eCommerce fulfillment refers to the process of completing online orders from the seller to the buyer. The entire process begins with the customer placing an order for a product. The product is then processed through the order fulfillment route, packed, shipped, and delivered to the customer. Depending on the seller, order fulfillment can be done in-house or through third-party fulfillment services from QRC Logistics. E-commerce order fulfillment aims to ensure that goods and products move faster from the seller to the buyer in record time.
The Need for eCommerce Fulfilment
As the world expands, more customers can leverage the internet to buy products locally, nationally, and internationally. Due to this, eCommerce fulfillment has become necessary. Recently, customer behavior has changed drastically – meaning they do not have the patience they used to have in the past. This impatience strains eCommerce business owners, forcing them to fulfill orders and deliver within a shorter timeframe.
More eCommerce businesses are beginning to understand that faster delivery is the key to customer satisfaction and reducing cancellations. This means they need to intensify their efforts to ensure that customers get their orders quicker.
eCommerce Fulfilment Processes
There are several stages before a product successfully gets to the consumer. The important stages are;
This is the first line of action in the order fulfillment pipeline. This involves the acceptance and storage of product inventories. This storage can be handled in-house or by a third-party logistics partner. Once products are processed, they are stored until when needed by the consumer.
Product storage helps with inventory management. It gives the seller or third-party logistic partner an idea of how many units of a particular order are available to consumers at any point.
Inventory management is a key part of the eCommerce order fulfillment pipeline. Products received are inventoried and tallied with the number of units of existing products. This gives the seller and/or their third-party logistics partner a clear view of the product number in-store and the inventory’s worth.
An updated inventory also helps sellers manage their stock to continue serving customers.
The order fulfillment process begins when an order is placed for a product. The seller or their third-party logistics partner takes the following steps to ensure order fulfillment;
Picking: This involves picking the item off the shelf or inventory. Once products have been picked, a corresponding update will be made to the inventory for easy accounting. A well-organized warehouse will have an automated process to ensure accurate inventory.
Packing: Packing is essential to ensure product safety. This step involves the addition of the customer’s name and delivery address. This stage may also include quality checking to ensure that products shipped out to meet the highest quality standards. eCommerce fulfillment centers and suppliers must take note of the best packaging that works for them and their brand.
Shipping: Following the packing stage, the product is shipped out to the customer’s preferred destination. The shipping stage is perhaps the most important part of the order fulfillment process. Sellers or their eCommerce partners must ensure that the right shipping medium is used. They should also ensure that the shipping time is cut to prevent cancellation and customer dissatisfaction.
This is also known as returns management. Customers return products for different reasons, including misrepresentations, damages, late delivery cancellations, etc. The eCommerce business owner or their logistics partner handles this process, ensuring that the product retraces its steps from shipping to unpacking to return to inventory.
Many business owners have cut their returns significantly by providing faster delivery timelines. The speed of delivery may also depend on the type of eCommerce fulfillment the seller uses.
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Types of eCommerce Fulfillment
There are four primary types of eCommerce fulfillment. They include;
Self-fulfillment or in-house fulfillment
This involves the seller handling their in-house order processing and fulfillment needs. It will require the seller or business owner to create a department that handles orders and the entire order fulfillment process. In-house order fulfillment can be costly and slow, depending on the facilities on the ground. There is also a higher tendency of customer dissatisfaction and returns.
Third-party fulfillment partners
This involves outsourcing fulfillment needs to third-party logistics and eCommerce fulfillment companies. These companies usually have an established network, the right workforce, and resources to handle and process orders faster. They also offer temporary storage solutions that save business owners the extra cost of storing their products.
Dropshipping is a business model that connects the customer to a retailer who doesn’t participate in the overall order fulfillment process. Although the customer orders directly from the retailer, the order is processed by the manufacturer or wholesaler and delivered directly to the customer.
This involves a combination of two or more order fulfillment types to achieve customer satisfaction. A company serving local, national, and international customers may choose to handle its local orders in-house while outsourcing the rest to logistics partners.