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As a business owner,  you would not want to miss any possible touchpoint to sell. We all know that the key motive of running a business is to earn profits, and new-age e-commerce demands the availability of your products and services everywhere possible. But what about the tons of behind-the-scenes that goes into the process? Selling on your website, multiple marketplaces, and stores means receiving orders simultaneously but processing them differently according to your buyer’s needs. Too many multiple stages of work!   It’s easy to frame in one sentence but challenging to process in real life. What if you can have everything at your fingertips?  Let’s start from the beginning.

What is Order Fulfillment?

Let’s say you are hungry and plan to bake a cookie for yourself. Having the final cookie is like receiving the final product. But preheating the oven, making a dough, adding the right amount of ingredients, one by one, without missing any of it, and finally baking it is the whole process. Just like that, what goes on behind delivering the product is called the order fulfillment process.  The order fulfillment process is a method a business follows to process its orders from the point of sale to delivery.  It starts with ‘add to cart’ and ends with a ‘happy customer.’ However, the umbrella of order fulfillment also includes all the backend processes and management of returns. It’s an obscure process that includes several stages. For example, having a cookie would make you happy, and efficient order fulfillment makes a customer happy. It holds the brand reputation and is directly related to the sales, aka, in our language, the profits!

Understanding 3 Different Parts of the Order Fulfillment Process

Let’s step behind the curtains and understand the importance of an efficient process via each stage and how it functions to make an order successfully delivered to your customers. Let’s understand three different parts of the order fulfillment process. 

1. Inbound

Shall we continue with our cookie example? So, the first concern when you decide to bake a cookie that would come to your mind would be: do you have all the ingredients available at your place? This is precisely what purchase management does regarding order fulfillment. The inventory sourcing process has to be maintained to process the orders from your warehouse; you must ensure everything is in place to start the process! 

Optimizing your Inbound Process: Imagine a technology solution that will help you know right when the first stock is ending and the second has to be there so that your flow of orders will not face any discrepancies. It can even help you project what-when-how much to buy. The buying process becomes automated, and its allocation in the warehouse is accurate.  The cherry on top is that you can even share controlled access to your vendor through the vendor panel. And….. Welcome!  You have reached the solution called Purchase Management. The gap between inventory sourcing and the GRN process is inventory replenishment, which purchase management takes care of. You no longer need to worry about the inventory and their respective timelines. 

2. Storage

As expected, we are going back to the cookies.  As simple as filling up your groceries, storing them right is another task! You have to make sure nothing stales away. Something that you bought earlier should be used before the fresh one. In the warehouse, it’s the same: where to put your inventory, how much to put, keeping a check on what to sell first, and taking care that nothing should go to waste. 

Optimizing Your Storage Process: Some inventory control strategies include batch picking, zone or picking, like FIFO or LIFO, or using data analytics tools to keep track of the inventory in advance, which is crucial. All this is capable of controlling the level of each SKU. Solutions that manage warehouse and inventory, as well as the orders seamlessly, play a very significant role in the storage stage. 

3. Outbound

This is where the main part comes into the picture, where you would start baking. The outbound includes the processing of the orders. Let’s explore the stages of the outbound process. 

Order Fulfillment – Stages of the Outbound Process

  • Order Receipt
  • Order Processing
  • Picking
  • Packing
  • Shipping
  • Returns Management

order fulfillment - stages of the outbound process

1. Order Receipt: Orders will be coming from various channels, and capturing their accuracy has to be precise. Processing orders and shipping them requires both money and time. Starting them wrong will be a blunt mistake in the whole process. Hence, seamlessness in receiving correctly is crucial to the fulfillment process. 

2. Order Processing: The smooth functioning of the outbound process relies on the tasks completed during the inbound and storage stages. Now that we have the order details, we can set order allocation rules.  For instance proximity based allocation, that allows to allocate the orders according to the nearest availability. Hence, the feature of order allocation comes into the limelight along with checking the inventory, accuracy of the orders received, fraud, and processing ahead. 

3. Picking: Once you know where to send, you pick up what to send. Solutions like order management take the limelight here; a central picklist is created so you don’t have to travel multiple times to pick up the same product, saving time and making order fulfillment efficient. 

4. Packing: The automation of what item has to be packed in what packaging, along with the automated invoicing, is the nucleus of the whole order fulfillment process. If it’s all blueprinted through technology, then there’s no room for human eros, making the order fulfillment smooth. 

5. Shipping: It’s been a while since we talked about cookies. Let’s consider them again. Shipping is like the final baking, just like how we decide what goes into the oven and at what temperature. We also have to decide what product goes through which logistics partner.  By setting shipping allocation rules and using order management system along with the replenished flow of inventory, the best logistics provider is allotted by the system that caters to the customer’s needs at the best possible.

6. Returns Management: For any reason, if the product is returned, managing its return to the warehouse is also a part of order fulfillment. Just like doing the dishes after you ate! It comes with it! Platforms where return shipping is not synced with their channels. The investment in the right technology will automatically integrate your shipping to the platform and make returns easier, even if it’s a brand’s website. 

Why is Order Fulfillment Important?

Every business is dynamic and has its way of catering to its order fulfillment process and keeping the customers happy. A technology that fits your process and makes it seamless benefits any business.

Let’s look at an example: a reputed brand had two warehouses. One is just for storing the inventory, and the second is for processing orders. Hence, there’s no role of a vendor. However, integrating both warehouses is necessary to keep the inventory and all the inbound processes in sync.  So there you have it – the cookie recipe for seamless order fulfillment! Just like baking a perfect cookie requires precise ingredients and timing, optimizing your order fulfillment process ensures happy customers and increased profits. From managing purchases to storing inventory and shipping orders with finesse, every step matters. Ready to bake your e-commerce success?

Let’s get it cracking!

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