When a customer buys, they've placed their trust in you. This might be the first time they have transacted with you. Perhaps they bought from your website, via a marketplace like eBay or Amazon, or perhaps through a social shopping email like Groupon or Living Social. Either way, the point of purchase is the time of highest risk for the customer. They are committing their hard-earned money to you. They've submitted their payment, they've received an order number and hopefully a confirmation email. For them, the waiting starts and the fulfilment process begins.
From your perspective, once the order comes in, this is where ‘the rubber meets the road’, literally in most cases. Pick, pack and dispatch is the name of the game. How can your staff pick the orders as quickly as possible? How can your staff pack the orders as economically as possible, using the optimal container size, the right label and documentation, and put the packages in the right place for dispatch? How can your courier get the item to your customer intact and close the loop on the process, all with zero error? How can you get your fulfilment process running smoothly?
Picking & Packing
On the picking side, if you’re using a drop-shipper, then you’ve no picking to do. You have to get your purchase order to your partner, and you still need to get the information that your customer’s order has been processed, packed, is out for delivery, and has been delivered. If you’re doing the shipping yourself, then you need to find the balance for the right number of pick runs you do during the day, depending on the day of the week and the season. You also need to have a picking process that works for you. Perhaps you organise your pick list order by order, or perhaps you do it cumulatively via a central pool.
On the packing side, your packer needs to print off the shipping list, possibly by courier, and assemble the order. The optimal size box for the dimensions of the items needs to be selected, the items need to be packed, padding needs to be inserted along with the invoice and delivery docket, before the box is sealed securely. Then the package needs to be placed in the correct courier sack in the dispatch area. Your relationships might be with the couriers directly, or they might be with a courier aggregator like Metapack, in which case the multi channel fulfilment and dispatch process will be different.
The dispatch process
Finally, the dispatch process kicks in. Your staff print off the manifest for the courier. The packages are scanned before going into the courier van and back to the courier’s warehouse, where they’re possibly scanned again depending on your couriers’ own processes, so that you and your customers can check on package progress. Then they’re out for delivery in another courier van, to be hand delivered and signed for on a hand-held device which in turn automatically updates the various systems. And that’s just for a domestic or regional dispatch. Add the international dimension and you have more links in the chain, airports, airlines, customs, duty, international shipping infrastructure and providers and all of those considerations to contend with, which can impact your seller metrics.
Behind the scenes
You also need to make sure that your sales order processing systems are doing their job properly. If you’re selling across multiple ecommerce marketplaces, perhaps using different seller IDs, you can’t afford to lose track of who’s paid for which items to be delivered where. This means being able to match orders to payments quickly, which could involve going into more than one system, including your own order taking systems and systems of the payment processing providers that you’re using. This can be a painstaking and time-consuming exercise.
What could possibly go wrong? Clearly, with so much manual intervention and so many steps in the process, there are so many potential chances of error, theft, delay or loss. This means, conversely, that there are many opportunities for you to set yourself apart from the competition by automating as much fulfilment as you can, driving down your costs and improving your efficiencies and the complete buying experience of your customers.
We've talked about 3 stages of the fulfilment process but how can you really get great at this important retail area? If you would like to find out more about how you can improve your fulfilment and dispatch process, contact Volo here