With conditions as volatile and destabilized as they are due to the ongoing (interminable) pandemic, e-commerce fulfillment providers are looking for ways to respond to these obstacles and avoid significant revenue losses. Order fulfillment strategies, when well-crafted and carefully executed, can be among the most effective counters to the pandemic difficulties.
Order fulfillment strategy, if you’re unfamiliar with the term, is the combination of the methods, processes, and technologies that an order fulfillment company undertakes to deliver products to customers.
Various Stages of Order Fulfillment
There are many stages to order fulfillment. These stages can only become harder to manage as you scale and grow, which is why many opt to partner with a 3PL company to share the burden and optimize the process.
Typically, the delivery process consists of:
- Obtaining incoming inventory
- Storing inventory, which may make use of distribution centers, warehouses, etc.
- Order picking
- Returns processing
If you want to remain competitive in a crowded e-commerce fulfillment market, each stage needs to be diligently planned and executed.
So, what are some order fulfillment strategies we can leverage to avoid losses in 2022 due to COVID-19 and optimize the process outlined above?
Last Mile Fulfillment Strategies
The last mile of delivery accounts for about half of your costs, and therefore presents a perfect opportunity to create efficiencies and reduce expenses.
Using last-mile carries is a great way to offload some of those costs.
Order & Delivery Confirmation
Consumers love confirmation emails; they love being kept in the loop about the progress of their order.
Keeping in constant contact with customers with delivery confirmations and shipping emails is another great way to induce customer satisfaction while also helping you better manage your in-progress deliveries.
These emails also offer a great way to try and close another sale by providing the customer another opportunity to interact with your brand. And best yet, seeing as this is a confirmation email, they’re usually thinking of your business in a positive light during this interaction, increasing the likelihood of repeat business.
Meeting Customer Service Expectations
By far one of the most challenging pandemic obstacles is maintaining your delivery timelines. Huge portions of customers are unwilling to wait for deliveries or work on uncertain timelines. And while the “we’re all in this together” rhetoric surrounding COVID-19 is nice and all, it unfortunately doesn’t extend to order fulfillment companies: only 21% of consumers are willing to forgive retailers for service disruptions due to COVID-19.
That said, being sure to meet your customer’s delivery expectations is crucial. Easier said than done, but there are strategies you can do to accomplish this.
First, develop your carrier network for last-mile fulfillment. That may mean working with multiple carries or carriers that will outsource the work you send to them—all that’s fine. But what’s important is that you’re always able to accurately track your products at all times.
Another strategy is to keep your customers updated on their shipment at all times. That way, if there is a delay, at least it won’t surprise them, making them less inclined to cancel or forgo your brand in the future.
Finally, you need to reform your online delivery expectations to be more precise than ever. If that means adding an extra day or two on a delivery, so be it: you’re unlikely to lose many customers with only minor add-ons to delivery timelines, whereas missing a delivery date is a surefire way to alienate customers and induce them to take future business elsewhere.
Partner with a 3PL Company like APS to compliment your Order Fulfillment Strategy
This is a difficult time in the e-commerce fulfillment industry. The supply-chain crisis and other pandemic-related issues have made fulfillment a more complicated and fraught process than ever before. But with the right 3PL company as your partner, you can better respond to these conditions and avoid sustaining revenue and customer loss.
At APS Fulfillment, we offer full-service e-commerce fulfillment out of Miami that includes state-of-the-art warehouse management software (WMS). We make inventory management and goods tracking easy and simple, even during these complicated times. We’ll also support your business and automate the warehousing, prepping, shipping, picking, and packing of your orders!