Imagine having the most desirable and innovative product, displayed on the sleekest e-commerce website, yet failing to fulfill incoming orders from eager customers. It’s hard to believe that any business, much less a start-up, can survive without a functioning order fulfillment process.
Order fulfillment is a vital business process in any e-commerce company. It encompasses everything from receipt of goods, storage, order processing, packing, and shipment. A company may opt to have this integrated in-house, outsourced, or a combination of solutions.
Third-party logistics or 3PL providers are a great option for start-ups and small businesses. For instance, West Coast fulfillment services customers trust can be found online offering risk-free trials, so you don’t have to waste valuable resources when making your decision.
Whether you choose to set-up your own in-house order fulfillment process or avail the services of a 3PL provider, there are challenges ahead that you need to prepare for.
Hiring the Right People
This is especially true when your company is handling the fulfillment process on your own. Finding the right people who are meticulous, hardworking, and motivated can be a challenging task. With fast-paced e-commerce transactions and high customer expectations, you need a workforce that can respond to orders quickly and accurately. This is where a professional order fulfillment center comes in handy. Since the process is outsourced, it becomes their job to ensure the workers are competent and skilled enough to handle your customers’ demands.
Weak Inventory Management Technologies and Methodologies
Even if you hire a third-party logistics company, you need to make sure that their inventory system is up-to-date and accurate. You might end up losing customers if they order items that are found to be out of stock. In addition, optimized warehouse management is also important in ensuring a smooth shipment process. Delays in shipment are one of the most common things that frustrate an online buyer.
Responsive Customer Service
No matter how detailed and thorough you are, there are bound to be some errors in the thousands of transactions your company deals with. As such, it’s imperative that you have an efficient and responsive customer service team. Your customer service representatives need to be competent and quick when dealing with a customer’s order. In fact, they need to have their own process on how to respond to queries and complaints in order to placate frustrated customers.
Lack of Infrastructure and Resources for Growth
If you end up having an in-house order fulfillment process and your sales grow to unexpected levels, you might end up missing opportunities because your infrastructure is not built to scale up. Lack of infrastructure usually is caused by a lack of funds, and raising capital is one of the reasons start-ups fail. It’s important to plan ahead and think about the growth of the company in the long term, and you need to build your order fulfillment process with this in mind.
Domestic and international shipping can vary wildly, and this could pose a major issue for a small start-up. Cutting deals with shipping companies require volume that you may or may not meet. This is another reason why a 3PL service is more practical. Since they serve a lot of companies, they can negotiate more reasonable shipping costs for their clients that could significantly lower the shipping cost for domestic and international customers.
They say having an idea and starting a business is the easy part. It’s the daily operations and decisions you need to make that are more difficult and challenging. With that said, having the right knowledge could prepare you for the road ahead. There are always solutions you can explore to steer your e-commerce company towards a direction of growth and prosperity.