. Smaller businesses often use public delivery services whereas larger corporations often partner with carrier services to minimise overall costs and increase delivery speed. Once the order has been shipped, many businesses also offer to track information for their customers.
It is a common expectation now that returns will be an easy process for online buyers. This will ensure that customers will feel more security in buying your product if they have not seen it in real life. Therefore, your business will need to implement a comprehensive returns policy to let customers know how to complete the returns process, often including access to customer service to help them through this stage. There will also need to be an effective process of accepting returned products and reintroducing them back into the inventory once the item is at the warehouse.