It’s no overstatement that order fulfilment is an integral aspect of any ecommerce business. After all, poor fulfilment services can lead to unhappy customers, and in turn lost future business. However, given that managing and processing inventory is almost entirely different to fulfilling online orders, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

To help you try and tackle this, we’ve put together a list of the top five ways you can improve your ecommerce order fulfilment process. With the ecommerce sector only continuing to expand, it’s more important than ever for retailers to be on top of their fulfilment. So, let’s get started.

1.Integrate systems for better visibility and tracking

Using the same order management system as your supplier will only get you so far. It’s very important to ensure you have full visibility into their catalogue and inventory too as doing so will allow you to update stock levels on your site and keep your customers informed. Likewise, tracking information on orders is an essential – if it looks like an order is delayed or stuck in transit, you can relay this information to your buyer to ensure they’re kept in the loop about their order.

Being able to track supplier orders and provide customers with updates in real-time allows you to offer a better customer experience and helps to improve your own brand credibility. What’s more, being able to show customers accurate stock levels avoids frustration down the line if inventory is not immediately available. All in all, the process is a lot smoother when everyone’s informed.

2. Automate processes

Once your systems are integrated to allow for better visibility into every step of the fulfilment process, it’s well worth looking into how the processes themselves can be sped up to improve your offering.

Automation doesn’t have to mean investing money in expensive conveyors or robotics, but can also be as straightforward as getting scanners to allow you to enter inventory into the system as it arrives, or scanning it out as it leaves. Alternatively, for smaller businesses this could mean purchasing an app for your phone or tablet device that will allow you to track and automate this process cheaply yet effectively.

3. Provide regular customer updates

Your customers are what make your business a success, so it’s in your best interest to keep them happy. This means ensuring that they are informed and engaged, something you can easily do by providing regular updates on the progress of their order. Nowadays we’ve come to expect this as a standard and poor communication can quickly lead to customer dissatisfaction, undermining the strength of your brand.

Of course, this doesn’t mean going overboard and sending eight emails their way, but it’s a good idea to update them on when their order was received by your supplier, when it was dispatched and providing them with tracking details so they can follow it through transit. Take advantage of the insight that you have by sending out these updates and you’ll allow your customers greater peace of mind, making them much more likely to come back for future purchases.

4.Choose the right shipping option

Whilst online customers have come to expect speedy shipping, exclusively using the quickest shipping method available simply isn’t a sustainable and long-term solution when it comes to fulfilling orders.

Using smart shipping algorithms, you can pick the appropriate shipping method to meet your delivery promise based on customer location, warehouse location, transit time between the two points and time taken to pick, pack and ship the item. By using this to select the best shipping method, you’re not only ensuring that you deliver on time, you’re moreover saving on unnecessary shipping upgrades.

5. Outsource your order fulfilment

Saving you time on organising and packing orders, outsourcing ecommerce fulfilment is a particularly useful alternative for new and expanding businesses. There are a number of benefits to outsourcing, such as reduced warehouse costs, less time spent on distribution and often better value because third party fulfilment companies are able to secure better rates. You also benefit from their insider knowledge, so instead of struggling through trial and error, your ecommerce business can get it right the first time round.

Overall, outsourcing order fulfilment is often much cheaper and allows you to regain time that you can focus back on to making your business the best it can be, offering you more opportunities for growth and greater time to ensure you’re delivering high-quality customer service.

If you want your business to be a success, nailing your order fulfilment is a must. Once you streamline this, you can begin to invest time in other areas of your business!

Greg Zontanos is the Co-founder and CEO of Weengs, a UK startup focused on optimising the fulfilment process.