Fast, reliable ecommerce fulfillment is essential to satisfying and retaining shoppers in today’s increasingly competitive online marketplace.
For customers, a seamless online shopping experience – from checkout to delivery – is non-negotiable. A recent study revealed that 85% of consumers will not shop with a retailer again after an unsatisfactory delivery experience. And – on the flip side – a positive delivery experience can have a powerful impact: research shows that 74% of consumers would increase their spend with an online retailer if they’re satisfied with the delivery services.
If merchants want to build consumer trust and loyalty, an optimized order fulfillment process is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a must.
While some businesses handle the fulfillment process in-house, many choose to engage a third-party logistics (3PL) provider – like Amazon Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) – that can provide the experience and expertise crucial to navigating this complex space.
In this blog, we will explore three main steps in the ecommerce fulfillment process – picking, packing, and shipping – and discuss how a 3PL can help you optimize your performance in these areas.
Picking is the process of locating and retrieving a product that’s been ordered from its place in the warehouse or fulfillment center. After an online purchase has been made, the order is sent to a warehouse where that item is “picked” – by a human or robot – from a shelf and transported to an order packing station. Picking is the first step in the order fulfillment cycle, so any mistakes or delays here can disrupt the rest of the fulfillment process.
Problems in the “picking” phase of the order fulfillment process can arise if items are not properly stored or labeled correctly.
There is also the issue of manpower: a fast and efficient picking process relies on combining adequate staffing with new technologies to keep up with the pace of incoming orders.
A 3PL can help optimize the picking process in several ways:
- Implementing an effective warehouse slotting process to optimally organize and position inventory in the warehouse or fulfillment center in order to minimize picking times.
- Utilizing a robust warehouse management system (WMS) to enable rapid and accurate inventory tracking and effective management of warehouse operations.
- Deploying state-of-the-art automation technology, such warehouse robotics and conveyor belt systems, to optimize the speed and accuracy of the picking process.
Once an item has been picked and delivered to the packing station in the warehouse or fulfillment center, it’s then ready to be prepared for shipment.
The packing process involves several steps. First, the right packaging (box, envelope, bag, etc.) for the item must be selected in order to reduce the risk of damage during shipment and minimize the size and weight of the parcel (and the cost of shipping it). After the item is packed by a warehouse employee or a machine, the package is typically weighed, a shipping label is applied to it, and then it’s sent on its way to the outbound dock.
The same technological and organizational capabilities that a 3PL uses to improve picking also apply to packing. A 3PL provides continuous quality checks, so when an item travels from the picking to the packing stage, it must first pass a thorough examination that checks for damage and inaccuracies. In addition, some 3PLs – like MCF – are constantly innovating in an effort to introduce new automation into the packing process. The goal of these cutting-edge innovations is to improve the effectiveness of the packing process and ensure products are properly packed and labeled for shipment.
Once an order is picked and packed, it’s ready to be shipped to the customer’s doorstep.
Shoppers today demand fast shipping: 90% expect 2- or 3-day shipping to be standard and 32% will abandon their online shopping carts if the estimated shipping time is too long, according to recent research.
Ecommerce businesses aim to meet these expectations, but often struggle as they need to rely on carriers to handle the shipment of their orders. These carriers have specific service-level agreements and capacity constraints that may impact both the speed and availability of their services as well as the ability of the ecommerce business to keep its delivery promises to customers.
A 3PL, however, can help you streamline your shipping process and ensure your orders are delivered on time.
Some 3PLs – like MCF – are carriers themselves and offer shipping services, while other 3PLs have established relationships with carriers and can help you negotiate more attractive shipping rates with them.
With MCF, you can optimize your shipping operations by:
- Offering click-to-delivery speeds as fast as two days for customers.
- Leveraging Amazon’s global network of over 200 fulfillment centers to strategically distribute your inventory so it’s as close as possible to customers – thereby reducing shipping times.
- Utilizing Amazon’s fleet of more than 120,000 trucks, vans, and planes to transport your packages.
- Providing real-time tracking on shipments – so you and your customers can monitor the progress of your orders from online checkout to delivery.
- Ensuring your customer orders arrive on time – as MCF has a >97% on-time delivery rate.
A seamless end-to-end order fulfillment process is necessary to meet customer expectations in today’s ecommerce landscape – where fast, reliable delivery is table stakes.
To streamline their pick, pack, and ship operations, many companies engage 3PL providers. Outsourcing your order fulfillment to a 3PL can help you optimize the journey of customer orders from click to delivery, conquer your ecommerce fulfillment challenges, and free you up to focus on other areas of your online business.