This article was written by:
Jake Rheude, Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment.
What does special teams in football have in common with ecommerce fulfillment? Despite being critical components of a successful, winning team, they are often overlooked.
In football, marquee players such as Patrick Mahomes or Stephon Gilmore tend to get most of the glory and attention. In ecommerce, the same can be said for roles such as content marketing and product page design. A lot of the hype and focus gets put on creating and selling high quality products–for good reason, of course–but it often overlooks the importance of having a steady and reliable ecommerce fulfillment system.
Like the role of the punter in placing a team in a position of power on the field, having a strong fulfillment program in place can put your ecommerce business in the best available position to succeed. I’d argue that fulfillment isn’t merely an afterthought; it should be treated with the same thoughtfulness and consideration even if it never will be as sexy as marketing, sales, or design. Here are three basic formulas that illustrate why fulfillment is critical to the success of your ecommerce business.
Ecommerce Fulfillment Strategy #1 – On time, accurately shipped orders = good reviews
Above all else, your orders need to be shipped on time, and they need to be accurate. In this day and age, it only takes a few delays or mistakes to send your marketplace reputation into a downward spiral. Whether it’s your fault or not is out of the question; customers will always blame you for a mistake that you may have had zero direct control over.
On the flip side of things, customers are usually happy to point out in their reviews when a delivery was on time, especially if they rushed the order for whatever reason. Making sure that your fulfillment operation is on the same page as your ecommerce store is a great way to keep customers happy and minimize the possibility of negative reviews cropping up onto your product pages.
Ecommerce Fulfillment Strategy #2 – Handling returns on an orderly basis = one less thing for customers to complain about
Inevitably, there are going to be hiccups with orders. Someone may decide they don’t need your product, after all. A customer may receive a defective or damaged product. When a reverse logistics event is initiated, the way that it’s handled can mean the difference between never getting that person’s business again or maintaining a stable and successful long term relationship despite a bump in the road. It’s demoralizing to a customer if the package they posted back to your warehouse for restocking and a refund simply disappeared.
That’s why it’s so important that you or the 3PL warehouse you contract to is able to promptly and accurately restock returned items and keep customers aware of what’s going on. The upside of a painless returns process is that there’s less likelihood of a disappointed customer turning into an angry, negative review-posting customer, and that’s a big win for your business.
Ecommerce Fulfillment Strategy #3 – Multichannel alignment = maximum possibility of sales, minimum possibility of losing business to competitors
As your business expands, one of the most common growing pains comes from managing sales on multiple platforms. It’s one thing to only have to keep track of what’s in stock when you sell on Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. It becomes more challenging when you open up digital storefronts in all three of those spaces plus launch your own ecommerce website.
Add the complexity of tracking orders across more than one channel with seasonal demand events such as Black Friday or Amazon Prime Day and the likelihood of a dreaded “out of stock” notice appearing when a customer tries to purchase from you can skyrocket. Even worse than that is what’s known as “overselling,” which is when a customer places an order for a product that’s out of stock and the transaction goes through anyways, leaving the seller on the hook.
In either one of those scenarios, you’re probably going to lose customers to a competitor. The best thing you can do to avoid that from happening is keeping your integrations updated at all times. You should regularly check to ensure that the number of items in stock in various channels matches up exactly with whatever your inventory count in storage says.
A lesson learned for the future
Taking these formulas to heart and respecting the power of ecommerce fulfillment to affect your business is the first step to improving how you view inventory management. From there, you can focus on all the other factors that will lead you to success. After all, your punter isn’t going to win the game for you single-handedly. But they can certainly give you a strong field position, and if you execute your gameplan correctly there’s no doubt that your product will score you some touchdowns.
Jake Rheude is the Director of Marketing for Red Stag Fulfillment, an eCommerce fulfillment warehouse that was born out of eCommerce. He has years of experience in eCommerce and business development. In his free time, Jake enjoys reading about business and sharing his own experience with others.