Must-Read Fulfillment Tips for First-Time E-Commerce Merchants

According to Forrester Research Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru, online shoppers are expected to spend $327 billion by 2016 a 45 percent increase from this year. Obviously, now (more than ever) is a great time to get into the E-commerce game.But it’s also a crowded space where many of the big-time players (think Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Macys.com) have the upperhand.

It will be important for you not only to build an excellent website that converts traffic and bring visitors to your site, but you have to also provide excellent customer service when it comes to fulfilling orders correctly, on-time and safely to customers.

The ability to provide good service often comes down to the efficiency of your fulfillment operation. Here are three ways new business owners can focus on improving  fulfillment:

1. Benchmark fulfillment metrics :
Focus on the metrics that are closely aligned with your customer service expectations. For example, if speed of delivery is one of the more important aspects to your offering, focus on metrics such as order turnaround time to ensure orders that come in are quickly picked, packed and shipped.

2. Hire employees to specialize in fulfillment :
As more orders come in, you will need help meeting demand in a timely manner. As you employ others to assist with preparing orders, have them specialize in one specific aspect of fulfillment. For example, have one employee specialize in the organizing inventory and packing orders for eventual shipment. This way, these employees will become excellent at the one aspect of their job, and will eventually be able to pinpoints areas of improvement that a “jack-of-all-trades” may have not  been able to realize.

3. Know when to ask for help for certain aspects of fulfilment :
Finally, it’s important to realize that stocking inventory and fulfilling orders for all of your merchandise may in fact be stifling your growth. If time, effort and resources are better spent on other aspects of your business, then it’s time to outsource. Fulfillment by Amazon, for example, allows merchants to either (a) place their merchandise directly on Amazon’s webstore, or (b) sell through an existing online storefront and just have Amazon fulfillment centers ensure orders get to the  customer.

Alternatively, you can look into dropshipping certain aspects of your inventory. A dropshipper will own the inventory and fulfill orders as they are placed–for a premium price.For this reason, it’s important to consider which items in your inventory to dropship. It’s common to utilize a dropshipper for high-margin items that can afford a hit to profits or to high-volume items that you know will always be in high demand.

Michael Koploy is an ERP Analyst for SoftwareAdvice.com, a business that reviews and compares retail software solutions. If you would like more tips on fulfillment, please check out Koploy’s,The Starter’s Guide to Effective eCommerce Fulfillment. Koploy can be reached at michael@softwareadvice.com.