If you are a small business owner who is involved in the supply chain, then you probably know how challenging order fulfillment process can be. It’s not just about packaging the goods, sticking labels and sending the packages to your customers. You should be able to store all those goods somewhere, keep a comprehensive inventory of them and thoroughly control transportation along with all other business processes.
It is difficult to be in charge of your own business and always try to increase profit and ensure company growth, but it is possible to resort to effective automation and apply fulfillment technologies to simplify all processes.
Major fulfillment problems
As your company grows, the workflow becomes more complex. The number of customers inevitably increases and, therefore, a necessity to use numerous channels for processing customers’ orders arises. You will have to manage your own marketplace, respond to customers via emails and calls, insert huge amount of data into an electronic database (CRM), handle all shipments and control the deliveries.
There are even more order fulfillment challenges that may influence your business:
- Goods storing. Nowadays many small and medium size companies tend to use fulfillment centers to save time, money and a great deal of effort. Such centers store company goods, perform packing and shipping and even provide customer support. So a business owner does not have to rent a warehouse and spend money on its maintenance. On one hand it is a great solution, especially if you just began running your business and have a limited budget, but on the other hand not all your business needs can be met by fulfillment centers and you cannot control all essential processes.
Amazon has very famous fulfillment center (FBA) and offers a full range of services to all business owners. Any entrepreneur who has selling account on Amazon can set up FBA, create a listing of their goods, deliver the products to the fulfillment center and let it do the rest. With Amazon, there is even no need to be involved in such unpleasant procedures as product returns and refunds. Due to web-to-warehouse technology Amazon has unique sorting system and offers extremely fast goods selecting option.
- Inventory management. The competition on the market is enormous and if you will not provide precise information whether a certain good is available for ordering or not, the customers will likely choose another company. Your online marketplace is a powerful tool and it requires a holistic inventory tracking system. If you do not have such tool, then you will not be able to track which items are in high demand or which ones are out of stock. Only 2 years ago Wasp Barcode made a report after interviewing 1100 small business owners and discovered that only 18% use inventory software, while 24% don’t have any inventory and 21% inputs essential data in Excel spreadsheets. Luckily, nowadays this situation has changed and small businesses started to actively implement technologies.
- Delivery tracking. Timely delivery is what makes your customers get back to your store and order more goods. However, without using a special technology it is impossible to manage deliveries and provide your customers with the tracking codes. F.e. Amazon uses a special system that assigns a special number to each order so that the customer, who already paid for the product, can track the shipment and location of the purchased good while it’s on its way.
- International shipping. This challenge is probably the hardest one. When you ship goods to other countries it is important to remember that your expenditures may be incurred and the delivery time can be prolonged. Each country usually charges taxes and additional custom fees, which means that some paperwork will be involved. You should take care of all documents and forms. International fulfillment requires cooperation with various carriers that is why a good system for keeping all documents and tracking processes status is required.
- Logistics. It is likely that you will have to use the services of third-party companies to coordinate supplies instead of taking care of it yourself. In this case responsibility mainly lies on logistics companies, as they should have high-quality systems able to provide you with the information regarding your supplies and allow you to track the movement of your goods. However, from your side, you can utilize tools allowing you to perform fast and effective communication with your logistics partners and control your transportation costs.
- Customer service. The main concern of all business owners is how to make customers satisfied so that they keep ordering their goods in the future and recommend their services to their acquaintances. So without doubt all retailers require a holistic order fulfillment system to reduce all possible mistakes and ensure timely delivery of ordered items in good condition. High-quality fulfillment tools allow to control how goods are picked, packed, labelled and being delivered and also they minimize human errors.
- Customer support. In case of any questions or delivery emergency you should be able to communicate with your clientele. So every company no matter of what size should invest in chatting systems to reply to customers’ queries, and CRMs to store and organize their personal data and to check their preferences.
Are you in need of a good fulfillment tool able to resolve all issues?
Eliminate the hassle with order fulfillment software
As a business owner you probably remember how everything started, those good old times when it was possible to perform order fulfillment without any help from the side. It is always easy to manage dozens of orders, but when dozens of packages turn into hundreds and thousands, you need to look for an assistant whether it would be a human or a technology. In case with the technology you receive a reliable tool able to eliminate all possible errors, handle all orders, track customers queries and complaints, and many more.
Order fulfillment or supply chain management software is able to process huge loads of information and automate many time consuming routine processes. If you want your business to be successful and expand its opportunities, then there is no better choice than implementation of tools for managing:
- Customer orders. Take into account, that such systems should have options for viewing, advanced searching and adding changes to existing orders manually. It is also necessary to receive email notifications about current order status.
- Inventory. Such solutions should include ability to view inventory, receive notifications when some goods are out of stock, analyze and create reports about inventory levels.
- Returns. You tools should allow you to take a look at customers invoices and all order details, provide you with a notification about return requests so that you can check everything timely and verify the data. You may need a special option within the app to approve or decline refunds, therefore integration with shopping and credit cards is important.
- Customer queries. Many companies add live chats on their websites so that they can provide instant answers to questions, receive customers’ feedbacks and render all necessary assistance.
- Delivery control. You may need a special system for keeping all documents related to an order in one place. You will also need to generate a tracking number for customers so that they can check order and delivery details, and current location of their purchase.
What your fulfillment software should have
We have analyzed all crucial needs of order fulfillment processes and now would like to name the following important technologies that a useful solution should include:
- Cloud integration. Cloud-based apps allow to perform real-time checking of deliveries, make order processing faster and provide precise analytic indexes, which is great for business efficiency.
- Integration with ERP. It is great to have a holistic separate solution but if you are running a business, you probably use ERP and you will definitely benefit by integrating order fulfillment tool into your ERP. There is no need to duplicate information, constantly transfer it between programs and lose some data, if you have a complex system able to store all data in one place.
- Big Data technology. This will allow your tool to collect and process huge amounts of information and generate analytic reports. If you want to understand your clientele better, check real market supply and demand and expand the range of goods, then Big Data is exactly what you should consider implementing.
- Intuitive UX. Sometimes business management software has complicated usability. If you are planning to communicate with your customers and need to provide a high level of support, then opt for apps with intuitive UX.
Small businesses can successfully perform order fulfillment and at the same time avoid numerous challenges, extend client base, minimize human errors, finance risks and money loss. Every business owner just needs to optimize all inside processes by using existing tools and systems or creating holistic fulfillment software meeting their particular needs.
Want to develop your own order fulfillment software?