For many companies, their e-commerce sales have outperformed those of their brick-and-mortar store sales. Now, in light of the global pandemic, companies are seeing their online sales skyrocket to new heights. In 2020, after merchants closed their doors and adapted to online retail avenues, many quickly realized the difference between delivering products to customers and having them come to the store.
The fulfillment process has never been more important to retailers. Each order placed online needs to be picked from available inventory, packed in boxes, properly labelled for shipment, and physically delivered to the customer. There are retail fulfillment costs that come with this process, too.
If you want to truly embrace what it means to be an omnichannel business, you’ll need to improve your retail fulfillment process and get professional logistics management to help you with the heavy lifting. What is retail fulfillment? How can a logistics provider help you scale your e-commerce business? Here’s everything you need to know to optimize.
What Is Retail Fulfillment?
Retail fulfillment involves the assembly and shipment of a customer product order. Instead of a customer going to a physical store to buy the items they want, they can visit your website and purchase the items they want. The e-commerce platform allows this notification to arrive to the fulfillment centre, where they will ensure the correct products are picked, packed, and delivered to the customer.
The Importance of the Retail Fulfillment Process
Retail fulfilment is important to your online because it directly impacts customer satisfaction and profits. Although you may be an excellent salesperson, you still need to consider the costs and time to pack orders, ship them out, and deliver them to your customers within an acceptable time frame. If you cannot deliver on these guarantees each time your customers place orders, they will happily move on to a retailer that can.
Working with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider to manage your retail fulfillment process is necessary to helping your business grow. Their efficient processes and management of customer orders will help you scale as demand increases, so you can also make more profits.
Workflow of the Retail Fulfillment Process
Receiving New Inventory
As products leave your inventory to go to your customers, you will need to order more. If you have an e-commerce system in place, you will likely get a lot more orders than your local shoppers. With a retail fulfillment provider, you will be more equipped to manage reorder quantities and have a deeper understanding of inventory forecasting.
When new inventory comes into your fulfillment centre, each SKU will get a storage bin, shelf, or pallet, and will be organized into the physical and digital system with proper documentation. A warehouse management team can help you implement the right organization, infrastructure, software, and processes to track your inventory.
After the inventory is stored, the next step is to use those organized products to fulfill customer orders. Your stock levels will need to be monitored to ensure that you replenish items as they are sold to prevent stockouts.
Picking and Packing
When a customer places an order and it has been processed in your queue, a picking list is generated. This list is given to warehouse workers to retrieve the products and prepare them for packing. Most deliveries are sent in durable cardboard boxes or poly mailers. These containers may be filled with stuffing to protect the products from bouncing around and getting broken during delivery.
The last step in the fulfillment process is shipping. The item will be shipped or delivered to the customer and should arrive before the estimated date as posted on your website after they checkout the item. A 3PL provider that has great relationships with shipping companies and drivers can ensure that your products will arrive to your customers on time.
Retail Fulfillment Optimization
Selecting a Fulfilment Centre
The closer your fulfillment centre is to your customers, the more affordable and simpler your shipping process will be. But even with international customers, you can help customers get their orders faster while reducing shipping costs if you choose a fulfillment provider with strategic locations.
Integrated Fulfillment Software
When choosing your 3PL partner, be sure that they have integrated fulfillment software and technology. Their software should seamlessly integrate with the e-commerce platform and online marketplace to better manage orders across sales channels.
As soon as an order is placed online, your fulfillment staff will get the alert to pick, pack, and ship the right items to the customer. Then, tracking information can be sent to the platform or marketplace and shared with your customers when you ship their orders.
Amazon’s lightning-speed two-day shipping is the new expectation, so customers want to know that they won’t have to wait long between the time they checkout a purchase online and receive the item at their door. Choosing a 3PL provider with strategically located distribution centers will save you big time on delivery and shipping. You can reduce your fulfillment time without paying for expedited costs.
Choose Lean Supply Solutions
If you’re looking for quality retail order fulfillment support and want to partner with a company near you, Lean Supply Solutions is your solution. We offer extensive e-commerce solutions to a wide range of retailers around the world and provide an assortment of services to help your business grow. Contact us today to learn how we can help you improve your supply chain operations.