Quick Fixes for Your Biggest Shipping and Fulfilment Problems

Shipping and fulfilment seem easy. All you need to do is stick a label on the ordered product and hand it over to the shipper. It should it delivered to your customer, and world is a happy place. But anyone who has spent any time in the industry knows that it’s anything but that simple. It is one of the key components in the value chain and often can be a nightmare to manage. Imagine thousand of product going out in thousands of different orders in as many combinations, to thousands of locations with multiple shippers. Items will be out of stock, damaged, delayed, returned, sent to wrong addresses and sometimes, despite the best efforts not sent at all. The last one will do most damage to retailer’s reputation especially if he is new to business or has a small business. But all these problems can be handled. Let’s have a look at some of the top issues online businesses have with fulfilment.

 

 

  1. International Fulfilment: With internet the reach of businesses has crossed all oceans. It’s easier than ever before to get an order from across the border. But delivering your product across the border is not as simple as just packing and shipping. International deliveries involve tons of paperwork and rules that must be complied with. There are taxes and customs to be taken care of, which may be different for each country that you ship to. You need to account for extra time taken at the ports, customs and by other government agencies, both, foreign and domestic. But all is not lost. Build a repository of shippers for your most shipped to countries. These shippers should have experience in handling all the paperwork, taxes, customs and should be able to tell you the total cost and times involved, based on the product category. They also should be networked in those agencies and countries that can be leveraged, should a shipment be stuck somewhere. Use their services instead of handling everything on your own. They may charge you a little more for this, but it will save yourself tons of hassle.

 

  1. If you are shipping international, there is a very high likely hood that your product will be shipped in container, on a ship along with many other products, stacked somewhere in between them. This requires extra care while packing. Especially if you need to use ‘freight shipping’. You need to protect your product from damages and delayed shipping. Use durable packing material. This is needed so that products can handle extra stress put on it during international transport through sea. Remember, your box may not end up on the top of the stack and there’s nothing you can do about it. So make your packing extra strong. Use bubble wrap to fill up empty spaces and provide some cushion. Use proper pallets. You shipment should not exceed the weight restrictions of your pallet. The boxes should not be stacked beyond the edge of pallet. Use load protectors to prevent damage from chains, straps and other pallets. Remember, any money you spend on packing, adds to your reputation when product reaches the customer in mint condition, and it has come from abroad!
  2. Customer Trust: This one is a key success factor. If they trust you, they will come back to you and bring their friends and family along. To gain trust, you must reduce errors. Most errors can be attributed to administrative errors. These errors are spread along the supply chain. Wrong product, wrong order, wrong address, wrong delivery (missed delivery time) etc are most common. The error could be small, but may have a large impact. You made a promise to the customer about what he wanted, where he wanted and when he wanted. If you don’t deliver on it, you lose his trust, and potentially the customer too. Train your staff. Make them understand the true cost of errors. Let them understand how a small error can lead to losing customers and harm image of the company. Invest in automation and integrated systems. Correct use of technology can reduce a lot of errors. When the customer calls, be polite. Listen to him. He is calling because he has a problem. The problem is related to your product. Remember, you need the customer while he always has other options (your competitors) to go to.
  3. Customer communication: Once you have received the order, the customer expects the delivery on the right time. But that may be a few days away. Meanwhile, you are working on getting the product from manufacturing, assembling the order, packing the product, shipping and what not to ensure that customer has the delivery when promised. But customer has no communication about it. You should update the customer about status of his order at regular intervals. It could be periodic, or when the order crosses a stage. This is true especially during shipment. Customers like to track their orders. Provide them with tracking number. Make sure that correct shipment tracking code, provided by the shipper, is provided to correct customer. Wrong tracking codes create a lot of confusion when there shouldn’t be one. Test the code before you send it to the customer. It’s a simple thing, just check if the code shows the right address and right customer name.
  4. Stock management: You put up a product on your web store and promised delivery by certain date. You got the order, only to find out that product is out of stock. That is a very tricky situation to be in. Always ensure that you have adequate inventory for each product that you carry. Invest in a good inventory tracking system and automatic ordering system. Integrate your order acceptance system with inventory management system. If an item is not there in the inventory, the order should not be accepted, or at least inform the customer that order will be delayed.
  5. Communication with suppliers: Establish automatic communication lines with your suppliers. The product should be re ordered automatically when the stock quantity falls below a certain level. This is basic. However, it should be done automatically. Your supplier should be able to sense the speed at which your orders are moving and when you will need a refill, and be ready with a refill. Ideally you should never be out of stock for any item.

 

Establishing a fulfilment process with zero errors is impossible. However with careful planning and investment in technology and training, these errors can be reduced to a great extent. In a business world where 99.99% efficiency is not good enough, it is imperative that your processes are well designed to absorb errors before they reach the customer.

 

 

10 Myths About E-commerce Fulfilment Solutions

The high paced growth of the E-commerce sales channel has given immense boost to the E-commerce Fulfillment Solutions and various Third Party Logistics companies. However, there exists a wide section of the market – especially the smaller, newer e-commerce players who debate the concepts of outsourcing their Fulfillment operations or for that matter, even consider a professional Fulfillment solution. So here’s an attempt to break certain myths about the whole order Fulfillment solution and put things into perspective.

  1. Getting orders is tough; Order Fulfillment is easy.

Right and wrong. While the base of any business is getting more and more orders for your products, it is equally important to have a seamless, cost effective and fully optimized order Fulfillment process in place to ensure repeat customers, better revenues and even better profits. Many small and new businesses believe that having a good product to sell is a war won. However, what they miss is that order Fulfillment is a giant that will slowly grow so big that it would be tedious and not profitable to do it all by themselves.

  1. Fulfillment solutions are only for the BIGGIES.

A BIG Myth. Fulfillment solutions can benefit businesses of any scale. The key is to tap on the right Fulfillment partner for your business’s need. A bit of research and having clarity of what you need from your Fulfillment partner can be far more beneficial and economical than doing it all by yourself.

  1. Fulfillment Solutions Are Expensive.

At the first look of it – Yes they are! But have a closer detailed look and you would know that it’s an investment that saves you a lot more expense at a later point…maybe even today. If you are an ecommerce merchant handling your own order Fulfillment, you know how high your fixed costs have gone. You can cut them down by outsourcing your order Fulfillment to a specialized Fulfillment solution provider. Imagine not having to bear the cost of that warehouse?

  1. Order Fulfillment solutions are only friends of ‘volumes’.

No doubt, volumes ensure better profits but Fulfillment solutions are profitable to all. Smaller businesses often go through fluctuations in their sale volumes. Festivals and special occasions can sometimes give a huge spike which can become highly difficult to manage in terms of product deliveries. Having a Fulfillment partner ensures that you receive the scale up and down of order Fulfillment resources without having to either increase your fixed costs or lose market credibility with poor deliveries.

  1. We’re too small to have complex systems and processes

Small e commerce ventures believe that having Fulfillment solutions may end up complicating their otherwise simple delivery process. On the contrary, if you wish to grow and scale up your business in future, it is far more important to have your processes put right at an early stage. Looking in to detailing at the start and letting Fulfillment experts set up your base can actually save you lot of time, money and effort of revamping at a later stage.

  1. We know them best- Our Business, Our Customers

Most retailers are driven by the thought that they know their business and their customers well and no third party can match up to the standards of reaching out to their customer. Remember, just like you, the 3PL or Fulfillment solution providers are experts of their business and your delivery services may actually not match up to their efficiency and standards. Let the experts do the job!

  1. We’ll lose sight and control.

Business owners worry that having their warehouse stocking, logistics and shipping out of their main system may lead to losing sight of their product and control on their deliveries. However, the truth is that modern Fulfillment solutions give better control and visibility to business owners. With providers offering real time tracking, order Fulfillment can be a cake walk.

  1. It’s Only Packing and Shipping! What Extra would They Do?

Most small to mid-size companies are not fully aware of the offerings of modern day 3PL’s and thus fail to see the benefit. Order Fulfillment companies are way beyond a pick, pack, ship player. Their extensive value added services can really help your business grow.

  1. They may stunt our growth

For the ambitious ones, being stuck with a Fulfillment partner is a scary thought. The truth, however, is having selected a ‘fit to your needs’ Fulfillment partner and having a great working rapport can in reality help you scale faster than you could do yourself.  Your partner scales up as your business grows.

  1. What if my inventory is slow moving? It’ll be far more expensive.

Yes, it’s a fact that there may be chances of you paying much extra on storage for slow moving inventory. However, collaborating with a good Fulfillment partner who gives you a good picture of your stock and stats, can help you avoid the scenario of SMI in the first place. Additionally, Fulfillment solution providers offer value added services like promotions in order delivery which can help the slow inventory pick pace.