Order Fulfillment Services – Your Guide To Getting Started
Ready to learn more about order fulfillment services? This short guide will tell you everything you need to know about what it is and how it works.
Entrepreneurs start companies because they love what they do. But, there's a lot more to business than making and selling a product.
There's inventory, record-keeping, order fulfillment, packing, and shipping. These processes are as important as a quality product.
When trying to create products and fulfill ecommerce orders you may find yourself stretched thin. That's risky. If product fulfillment isn't smooth you'll lose customers.
What is Order Fulfillment?
Order fulfillment is everything that happens between the client's purchase and product delivery. Fulfillment companies automate and manage inventory, order processing, shipping, and delivery. Some fulfillment companies also handle customer service.
The business has access to information but isn't burdened with inventory management or shipping. Customers receive products faster. And, order fulfillment is efficient and reliable.
Let's look at what's involved in getting products to your customers.
Product to the Order Fulfillment Company
The first step is getting your product to the fulfillment company for storage.
If you buy items for resale, your supplier will ship orders to the fulfillment company. When you know an order is on its way to the fulfillment center, notify them of the details of your shipment.
Include specifics on the types and quantities of products. State if these are new products, or items to replenish previous inventory.
If you manufacture your own products, then you ship to the fulfillment center. The type of product determines the shipping method. It may be truck freight, UPS, FedEx or the US Postal Service.
Always notify the fulfillment company so they are ready when your product arrives.
Receipt and Storage of Your Product
Once your product reaches the order fulfillment company, it's checked in. Products are inspected and sorted. You'll receive notification if there are any problems.
All products are labeled for the tracking system. Most companies use a Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) number system. An SKU system lets the staff track the location and quantity of your product in their warehouse.
Once your products are checked in, some inventory is placed near the packing area. The rest goes to bulk storage inside the warehouse.
Order fulfillment services include tracking your sales volume over time. Tracking data tells the fulfillment company how much product to store near packing.
Customer Orders Sent to the Order Fulfillment Company
After your inventory is safe in the warehouse it's time to process your sales.
A big part of order fulfillment services is connecting to your sales system. Your order management software, e-commerce store, or retail point-of-sale software is incorporated into the fulfillment process.
If you don't have an ordering system, the fulfillment company offers a way to manually enter orders online. Some companies take orders via phone or email, then enter them into the system for you.There are three options for sending your orders to the fulfillment company.
System integration means your sales software relays the order to the order fulfillment company as soon as the sale is complete.
It sends the customer name, mailing address, products, quantities, sizes, color, special instructions, and shipping information. The product ships without delay.
Fulfillment companies integrate directly with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify, eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, etc. They interface with order management software like NetSuite and Channel Advisor.
If you can't integrate your software another option is to send orders via comma-separated values (CSV) files.
CSV files are a universal data format. Nearly every software program has an option to save data in a CSV file. Once you have a CSV file you can upload it to the fulfillment company website, or email it to a customer service rep.
Your sales volume determines how often you need to send a CSV file to the fulfillment company. While this method takes more time and effort than software integration, it isn't hard to do.
Manual Order Entry
The third option is old school manual order input. It's less reliable because there's an opportunity for operator error. Yet, it works well for companies that don't use the software.
Most fulfillment companies have a portal on their website where you can log in and enter orders. This method also works when shipping samples or special orders that don't come from your website or point-of-sale system.
Picking, Packing, and Shipping Orders
Once the fulfillment company has a customer order it's time to pick, pack and ship.
Warehouse staff picks requested items from inventory. They're scanned and checked against the order for accuracy.
After verification, the items the items move to the packing area. Items are double-checked in the packing area. Staff uses specific boxes, mailers, and shipping materials so products arrive safely.
Order fulfillment services can include custom packaging called kitting. Kitting creates a branded experience with special materials or groupings of items.
Next, receipts or return labels are added. The package is weighed, sealed, and labeled. The package ships by the method and carrier chosen by the customer.
If the customer doesn't specify, the fulfillment company determines the best delivery method. Fulfillment companies get lower rates due to the volume of shipping they do with carriers.
After shipping, the order fulfillment company updates your software. If your software isn't integrated, you'll receive an email notification. The customer receives shipping information so they can track delivery status.
If the customer returns the product, the fulfillment company can manage the return process.
When the customer receives your product, the order fulfillment services are complete.
Call the Experts for Order Fulfillment Services
The biggest benefit of an order fulfillment company is it allows you to focus on your products. You do what you do best, and the fulfillment experts work as part of your team.
You get rid of the cost of warehouse leases, extra payroll, and inventory control. Plus, you'll save money on shipping and packing supplies.
Curious about saving time and money with order fulfillment? Get a free quote to see if Fulfilltopia is a match for your company.