When you’re running an eCommerce business in the age of Instacart and monster e-retailers like Amazon, impressing your customers in the fulfillment department can be challenging. You’ve most likely put a lot of resources into delighting your customer with their purchase. From ensuring the quality of the product itself to engineering the perfect unboxing experience, a lot of money and time goes into making a lasting impression and acquiring loyal customers. Letting it all turn sour with a sub-par fulfillment experience is not an option in this competitive environment.
A smooth order fulfillment process could set you apart from the competition. When customers receive their orders quickly and without any hiccups or damages, chances are you’re that much closer to gaining a lifetime customer. Let’s explore some areas that are essential to streamline so that you can be more successful.
Invest in Quality Packing Material
Using improper packing material is far more common than you might think, and is the number one cause for items being damaged during delivery. Often you run out of the correct size box or liner, or you have a bundle that just doesn’t quite fit in what you have. The problem with grabbing a box that is the wrong size or forgoing the bubble wrap is the damage it can cause to your item. You have to recognize the danger of every improperly packaged item becoming a possible return. Another aspect is the dimensional weight of the package. If the packaging is too large for the item additional fees will be added, resulting in higher shipping costs from your carrier.
Ensure that you wrap each item in the order separately, so that everything has its own layer of protection. Frequent contact during the delivery process increases the chances of something breaking. Most large warehouses and fulfillment companies use multiple layers of packaging. The first layer is used by the warehouses to transport multiples of the same product. The second is the layer that your customer will see when it arrives on their doorstep. Finally, you have the consumer packaging that is branded and shows what the item is. Three layers are usually sufficient to protect your items. Also ensure the quality is up to your standards.
Automate the Shipping Process
Automation is key when you’re scaling your eCommerce business. At the beginning it might make sense to cut on costs by doing a lot of your order processing and shipping manually, typing out addresses and invoices for example. However, the moment your business starts to grow, trying to save on shipping by keeping the process in-house and manual could hurt you. Consider implementing eCommerce shipping software that integrates with your eCommerce platform, order processing and inventory management software. This will simplify the process of getting the correct customer shipping details and creating invoices and labels for your orders.
Provide Different Shipping Options
Inadequate shipping terms and times heavily influence shopping cart abandonment. Studies show that 45% of consumers have abandoned a basket due to unsatisfactory or unavailable shipping options. You might think it’s obvious what shipping terms customers prefer, but you’ll be wrong. Some customers don’t mind waiting a few extra days for an order if it means they can save $10, others need a gift for a friend as soon as yesterday and don’t care what they have to spend to get it. Don’t decide for them.
If you are doing all the shipping yourself, you might not have the luxury of providing your customers with different shipping options. Calculate the cost of third party fulfillment. Third Party Logistics (3PL) companies can provide multiple shipping options, and at a lower cost. Shipping is a volume business, so take advantage of the rates these large warehouses get and pass that on to your customers.
Avoid Carrier Lock-In
It’s common to forge a good relationship with a single carrier and do all your shipping through them. However, this could seriously harm your business. If anything happens to the carrier, such as delays, strikes, or system failures, then all your customers suffer and there’s very little you can do to rectify the situation. Use multiple carriers for your orders. Another option here is of course to outsource the process to a 3PL provider with their own supply chain, who themselves take advantage of multiple carriers.This will also enable you to more easily provide different shipping options to your customers, and you’ll have access to more competitive rates.
To avoid these mistakes, calculate the cost of outsourcing your fulfillment to a third party. These companies have the resources to invest in the proper packaging, powerful warehouse management and tracking software, and distribution lines that provide your customers with different shipping options. You’re far less likely to run into any of these issues with a powerful logistics provider on your side, and you’ll definitely have a competitive edge.