Customers have greater expectations than ever before. They can order a product and have it at their door in just days. With many businesses offering this service for low costs – or free – customers see this as the norm.
They want to place an order, get a shipping confirmation email, and know that their product is on the way. Any number of things can go wrong, such as a shipping notification taking too long to arrive, a long processing time, or a product that arrived damaged.
Worse yet, the shipment could get lost. If that’s the first impression, a lost package can mean a lost customer.
Business owners know that the fulfillment and shipping process has a huge impact on the customer experience. With brand reputation, customer loyalty, and the possibility of future purchases on the line, the faster the shipping and fulfillment process happens, the happier the customer will be.
Streamlining the shipping and fulfillment process isn’t easy, however. Here’s how you can design an ideal shipping and fulfillment process for better customer experience.
Put the Customer First
As mentioned, the customer experience is greatly impacted by the shipping and fulfillment process. Both need to be streamlined for a good impression.
If you ship quickly, but it takes too many days or weeks before the purchase ships, the customer won’t be happy. Conversely, the fastest processing time makes no difference if the product gets lost or damaged in transit.
Here’s how the shipping and fulfillment process normally goes:
What Is the Shipping Process?
In ecommerce, the shipping process begins from the moment you receive a customer’s order to prepare it for last-mile delivery. This process includes several steps:
- Receiving the order
- Processing the order
- Fulfilling the order
The three stages affect how quickly and accurately the customer’s order can be prepared and shipped to its destination.
Receiving the Order
The customer places an order on the website, beginning the shipping process. You have to ensure the product is in stock and start processing it, which could be finding it in your inventory to ship or sending it to a fulfillment center. You may also need to purchase the product yourself to ship or send it through a third-party logistics provider.
Receiving customer orders can be streamlined by implementing an order management system or inventory management system that syncs with your current ecommerce platform. This helps you monitor inventory and orders in one place.
Processing the Order
Processing a customer’s order involves verifying the data and ensuring that it’s accurate and the items are in stock. This can be done manually, but automation tools are available to make the process faster and easier. This also reduces the possibility of errors that can delay shipping or lead to lost packages.
For improved customer experience, automation can be set up to trigger notifications and updates for your customer. They’ll know the product is on the way and will feel more confident in their shopping experience.
Fulfilling the Order
After processing, order fulfillment begins and the product is shipped. There are several options for order fulfillment for ecommerce businesses, including self-fulfillment and drop shipping. Another popular option is outsourcing fulfillment to a third-party logistics provider.
A logistics provider takes a lot of the burden of fulfillment away with services like warehousing, packing boxes, shipping orders, and more. Both self-fulfillment and drop shipping have their downsides, but partnering with a logistics provider helps to streamline the shipping process while keeping costs down.
After processing, the product is ready to ship to your customer. Many businesses offer the most cost-effective shipping method possible for the customer’s address, but you can give the customer the option for economy, standard, or express shipping options at their expense.
You can choose to dropship or ship the product yourself. Some businesses outsource to a third-party logistics partner to save time and money. Many third-party logistics partners offer a range of different features, including warehousing, packaging, and shipping to make the process even more streamlined.
Designing the Perfect Shipping Process
The shipping process should deliver the product as fast as possible from the moment the customer completes the purchase. These customers have come to expect shipping within a day or so, for free, and want all businesses to offer similar service.
That said, it’s just as important that the product is delivered safely and to the right address. Damaged packages, the wrong product, or a missing package can all leave a negative impression that’s difficult to recover from.
The verification process is one of the most time-consuming aspects of shipping. You can verify the details manually, but it’s a laborious process and you may have errors. Getting this part right is important for ensuring the shipment arrives at the customer’s door with no issues.
Several technology tools offer automation for the verification process, including tools with features to standardize the address and verify the payment information. With these tools, you can still take control of the process yourself and input information manually, but as you scale, you have the automation at your disposal.
Labeling and Supplies
If you’re fulfilling the orders on your own, you need to have boxes and shipping supplies in your warehouse or storage area to pack and ship products quickly. Depending on the products you offer, you may need special packing supplies.
For example, some products require labels for shipping, such as perfumes and other flammable goods. You should keep a stock of these labels for all your orders. The same is true if you frequently ship fragile items. Keep packing peanuts, bubble wrap, or other protective wrap around for quick shipping.
If you choose, adding a thank you card or free gift is something most customers appreciate. While it’s not enough to fix a bad experience on its own, it’s a “cherry on top” of a positive overall impression. Stock up on branded gear or thank you cards to add them to your package for each shipment.
Streamline Your Processes for the Perfect Customer Experience
Customers have high demands. As an ecommerce store owner, streamlining your shipping process reduces the workload for you and leaves your customer with a positive impression that could lead to repeat sales.