As your business grows, you may find that you need to expand your services. Your customers expect a lot out of you, and you probably do too. To meet customer expectations, you need to have high standards for customer service. For many eCommerce shops, what customers expect most is fast shipping and products that align with what they ordered.
When you need fast, accurate shipping for your orders, you might need to find expert help for order fulfillment. But did you know that this doesn’t have to be handled in-house? You can use eCommerce fulfillment services to improve customer service, order accuracy, and business efficiency.
An eCommerce fulfillment company will provide services to eCommerce retailers that include a process that starts when an order is placed and ends when the order has been delivered to that customer safe and sound. Many eCommerce stores start by handling these tasks in-house – which can be great at first when order volume is low.
But as an eCommerce store grows, these tasks can become too time-consuming and complicated for many store owners and their staff. When order fulfillment pulls your employees from other tasks and your company starts to bring in orders faster than you can fill them, it may be time to consider finding a fulfillment partner.
The best eCommerce fulfillment partner will keep your customers happy by filling orders quickly and accurately. That’s why you need to find a company like AMS that has the experience to get the job done right, every time.
The steps in the eCommerce fulfillment process fall into three main categories: receiving, processing, and shipping. Some specific skills and tools make the process easier, and at AMS, we have what it takes to fulfill every eCommerce order.
When the fulfillment provider is in this step, you first need to send the inventory to the warehouse or fulfillment center. The warehouse will receive the items, put them into its warehouse management system (WMS) that links to your eCommerce platform, and store them in the location assigned to your business.
This is an important step for successful order fulfillment, because without an accurate record of the inventory on hand or an organized method for storing that inventory, then the rest of the process can easily fall apart.
If you choose to continue to handle order fulfillment in-house, you will need to be responsible for organizing and storing your inventory and keeping an accurate account of what’s in stock.
Once an order is placed, the processing phase can begin. To run your eCommerce store efficiently, you need to make sure your systems are integrated (this includes your inventory management, storefront, and warehouse management software). Once integrated, an order slip is created as soon as your customer places an order, ensuring orders are filled quickly.
Automated checks are conducted on address, inventory, and other important factors, so issues can be identified early on. Then comes the more manual part of the process. All the items in the order will be gathered by an order fulfillment worker after the packing slip is taken. The correct-sized box or envelope will be used to package the items securely for safe shipping.
Customers might receive damaged or incorrect items if this step isn’t completed correctly (if their order gets missed).
Once the order has been packaged and processed, it is ready for shipping. Your customers may have different shipping options depending on the carriers and shipping speeds your company or fulfillment center offers. You must be careful to choose the appropriate carrier (USPS, FedEx, UPS, DHL, or another) and speed (two day, priority, standard, etc.).
The package is then prepared for the carrier after the label has been attached. If you take care of fulfillment in-house, you will need to arrange for a pick-up or drop-off with the carrier. The majority of fulfillment centers have spaces set aside for packages from each carrier if you use one. But shipping doesn’t stop here.
Your customer receives a tracking number so they may follow the progress of their item. If your consumer is satisfied with their order after delivery, the transaction is finished! ( If they’re not happy and require a return, then the returns management process will be triggered – and this may even be handled by your fulfillment center.)
When you hire an eCommerce fulfillment specialist, you can be sure that every step—including receiving inventory, processing orders, and guaranteeing successful delivery—will be carried out successfully and quickly. As your eCommerce business expands, you won’t have to worry about the time or money you have to spend on order fulfillment with a trusted partner like AMS Fulfillment.
A specialist in eCommerce fulfillment can perform a variety of tasks for your company. By handling questions about order status or returns, they can relieve some of the pressure on your customer service teams.
By taking care of the storage of your inventory for you, they can help you save both space and money on warehouse space. With the help of their inventory management system, they can make sure you have accurate inventory counts.
All of these tasks are needed for eCommerce, so having a partner who knows exactly what to do can make the process more efficient.
Warehouse setup can be done quickly and effectively by eCommerce fulfillment experts. They are equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to guarantee that every precaution is taken to ensure safe warehousing (for both the inventory and the employees there) and maximum space utilization. Space, tools (such as pallet racks, forklifts, shelves or bins, packing tables or spaces, etc.), and specialized technologies are needed for warehousing.
Any business must maintain an accurate record of its inventory, especially if you are holding your inventory off-site like at a fulfillment center. You can use experts to check for missing items, incorrect stock levels, and incorrect inventory intake.
You will be able to accurately track your inventory as a result, and you will be able to determine when to send some of the most popular items to the warehouse so they will be prepared for orders as they come in.
Storage requirements may vary depending on the products you sell. This is not limited to perishable food items, either! It will be crucial to ensure that your storage space can protect items made of weather-sensitive materials, such as antiques, wood products, or other items you sell.
The right conditions are maintained for all of your goods by fulfillment specialists who have access to temperature- or climate-controlled facilities. They can assist you in making sure that all rules and regulations of the federal government are followed when storing your inventory.
Despite having the word “fulfillment” in their name, a fulfillment specialist can perform a wide range of tasks. Workers in fulfillment warehouses can make sure that goods are carefully selected and packaged so they can be delivered to your customer in a timely and secure manner. For your customers, this is the only thing that matters.
Making sure this task is completed correctly will ensure a satisfied customer. Having a successful partner in order fulfillment can make or break your business and the satisfaction of your customers during promotional periods, rush seasons, holidays, or other busy times.
There are many different components to logistics, regardless of whether you handle order fulfillment internally or externally. Making sure your products get from one place to the next can, unfortunately, take a lot of time and effort.
It can be stressful to haggle over shipping costs when costs are rising everywhere else. It can be difficult to ensure that your inventory level is accurately reflected in your store, particularly when orders are coming in more quickly than you can fill them.
A fulfillment specialist has the abilities and connections necessary to make it simple despite all of the logistical difficulties eCommerce stores are currently experiencing. They can assist your business with better tracking insights, reduced shipping costs, accurate inventory thanks to a connection between your store and the WMS, paperwork for customs and other matters, and more.
There are three main models for order fulfillment, and which one your company chooses will depend on your requirements. These factors should be taken into account when choosing between the options:
In-house order fulfillment also referred to as self-fulfillment, refers to the process of managing your own team’s order fulfillment and warehousing operations. This is typical of newly established companies as well as of smaller, less profitable companies.
When you run a small eCommerce company without a physical store, in-house fulfillment is frequently carried out at home or in your garage. This can be difficult and time-consuming, taking up more time as your business expands and you receive more orders.
However, it is less expensive and feasible for almost all businesses, which appeals to many startup companies. It can be complicated and necessitate software for order fulfillment in addition to physical space, which adds to the costs of expanding businesses.
When your eCommerce business has expanded too much for internal order fulfillment (you’ll know it’s time when you can’t keep up with the orders coming in), outsourcing to third-party fulfillment services is frequently the next step.
In addition to helping with storage in a network of warehouses, third-party logistics providers (also referred to as 3PL logistics providers or 3PLs) can also assist with packing and shipping orders as they come in and handling returns when a customer is dissatisfied with their order. This frequently makes it possible for companies to fulfill orders more quickly while still putting their full attention toward growing their operations or creating new products.
These are the order fulfillment specialists we talked about earlier who can help with a range of logistics-related tasks.
The third method of product fulfillment is only possible if you don’t produce or keep your goods in stock. When a customer places an order online, the manufacturer will send your customer’s purchases directly.
As a result, both you and the customer are more dependent on the dropshipper, leaving you in this situation with no choice but to act as the product’s sole seller. Dropshipping can frequently lower overhead costs, but it has fewer customization and quality control options.
There are benefits and drawbacks to each fulfillment model, whether you use Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, or another eCommerce platform. Consider a few important questions as you choose which fulfillment model is best for you:
Are your sales primarily local to one region, or do you need to ship internationally? International shipping is not supported by all 3PLs and shipping carriers, but with other 3PLs you may be able to use their network of warehouses to speed up delivery to the customer.
Would you prefer to give your customers free or two-day shipping? Some of these options might be simpler if you work with a 3PL because you will have more shipping options available to you. If you manage it internally, you will need to bargain with carriers or shoulder some of the costs yourself.
Does the warehouse have enough room to accommodate the quantity of goods you keep on hand at any given time? If you store all of your inventory in-house for fulfillment, compare the price of the space you rent to the price of an eCommerce fulfillment service, which typically includes the storage of some inventory.
Do any of your products require special handling before shipping because they are customized, packaged, or in any other way unique? While 3PLs can customize some things, you might still need to do some things yourself.
Can your current technology be integrated with the warehouse? This is essential for a fulfilled order because, if everything is connected correctly, it can start the fulfillment process automatically.
Finding a fulfillment specialist who fits your needs is essential for a positive order fulfillment process and experience because different fulfillment specialists will have different capabilities and integrations.
Check that the appropriate integrations are possible if your online store is running on Shopify, Magento, eBay, WooCommerce, or another platform. If not, this partnership may end up adding to your problems rather than resolving them.
There are several important advantages you will get with the right fulfillment partner if you are thinking about outsourcing your order fulfillment because it is becoming a hassle for your company. Access to professionals, prompt and secure shipping, improved inventory management techniques and more effective procedures will all be made available to you.
If your team handles order fulfillment in-house, you need to be the one who is familiar with best practices, process orders promptly, and stay on top of everything else that goes into running your business, such as marketing, product development, and more. By outsourcing, you have access to qualified assistance, which frees up more time for you to concentrate on those other crucial issues.
Professionals who handle order fulfillment have the knowledge and expertise required to handle orders effectively and efficiently for your company. They also stay up to date on the newest trends and technologies in eCommerce order fulfillment, which enables your company to stay competitive.
For a customer, receiving their order in good condition is probably the most crucial step in order fulfillment. Getting it there quickly is also crucial. To accomplish this, it is necessary to provide quick turnaround times after an order is placed, as well as whenever possible, the choice of free or two-day shipping.
When you hire professionals to handle the order fulfillment process, products can be packaged securely and safely so they reach customers more quickly, intact, and for a lower price thanks to their network of shipping carriers.
Even though you are aware of how crucial inventory management is, there are probably dozens of other crucial tasks that demand your attention every day. You will have at least the same amount of data—possibly even more—about your inventory stocking levels with an eCommerce fulfillment provider as you did when you kept them in-house.
Inventory levels are automatically updated on your website when the fulfillment center integrates with your eCommerce platform, letting both you and your customers know exactly what is currently in stock. Fulfillment centers can provide data and the most recent trends in best practices for you to follow if you have inquiries or concerns about the levels of your inventory.
Fulfillment facilities are equipped with the technologies and tools necessary to comprehend the best procedures for accurately and efficiently processing orders. They stay current on new technological developments and how to work most effectively with online retailers like yours to improve order processing. As a result, business operations are made easier and customers are satisfied.
The process of filling orders placed through online retailers can present many difficulties. These problems can occasionally be uncontrollable ones, such as supply chain problems (as we’ve seen in recent years) or climatic factors that affect transportation (such as snow or ice storms).
However, some issues, like accurate inventory or negotiating shipping rates, might also be within your power to control. But when you work with a 3PL for order fulfillment, you don’t have to handle these difficulties by yourself.
Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life (well… business). Supply chains affect many aspects of eCommerce, including the places from which the goods are sourced, the packages used to ship orders, and even the individuals you hire and those who work in the warehouse.
Supply chain problems appear to be popping up more frequently in the news. Fulfillment specialists might have access to technology that enables you to anticipate some supply chain issues and stay ahead of them.
By following items along their entire journey, you can discover where they are coming from and where they are going. To have a plan in place for dealing with supply chain problems when they arise, you can even gain more insight into your inventory management, order management, and logistics software.
When the busy seasons start, many shipping companies become overburdened, which raises the cost of shipping packages. When carriers and a 3PL have a good working relationship, it can sometimes lessen the stress that business owners feel around the holidays or during busy times (such as the start of school, sports seasons, playoffs, etc.).
Due to their established relationship with the carrier, 3PLs can assist in resolving issues relating to slow or missed deliveries, broken goods, or damaged packages.
When you unexpectedly run out of a particular item or believe you have more inventory than you actually do, you might need to employ better inventory control procedures. A small team trying to handle everything themselves might find inventory tracking difficult.
You are less likely to run into inventory problems if you have a fulfillment partner with the right technology to monitor inventory levels and alert you when stock is running low.
Although many eCommerce companies might benefit from it, they don’t currently do it. Demand planning can help reduce frustrations if you frequently have too many or too few items at particular times of the year.
By alerting you to when seasonal trends suggest an increase in demand for particular items, logistics software at fulfillment warehouses helps reduce the cost of storing inventory as items sit on the shelf unpurchased. These items can be sent just before the demand, saving you money on unused storage.
Even with the setup and monthly fees for a 3PL provider, you might be able to save in the long run with more efficient processes and fewer mistakes. Here’s how:
Shipping rates are frequently negotiated by 3PLs at a lower price than what your company can find on its own. Your customers want quick, free shipping, similar to what they get from a fulfillment service like Amazon Prime and Walmart+. However, you might not be able to do that by yourself.
You can offer cheaper or even free shipping at quick speeds if a 3PL is involved in rate negotiations and relationship building. Many 3PLs have networks of warehouses, allowing your products to be distributed across the nation and reducing the amount of time it takes to ship them to your customers.
Your customers benefit from faster, less expensive shipping when the distributed inventory and the negotiated rates are combined. You save money on shipping expenses and can invest that money back into your company.
You can reduce errors in addition to shipping expenses. Errors can be expensive. Human error can cost you money in the form of lost inventory or damaged goods. But when you have access to the resources and technologies that 3PLs do, accuracy increases significantly. Orders are accurately picked, inventory is better managed, and packages are shipped correctly.
The warehouse will supply WMS and advanced inventory management, technology, tools (all of the warehouse equipment like shelving or bins, forklifts, and pallets are used by warehouse staff for multiple clients), and time (both you and your employees can devote more time to other tasks). These are some of the additional costs you can cut, which will directly affect your bottom line.
Even though logistics are unavoidable in eCommerce, you don’t have to handle it all by yourself. If you lack the necessary expertise, information, or support, managing all of these tasks can be time-consuming, difficult, and confusing. However, by outsourcing logistical tasks like fulfillment, you’ll have more time for the aspects of your company that interest you.
When it comes to eCommerce order fulfillment, AMS knows how to deliver! We offer a superior quality control process and a proven ability to handle orders large and small, even during holiday surges.
We process more than 25,000 orders every day at our warehouses across the country. And with everything we do, we serve our clients as if their businesses were our own. As a B Corporation, you can be certain we always do what’s best for you, the community, and the environment.
Our teams can process and ship your orders quickly to customers in the U.S. or internationally, so if you are ready to find a partner who can quickly and accurately fill your orders, Contact Us at AMS Fulfillment today to learn how we are the right home for you.