Selling your goods online is one thing. The stuff that needs to be handled once the order has been placed is something of a whole different caliber: fulfilment and delivery. There’s much to think about, to arrange and, hopefully, to standardize. All while keeping your customers in mind.
In this blog we’ll talk about fulfilment and delivery in e-commerce. We’ll address some simple questions: what is e-commerce, what is fulfillment and what is delivery. The answers, however, may be more complex than you would think. Let’s check it out!
What is e-commerce
E-commerce (also written as eCommerce or e-Comm), or electronic commerce, is a business model that lets you, as consumer and as a business, buy and sell goods or services on the internet. This can be done in four ways:
- Business to Consumer (B2C)
- Business to Business (B2B)
- Consumer to Consumer (C2C)
- Consumer to Business (C2B)
These online stores (web shops, platforms, social media) sell stuff via computers, smartphones and tablets. This goes from clothing to books and music to plants, furniture to construction materials, jacuzzies to plane tickets and so on.
Anyone can sell to anyone. And that is exactly what is happening nowadays. E-comm platforms like Amazon, for example, lets businesses sell to anyone. The web shop platform Etsy, lets consumers sell to anyone. And when it comes to consumer to business: think of consumers participating in your focus groups, or giving you a great review; for something in return of course.
However, some of these segments have been fading over the years. B2B and B2C for example, are moving closer and closer to each other. You can read about this in our B2B vs. B2B blog.
What is fulfillment
Fulfillment is a very short word for all the things involved. It is the entire operations part of your e-commerce processes from order until delivery and return. And that includes a lot of processes:
- Receiving the online order.
- Processing this order in your e-commerce and/or ERP system.
- Letting your customer know you have received their order.
- Sending the order to your warehouse.
- Picking the order.
- Packing the order.
- Shipping the order.
- Notifying your customer know their order is on its way.
- Handling returns.
So no matter how awesome your products, web shop and sales funnel are, if your fulfilment is messed up, that messes up a lot more. It could mean your customers never place a second order. It could mean the end of your business.
In other words, this process is crucial and you really have to nail this to be able to grow your business. Because aside from saving time and money with a fulfilment process that runs smoothly, it will also result in happy customers and positive reviews. Your customers love accuracy and predictability when it comes to the delivery of what they’ve just purchased.
DIY or fulfillment partner
From the moment you’ve started your e-comm organization, you’ve been working on fulfilment; e-commerce fulfilment, order fulfilment, logistics, it’s all part of it. Chances are it started out as a ‘do-it-yourself’ type of fulfilment. Meaning you do everything in-house.
But as you grow it might become interesting to outsource some or all of these processes to a third party. It could help your business to be more agile and to handle expansion efficiently. Because when you grow, you might run into a storage problem in your own warehouse, but with a 3PL fulfillment provider, you just buy more space in their warehouse.
There are many fulfillment providers. For example, there are huge fulfillment providers in fashion that handle everything from picking, packing, notifications and shipping to returns. Some even do payments and refunds. And those 3PL fulfillment providers aren’t only there for fashion, they are there for all types of businesses.
There is also drop shipping. In this case you don’t work with a 3PL fulfilment provider, but your wholesaler or manufacturer directly ships the products to the customer. Communication about the order to your customer in this situation is usually still done by you, not by the drop-shipper. They usually only pick, pack & ship.
Of course many organizations handle fulfilment themselves: managing their e-commerce stores, receiving stock, inventory management, order fulfilment, the processing of returns. And if that runs smoothly: keep doing what you’re doing and improve what can be improved. Because the better you manage your fulfilment, the higher your success rate!
What is delivery
Delivery in e-commerce is the shipment of an order to the customer’s delivery destination, plus all the services around it. This logistics part of the process can be a real struggle: what carriers and what shipping services should you offer? What steps need to be communicated to your customers? And how do you manage all this?
Shipping & delivery options
What carriers and what shipping services you should offer is something we cannot answer for you. The best carrier and the best shipping options differ per industry, per product (range) and per target group. We would always advise you to ask your target group what they would expect and wish for when it comes to the shipping and delivery of your products:
- Do they want same day delivery? (and can you offer that?)
- Do they want next day delivery?
- Is delivery within 3-5 days okay?
- Do you have a lot of international customers? In that case you might need international carriers or local carriers in those destination countries.
- Will you offer free delivery? And if so, on what conditions?
And don’t forget about the other delivery options:
- Do you ship to the home address (invoice address) only?
- Or can customers set delivery to an alternative address, like their work?
- Can your customers choose a delivery location: the carrier’s parcel point?
- Can your customers choose a pick up / drop off (PUDO) point; a parcel point in a regular store?
As you can see there are many questions. And these are far from all of them. So make sure you know what your customers want and what you and your employees can actually handle. And then go from there: test carriers, test their services, see what your customers choose most and what doesn’t result in tons of messages to your customer service about the whereabouts or complaints about the shipment. Check out all carriers we have connected to our systems here so you know what carriers you can test using our delivery management solutions.
An important service around fulfillment, shipping and delivery is providing status updates, or notifications. Let your customers know you have received their order. Tell them when you’ve started the picking and packing process. Send an update when you’ve created the shipment and the parcel is ready for pick up by the carrier. And of course send your customers the track and trace information as soon as the parcel is on its way. That will get your customers excited!
Many carriers offer tracking and tracing for the parcels and pallets they handle. So you could let them handle this part. However, if you’d like your customers to see a track & trace page with your brand identity, that’s an option as well. Even when your carrier doesn’t provide track & trace. We would be happy to show you examples and tell you a little more about the features and options.
Managing shipments. It can be a hassle, it can be very easy and efficient. Shipping all starts with booking a shipment with your carrier. Meaning you buy their service of picking up your orders and having them deliver it at your customer’s destination address.
When you book a shipment, you choose the carrier and shipping service you need for that particular shipment (if your customer has not already done that at checkout). Plus you enter the sender (you) and receiver (customer) address, package weight, and whatever else is needed to make sure your customer receives their order in time. All this information will result in a shipping label for your parcel.
Shipping & labels
Shipping labels are a super important part of your shipping process. Without a clear or correct label, the parcel could get lost, delayed or mishandled, which will result in a not-so-great customer experience. This could really damage your brand.
Booking shipments and checking your shipping labels can be very time consuming and error prone when all done by hand. Definitely when you ship with a variety of carriers and services. You are not alone when it comes to those hassles. A delivery management system (DMS) or transport management system (TMS) could be your solution. Those systems are there to help you ship faster, easier and more affordably.
Both our transport and delivery solutions help you with the following:
- Letting your customer choose their preferred carrier and service, or;
- Automated choice of carrier and service, based on a set of rules.
- Automated generation of shipping labels, based on order data.
- Automated generation of additional document for international shipments.
- And much more.
The systems and solutions we provide are always multi-carrier, multi-language and multi-currency. Multi everything! In other words, when you choose the right partner, shipping your ecommerce orders can be very manageable, efficient and affordable.
Customer satisfaction & logistics
Customer satisfaction and logistics used to be miles apart. Now they go hand in hand. If your logistics process is crap, your customers experience (CX) will be crap too. More so, many customers don’t order again after they’ve had a negative delivery experience. And it may not even be your fault. All the reason more to get your game on!
Today’s world is all about the customer. Even when it comes to logistics. Customers can choose to buy with your competitor, just because their shipping options are more convenient. So many potential customers might abandon their online shopping cart because the delivery options you offer don’t match their needs/wishes. Make sure you know what they want. And be flexible. If preferences change, wouldn’t it be great if you could instantly change with that? Your DMS/ TMS partner can help you with this.
And we’ve already talked about status notifications. Take your customer along the order’s journey: let them know when it has been picked, packed and ready for takeoff. Give a status update when the parcel is on its way to the destination. Parcel tracking is a huge part of the customer journey, or CX. We actually wrote an article about the effect of tracking preferences for conversion and customer happiness. If you’d like higher conversion rates and super satisfied customers, make sure to read it.
And last but not least: having a great return policy and making returns fast and easy for your customers is very big plus. Although the product didn’t work out for your customer, being cool about returns can still leave them satisfied. So make sure you or your third party fulfillment provider is up for the task.
Excel in e-commerce fulfilment & delivery
We are here to help you improve, or better yet, help you excel in e-commerce fulfillment and delivery! We would love to help you with creating an awesome, more efficient and cheaper logistics and delivery process. Just contact us to find out what you can do to deliver the best, and only best. For happy colleagues, and extremely satisfied customers.
Based in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Poland, Romania or the United Kingdom?
Both Consignor and Unifaun are there to help you. Just contact us via the form below and we’ll make sure to get you the right tools for your business.
Based in the The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany or France?
Get in contact with Transsmart.
Elsewhere in the EU?
No worries, just contact us, we’ll discuss your needs and see which of us three would fit you best.
Author: Sarah Pilasky