A guest blog post by Steve Syverson, Senior Director of eCommerce Sales at NFI eCom
1. Utilize a fully integrated tech stack
With each online purchase, an order fulfillment process kicks off. A great customer experience throughout the fulfillment process can lead to customer and brand loyalty. It’s essential to have an order management system (OMS) that is configurable and integrates with your complete technology stack for greater order accuracy. Automation within your WMS helps physically fill the order and triggers updates to your customers throughout the process. To further streamline the process, working with a 3PL can help leverage their expertise and technology capabilities to manage carriers, facilities, and labor. Outsourcing can help you decrease the overhead and access assets to scale with you.
2. Offer multiple shipping solutions
According to Bigcommerce, high shipping costs are the number one reason online carts are abandoned. It’s crucial to offer various shipping options at various price ranges, such as next-day delivery and deferred ground. Utilize the connections of your 3PL partner to give your customers speed and pricing options that will accommodate their varying needs. NFI eCom offers full multi-carrier rates to optimize shipping efficiency based on delivery commitment and price point. For those brands that offer free shipping to their customers, a full multi-carrier solution provides you with the best mode at the best price point by leveraging consolidated rates from multiple shippers that are more aggressive.
3. Improve your packaging
Determining the correct packaging for your product can help cut unnecessary costs and enhance the customer experience. One mistake I’ve seen brands make is utilizing too much packaging and boxes that are too large, which leads to increased shipping expenses. NFI eCom uses Cubiscan technology, where each product is dimensionalized during inbound processing. The data is then uploaded to the WMS to help streamline the shipping process and ultimately direct packers to pick the appropriate size box and eliminate wasteful shipping of air. NFI eCom also helps brands procure packaging and enhance their branding with value-added services such as branded packing slips, wraps, and more.
4. Provide clear and detailed communication
All operational systems should be seamlessly integrated, including your marketplace, OMS, and WMS, to ensure accurate inventory management and availability. Once a purchase is made, an integrated technology stack allows operations and end consumers full visibility into the shipment. Customers expect more transparency than they ever have before. What was once a scheduled delivery date communication has evolved to include messages for every step in the fulfillment process, from preparing the order to leaving the dock door, and in transit.
The systems should also proactively notify your customer success teams if an issue does arise, so they can immediately address and resolve it. This is especially important when any frustration felt by the end customer could influence their experience and, ultimately, their brand loyalty. If you work with 3PL, ensure dedicated success managers are in place to create a positive experience for the end customer.
5. Prioritize accuracy at inbound
From an operations perspective, the inbound receiving process is a vital part of the order fulfillment process. When shipments are received from the manufacturer, your fulfillment partners should conduct inbound quality control procedures and audit the product. Once the product is received into the WMS, there should also be standard operating procedures in place to keep inventory levels updated accordingly and ensure optimal inventory accuracy.
6. Create easy returns and exchanges
According to Shopify Plus, twenty to thirty percent of eCommerce customers return online purchases. Returns must be easy and efficient for customers and can be critical to their experience. Brands should consider each step of their returns process, from including the packing slip, carrier flexibility, and quickly crediting those returns. Once the return is received, there is an opportunity to determine what happens to that product next.
Streamlining your order fulfillment process should be ever-evolving. To continue improving, brands should solicit customer feedback, and look for trends, patterns, and opportunities to create a better experience. Discovering inefficiencies could uncover ways to improve order and inventory accuracy. Collaborate with your supply chain partners to continue to innovate.
Steve Syverson is the Senior Director of eCommerce Sales at NFI, a leading supply chain solutions provider in North America. With an extensive background in eCommerce and fulfillment strategies, Syverson helps brands scale, leveraging the assets and capabilities NFI eCom has to offer.