Fulfillment: the key to meet your customers’ need for speed

Posted on Dec. 30, 2015 by in Shipping Solutions

As the Canadian e-commerce market grows, online retailers are feeling the need to fine-tune their fulfillment strategies to meet customer expectations – and stay ahead of the competition. Nearly 1 in 4 Canadians compare delivery speeds across brands before making¹ a purchase. And almost a quarter of online shoppers’ abandoned carts result² from delivery timing issues, making fulfillment an essential ingredient for success in today’s e-commerce landscape.

Shoppers’ expectations of ever-faster delivery from online retailers are creating both e-commerce pain points and opportunity. In response, retailers are rolling out national two-day delivery and even same-day delivery in urban centres. This increased speed requires sophisticated fulfillment strategies. The first step begins with a hard look at your existing process.

READ ALSO: Taking the mystery out of international shipping for e-commerce (Part 1)

Are you experiencing fulfillment pain?

The surge in orders during the recent holiday season can reveal painful truths about your current fulfillment strategy, including:

  • Too few staff to keep up with your orders.
  • Not enough room in your warehouse for the amount of inventory required to meet demand during busy periods.
  • Delivery delays caused by a single, centralized inventory location when you’re experiencing order growth across Canada.
  • Order management inefficiencies like out-of-date shipping systems or label printing processes that slow down your fulfillment speed.

While memories of the busy holiday season are fresh, identify your biggest fulfillment pain points. A good place to find information is in your performance and customer complaint reports. Another good source is your staff – ask all levels to identify at least one issue that slows your fulfillment process. Once you’ve made a list, it’s time to look at remedies.

Becoming a fulfillment speedster: tactics and strategies

For the best results, create a strategy that lines up with your short and long term growth objectives and use tactics that work with your core competencies. Ideally, you’ll see more than a faster order-to-door timeline – your new fulfillment strategy can also reveal new cost efficiencies.

Improve e-commerce timelines and customer satisfaction by using some of the following techniques.

Build customer trust through solid information. Are you failing to set customer expectations? Remember all those shoppers abandoning their carts due to delivery timing issues? Providing delivery information upfront can convert those abandoned carts into purchases.

Start with a realistic evaluation of your current order-processing window. Then add that time to your shipping provider’s delivery standard times so that customers can see delivery timelines before entering payment information. As your fulfillment times get faster, remember to update customer-facing delivery timelines.

How sound is your order management process? Take a close look at your systems for receiving, processing and shipping orders. Did the busy holiday season spotlight some areas that need improvement? Is it time to find an order management system that can help boost accuracy and reduce manual processes?  Look for an integrated shipping software that can streamline and manage orders, create labels, track inventory and more easily prepare your products for shipping.

Is it time to get help? Expecting 2016 to be a big year of growth? Why not add a dedicated logistics and fulfillment expert? She’ll be able to conduct an audit of your existing fulfillment strategy and implement the improvements that are key to creating operations resilient enough to handle the changing e-commerce landscape.

Tip: Review your company’s peak order periods and plan to hire extra staff during sales-centric events like Back to School and the holiday season to keep up with demand.

Turn your logistics over to an expert. Third party logistics (3PL) providers offer greater flexibility and cost efficiencies. They deliver expert warehousing, transport and handling without a pricy investment in infrastructure, transport equipment or fulfillment staff.

Experiencing cross-Canada demand? A 3PL can provide extra warehouse space in specific geographic growth areas, shortening delivery windows and cutting down on shipping.

Another advantage of a 3PL is that it frees up time to focus on other important areas, such as your business’s customer service, marketing and product development.

Turn your physical stores into fulfillment points. Ship from Store, a key element of any e-tailer’s omni-channel strategy, allows you to use your entire inventory, no matter where it’s located. Fulfill orders from stores that are closest to each customer, boosting delivery speed, cutting down on shipping costs and increasing customer satisfaction.

Tip. Faster fulfillment lets you offer later cut-off windows to your customers and boost selling time during competitive sales periods – leading to potentially greater revenues.

Make 2016 an even more successful year with your fulfillment upgrades. Expect to see more sales from the large group of online shoppers who consider delivery speed when making a purchase decision. You should also see cost efficiencies and an improved inventory flow. Finally, faster order-to-delivery times offer a key way to differentiate from and stay ahead of business competitors.

¹ Source: E-commerce Channel Report 2014, NPD Group, September 2014
² Source: Canada Post Canadian Online Shopper Sensitivity to Shipping Costs Research Study, September 2015

READ MORE: Local business, national reach: how small business owners across the country are growing their brands

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