Running an E-commerce business is a complex beast to say the least. Most businesses focus on the obvious – the brand, choosing a shopping cart, figuring out what products to sell and then advertising. But what happens once orders start coming in? Is there a process in place to manage order flow and fulfillment and how efficient is this process?
Managing the fulfilling of orders is one area many retail businesses struggle with. Like many retailers we talk to, you may be manually pulling orders from your shopping cart and then, using spreadsheets, sending this information to your suppliers and fulfillment partners. Having a Storefront Management System provides retailers with the ability to automate the order and fulfillment processes. This is crucial to the success of any online business, as it will ensure every order is fulfilled with the correct supplier, tracked and delivered on time. Nothing can ruin a business faster than inefficient processes that do not live up to customer expectations.
Here at SalesWarp, we have had many discussions recently with retailers with a variety of fulfillment needs. And many of them struggle with how to manage the process. I wanted to address a couple of them here and outline how an integrated E-commerce system can alleviate these pains. I have taken the approach of how our system handles some of these issues, but I know many other similar systems can help alleviate some of these pains as well. See below for a partial list of available E-commerce platforms.
Example 1: Identifying which warehouse or fulfillment center gets each order. Depending on which back-end system you are using (see partial list of systems below) will depend on what much of this you can automate, but an intelligent E-commerce management system will connect electronically to each warehouse and supplier and even give retailers the ability to create rules to identify the primary warehouse for every product. Once set up, this will eliminate the need to manage this on an order-by-order basis. Usually, these types of rules can be defined by the quantity the warehouse has on hand, by geography (ie: closest to customer), shipping cost or other rules specific to your business.
Example 2: Many of our orders need to be split and fulfilled by more than one warehouse. Regardless of which system you are using or beginning to consider, having this capability will keep you on that path of more automation leading you to a higher ROI. Now, similar to Example 1, if your system has a rules engine, you’ll have the capability to split individual orders between different warehouses. You can base these rules on using the warehouse/supplier with largest quantity on hand first and then the next supplier or other rules relevant to your business. One of the big advantages of a feature like a rules engine is if you can explain your need, a rule can be written eliminating that manual process. We’ve seen this one feature save our clients huge amounts of time on a daily basis.
Example 3: How can we generate a purchase order for our suppliers when we receive an order? Many retailers we talk to do not own a warehouse and use third party fulfillment centers and distributors for fulfillment. In these cases, many of them need to be able to issue purchase orders at the same time an order is placed on their web site. Usually, they are doing this manually. Now, some of the back-end E-commerce systems have some ERP capabilities (SalesWarp, NetSuite). This not only gives you the ability to create purchase orders to replenish stock, but also allows merchants to create and automatically issue a purchase order when an order is placed. Of course, every business has different requirements and this is also easily customizable.
Example 4: How can I get the order to my fulfillment center without having to manually export it from my shopping cart? Having a system that can integrate and even contain an order management system (OMS) is crucial to making sure that your orders are fulfilled correctly. Once an order is placed on your web site (see my previous post on improving your order management), the order is pulled from your shopping cart and into your back-end management system which would then route it to the appropriate warehouse/supplier based upon the warehouse rules that you initially set up (also mentioned in Example 1). From this point, the warehouse receives or picks up the order, packs it and ships it to the customer. The warehouse then sends the ship-confirm back through your system which tracks that information and then sends it to the shopping cart, triggering a customer email notification. As you can see, no manual steps are needed if you have an intelligent storefront management system that integrates your shopping cart with your back-end fulfillment operations.
Example 5: We have some orders that need to go through an approval process but some do not. How can we efficiently manage both types of orders? Our system is designed to run so that each step in the process happens automatically. But it also has the ability to create rules for certain products, customers, quantities or even dollar amounts that will require a manual approval process. We see this a lot in B2B businesses or with non-traditional online businesses. An approval process usually has four steps that walks you through receiving the order, approving it, submitting it to the warehouse to be fulfilled and then receiving the ship confirmation from the supplier. With some systems you can also limit access or admin rights to who is responsible for these approval steps.
These are a just a couple of the scenarios that retailers need to address in regards to fulfilling online orders. As you can see, with an automated platform, retailers can be confident that every order is routed to the correct warehouse, while at the same time eliminating many manual steps usually associated with this process. If your business is struggling with any of these scenarios, whether you’re using a back-end system or not, you are wasting valuable time and resources managing processes instead of focusing on strategic sales and marketing initiatives. Would love to hear feedback on how your managing your fulfillment today.
Partial List of E-commerce platforms that can help you fulfill your E-commerce obligations
Sell More, Make More and Manage Less.
Avid triathlete and Vice President of Marketing for SalesWarp, David Anderson brings a unique perspective to E-commerce from a creative, branding and marketing background that encompasses over 20 years.
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