What is Ecommerce Order Fulfillment?
Updated: Nov 21
Almost everyone has ordered something via online shopping, whether it be from Amazon or some other ecommerce website. From the customer's perspective, this is a very straightforward process. Search for the item you want, order it, and within a few days, you'll have a box on your doorstep. On the fulfillment side of things, there are carefully orchestrated steps, ensuring that products are picked, packed, and delivered seamlessly to get your new purchase to you as soon as possible. There are different types of fulfillment strategies that companies use for their ecommerce needs, such as in-house, dropshipping, or using a third-party logistics provider (3PL). Supply Chain Warehouses is an example of a 3PL that provides ecommerce order fulfillment. View the infographic below and continue on to read more about the ecommerce order fulfillment process.
Inbound Shipments and Inventory Management:
In the case of a 3PL, product inventory is shipped to the warehouse, typically in LTL or FTL shipments, and received by the warehouse staff by use of forklifts. This inventory will then be taken to a specific section of the warehouse and put away on shelves or racking for storage until an order is placed. Inventory is inputted into a Warehouse Management System or WMS, so the client knows that the inventory has arrived at the fulfillment center and has been received in good condition. The WMS should also show the location of the items on the shelves to streamline the picking process.
A customer places an order on an ecommerce website, and the order is sent to the WMS for the staff to pick. Since the inventory was scanned into specific locations, warehouse staff can simply check the item location, find it quickly, and pick it up for the order. Upon taking the item off of the shelf, staff will then scan the item from the location to the order sheet/barcode/etc. to maintain accurate inventory levels.
With the picked items in hand, the fulfillment team moves on to packaging. There is typically a set station in a warehouse specifically for packaging purposes, equipped with boxes, tape, bubble wrap, etc. Great care is taken in placing an order in appropriate packaging in order to prevent damage to the products inside. Bubble wrap is a common box filler to keep the order secured and lessen the chance of harm to the items inside. Attention to detail in this phase can contribute to a positive unboxing experience for customers. Each packed order requires a shipping label. The client themselves will either provide the label or the 3PL will be responsible for inputting the correct recipient information and printing the label themselves for a fee.
The Shipping Process:
Once packaged and labeled, the order is handed over to the chosen shipping carrier such as UPS, FedEx, etc. Customers will typically be offered multiple options on the type of delivery, be it standard, express, two-day shipping, and more. The last part of the journey involves the shipping company delivering the package to the eagerly awaiting customer. This step may require working with either local or global carriers, depending on where the customer is located.
A well-organized returns process is crucial in handling returns or exchanges. E-commerce companies (or the 3PL partner) effectively manage this process by providing return labels, thoroughly examining returned items, and promptly processing refunds or replacements. Having a streamlined returns process results in increased customer satisfaction with the brand.
Maintaining constant communication with the customer is of utmost importance throughout the entire fulfillment process. By utilizing automated emails and notifications, customers are kept well informed at each stage, resulting in a pleasant and interactive shopping experience. It is also crucial for a 3PL to have clear communication with the client, in case they are getting inquiries from customers about late orders, damages, incorrect orders, and more. When everyone is on the same page the order process has fewer overall headaches.
E-commerce order fulfillment is a complex yet integral process that shapes the success of online businesses. By mastering each stage, from order placement to seamless delivery, businesses can not only meet but exceed customer expectations. The ecommerce industry is a very competitive one, so having a 3PL partner that is reliable, accurate, and goes above and beyond on communication is vital. Reach out to one of our experts at Supply Chain Warehouses today to elevate your ecommerce business. We specialize in order fulfillment and can assist you in reaching new heights.