When done well, order fulfillment should be the one part of your retail process that the consumer never has to think about. They place their order, and a few days later, their items magically arrive on their doorstep. Of course, as a retailer, you understand that there’s quite a bit more at play here than some simple magic; it takes a lot of work and coordination among vendors to ensure orders are prepped, packaged and shipped correctly, completely, and on time.
So as your business grows and those new orders start rolling in faster than ever, you may find yourself scrambling to make adjustments while your vendors struggle to keep up. If you’ve gotten to this point, and you’re starting to wonder how to better automate your order fulfillment process, you’re in luck, because we’ve got a couple of tips for you.
But first, let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. A typical order fulfillment process tends to looks something like this:
- Order is received
- Order is processed
- Order processing notification is sent to the customer
- Fulfillment request is sent to the warehouse
- Items are picked
- Items are packed
- Package is shipped
- Shipping notification is sent to the customer
- Order arrives
With so many moving parts, there’s a lot of room for error, or for kinks or holdups to develop as your business expands. But there are two major ways to better automate your order fulfillment process for greater efficiency and peace of mind.
2 Ways to Improve Your Automated Fulfillment Process
- Strive for seamless integration. Investing in an order management system that not only allows you to automate your own processes, but also communicates clearly with your suppliers’ systems is key. For things like inventory management; storage and picking; packing and shipping; returns management – when you insist on an OMS that keeps you linked in real time to your suppliers, you drastically reduce the chances of costly communication breakdowns. And that means, as your volume of orders grows and changes – even unexpectedly – your vendors always know exactly what is needed of them to keep your fulfillment process moving.
- Enable end-to-end order visibility. As the business owner, you – of course – want to be able to see everything throughout your supply chain. How many open orders do you have? How are your inventory levels? Are there any returns to process? What’s scheduled to ship out today? Tomorrow? Next week? It’s all vital information. But when you’re able to share that same level of data transparency and visibility with your suppliers, it opens up the door to optimal efficiency. Everyone gets to access the same catalog, inventory and order fulfillment processes, and everyone knows exactly what’s coming next – and when. As an added bonus, most end-to-end order visibility systems even allow your customers to see whether your items are in stock, low in stock or out of stock before they order.
In the end, automating your order fulfillment process improves customer satisfaction, gives you greater peace of mind, and even helps to open up time in your schedule. The less time you spend worrying about whether your fulfillment process is equipped to handle your growth, the more time you can spend on making the most of your business success.