Ecommerce Operations

Why Fulfillment is Essential to Growing Your Online Business

what is order fulfillment

The world of ecommerce necessitates speed, convenience and satisfaction. Failing to fulfill any of these requirements during any stage of the purchasing journey puts you at risk of losing out on a conversion opportunity at best and a lifetime customer at worst. 

At the peril of suffering such consequences, investment into optimizing your fulfillment process might not seem all that practical. Still, if businesses can glean anything from COVID-19 over the past few years, businesses can’t ignore the fulfillment process and the role it plays in customer satisfaction. 

Even the most beautifully designed online store, the best product descriptions, and personal customer support can’t rectify the repercussions of a negative fulfillment experience, but what does the fulfillment experience entail, and why is it so important? 

What is Order Fulfillment? Why Is It So Important?

Order fulfillment in the context of ecommerce is the process of picking, packing and processing orders for delivery for customers. 

Compared to brick-and-mortar retail stores, which can provide fulfillment opportunities instantaneously at the point of sale, online businesses have to work with supply chains, logistic companies, and other external organizations to transport their goods and services from their inventory and warehouse centers to their customers.

Online shoppers will also, unfortunately, be unable to touch, see, or otherwise interact with the products that they’re interested in purchasing online. 

For many online shoppers, the fulfillment process is their first and final interaction with an online business or retailer’s products. As such, any potential delays, interruptions, or lack of visibility during this process can lead to frustration on the part of the customer. 

Because the fulfillment process is, again, the first and last touchpoint that many online shoppers have with an online brand, a negative order fulfillment process can alienate existing and potential customers from engaging with your brand. 

How to Optimize Your Fulfillment Experience

Fast and Affordable Shipping

After browsing through various products, adding them to your cart, and filling out your personal and billing information to get ready for payment, the last thing anybody wants to see are hidden fees and surcharges. 

When shopping in retail stores, the listed price is what customers end up paying, with the addition of taxes at the point of sale.

When shopping online, online shoppers also have to pay a premium for shipping to receive their packages, an element that more than 60% of customers view as a critical factor in delivery. In addition to a delivery fee, online shoppers also often have to wait an indeterminate amount of time to receive their packages. 

Speed and price are important considerations for online shoppers, enough to convince 43% of shoppers to abandon their carts if shipping costs are too high, with another 25% abandoning their carts if same-day delivery isn’t available.

Even at a slightly higher price point, providing same-day delivery can help businesses appeal to the growing demand for convenience for today’s online consumers. According to research from UPS, 77% of online shoppers are more than willing to shoulder the higher price if it means getting their orders faster. 

For businesses and organizations struggling to provide fast and affordable shipping, partnering with a third-party logistics (3PL) provider can help brands scale as they accommodate increases in order volume. 

Fast and Simple Returns

If a customer is not completely satisfied with their purchase for whatever reason, being able to return their order can help maintain your customer satisfaction score and keep their loyalty. Conversely, offering a frustrating or time-consuming return experience can alienate customers from shopping with your brand ever again. 

Retail customers can, for the most part, return any product that they’re unsatisfied with at a brick-and-mortar location within minutes. When shopping online, that same process can take days or even weeks, depending on how long shipping and processing takes. 

While it’s true that returns and exchanges are expensive on the part of retailers and brands, organizations stand to lose more from failing to provide a positive return experience in the first place. 

Recent research shows that 84% of shoppers feel encouraged to shop with a retailer again after a positive return experience. When the costs of acquiring a new customer are five to 25 times more expensive than retaining an existing one, it pays to provide fast and simple returns. 

The Value of Fulfillment 

While the purchasing journey is technically completed once the order has been picked, packed and processed, it’s not really over until the customer receives their order and is satisfied with what they’ve received. 

Preemptively ending the fulfillment experience at the point of departure can open the door to a host of customer satisfaction issues later down the road, especially when online shoppers have so many options available at their fingertips. 

Keeping up with the growing demands of online shoppers can be challenging, but partnering with Breadstack can help you navigate the challenges of conducting business online. 

From inventory management and customer analytics to logistics and order fulfillment, Breadstack’s suite of cloud-based, AI-empowered tools is poised to help you succeed in today’s ecommerce world. Request a free demo today to learn more about how Breadstack can help your business grow, scale and succeed.