E-commerce fulfillment is the central part of your retail business, involving activities ranging from receiving orders to picking, packaging, documenting, and shipping goods through third-party logistics. A well-planned and professionally managed e-commerce fulfillment not only saves your time, money but equally helps streamline your online retail business with increased market reach.
However, if you look at the bigger picture, it is always possible that your fulfillment process is faulty. With the industry changing so much, customers have more choices in the buying process. Many companies sell similar products, allowing customers to jump between different options to find the best product, price, and delivery time. You may not be aware of fulfillment challenges now, but you’ll need to recognize that isn’t working in your business as pressure is applied. These challenges might impact your warehouse strategy, order fulfillment, inventory, and other nodes in distribution networks. Don’t worry, as many e-commerce businesses struggle with fulfillment. Here are the five common e-commerce fulfillment challenges and what you can do to overcome them.
E-commerce Fulfillment Challenges and Improvement Tips
Slow shipping speed can cause a lot of problems for online retailers. Unfortunately, in March 2020, while the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have impacted various industries and businesses, one of the worst-hit sectors in India is the e-commerce industry. During this period, Amazon shipping delays have become more common. On average, 6% to 12% of packages experienced delays.
The same shipping delays were experienced during peak e-commerce package delivery periods, such as Diwali and Christmas. Bad weather such as heavy fog, rain can also cause delivery delays. When consumers buy a product from your store, they’re expecting their package to be delivered to their home quickly. But if you’re relying on an e-commerce fulfillment process that is outdated or disorganized, you will never find a way to deal with delays. They can negatively impact your online store’s reputation, which means you won’t be able to fulfill the demands of your customers on time.
It is evident that to create a fast, streamlined, and efficient e-commerce shipping process, you need to improve your e-commerce fulfillment process to guarantee you the shipping timelines your customers are expecting. For this reason, you should update your inventory to organize products and replace the ones that have already been delivered. As your business grows, you will receive more orders, and your delivery time should be realistic to fulfill orders in good time. On the other hand, prepare your warehouse so that it is easy to dispatch products to their respective destinations during the holiday season. Start by maintaining the most popular product categories first, then other less popular products.
Automation can help you mitigate the shipping delays by tracking emails and notifications that will keep your customers updated on their orders’ status. Automated logistic solutions will help you avoid delivery delays and determine what products should be dispatched according to their order times. It makes the whole shipping process easier for retailers by giving them access to multiple reliable couriers and automating labor-intensive tasks such as creating shipping labels, manifests, and filling out KYC forms.
When a customer returns an order, it is shipped directly to the fulfillment center, where it needs to be evaluated. Based on the cause of return and the company’s return policy, the item may be restocked or discarded due to faulty. There are several reasons why products are returned online, and the cost of return can be huge if you aren’t prepared to accept, evaluate, and restock these goods quickly.
According to a report, it’s estimated that 58% of customers want a hassle-free return policy. Additionally, 62% of shoppers prefer to shop online if they can return an item in-store. One of the main challenges of e-commerce returns is the inefficient warehouse that can complicate the return of goods and become a significant pain point. Strict return policies can also be a reason for the increasing number of returns. Additionally, figuring out the products brought back to the warehouse can consume a lot of time and money. Sometimes there is a continuous return for the same product category that might lead to selling them at low prices.
Consumers want a free to use and easy return process. They are more likely to shop online if offered a reasonable return time limit. The time within which customers can return a product is essential for businesses with a 60-day return policy. Depending on the products you sell, set a reasonable return time-limit that is suitable for your customers.
Returns come with a lot of confusion in the process that results in losses. To reduce these losses, businesses can streamline return related operations by integrating them with the automated return management system. This is the right approach for addressing return-related problems that also helps identify the number of clients who returned the same products several times. This way, you can set a rule that your products can be returned only once or twice and not more than double in any situation.
It is also the part of your e-commerce fulfillment policy that protects your business from faulty or fraudulent returns. With the help of an automated return management solution, you can also print and attach return labels that include invoice number, type of product, quantity, etc. With the help of an e-commerce fulfillment provider, you can easily handle a high volume of returns quickly. They have set fulfillment processes for return management, infrastructure for inventory, and enough workforce to handle return requests.
Poor Inventory Management
Inventory involves effective organization and storage of the shipments that should be done proficiently. There is nothing more frustrating than not having a proper inventory management strategy to track every item. Appropriate inventory storage is also essential to keep merchandise secure and protected for the execution of orders which are about to finish.
Inventory management is one of the most common e-commerce fulfillment challenges that prevent your business from running out of inventory, overselling products, and the issue of lost or damaged products. Warehousing is the part of inventory management that involves several steps, including receiving orders, picking, packaging, and shipping. The main challenge in warehousing is to perform all these tasks in the easiest way possible. Also, when your items can’t be located in the warehouse, it leads to delayed shipments. Finding and maintaining the right stock is also a challenge for efficient inventory operations.
Managing inventory with manual paperwork is not secure for handling multiple warehouse data. The main challenge is to have an inventory management platform to support complex inventory data and processes.
So how do you overcome all these challenges? Inventory management is a complex process that should be handled carefully. To automate inventory operations, consider upgrading to an e-commerce fulfillment solution that provides automated features for inventory tracking, reordering, and procurement. The inventory management platform offers a centralized view of items in a warehouse and real-time data backup and replaces manual inventory documentation for invoices and purchase orders.
Using inventory management systems to optimize inventory flow and storage stocks. You can also categorize inventory stocks and automate order picking, packaging, and shipping workflows. Having dashboards with simple features and a better user interface can show you real-time inventory data and maintain sync across marketing, sales, accounting, and warehouse operations.
Upgrading to an inventory management platform gives you all the latest features for seamless warehousing, picking, packing, shipping, and other sources.
Faulty Customer Service
Faulty customer service is one of the worst e-commerce fulfillment mistakes retailers make. If your customer support representatives can quickly respond to customer concerns, it will give you angry and frustrated customers on your hands. You should consider customer support as a part of your fulfillment process that isn’t working, and that needs to change. The challenge is that you may not even know exactly what you need to do to make them happy again.
Customers want a consistent and hassle-free experience, and they expect to get a solution as quickly as possible. And if they can’t get any response, they will go somewhere else. On the other hand, happy customers whose issues are resolved will tell other people about their positive experience. But don’t fool your customers by giving them a promise of fast responses that come through your e-commerce site. If you’re selling on multiple channels, make sure your customers can contact you on whichever one they want.
Slower response times fail to meet your customers’ expectations, resulting in lower chances of them converting into your regular customers. E-commerce companies should provide a comfortable customer support experience online and offer customers a way to answer questions within the next business day. It should not be surprising to know that today’s customers expect speedy resolution of queries. This is true in every aspect of their interactions with your customer support representatives.
An artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot is the best way to answer customer queries. It can also be installed on the website. When it comes to customer service for social channels, most users expect a direct message in an hour or a day. Of course, this should be a solution that your team should rush for clear and concise customer interactions to get them turned to sales leads as quickly as possible.
Having a FAQ section on your website can be a solution for delivering a superior customer experience. Some of your customers have unique concerns about your products and services. Many of them will contact you directly with the same questions that your team has already answered about the return policy, warranties, fulfillment solution, and other simple queries. This is where you can put all the information on a comprehensive FAQ page that will help customers address their most common questions.
Not Having a Right E-Commerce Fulfillment Solution
In the early days, many e-Commerce businesses handled most of the tasks themselves. But as the orders pile on, the primary challenge is to get them shipped on time. For that, you need an automated solution and support. This is why having a useful e-commerce fulfillment solution becomes necessary. If your fulfillment platform isn’t up to the mark, it can lead to shipping errors, delays in delivery, documentation, miscommunication, and other issues.
If you do not have the right platform to implement, it will impact your daily workflows or cannot integrate with your website or business apps. The challenge is to find the right fulfillment solution that can speed up your business processes for both employees and customers.
An e-commerce fulfillment solution is necessary to implement to your website as it includes various features with additional capabilities. So, be sure to select an e-Commerce fulfillment platform that is easy to use, implement, and seamlessly integrate with any other platforms and apps you are using.
An e-commerce fulfillment platform works as the backend of an online retail store. It efficiently manages orders, inventory, documentation, customer details, payments, and handles fulfillment. This platform also supports third-party apps that can integrate inventory solution, accounting, and customer management solution into the solution. It makes it easy for online businesses to handle orders easily, whether you have a hundred products or thousands.
Whether you need to print a shipping label or track an order, an e-commerce fulfillment solution can do any task. The platform you choose should handle all aspects of running an online store, including notifying customers of the order’s status. Additionally, the platform should provide high-level data analytics and details such as delivery times and shipping costs.
Finally, it doesn’t matter whatever area you are in the e-commerce industry; if you work with an e-commerce fulfillment provider that uses powerful e-commerce fulfillment solution, you can leverage their service better to manage inventory, order, and product tracking, and other information once and for all. So get the e-commerce fulfillment services today and move ahead of your competitors.
This article has been authored by Rashmi Sharma. She is a Content Specialist at Shiprocket, India’s Leading eCommerce Logistics Solution. She has a keen eye on trends and likes to share her thoughts about the upcoming technologies and innovations in the e-commerce logistics industry.