When you’re just getting started with your ecommerce website, it’s easy to get bogged down in the early details such as putting together an attractive storefront, planning your SEO, and putting together a targeted marketing campaign that will bring in traffic that converts well. While all of those details are important, they’re useless if you don’t have a good ecommerce fulfilment plan.
Keeping Those Customers Happy
There are many stories of young ecommerce ventures failing because they couldn’t cope with demand in the early days. If you launch your site with a great offer, there’s a good chance that it will get listed on Fatwallet, HotUKDeals, or whatever the major “savvy shopper” website is for your region. Can your website cope with the number of orders you’d get if that happened.
Having a good efulfilment plan in place will help you to manage whatever volume of orders comes in; whether that’s a manageable trickle, or a stock-depleting flood.
Monitoring Your Fulfilment Process
Ecommerce fulfilment should not be a reactive thing. Instead of waiting for an order, boxing it up, and shipping it when you have a chance, you should have a clear process in mind. Think about what’s important to your customers, and plan around that.
For example, if you’re shipping fragile items – train your efulfilment team to package those items carefully, and track your return rate. If you’re getting lots of complaints about items arriving broken, improve your packaging. If, on the other hand, speed of shipping is important, measure that, and research different couriers to find out which ones are best for the areas that you operate in.
If you have a fairly high volume of orders, or you deal in items that are annoying to stock, handle, and ship, then maybe outsourcing would be a more efficient way of doing business.
There are a number of companies that are happy to pick, pack and ship your inventory. Depending on the solution you use, you may not even have to own the inventory that’s being handled. Dropshipping is a good way to get started with an online storefront without having to worry too much about the overheads of investing in stock that may or may not sell. Be warned, however, that margins on many dropshipping items are tight. If you’re selling via auction sites, in particular, you may find yourself struggling to attract customers because you get consistently undercut by others selling the same items at a tiny profit.
Scaling Your Operation
As you grow your operation, you will be able to find ways to make your efulfilment more efficient. If you can automate stock tracking, printing shipping labels, and sending out orders, then this will improve your turnaround time, make your customers happier, and reduce the possibility of errors in both your fulfilment, and your stock tracking.
If you’re handling your picking and posting in house, hold regular meetings with your warehouse team to see if they have ideas for how they can improve the process. Perhaps your business has grown large enough to be able to make effective use of supply chain management software, or there could be other tools that could make things go more smoothly.
If you’re outsourcing, talk to your provider regularly to see if they have services that they think you could benefit from.