Multichannel E-Commerce: 10 Order Fulfillment Tips to Boost Success and Reduce Dissatisfied Customers
10 Order Fulfillment Tips to Boost Success and Reduce Dissatisfied Customers
There are many different factors that affect your success as a multichannel ecommerce company. You need the right products, a presence on the right marketplaces, social outreach programs, and more. However, if your order fulfillment is subpar, then you’ll be stuck with dissatisfied customers for the long-run and potentially lower metrics on marketplaces. Thankfully, there are quite a few things that you can do to increase success and reduce customer dissatisfaction.
1. Integration with Supplier Systems
Chances are good that you don’t manufacture the products that you sell. It’s likely that you source from the manufacturer, or from distributors. This means that it is critical that your inventory control system syncs with your suppliers’ systems. You want to make sure your stock count on your marketplaces and websites accurately reflects actual stock available. If you say something is in stock, it better be or you will have unhappy customers and potentially negative reviews. By connecting your systems to your suppliers and downloading the latest stock counts at least once a day – if not multiple times – you are far less likely to sell a product that you can’t deliver.
2. Order Visibility Matters
Today’s consumers expect to be in the loop at all times. They want to be able to check their smartphone and see where their package is. They want to know how the packing and fulfillment process is proceeding. Focus on visibility at each step of the fulfillment journey so that they’re in the know. From receipt of the order, to the fact that it’s processing, to when it’s awaiting pickup, to the carrier transit time and to the time it’s delivered – each step of the delivery process should be shown to the customer. And if you can provide alerts via e-mail or text, or even Facebook Messenger, all the better.
3. Know Your Customer’s Needs and Tailor Fulfillment to Meet Them
Different customers will have different needs when it comes to order fulfillment and shipping. For instance, some customers will benefit from next-day delivery, and they will be happy to pay more for that benefit. However, that’s not true for everyone. Offer a wide variety of fulfillment options that can suit your customers’ needs. And, when possible, offer two or three day shipping to compete with the online powerhouses – even if it means raising your prices some to cover this. Amazon Prime, for example, is often not the least expensive solution but people like the “free” two day shipping and will pick a Prime product over others just for this reason.
4. Have an Effective Fulfillment Strategy in Place
Without a fulfillment strategy, you’re nowhere. What are your goals once an order is received? What does the flow look like from that point? Who is accountable along the way? What are the steps that must be followed in your specific multichannel ecommerce business to ensure better fulfillment? Detail this and make sure that all stakeholders are on the same page. Place actual orders for your products through marketplaces or your website and follow your process while looking for missing steps or potential issues. Document, document and document.
5. The Shipper You Use
While a lot of the fulfillment process and its success rests on you, a significant amount depends on the shipper you choose. It’s not all about shipper reputation, either. There are cost-related factors, delivery capabilities, and more. Would the USPS be better for one customer? UPS or FedEx might work best for other customers. Are the predominance of your customers in a geographic region? Negotiate special pricing for that area. Third party logistics companies (many at costs lower than Amazon) can often store your products in regional warehouses to get them closer to the buyer and reduce shipping costs and speed up delivery time. Using these, you may be able to use ground shipping but still realize two day delivery. Choose the right shipper for your needs and have strong relationships with those you use.
6. Synced Inventory Across Platforms
These days, your customer could find you on any number of different channels – that’s the name of the game as a multichannel ecommerce company. However, that fragmentation makes it challenging to keep your inventory accurate. Use an inventory management system that syncs counts across all platforms as products sell. This will help prevent your customers from being surprised by out of stocks or delays. Also, if you have fast selling products ensure your system has capabilities to minimize oversells due to sync times (how long it takes for an order to reach the multichannel system, decrement inventory, push the new inventory numbers up to the marketplaces and then for the marketplaces to actually update the values). Some systems, like SureDone, have the ability to set reserve stock levels to ensure you always have a few extra products on hand.
7. Speedy Fulfillment
Speaking of delays, you should focus on rapid order fulfillment. Customers today have little patience, and they expect things to happen in real time. Realize that the only reason they’re buying from you and not from a brick and mortar store is likely price. If your fulfillment process is so labyrinthine that it takes days to process and pack the order, you can count on your customers going elsewhere and your operational costs are probably going to be high. In addition, Amazon and eBay reward sellers for quick fulfillment times, and by having fast turnaround you can actually gain access to programs such as Seller Fulfilled Prime at Amazon.
8. Customer Communication
Commit to good communication with your customers at every step along the way. Encourage them to reach out to you by email, online chat, or by phone. That also means that you need to communicate with them if something goes awry during the order fulfillment process. If you keep them in the loop, most customers are pretty understanding. This goes for mistakes too. If your product showed available online but isn’t actually available to ship, call or email the customer as quickly as possible and give them the option to wait or cancel the order. Speedy and accurate communication will gain you return customers – whether you are always telling them good news or about the rare problem.
9. Order Accuracy
There are few things that erode customer satisfaction and confidence in your multichannel ecommerce operation than inaccurate orders. Make sure that your fulfillment strategy includes multiple checks for accuracy to ensure your customers are getting exactly what they purchased. Barcoding, picking checks, packing checks and more will ensure a happy customer, keep your costs down due to fewer returns and result in a higher likelihood of positive online ratings.
10. Deal with Returns and Refunds
As a final note, learn to deal with returns and refunds with grace and good humor. They’re going to happen, particularly when buying things online. Make it simple for your customers to send things back and be reasonable with your return and refund policy. It may cost you in the short term, but it will gain you repeat business and referrals resulting in an overall increase in your business.
Follow these 10 tips and you might be surprised at how much customer satisfaction improves in relation to order fulfillment.