Order Management: How to Set Your Fulfilment Process to Maximum Efficiency
- Written by Mike Glover
Your order management process could be costing you repeat sales.
Think about it... a payment error, missed order or delivery issue will leave a sour taste in a customer’s mouth. A taste you know they’ll not want to come back to.
It’s reported that 65% of customers have cut ties with a brand over just a single negative encounter.
Don’t worry though - having a solid ecommerce order management process in place helps ensure you don’t fall victim to this. And can keep customers coming back over and over.
So in this post, we go through exactly what the perfect order management system looks like for ecommerce businesses… and how you can easily implement it into yours.
SEE ALSO: Inventory Management: A Complete Guide for Retailers
What is order management?
Order management is all about keeping track of orders coming into a retail business and managing the processes required to fulfill them. This covers everything from the point of receiving an order right through to delivery as well as after-sales experience and dealing with any relevant returns.
Here’s an image of the typical flow of steps we think need to be covered:
Let’s take a look through this whole workflow in more detail:
SEE ALSO: 7 Inventory Control Methods to Bulletproof Your Retail Operation
Learn more about Veeqo's order management solution
Order management process: Receiving an order
The first step in all of this is that wonderful moment when someone decides to buy from you.
Keeping track of these incoming orders may be relatively simple when starting up. But it gets a lot trickier as more and more orders start coming in from various sales channels.
Here are a few things you need to think about:
Failing to properly take a payment is like throwing a sale down the drain.
All that hard marketing and conversion work foiled needlessly at the last minute by a faulty or hard-to-use payment system.
So choosing a payment processor that’s highly trusted, secure and reliable is an absolute must to maintain a quality ecommerce order management process.
Without one, you may miss out on multiple sales. Or worse - fulfill an order without realizing payment hasn’t yet gone through.
For in-store orders, it's also a good idea to have a quality POS card reader in place too.
Highlight special orders
Some orders require more attention or are more timely than others.
If a customer has paid for express delivery then there needs to be something to highlight this to the warehouse team that prioritizes it above others.
But here’s a pro tip:
This is also an opportunity to go above and beyond and create a “wow” experience for certain customers.
So if someone spends a certain amount then this can be highlighted and a small ‘bonus gift’ included. Or a discount code for their next order.
Even a simple handwritten thank you note can go a long way:
Dear every company that cares about its customer service: this is how you do it. Bravo, @Jawbone. pic.twitter.com/liC4w7SzHA
— Erin Fors (@forsie) May 31, 2013
It’s these small, personal gestures that can make a retail business truly stand out from the crowd… and get shouted about on social media.
SEE ALSO: 8 Retail Loyalty Programs That Maximize Customer Retention (With Examples)
Consolidate multichannel orders
Listing across multiple online channels is a great way to increase overall sales.
But without a proper system in place then it’s also a great way to oversell and miss orders. Not an ecommerce order management process to be proud of.
You COULD login to every sales channel and manually export orders from each one into a centralized spreadsheet.
This can be an all mighty drain on time and overall customer satisfaction (and your sanity) as the business grows.
An order management system that automatically consolidates orders into one back office is well worth the investment - both in terms of time saved and the elimination of errors.
Hint: Veeqo does this expertly (as well as a lot of other things). Take a look how here.
Order management process: Mastering order fulfillment
Two immediate things matter in your ecommerce order management process once payment has been made:
Speed and accuracy of order fulfillment.
An Ampersand survey indicated that 64% of consumers would prefer next or same-day delivery and research by Loqate found that 57% are reluctant to use a retailer again if delivery is late.
The sooner you get an order to a customer correctly, the happier they’ll be.
So let’s take a look at how to make sure of that…
SEE ALSO: Warehouse Management: A Complete Guide for Retailers
Order picking process
As a retailer, you’re likely all too aware of how complicated it can be to get the picking process right when hundreds (or even thousands) of orders are made each day.
The first point of call should be for a business to be operating with the correct picking method for its size.
Here’s a quick run through of the four main methods to choose from:
Single order. This is simply where each order is picked and brought back to the packing station one at a time.
Batch picking. A picker gets assigned a certain number of orders to pick in one go before returning them all to the packing desk.
Zone picking. Each picker gets their own ‘zone’ in the warehouse with items being added to an order as it gets passed through each zone.
Wave picking. All zones are picked at the same time and brought to a centralized desk to be consolidated and packed.
Check out the below slideshow for a more detailed look at each method:
SEE ALSO: Warehouse Order Picking Systems: Everything You Need to Know
The packing process
The packing stage is more than just throwing items into a box as quickly as possible.
It’s an opportunity to make completely sure that you’re sending the right products to the right customers and in the most efficient way.
Here are some things to consider:
Verify order accuracy
. Verifying each item is going in with the correct order as it’s being packed is a great fail safe check. (Note: using a barcode scanner here will make this a lot quicker and easier.)
Box size. Shipping companies now tend to incorporate dimensions into their prices - so having 3-5 standard box sizes to choose from helps keep costs down while not being overly confusing.
Use appropriate packaging. Some packaging material gives more protection yet costs more. Choosing the right kind for the right order is therefore imperative. Here’s a list of the most popular ones:
Ready to ship
Now that you’ve successfully picked and packed the order, all that’s left is to:
Print out relevant shipping label (and invoice, if not already done so). Note: See how our V-Print feature makes this super quick.
Mark the order as shipped in relevant sales channel (or order management system).
Send out ‘shipping confirmation’ and ‘tracking’ emails to the customer (a good order management system will do this for you automatically).
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Order management process: Managing after-sales experience
A quality ecommerce order management process doesn’t end at the point of shipping.
To be a high-performing retailer, you need a system in place for consistently following through on providing an excellent after-sales experience for each customer.
Doing this right can create a huge amount of brand strength, loyalty and trust. So it’s well worth staying consistent with.
Following up with customers
Following up and keeping customers as informed as possible is a great way to reduce risk of buyer’s remorse and build loyalty.
Order, dispatch and tracking information emails are the least businesses can do. But going the extra mile may involve working with a courier to provide delivery updates via SMS message as well.
And then a simple automatic follow up email after delivery to ask if there were any problems is an excellent way to start nurturing a customer towards their next purchase.
Making the first move like this shows the customer that they’re dealing with a brand that cares.
Managing returns and refunds
Having a policy on returns is a must for the vast majority of online retailers. Making it obvious that there’s a clear way out if anything goes wrong means customers are more likely to buy.
Here are some key things to think about when managing returns:
Prevent the return. Assist the customer first and attempt to fix any broken items by checking batteries, etc.
Easy to find and understand. Make sure customers can easily locate the policy and that it is written in a way they can clearly understand it.
Clear on details. Be very clear if there is a time frame limitation or the customer is liable for shipping costs.
Knowledgeable staff. Make sure support staff know the exact details of the policy so they can assist the customer fully.
Refund on time. The last thing a business wants is a chargeback so issue refunds as soon as they’ve been agreed.
How stringently you stick to your policy is up to you.
It may not be worth losing a loyal customer if they’re trying to return something just one day past the deadline.
Take a look at how this company put solving the issue for their customer over anything else:
Using reviews and feedback
It’s no secret that reviews are powerful for any business. And research by BrightLocal found that 85% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
So make sure to automate following up with an email a few days after delivery asking for an honest review.
If you're looking for a great way to send shipping confirmation, tracking, followup emails to your customers, you can check out the best email marketing software here.
Also ask the customer to respond to the email if their experience was negative so any problems can be fixed and not left in a damaging review.
Don’t just leave these reviews in the marketplaces or review box though.
According to BigCommerce, 69% of online shoppers want more reviews from ecommerce sites.
So use as many as possible all over your website to continually drive home how trustworthy your brand is.
Order management efficiency tips
With all this in mind, it's worth considering a few general tips for improving the efficiency of your overall order management process:
1) Use an all-in-one system
One of the biggest drags on speed, accuracy and overall order processing efficiency is having to log into multiple different systems - ecommerce platforms, marketplaces, various shipping carriers, a returns system and more.
Having an all-in-one system that ties multichannel orders, inventory, shipping and returns into one platform can be a Godsend.
2) Print shipping labels in bulk
Individually printing off shipping labels can a monumental time suck. Even more so when dealing with high volumes of orders from multiple channels.
So using a system that allows you to bulk print hundreds of labels in a few clicks can literally save you and your team hours every single day.
3) Automate, automate, automate
The less you and your team actually have to 'do' each day, the better. Especially when it's just menial, repetitive tasks.
It frees up more time to spend actively growing the business.
Veeqo lets you create automated order rules. So you can put a lot of repetitive tasks on autopilot, like:
Adding tags to high value orders so you can pay special attention to them.
Routing orders from certain countries or zip/post codes to the most appropriate warehouse.
Choosing the best shipping service based on what the customer selected at checkout.
Plus many more options for a variety of automation trigger, conditions and actions.
Key order management process metrics
As with any part of a business, KPIs for your ecommerce order management process are extremely useful.
Keeping a close eye on these allows you to see what part of the process is weak and needs attention.
Here are some of the key metrics to help do this for your order management process:
Rate of return
This metric gives an insight into how often items are being returned by customers.
To get full benefit, it’s critical to also segment results based on reason for return. This means the exact cause of poor results can be found and strategies put in place to resolve.
A poor picking accuracy results in unsatisfied customers, negative reviews and paying to fix the errors. It’s therefore crucial to keep track of.
Simply use some data from segmenting the rate of return metric to calculate the accuracy of a picking process.
Order lead time
This measures the length of time between a customer placing an order and actually having it delivered.
Improving lead time can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction and so is well worth tracking. However, it’s important to not sacrifice accuracy or quality in the process.
Calculate order lead time based on an average time of all the orders that were fulfilled.
This is quite simply a measure of the frequency of orders per customer over a given period of time (usually a year).
This is more relevant for some businesses than others. But it’s a good way to track the quality of any follow up and nurture campaigns as well as the customer experience as a whole.
And there you have it - the perfect ecommerce order management process step-by-step.
Incorporating these into your business is a surefire way to increase customer satisfaction - and get them coming back over and over again.