Manya Arora March 23, 2023 0 0
E-commerce Multi-channel Order Fulfillment Guide 101
It is largely acknowledged that gaining new clients is far more challenging than ensuring that existing clients come back!
However, in order to maintain regular clients, it is essential to provide only the best service.
When you are a retailer online, you have very few areas to differentiate yourself from the rest. How you manage your customer experience (or CX in retail parlance), determines your repeat customer volume and value. For example, a customer has a poor experience if the delivery of the package is delayed 2 or more days than the expected delivery date, and more, if the customer is not updated about the delay. Or worse still, the customer order is canceled due to a stock out, which will definitely create a poor customer experience.
A very large aspect of your service is reflected in how you manage your back-office processes,
This includes your product Information, Inventory Management, order fulfillment process, packaging, shipment, and even returns. While small businesses selling on 1 or 2 online places and processing about 3 to 10 orders a day can manage the whole back-office process pretty efficiently with basic tools, it becomes exponentially complex as you scale up your business by selling on multiple marketplaces, brand sites, and geographic regions. Selling on multiple marketplaces or brand sites are very common strategy today to scale up businesses by leveraging the shared resources of the marketplaces and 3rd party service providers, which all form a well-knit ecosystem to help you sell in more places. However, your back-office processes are critical to providing a “wonderful” customer experience. At the core of the back-office processes is the order fulfillment system or also commonly known as Order Management System (OMS) and when used to manage multiple online sites, it is known as Distributed Order Management (DOM). For the purposes of this guide, we will just stick to one of the terms - OMS or order fulfillment.
A well-managed order fulfillment system, especially when functioning across multiple channels consequently becomes crucial for growing businesses. It is crucial to the extent that this process, if not managed efficiently, can lead to an existential crisis!
If you are looking to improve or optimize your order fulfillment system, worry not, this guide is tailored to help you with just that! Keeping in mind the different stages of order fulfillment, right from receiving the order to shipment of the order and even the return process, this guide covers all the aspects of the process.
Without further ado, let us start from the very basics,
What is order fulfillment?
Order fulfillment as a process; is exactly what the name suggests, the process of fulfilling an order. Order fulfillment is the complete process of receiving, packing, and shipping an order to customers.
The definition of the process may sound pretty simplified however; beware, there are a number of details that one must look into and carefully manage all the intricate details for the process to be successful!
Processing many orders coming in from multiple sources, or keeping all the systems updated, leaves you with a lot of intricate details that need to be managed well to be successful.
The order fulfillment process involves a number of steps that are to be executed for a smooth fulfilment process, these steps include, inventory storage, order processing, shipping, and in certain cases, return processing as well.
Why is a multi-channel order fulfillment strategy essential?
Paving away from just traditional methods of retail which once involved a physical store, owing to globalization markets have now crossed borders. In order to survive the growing market, there has been a certain demand
for change, and the shift to e-commerce has proven to be essential for survival. This digital scope has widened the horizons of sellers everywhere as they move towards multiple channels. However, this increased scope of the business marketing area comes with a certain responsibility for order fulfillment as well!
Order fulfilment is no more a simplified process but rather a complex set of tasks that must be tackled with much caution. Your order process essentially sets the impression of your brand quality and thus impacts customer satisfaction - A well-organized order fulfilment strategy thus comes into play here.
An important part of the order fulfilment strategy is inventory management software that helps you to streamline the order process across your various marketing channels consequently avoiding any double orders and speeding up the process.
As per the report based on research conducted by the ‘International Journal of Business & Management Research,’ it was observed that,
● 38% of online shoppers will abandon their order if the delivery will take longer than a week. Even more, about 8% of people will abandon their order if delivery will take 3 days or fewer.
Hence, quick order fulfilment is essential here to retain customers.
● 69% of consumers are less likely to shop with a retailer in the future if a purchase is not delivered within 2 days of the date promised.
Not delivering the product on the promised date tends to be a source of annoyance to most buyers.
● For online retailers, the average cost to fulfil an order is 70% of the average order value.
This cost, however, can be largely reduced using order fulfilment software to effectively manage the process.
Minimizing unnecessary costs wherever possible by making the most of smarter technology and processes can lead to substantial increases in profit margins.
Not just the financial benefit, efficient and quality delivery will ensure regular customers that are certain to come back!
While executing the process of order fulfilment, in each of its stages, there are certain factors that you must absolutely keep in mind.
1) Always Segregate Single Item and Multi-Item orders
On receiving an order, before processing it from the inventory, the first thing that you must do is segregate the different types of orders. These are to be segregated on the basis of single-item and multi-item orders.
Why should we segregate orders? Orders with single items are much easier to pack than an order with multiple items.
For single item orders:
To complete a single item order all you have to do is match the item to the label and just pack the order. There are multiple ways you can optimize how you match an item to a label.
If you are doing it all manually then the steps you would follow would be:
1) Print labels for all single items and segregate it based on SKU 2) Make an item count and send the picker to pick the items. 3) Keep the labels stacked by SKU on the table and keep the items on top of the label
4) You now have the labels and items sorted.
Now if you are using an order management solution like Easyops, your process gets simplified by a great deal!
This is because when a reliable warehouse Management software is integrated with an inventory management system, the submission of sales orders to the website can be automatically transferred to the software. The software, in turn, generates pick lists and wave-picking lists that tell warehouse staff which items need to be gathered from the warehouse. This is how, An automated system that directly converts all orders into digital data to store it in its system proves to be time-saving, efficient and accurate.
This process also makes it convenient for easy distinction between single and multiple orders.
Second Easyops Order Management helps you generate formatted lists called picklists, this is arguably the best way to reduce the possibility of an error.
The picklist is a list of items that you need to pick from your inventory. This makes it very efficient to pick items and reduces the number of trips the picker will need to make saving operation time.
Now coming back, the steps to fulfil single item orders in Easyops would be as follows:
1. Filter single item orders.
2. Generate a pick list of single item orders.
Easyops Order management solution provides a lot of flexibility in fulfilling single-item orders. Using the solution software you can sort and print orders on the basis of SKU. This enables the labels of one type of SKU to be grouped together.
Another feature in the software is the ability to scan different SKUs and print corresponding labels automatically. You can also generate a single item pick list for your top-selling SKUs separately.
The process using Easyops Order Management is as follows: 1) Go to Pick a station
2) Click on Generate Picklist, select the Single item orders radio option Bonus Feature: You can also prioritize your picking based on your SLA
3) Generate Picklist
For multi-item orders:
Multi-item orders require more caution when handling them this is because you are dealing with more items, hence widening the scope for
errors. There can be major errors such as shipping the wrong item, although this does occur in single item orders, it is largely a multi-item issue that is faced by the sellers. Another error that can occur is Short shipping, this occurs when a packer ships less quantity than what has been ordered.
Trivial errors like these have major impacts on the profit of a company. As it not only tarnished the reputation of a company by deterring future customers but also disrupts a smooth workflow. The business also has to go the extra mile to solve customer issues and ensure their satisfaction following the error.
An automated system enables you to set user-defined Order Picking Priority that will automatically align its picking list with other deadlines, workflows, and logistics such as production times and other fields that are defined by the business. These automatically generated and prioritized picklists are a major boon as they effectively customize a unique workflow for every user optimized for deadlines and other logistics.
Multi-item orders require you to first pick both those items and pack them together. Matching multiple items to labels is more time-consuming. There are multiple ways to manage this better.
If you are doing it all manually without using an advanced order management system like Easyops then you can use one of these methods:
1) Print labels for all multiple item orders.
2) Take an order label/invoice and get all the items and keep the items and label on the packing table.
3) Repeat the process for each order.
Easyops gives you the advantage of picking all items of multiple items ordered in one go (per picklist). When used with Pack Station it makes it very easy to fulfil multi-line orders.
The process using Easyops Order Management is as follows: 1. Open Pick station
2. Click on Generate Picklist, and select single item orders radio option Bonus Feature: You can also prioritize your picking based on your SLA
3. Generate Picklist
Now the picklist can be handed over to the picker to pick the items from the warehouse.
Once the items are picked they would be kept on the packing table. The packer would do the following process:
1. Open Pack Station
2. Scan the picklist
3. Scan each item picked one by one.
4. Easyops Pack Station has built-in intelligence to enable dynamic sorting using the holding cell.
5. Once all the items for an order are sorted and picked you will be able to print the shipping label and pack the order.
2) Have clearly marked locations where each SKU is stored
When dealing with inventory storage, to make things a lot more organized, it is suggested that Item storage should be clearly segregated and marked so that the person picking the item can pick the item in a fast and efficient manner.
This can be done by adopting an SKU system. (This commonly abbreviated “SKU” stands for ‘Stock Keeping Unit’. It is basically an alphanumeric code
which is assigned to identify a product in an inventory which involves a variety of products. The code represents the different products by the distinction of their characteristics, such as the size, color, and brand.)
While adding SKUs to products, the process too must be executed in an organized manner. It is important to segregate and store different SKUs in different bins on the basis of their requirements and convenience.
In many warehouses, this system is adapted to maximize convenience. When you generate a picklist using Easyops you can get not just the SKU but also the picking location.
While adding SKUs to products, the process too must be executed in an organized manner. It is important to segregate and store different SKUs in different bins on the basis of their requirements and convenience. In many warehouses, this system is adapted to maximize convenience. Such as high velocity (fast-selling) SKUs are placed closer to the exit whereas slower ones are stored in deeper sections of the warehouse. This is largely efficient for the transfer of goods.
Not just segregation of bins, bin identifiers are vital as well! Bins require specific barcodes on them. These give ease of locating goods in a large warehouse and also help to automate and keep track of bin storage.
Barcodes keep a tally of goods store, scanning a barcode gives exact details of a product and its quantity, this feature is the most desirable aspect of SKUs.
3) Have specific packaging areas while processing orders.
The order picking or order preparation operation is the next step in the order processing process. This process consists of taking and collecting goods in a specified quantity before shipment to satisfy customers' orders.
● The order fulfilment process begins with the picking of goods, once a customer places an order, it is transferred to a team which is in charge of collecting the items, and their required quantities from the storage locations of the facility.
● The next step that follows the picking of the product is the packing operation. Following the procuring of goods, they require to be packed for the next step which is the shipment. Packaging your
product right is essential since it essentially reflects the standard of your company. A well-delivered intact product is more impressive and assuring to buyers and ensures regular customers. A secure packaging also saves from customer complaints and return hassles, in the long run, secure packaging saves any unnecessary logistics costs as well!
Some package securing options include materials such as bubble mailers, poly bags, packing tape, bubble wrap, air-fill, etc. the box that you chose to package also sets the tone of your product, a custom-made brand endorsing box is certainly bound to gain a more positive impression.
To perfectly execute this step, it is essential to have packing areas Here are some tips on what should a packing area look like:
1) A packing table should be allocated separately.
2) Have packing-related items on the packing table or next to it. Items like Tapes, Packing material like corrugated boxes, packing covers, scissors, cutters, label printer, etc
3) should have a standing area with a packing table. There should be at least two bins - one for items picked and another for the packed shipments.
4) Keep temporary pigeon hole racks above the parking area for package sorting.
5) Maintain a manifest copy of packages handed over to the courier for record purposes.
4) multi courier integration is essential
Using software to unify your various courier providers across the multiple channels that you operate over is necessary.
This helps streamline all your data and simplify the process. Easyops comes integrated with the most widely used shipping providers. You can generate shipping AWB, label and schedule pickup directly from the Easyops panel, saving your time in order fulfillment. You can also schedule a reverse pick-up for your customer returns. With built-in shipment tracking, you can track your shipped orders, track returns and get efficient with your fulfilment process.
Logging into different platforms to track your various delivery services is a thing of the past! You can track your order directly in Easyops. Whether you use Shiprocket or Bluedart or Delhivery, track all your shipments directly in Easyops.
An integration software reduces the complexity of order fulfillment. You don’t have to waste your time logging into multiple panels to fulfill your orders. Allow the software to auto-assign your courier, check Pincode coverage and assign AWB for you.
Further, you can get instant updates on delivery tracking by using a system with a mobile website. This paves the way for convenient instant access.
Courier integration and order management applications are a major source of help in improving the order fulfillment process. They automatically
synchronize the customer and order information between your business systems and the courier service system. This helps in eradicating repetitive employee administration and significantly reducing the time taken to dispatch orders.
5) Simplify the return process for both parties involved
The return process, when handled manually, can be a source of great confusion and errors. On the sellers’ side, this can be credited to the hassles involved in storing the returned products in warehouses, return money deductions, etc. On the buyer's side, the trouble presents itself in contacting sellers and vying for return process details. This can be a great annoyance as it is extremely time-consuming.
These aspects tend to be a point of great stress when dealing with the return process.
One efficient way to tackle this problem on the seller’s side would be to incorporate online POS into your return process.
An online POS system manages all your transactions and records all the refunds you process for product returns. Having an automated record of cash returns ensures that at the end of the day all your finances are in order!
For the convenience of both the seller and buyer one way to reduce hassles would be to include pre-printed shipping labels on the box for possible returns.
This eases the trouble on both sides as customers won't have to constantly contact the seller representatives to make a return.
This process is largely simple for the buyers to return the unwanted items; as all that they have to do is drop off the item box at the nearest post office for the return.
Automated software like Easyops can make the printing of these labels an automatic process. These pre-printed shipping labels can also help prevent fraudulent returns. The label is generally expected to include original invoice numbers, quantities, SKUs, etc, thus, when the seller receives the return package, they already know everything that should be in it hence making it easier to tackle.
This concludes the multi-channel order fulfilment guide. The entire process right from picking goods to packaging, tracking couriers and ending at the return process is critical on its own. Any error in a singular process might wreak havoc in the order fulfilment hence, it is essential to execute with great care and ensure that only the best of the service is provided to buyers all over the world!
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