A complete guide to ecommerce fulfillment services and their processes

If you are thinking about putting some or all of your sales business online, you probably have many questions about order fulfillment. What’s the best method for your company? How do you make your warehouse or stocking facility perform at maximum efficiency? How do you ensure that orders go out on time? In this article, we will help you answer them.

 

What is ecommerce fulfillment?

Ecommerce fulfillment services cover the entire process of getting an item that’s been ordered online to the customer. Ecommerce fulfillment encompasses everything from receiving the online order to retrieving the goods from their place in the warehouse to boxing and labeling them to shipping and delivering them. Whether your company is business to business (B2B), business to customer (B2C), or direct to customer (D2C), if you’re selling your products online, ecommerce fulfillment is the name of the game.

 

Steps in the ecommerce fulfillment process:

Picking

The first step in fulfilling a customer’s order is to collect the items from their storage locations in the warehouse. This is called picking, and it is carried out by a warehouse operator, or picker. There are two basic ways picking can be done: single order and batch. With the first, orders are taken care of individually, with all items from a given order being picked at once; with the second, a number of one particular item is pulled from its storage location at the same time and then those items are divided into multiple orders. Batch order picking means having to sort items into their individual orders after the initial picking stage. While it requires this second step, if there are a lot of orders to fulfill and many of them have the same item, it’s a cost-saving method. The picking method you choose will depend on the size of your warehouse and the number or orders you have to fulfill.

If you have a large warehouse—and they can be gargantuan nowadays—you also have to make sure that your operators are taking the shortest route as they’re picking. This means listing the items in the right picking order. Thus, if item A is stored close to item B, but item C is way across the facility, it would be logical to list their picking order as A, B, C.

All these considerations are taken care of with a pick list. Created by warehouse managers, a pick list is laid out by item location, name, and quantity needed. Pick lists tell the operator, or picker, first where to go, then what to look for, then how many to pull from storage.

After this, the items are sent to packing.

Packing

Once the items for an order have been collected, they’re placed in a container. It’s important to make sure that the items aren’t damaged during delivery, so packing has to be done with care – and padding.

After the items have been boxed up, a shipping label is created. This label contains:

  • Name and address of the fulfillment company,
  • Name and address of the buyer – where the package is going to,
  • The weight of the package, the entire thing including goods and packing,
  • Unidirectional code, which is a machine-readable code that can be swiped from any direction,
  • A postal barcode,
  • Method of shipping – standard, express, or priority,
  • A routing number, and
  • A tracking number – this is the number customers use to track their package online.

This label is then attached to the package, and the whole thing is weatherproofed with plastic wrap.

Shipping

The package is now ready for shipping. This involves collecting the box and getting it to the buyer’s address. A freight carrier like FedEx or UPS will usually be hired for this, but if the seller is small enough and only has local deliveries, they might take care of it themselves. On the other hand, if a company opts to sell their goods through a major online retailer like Amazon, shipping services are part of the deal: Amazon has its own shipping setup.

Delivery

The final step is to deliver the package to the customer’s door. There, the delivery service may find specific instructions, like being asked to leave the package with a neighbor. Overall, the most important aspect of this last stage is to get the goods delivered on their promised delivery date. Doing this promotes good will – and repeat business.

 

Ecommerce fulfillment models

There are three models you can choose from:

Fulfillment by the seller

When a company is small or doesn’t have many online orders, it can take care of its own fulfillment. If that’s the case, it probably has its own dedicated shipping department, which, depending on the number of online sales it has to organize, might be a small area and not have a dedicated staff. This fulfillment model also works well if the company specializes in unique and valuable items that need extra care.

This system stops working, however, when:

  • The number of orders suddenly shoots up; if this happens, the self-fulfillment system won’t be able to cope and it will collapse.
  • The company doesn’t have a system in place to ensure that all stages of fulfillment run smoothly.
  • The cost of fulfillment is much higher than it would be if using a third-party shipping partner.

2. Fulfillment by a third party

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, stands for an outside company that’s hired to take over all or part of fulfillment.

If a company handles picking and packing in-house and has a large number of packages to deliver to different locations, it’s a good idea to have 3PL take care of those final stages.

Additionally, 3PL companies can provide facilities for warehousing, and they have staff to do the picking and packing tasks as well. The services you choose to use will, of course, determine the fee you pay.

3. Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)

When it comes to 3PL, the biggest player is undoubtedly Amazon. A complete online marketplace, Amazon is the go-to site for looking to buy something with a click from the comfort of your home, and it is often the first destination for those searching for a particular product. With FBA, Amazon takes care of everything from warehousing to delivery, and it charges two fees: one for storage, and one for the actual fulfillment process.

There are pros and cons to FBA, and the company offers alternatives like Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) and Seller-fulfilled Prime (SFP). With FBM, the seller lists their products on Amazon’s online marketplace, but takes care of fulfillment itself. SFP is the same, except that Amazon’s shipping policies are used and the Prime badge can be shown against the products on the website. Each of these Amazon services has its own fee structure.

 

How Cin7 can simplify your ecommerce fulfillment

It doesn’t matter which fulfillment model you use, Cin7 inventory management software can be your perfect partner. Its integrated order fulfillment module gives you a clear, overall picture of your entire fulfillment process, including getting goods from your supplier and racking, or warehousing, them. Plus, you can operate your account from a mobile device.

But what if you use a 3PL model for fulfillment services? Well, Cin7 has a solution for you too. The software has 3PL feature that allows you to get real-time information about your inventory anytime, from anywhere, no matter what stage of the operation it’s in. Because it’s cloud based, you can access the system from any device.

 

Wrapping up…

Ecommerce fulfillment service starts when an online order is received by a company, and ends when that ordered item is delivered to the customer. We’ve laid out the steps that are involved in detail and explained the three basic fulfillment methods. While each of these methods is a little different, they all have the same goal: getting your products to your customers in the quickest way possible.

If you’ve been hesitating to set up an ecommerce store because you have concerns about the fulfillment process. keep in mind that Cin7 can provide top-notch services to help oversee and manage your fulfillment, and that it can make the whole process stress-free. Talk to our experts today and book a demo. You’ll be glad you did.

 

How to successfully launch your ecommerce brand

The pandemic era and a massive shift to digital experiences have made the prospect of launching an ecommerce business very tempting. However, starting and sustaining an ecommerce business is easier said than done. You need the right business idea, suitable ecommerce solutions, a well-planned strategy, and more.

Still, if you’re thinking about starting an ecommerce business, you’ve come to the right place. This blog post will provide you with a step-by-step guide to start and run your online business. We’ll go through idea generation, technology options, online store management, maintenance, and more.

Here’s what you need to know to start and run your online business.

 

How profitable is ecommerce?

Trends show ecommerce business is becoming increasingly profitable. For established businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs, ecommerce is a profitable model as both the sole focus of a business and an additional selling channel.

Data shows that in three months, a new ecommerce store can make more than $63,000 in monthly revenue. In just one year, a successful ecommerce store can average $127,000 in monthly revenue. After three years, a successful ecommerce store can earn an average monthly revenue of $352,000, which is an increase of about 175% between years one and three. On average, your successful ecommerce company can make as much as $39,000 of revenue in the first month in business, and some jump up to $6.5 million in total after three years.

 

A step-by-step guide to starting your ecommerce business

The ecommerce business journey begins well before you launch your business. A successful ecommerce business demands tremendous research early — whether you’re starting an online store or doing an ecommerce integration.

Thanks in large part to the pandemic, there’s more competition than ever. To succeed in this market, you need to think strategically and act methodically.

Step #1: Research your business model

An online business is a big investment, and you need to take it seriously. Your ecommerce business isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition— you must have a unique online business model. You need to map out marketing, manage inventory, coordinate shipping, and more. Because of all of these factors, research is extremely important. You should make sure to talk to an ecommerce consultant to ensure you have a viable plan. Look for an ecommerce development company as soon as you have a rough plan.

Step #2: Validate your target market

It’s time to identify your target market and the type of products you want to sell. Before finalizing your offerings, it’s essential to understand buyer personas. Begin with a few, well-defined product ideas. You can always expand gradually from there. Before you invest in products, you must evaluate them and think about leveraging low-cost methods like drop-shipping.

Step #3: Know your competition

Competitor analysis is crucial in any business. When you analyze your competition, try to understand them categorically. The presence of competition validates the niche you have selected.

For example, you must know all direct competitors and top players in the market. You will learn a lot from your competitors. Hence, analyze them and observe them closely. Take note of things you like and dislike about them. It’s also important to understand the kind of ecommerce platforms they use. For instance, if a competitor uses Magento ecommerce development, you should understand all the pros and cons that went into that decision.

Step #4: Create a brand name and register your business

It’s crucial to develop a brand name and logo that reflects your business model. In a world dominated by ruthless competition and brand identities, it’s impossible to succeed without a brand name. Make sure you’re sending the right message to your target audience through your brand image.

Register your business name and company name to get tax benefits, legal protection, and more. Make sure to apply for a business license, permits, and other certifications to operate without legal obstacles.

Step #5: Build your online store

The kind of online store you build determines a lot about your long-term strategy. If you want to build a customized online store, you need to make sure to choose the right ecommerce development company.

There’s a  large number of ecommerce solutions out there, and it can be overwhelming. The ecommerce platform you pick will impact your store’s performance and profit. It’s important to make an informed decision based on both comparison and research. Choose an ecommerce platform that suits your business needs. For example, smaller companies might find that Shopify solutions are the perfect selection.

For fully customized B2C and B2B ecommerce, we recommend Magento, which is popular among medium to large companies. While building your online store, you should think about mobile-optimized design, SEO, and secure payment gateways.

Step #6: Showcase your products

It’s important to display your products properly and professionally. You need to include well-written product descriptions and visually captivating images to entice your customers. Product pages should be custom-built and create an immersive experience for shoppers.  Reviews and testimonials are essential elements of your product pages, and you need to be strategic about displaying prices, too.

Step #7: Attract customers with great UX and marketing

Competition is more intense than ever, so you need to stand out and attract the right audience to your store. SEO plays a vital role in attracting the customers you want. The most successful ecommerce operators meticulously manage their brand and digital marketing strategies.

You can use paid marketing like pay-per-click or free marketing like content curation. Social media marketing is also huge for online store visibility. In order to be successful, you need to develop a loyal base of customers. Make sure to take advantage of loyalty programs, gift cards, coupons, and more. It’s important to keep your customers as engaged and loyal as possible.

 

How to launch a successful ecommerce business

The ecommerce economy is poised for significant growth in the coming years, but you can only expect to see results if you approach your launch the right way. The following tips are critical for a successful ecommerce launch.

Don’t rush the launch

One of the biggest mistakes ecommerce entrepreneurs make is rushing or forcing the launch of a website. You only get one shot to launch your website, so you shouldn’t mess it up.

It’s okay to purchase your domain name and throw up some sort of “coming soon” page, but you should avoid the big reveal until you lay some substantial groundwork (content marketing, SEO, social media, paid advertising, etc.).

Focus on your customers

Many ecommerce businesses fail because potential customers can’t touch, smell, feel, and see (firsthand) products before making a decision. Obviously, there’s no perfect solution to solve this problem. But you need to compensate for the lack of real-life experience in other ways.

Make sure you price your products well, offer free shipping, and make the checkout process as simple as possible. You need to make customers comfortable online if you expect to make sales.

Test everything

Invest in testing and analytics before, during, and after launching your ecommerce business. Think like a potential customer and figure out what works, what doesn’t, and the “why” behind those answers.

Leverage social media

An ecommerce entrepreneur who completely outsources social media is going to have trouble succeeding in ecommerce. Social media is the heartbeat of the business. It offers you an uninterrupted glance into the lives of your customers. While it’s okay to have a social media manager, it’s pertinent that you are involved with it, too.

Use testimonials and product reviews

Testimonials, product reviews, follow buttons, and social login options are huge in the world we live in. You need to leverage your customers, as well as their positive experiences, to make other customers feel comfortable enough to shop at your ecommerce store.

Make sure your mobile experience is seamless

Bill Siwicki of Goldman Sachs says, “Tablets will play an important role, as worldwide consumer spending via mobile jumped from $204 billion in 2014 to $626 billion in 2018.”

Those are huge numbers. And when you factor in the growth of the post-pandemic era, mobile is becoming even more popular. Simply put, you need to make sure that you are thinking about mobile shopping in every single decision you make.

Leverage SEO

As the ecommerce economy grows, more and more businesses will enter an increasingly crowded space. That means it will be increasingly important to stay on top of SEO and stand out from your competition. Connecting with a skilled SEO company can pay huge dividends in the long run.

Collect as much customer information as possible

Unless you plan to launch a single site and step away, you must collect as much customer information as possible. They will help with customer satisfaction, repeat business, and even future launches. Start building your customer database today.

Be flexible and adaptable

Never stop evolving. Technology, customer tastes, and trends all change. You must do the same if you want to succeed in such a fast-moving market.

Be creative with your brand

As you visualize your brand, try to be creative as possible and think out of the box. Mood boards, for example, are a fun and creative exercise that can help you visualize your brand’s overall direction.

Creativity helps keep you inspired and on track. Think about your brand’s fonts, images, and colors. What does it say about your brand? What will your customers think? It’s important to work with a designer to create a professional logo and other branding elements to use on the website and packaging.

 

If you’re consistent and focused, you will succeed

A lot goes into starting an online business, The process may be intimidating, but you can make it happen. Work through it step by step, and never worry about making things perfect right out of the gate. Most importantly, you need to learn by doing.

Success requires a lot of time, patience, and research. However, it’s also very important to have help along the way. Cin7’s inventory management software will make your ecommerce brand’s launch a lot easier and allow you to leverage useful integrations. Ultimately, we can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches. If you have any questions, or are curious about how we can help, book your demo today.

Why your offline business needs an online store

Online shopping has become an integral part of the post-pandemic era. If you had a business with one or more stores, you probably had to shut your doors during the lockdown. While most brick-and-mortar stores had to close, online stores continued to flourish. Experienced companies got creative and started selling online, on social media, and more.

However, selling online begins with an ecommerce website. During the pandemic, these websites became a vital complement to a physical retail space. Moving forward, online stores will be indispensable for companies, including those that never needed them before. ecommerce is open 24/7 and attracts buyers from anywhere you have the ability to ship to.

An online store doesn’t only expand your potential customer base. It also gives your existing customers an easier shopping option, and it allows them to encourage their friends and family to do the same. ecommerce stores diversify your selling channels, reduce costs, and make it easier to scale your business.

Here’s why your offline business needs an online presence.

 

Reason #1: It improves your company’s image

This reason alone is enough to start a new website today. It’s a crucial factor, as prospective clients might wonder how serious your business is without a website, blog, or online presence.

Today, companies of all industries and sizes need to establish an online identity. Without one, your potential customers might not take you seriously, and you might lose business to competitors who are active, professional, and effective online.

 

Reason #2: You’ll provide better customer support

Having an online presence allows you to interact with more customers in real-time. Just  having a website isn’t enough — you need to manage it, too. For most brick-and-mortar businesses, there simply isn’t an option to offer 24-hour service to customers.

Your online store can use live chats or contact forms to communicate with your customers. You can also create a space for them to leave reviews, post comments, and ask questions. It’s very important that your customers and prospects are able to get the information they need at any time —and being online is a great way to do that.

Building relationships is part of your job, and one of the best ways to do so is by making customers feel at home while using your site. Online customer support allows you to be quick to respond and apologize, especially if people are experiencing issues.

Communicating with new customers, and especially customers that have complaints can be stressful. Always make sure to stay positive and ask if they have any unanswered questions. Here are some tips for better online customer service:

  • Make it easy for people to contact you
  • Nurture relationships as much as possible
  • Provide upfront access to information
  • Be available to help in real-time
  • Walk customers from problem to solution
  • Invest in your customer service team
  • Direct your customers to both offline and online customer experiences

Reason #3: Your employees can work remotely

Brands should utilize multiple distribution channels to better connect with customers. The “bricks-and-clicks” business model means that you operate both on- and offline, and it allows you to be more effective in multiple ways.

Why operate in both spaces? A physical presence helps humanize your brand and offers memorable shopping experiences, while an online presence helps maintain convenience and excellent customer service.

Businesses with a great digital presence can also allow some personnel to work remotely— as long as they have a solid internet connection. This enhanced flexibility boosts productivity, saves time, and increases profits.

Some areas of work may be impossible or difficult to do remotely. That’s why traditional offline businesses can begin small and scale up later to support brand recognition, customer service, marketing efforts, relationship building, and more — and do it all remotely.

 

Reason #4: You can target both local and global markets

When your business is online, you can market to the masses and increase the number of direct relationships with your customers. You can also effectively target your local market by getting valuable online data.

So, how do you find the right balance between local and global targeting? As your business grows, so must your market. You don’t want to limit yourself from the beginning. That’s why establishing an online presence should be your first step in this journey. A website or an app allows you to access various markets, attract new customers, and have a higher chance of converting more people.

 

Reason #5: You’ll have lower start-up costs

How much does it cost to establish your brick-and-mortar brand’s online presence? Truthfully, not much. Building an online presence and marketing yourself takes time, but the costs are very low compared to launching an offline business from scratch.

Physical businesses demand high rental costs and several employees, while your selection of goods are always limited by physical space. You can eliminate or reduce those costs by establishing an online channel.

Plus, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on your website or mobile app development. In fact, a good website or app can be quickly made for somewhere between a few hundred to a thousand dollars.

And, if you contact Cin7, we’ll quickly get you an estimate for your true startup costs.

 

Reason #6: You’ll gain an edge on your competition

The sooner you have an online presence, the more of an edge you can enjoy over your competitors. As the saying goes, “Either you have to be first, or you have to be best.” And being the best is really hard.

When your company is online and your competitors aren’t, you have the chance to dominate. Even if you’re not the first, we highly recommend having an active and growing presence on all major social media platforms. At this point, a website and social media presence is almost mandatory.

 

How to get your business online in 4 simple steps

Now that you’re ready, let’s jump right in. This is how you get your business online in 4 simple steps.

Step #1: Set up your ecommerce website

Setting up your ecommerce website is not as complex as it used to be. You can easily do it yourself, or you can pay someone to help. First, choose a domain name (for the website’s URL). If you want to do business internationally, it’s a good idea to buy a “.com” domain name.

You’ll also need to use an ecommerce platform, and the one you choose depends on what you need. We partner with some of the best ecommerce platforms that make the process fast and simple: Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, and WooCommerce.

Shopify is great because it has themed templates to select, and you can make a great-looking website in minutes. If you need any additional help building your website, no problem. Simply go to https://experts.shopify.com for a directory of professional website builders.

Another good practice is to look for other ecommerce websites from similar businesses. You can share those examples with a professional of your choice and tell them to imitate the look, feel, and function of the website.

 

Step #2: Upload your products and prepare to sell

Your online store is where many of your customers will first encounter your products. Make sure your products have good descriptions, accurate sizing, and excellent product images.

If you sell apparel, it’s worth noting that it sells better when customers see it being worn. You should also provide text that includes details you can’t see in the image. Make sure to use a decent camera and find a good space with a clean background.

Product images on a white background are great, or you can try to obtain high-quality images from your suppliers. Also, make sure you’re ready to ship your products. Our partners StarShipIt, ShipStation, and others will help make this process seamless.

 

Step #3: Make your logo and create your brand

It’s time to make your website’s logo. Modern logos are simple to produce on your own, but if you’re feeling “design-challenged,” it isn’t hard to get help from professionals via gig sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Alongside a logo, you should consider some basic branding, too. It’s important for a brand to have a consistent message and experience.

It’s also essential to set up some basic web pages from day one. There should be “About Us,” “Shipping Information,” “Contact Us,” and “Returns Policy” pages. You’ll also want to promote your physical store’s location and opening hours.

Making these pages tells your customers about your brand. Who are you, and what are your values? More than ever before, consumers base their purchasing decisions at least partially on whether or not a company aligns with their values.

A final tip: never let perfection get in the way of a web store launch. The key is getting online fast. You can always update and improve your website as you move forward.

 

Step #4: Promote your online shop

If you have a healthy customer database, you should try to contact them via email, phone, and mail. Sending emails and branded postcards is a good way to personalize your website’s launch.

You can also use social media networks to promote your online store. For instance, if you are on Instagram, you can create a post and tell customers that they’ll be entered into a raffle for store credit by tagging three friends.

Marketing is about getting creative and thinking outside the box to raise awareness. For instance, it doesn’t hurt to try to get an article published by the local newspaper or news. You can also advertise your new online store at your existing physical store.The more exposure, the better.

Post-launch, you should send a monthly email to customers. We recommend using Mailchimp to send bulk emails with mobile-friendly layouts and solid branding. Mailchimp also helps manage your unsubscribe list. That way, you’re not sending unwanted emails.

Finally, digital marketing plays a crucial role, and it includes:

  • Paid advertising like Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
  • SEO, which increases the chance for your website to appear in Google search results and help potential customers find you.
  • Content marketing, like writing blogs and adding helpful web pages to help attract potential customers.
  • Social media presence, such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and even Twitter.

 

Step #5. Get your automated Inventory Management software

If you’ve followed all these steps, you’re almost there! Your offline business has an online presence, but it won’t run smoothly until you have your automated Inventory Management Software.

Properly managing inventory can either make or break your business, so it’s crucial to have insight into your stock levels at any given time. With the right inventory software, decision-makers can manage their inventory effectively and cheaply.

Cin7 is great because it offers a suite of tools to track inventory in multiple locations. You can determine reorder points, manage stock, and cycle counts. Plus, you’ll be able to find the right balance between demand and supply across your entire organization with our demand planning and distribution requirements planning features.

These solutions are a perfect fit for businesses of any size.

 

See what Cin7 can do for you

Keeping track of your inventory and understanding your sales data is vital to making a multichannel business a success. Cin7 can integrate your ecommerce and brick-and-mortar businesses in one easy system. You’ll be able to manage your inventory and ship without an issue — as long as you have the right tools.

Remember, our team is always here to help — and we’d love to show you exactly how today.

Why wait? Book your demo now.