Human beings have been engaged in conducting business in one form or the other for nearly five thousand years. From its beginning at its crudest form, it has evolved over the millennia to how we view and understand it today. However, in all of its history, from the agoras of Ancient Greece to dainty little stores to the behemoths of Walmart, it has always had one constant – face-to-face, physical human interaction.
The latest development in the evolution of business has transformed its very core though. E-commerce and online shopping have grown tremendously in popularity over the past decade leading consumers to stay at home and businesses to setup virtual, online stores. This shift from the physical to the virtual means people do not engage in traditional, over-the-counter trades and it leads to order fulfillment concerns.
Order fulfillment involves the whole process from a customer placing an order to its final delivery. It used to be simple, with customers walking into stores or shopping malls, purchasing what they needed and then taking it home themselves. Online shopping complicates matters slightly though, as customers aren’t always necessarily local and their purchases have to be shipped to them, often across regional and national borders.
The physical retail market will always endure but customers are becoming increasingly comfortable with the concept of shopping on the internet from the comfort of their homes. However, they are not able to physically inspect products before paying for them or bring their purchases home themselves. This causes two major headaches for the vendor – products getting damaged during transport, and the risk of returned goods from customers once they get to inspect them.
An efficient, streamlined fulfillment process helps mitigate these risks for companies and ensures continued customer satisfaction. The process begins by obtaining orders from customers and ends with the delivery of their order to their doorsteps but there is a complicated chain of events that leads from one to the other. It involves order verification, payment authorization and verification, warehousing, packaging and eventual shipment of the goods.
There are risks to be considered at every stage of the process, efficiency measures to impose and there’s the cost of everything to worry about. Warehousing and shipping especially can prove to be extremely costly, particularly if any goods are returned by the customers. Packaging is a significant concern as well as it has to keep the goods secure and transport carriers now charge by package sizes rather than their weight.
An online fulfillment process deals with all of these concerns for a company by maintaining the quality of service, sustaining customer satisfaction, and preserving company standards and its reputation. Outsourcing the fulfillment process to a third party can be highly beneficial for companies as service providers have trained staff with the expertise to ensure quality fulfillment. They provide low-cost warehousing, efficient packaging and affordable transportation for the shipment of products. Most importantly, they ensure the company meets customer demands by delivering packages securely and on time.
David writes for Sears Commerce Services, sharing information so e-Commerce sellers can grow their businesses by selling their products on Sears.com and leveraging their fulfillment services.