The first year of trading is often known as the make-or-break period of a business, and, in ecommerce, it’s often the fulfilment side of running a business that can pose most of the trading threats.
“Fulfilment” is defined as the processes for receiving, processing, and delivering orders to customers – the bulk of trading. As a smaller business that is just starting off in the trade, you are most likely to use a third-party fulfilment company to handle the preparation and delivery of your products. The decision to outsource this process often comes down to time and resources (specifically, a lack thereof).
Does your business have the resources to produce, pick, pack, and dispatch all orders quickly and efficiently to arrive with the customer on time? If not, it makes sense to hand over the fulfilment responsibilities to a company that specialises in this area.
Efficient fulfilment is key to running a successful online retail business. It comes as no surprise that there may be a few mishaps along the way, but here’s a list of a few quick fixes to help you through your first year of fulfilment trading:
1. Locating Inventory
When you receive an order, it is imperative that you are able to easily locate the items. If your warehouse is poorly organised with product palettes and barcode labels mixed up, or if the communication with your suppliers is lacking, this can result in dispatch delays and frustrated customers.
The solution: To avoid delays such as these, you should use software that maintains real-time data on your inventory, allowing you to locate your products more accurately and more quickly, thereby achieving faster delivery for the customer.
2. International Shipping
Marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay have made it easier and more accessible for ecommerce businesses to tap into the international market. However, this does come at a risk, because international shipping can take anything between a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. Customers, of course, do not expect their international products to arrive overnight, but if they have to wait too long, they will go elsewhere and then your business will lose their custom (and probably their repeat custom too).
The solution: Give your customers various shipping options allowing them to decide on their waiting times. As your products are travelling internationally, it is important to use Proof of Delivery (POD) to track parcels around the world.
3. Specialised Products
Depending on your business, the types of products you offer may differ significantly, so it is vital to have the capacity, the resources, and the correct documentation to ship and deliver to customers. It’s important to consider your warehouse space too. Do you need to hang apparel? Are your products oddly shaped?
The solution: Ensure that you or your fulfilment partner has the correct licences to distribute specific products, e.g. alcohol, food, and drink. Having quality certifications such as the SOIL Association accreditation for organic fulfilment will mean that your products meet the highest of standards.
4. Lost or Damaged Products
No matter how carefully you manage your inventory, your delivery, or your packaging, some products will get lost or damaged. Replacing products can come at a hefty cost, and it’s something that new businesses should try to avoid at all costs. It is important not to re-charge your customers for lost or damaged goods, because this will potentially damage your customer-service reputation, and it might also give your business a high chance of losing repeat custom.
The solution: Investing in shipping insurance for your items will give you that extra security when it comes to lost items. And no matter how much attention to detail you pay, some items will have to be returned by the customer – don’t charge them for returning products. Offer your customers free-return envelopes and pre-printed labels for easy returns. By making the returns process easy, it could actually turn the situation into a good experience for the customer, increasing customer loyalty and the likelihood of repeat purchasing.
The delivery and receipt of a product is often the defining line between whether or not a customer will perform any future repeat purchases, proving the purpose and importance of a strong fulfilment strategy. If your business needs a helping shipping hand or fulfilment advice, don’t hesitate to contact us or send us a tweet @ExactAbacusLTD.
by Gemma Tomlinson on 20/12/2017