On this page we try to provide you with relevant information about fulfillment to help you make the right decision.
What is Fulfillment?
Fulfillment (or fulfilment, fulfillment) covers all the steps a company takes between receiving a new order and delivering that order to the customer. Fulfillment includes storage, picking/packaging and packing of the product, shipping, invoicing and returns handling if the customer returns the goods. Today, automated, electronic communication such as e-mail order confirmation or track and trace information is also part of the fulfillment process.
The steps in the fulfillment process:
- Order acceptance (online, by e-mail or telephone)
- Picking of the ordered articles
- Invoicing/debtor management
- Returns processing
- Customer service
Fulfillment for e-commerce entrepreneurs: Do it yourself or outsource?
Once your webshop is online, you need a way to fulfill and ship those orders immediately. Entrepreneurs can either set up the fulfillment and sales process internally or outsource it.
Full-service fulfillment companies offer an end-to-end solution: They store your products, pack them, hand them over to carriers, and then send an automated email response to your customers to let them know that their packages are in transit. They can also handle payment, report current stock levels to your web shop, reorder products, offer call center services and – most importantly – process returns.
An e-commerce company can manage its own inventory, i.e. handle goods receipt and storage internally. Or it can commission a fulfillment service provider to take care of its inventory and all related tasks. If the company chooses the first option, it is responsible for stocktaking, checking the inventory, labelling and administering the inventory system. If the company chooses to outsource, these tasks are taken over by the fulfillment company.
If you decide to store your goods yourself, you can expect additional tasks. The main task here is to monitor the flow of goods (which items come in and which go out) so that you can place your orders at any time. Absolutely necessary: An efficient, scalable ERP system for controlling your inventory and order data.
Companies that outsource order processing do not need to get into the details of order processing, as they simply forward the orders to their fulfillment service provider (usually via interfaces to their own web shop) and let them take care of the rest. For companies that manage their own inventory, this is the part where the goods are retrieved from the warehouse, transported to a packing station, packed and ready made for shipment by the carriers.
Depending on the size, weight and specific requirements of the order, the best shipping method or carrier is determined. Attention: Fulfillment service providers often have an advantage here, as they receive different conditions due to their quantities than, for example, a single e-commerce retailer.
For online shoppers, the ability to easily return unwanted items is an important factor in the buying process. For the e-commerce company, however, returns processing is a high cost factor. Here it is important to take a close look at how, on the one hand, the number of returns can be reduced (for example, by using realistic product images and a crystal-clear return policy) and, on the other hand, how the handling process can be made as efficient as possible.
Whether by e-mail, chat or telephone: customer communication is one of the linchpins of your success. A good customer service increases your customer loyalty through a fast response time, efficient problem solving and competent product advice. The latter in particular can speak in favor for your own customer service staff, especially when it comes to high quality/expensive products or products that require explanation. However, your customer service should also be scalable, i.e. you should be able to react quickly, even with high order volumes.