What does a typical fulfillment journey look like?
An eCommerce fulfillment process typically involves roughly four main parts: receiving and processing orders, picking and packing items, shipping orders, and returns/exchanges (optional).
How does this all manifest for most eCommerce or omnichannel retail businesses? Here’s a breakdown of the steps to a typical eCommerce order fulfillment process to help you have a better understanding:
When a shopper visits a retailer’s website, they fill their shopping cart with the items they want to purchase. The shopper then places an order, which is directed to the business’s POS (point of sale) system. Then the system processes each order and sends every one of them to the most relevant warehouse to proceed with the fulfillment.
Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it?
As any online sellers know, keeping accurate inventory levels is vital to the success of the business. If products are out of stock or located in the wrong location, it can lead to long shipping times and unhappy customers.
That’s why it’s so important to keep your inventory updated— in order to ensure that your team can fulfill orders in a timely manner. That often means relying on regional fulfillment centers, micro fulfillment centers, or even a local store, and investing in efficient order management systems, like WeSupply.
Order Processing & Staging
After the customer places an order online, the order processing and staging processes begin. This includes picking up the correct products and packing them for shipping. The shipment is then staged and ready for delivery or pickup.
Fulfilling orders quickly and accurately is crucial to keeping customers happy and maintaining a positive brand reputation. That’s why it’s important to have well-organized fulfillment centers or physical store locations.
Efficiency is key in ensuring that orders are fulfilled quickly and correctly. By streamlining the process, you can help to ensure that your customers are always satisfied with their purchases.
Shipping & Delivery
Once an order is placed, it needs to be picked up from the fulfillment center and shipped to the customer’s address of choice. In some cases, the product may be delivered to a local store for in-store or curbside pickup.
Retailers might turn to a logistics provider to simplify the order fulfillment process. A logistics provider manages the entire process from start to finish, including sourcing products, picking up orders from the fulfillment center, and shipping orders to customers.
The order fulfillment process generally falls into two categories: outbound logistics and reverse logistics.
Outbound logistics refers to the process of getting products from the seller to the customer, whereas reverse logistics refers to the returning of the products from the customer back to the seller or disposition centers.
Returns are part of reverse logistics, which involves collecting the goods from the customer and either delivering them back to the seller or disposing of them. Customers can also return and exchange items in-store to reduce costs and post-purchase anxiety (e.g., “Will my returned item arrive at the right destination?” or “Will I receive my refund/exchange item?”).