E-commerce is undoubtedly one of the biggest trends in the world of business. If you’re a business and still not selling online, you’re losing out on a lot. By the end of 2023, 20.8% of retail purchases will have happened online. Starting your e-commerce journey as soon as possible only makes sense.
Understandably, there are challenges to getting started in e-commerce. Ensuring online visibility is only half the battle. You need to provide various payment options, provide customer support, and develop an effective e-commerce fulfillment process.
Why is an e-commerce fulfillment process crucial for an e-commerce department or business? How does it help us streamline our businesses and inadvertently improve profitability? We look at that and more in this article.
What are E-commerce Fulfillment Platforms and What Do They Do?
E-commerce fulfillment platforms help keep track of storing, packing, and shipping products sold online. They are engineered to automate and streamline the order fulfillment process, enabling businesses to function more efficiently and cost-effectively.
These tools help solve several e-commerce problems, including:
- Delays in order processing
- High shipping costs
- Inventory management issues
- Inaccurate order picking
- Handling return and exchange requests
- Time-consuming pack and ship processes
- Storage and warehousing challenges
- Lack of real-time order tracking
- Difficulties in managing high order volumes
- Limited geographical reach for shipping
- Integration issues with e-commerce platforms
- Lack of access to supply chain expertise
- Difficulties in data tracking and analysis
- Limited customer service capabilities
- Issues with managing seasonal demand fluctuations
The best e-commerce fulfillment platform options will have a certain set of keystone features. Here’s a list of key features and functionalities an e-commerce fulfillment platform might offer:
E-commerce fulfillment platforms accurately track inventory levels in real-time. This provides your business with updated information about the quantity and location of products. That way, your team can better manage stock levels and control ins and outs of inventories so you don’t mismanage your products and lose money in the process.
This feature is crucial because it prevents stockouts and overstocks, optimizes storage costs, and ensures consistent product availability. Advanced platforms can even forecast future inventory requirements based on sales patterns and seasonal fluctuations.
Automated Order Processing
Once a customer places an order, the system processes it automatically – from confirmation to shipment arrangement. Having this automation eliminates manual data entry, reducing processing time and minimizing errors.
Automated order processing features also allow businesses to handle larger volumes of orders without requiring additional manpower.
Optimized Shipping Solutions
Many platforms maintain relationships with various shipping carriers, granting them access to discounted shipping rates. Tracking all these relationships can be time-consuming and confusing.
With a fulfillment platform, you can better track and compare shipping costs according to the supplier. This allows you to select the best carrier for each shipment based on cost, delivery speed, and destination. Fulfillment platforms also offer tracking information and updates to customers, enhancing transparency and customer satisfaction.
Efficient Returns Management
E-commerce fulfillment platforms simplify the returns process. They do that by providing systems for tracking returns, managing refunds, and reintegrating returned products into the inventory. They may also handle communication related to returns, saving businesses time and improving customer experience.
The best e-commerce fulfillment services also have a way to track key performance metrics, including order accuracy, fulfillment speed, and return rates. You can then use this data to enhance operations, minimize costs, improve internal systems, and increase sales. Some platforms even offer advanced analytics features like customer behavior analysis and sales forecasting.
Receiving, Storing, and Shipping
The core functionalities of fulfillment platforms involve receiving inventory from suppliers or manufacturers, securely storing these goods, and shipping them upon receipt of an order. These dashboards normally run on a cloud-based system, allowing team members to access these tracking systems no matter where they might be.
Benefits of Using E-commerce Fulfillment Platforms
Are you wondering what benefits your business can enjoy when you use fulfillment platforms? Here’s a list of some benefits associated with using e-commerce fulfillment platforms:
- Scalability – As your business grows, these platforms can easily scale up to handle increased order volumes.
- Efficiency in Inventory Management – These platforms provide real-time inventory tracking, so that your businesses can manage stock levels more effectively.
- Return Management – Fulfillment platforms can also handle returns and exchanges, making the process easier for both businesses and customers.
- Focus on Core Business – Using a fulfillment platform frees up time for businesses to focus on core aspects such as product development and marketing, rather than logistical concerns.
- Geographical Reach – Fulfillment platforms help businesses reach a wider customer base, even international markets.
- Customer Satisfaction – Reliable and fast delivery can increase overall customer satisfaction significantly.
Fulfillment trends show that most companies want to save time and money in their processes. 38% of supply chain professionals want to streamline their processes, and fulfillment systems can help make that happen. We’ll look at ways that e-commerce fulfillment platforms help reach that objective next.
How E-commerce Fulfillment Platforms Save Time and Money
Now that you know what e-commerce fulfillment platforms can do, it’s important to look at why they are important for e-commerce businesses. If you understand these tools’ benefits, you’ll clearly understand their value.
One of the most compelling advantages of e-commerce fulfillment tools is the time and money you will save by using these tools. Here are ways that fulfillment tools will help you save time and money:
Streamlined Inventory Management
One of the primary benefits of an e-commerce fulfillment platform is its ability to manage inventory efficiently. With real-time tracking, businesses can monitor stock levels, avoiding both overstocks and stockouts.
Having this feature minimizes storage costs, ensures products are always available for customers, and eliminates the need for manual inventory checks. The platform can also predict inventory needs based on sales trends, further enhancing efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
Automated Order Processing
Fulfillment platforms automate the entire order processing cycle – from receipt to shipment. This automation reduces the chance of human error and significantly decreases the time spent on manual order processing.
Automation in order fulfillment allows businesses to process higher volumes of orders faster, leading to increased customer satisfaction and, ultimately, improved sales performance. Only some parts of the fulfillment process are fully automatable. But you can streamline a good chunk of it and spend less time and money finishing these deliverables.
Reduced Shipping Costs
Many fulfillment platforms offer access to discounted shipping rates due to their relationships with various carriers and their ability to leverage bulk shipping. For small and medium-sized businesses, this can lead to substantial cost savings.
Furthermore, these platforms provide optimal carrier selection based on cost, reliability, and delivery speed, ensuring cost-efficient and timely deliveries.
Efficient Returns Management
Handling returns can be a time-consuming and costly process. E-commerce fulfillment platforms streamline returns management, providing easy-to-use systems for tracking returns, managing refunds, and reintegrating returned products into inventory.
In the process, you save time, reduce costs associated with returns, and improve the customer experience, which can lead to increased loyalty and repeat purchases.
E-commerce businesses often experience fluctuating demand due to seasonal trends, sales promotions, or rapid growth. A good fulfillment platform will scale your business, handling increased order volumes without missing a beat. This flexibility saves you the time and costs of managing additional resources or infrastructure during peak times.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Not many e-commerce business owners know this, but they leave so much money on the table by failing to provide good customer service. 55% of shoppers who have a bad experience with a brand will tell their family and friends about it. This results in lost sales and a stained brand image.
Fulfillment platforms can enhance the customer experience by ensuring fast, accurate, and reliable delivery. These platforms boost customer satisfaction by providing timely order updates, tracking information, and efficiently handling issues. Happy customers are more likely to become repeat customers, leading to higher customer lifetime value and lower acquisition costs.
Focus on Core Business
As a business owner or executive, you shouldn’t be spending your time-solving logistics problems or other e-commerce fulfillment tasks. You should focus on growing the business by creating more products or networking with potential partners and high-level clients.
By outsourcing fulfillment to a dedicated platform, you can focus more time and resources on your core competencies. This leads to better overall business performance and saves money by ensuring resources are allocated to areas where they can provide the greatest return on investment.
How to Implement Fulfillment Platform in Your E-commerce Business
So maybe you’re convinced that you need an e-commerce fulfillment platform, but you don’t know where to start. Here’s a simple guide I want to leave you with when choosing a fulfillment service or platform:
- Find the Right Tool. Spend time researching all the tools that can provide the benefits and features above. Try and find the one that provides all the mentioned features above at the lowest possible cost.
- Get a Developer to Set It Up. Setting up an e-commerce fulfillment platform might be a challenging scenario. So it helps to hire a developer to help set up the website and fulfillment software. A good developer is crucial to getting your tools up correctly. You can look for developers who graduated from this list of the top online web development degrees, so you have a good starting point.
- Launch. Because e-commerce fulfillment platforms are generally quick to set up, you can launch as soon as you’re ready. Do it in phases by dedicating some days to using the system and others to sticking to the existing system. Once ready, you can fully launch the system for 100% use.
Order Fulfillment Done Right
E-commerce is a powerful way to scale your business because it gives you the ability to grow your sales without proportionately increasing expenses and effort. Automation, tools, and systems within your e-commerce fulfillment platform can keep your operations relatively lean. But you can only do that if you already have a seamless fulfillment management system.
Remember that It’s not enough to sell products online. If you want to sustain your business, you must fulfill orders well. And using e-commerce order fulfillment platforms will probably help you do that more effectively. With the right fulfillment system, your business will be in a great position to experience massive results in 2023 and beyond.