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Written by Derrick Weiss

Essential Tips to Automate eCommerce Order Fulfillment

Automating your ecommerce order fulfillment is a huge step in scaling and growing your business online. It's very effective to invest time and resources into automating fulfillment, since it can make your staff more productive, your customers happier, and grow your revenue without adding employees.

Your time is valuable, so the longer you spend on order processing, the less time you have to find vendors and other partners, improve your website or optimize delivery speed to customers.

To serve this function, you need a system that fully automates order management and processing from your ecommerce website without breaking the bank.

Not sure how to automate your ecommerce order fulfillment?

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Order Management to get a top to bottom walkthrough. 

What Ecommerce Professionals Say is Important

After attending the 2018 IRCE, and speaking with hundreds of online businesses over the years, we compiled everyone's wishlists.

It all boils down to a need for 100 percent automation on an integrated platform that handles:

  • Order Processing
  • Fulfillment
  • Inventory Management
  • Shipping
  • Notifications

Where Many Businesses are Today

Our discussions revealed that many businesses are manually processing up to 50 percent of their orders.

That's lost time for customers waiting for orders and for employees stuck processing orders instead of adding value elsewhere. 

Avoid Handling Orders Manually

It's painful to receive negative feedback from clients turned off by a slow ordering process or upset that delivery took longer than expected.

These unhappy customers are let down by system errors in processing, human error during manual steps, and the lack of common repository where information can be validated. 

Rather than placing your faith in disparate systems, find one system that requires a single log on to gain access to all your ecommerce processes.

Let's break this down into the primary steps of engagement.

Customer Order Processing is Automated

When the customer places an order on your online storefront, two things need to happen seamlessly to avoid abandonment and defection to a more reliable competitor:

  • Payment verification with quick credit card processing
  • Shipping and address verification that syncs up to your OMS automatically to avoid manual intervention and mistakes.

Automating your payments and invoices to vendors prevents human errors in order item and quantities, tax calculations, and billing totals.

Real-time Inventory Updates

Your OMS should handle all the inventory updates once an order is placed, and when it ships.

This includes reducing the active inventory, adjusting the backorder total for the item and removing the reservations for the fulfillment order.

To automate your inventory processing, your ecommerce platform must sync with your OMS or backend applications so that updates occur in real-time.

If you have several systems, consider consolidating, preferably to a single tool, to avoid delays and inaccurate inventory stats. 

Automatic Fulfillment 

Once an order meets customizable criteria and is approved for shipping, an automatic OMS dispatches it via the fulfillment location.

The complexity varies greatly depending on whether you use multiple warehouses, third-party logistics or freight forwarding. Typically, the order departs from the warehouse closest to the customer.

During the pick and pack process, warehouse personnel process items for shipping.

For best practices and to avoid costly delays, this is ideally handled via a list of products organized by warehouse locations and paths.

Shipping Best Practices

There are different ways to approach this step, and you should choose the one your organization can achieve most efficiently. Basically, it comes down to who decides.

If you determine the shipping method, every customer uses the same carrier, level of service and warehouse location regardless of logistical considerations.

When the customer decides, your order processing system presents these as options the client selects. 

When you automate shipping processes, it's most efficient to combine these options. The system picks an ideal shipping carrier, level of service, and warehouse location, but the customer may or may not be able to change each variable.

You can also automate shipping decisions or insert a Quality Assurance step with approval checks by qualified employees.

Note that this is one place where human intervention is strongly encouraged. It requires more planning and steps, but validating orders manually costs less than returns due to fulfillment mistakes that lead to customer dissatisfaction.

Automate Customer Updates

There's no point in automating anything if the end result isn't a superior customer experience.

Automation allows you to send shipping status updates directly after the order is processed. This lets customers know that their order is on the way.

Shoppers now expect frequent notifications thanks to ecommerce giants, such as Amazon and Overstock, that are constantly adding bells and whistles to the customer experience on their sites.

If you determine that your system needs a makeover, try to perform upgrades during the off-season to minimize the impact on the business.

Iterative Improvement

The functions above are the core processes of ecommerce operations.

However, adopting a policy of iterative improvement lets you optimize your OMS on an ongoing basis.

This can be compared to working out. Bodybuilders don't stop training after winning a contest. They hit the gym day after day to stay in top physical condition.

In terms of process improvement and automation of your OMS, you should reevaluate your processes on a periodic basis by following these simple steps:

  1. Track system pain points that cause delays and customer dissatisfaction. 
  2. Document the issues and brainstorm solutions.
  3. Schedule time with the team doing the work to incorporate their input.
  4. Develop and test the solution in the slow season.
  5. React to client and employee feedback about the system and incorporate new manual processes that can be automated.

Complete this cycle as often as needed to keep your OMS in top condition, just like our gym rat bodybuilder.

So What's Next?

You might be losing thousands of dollars a day due to inefficiencies. The larger your operation, the more you need a fully automated OMS system

For many businesses, summertime is slower than the holidays.

Put automation in place now and you'll enjoy the rewards when everything runs fast and smoothly when business gets into full swing.

Get a demo of our groundbreaking open source order management software. SkuNexus is committed to helping clients realize 100 percent automation of all of their orders.

Our enterprise version gives you the keys to the kingdom so that any savvy developer can customize our open source code to the needs of your business.

Request a SkuNexus Test Account


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Find out how our platform can elevate your operations. Offer to set up a test account for you, so you can try out the platform on your own time.