Ecommerce Fulfillment Tools that Optimize Your Retail Operations and Increase Profitability
Many ecommerce retailers fear the same Goliath: Amazon. Whether you decide to sell your company’s products via Amazon or not, the ecommerce giant now factors into every merchant’s online competition. But let’s break down these fears. First, if you’re a retailer with annual sales anywhere from $2 million to $50 million, you likely built your retail business on your unique product offering. Amazon may sell everything including the kitchen compost bin, but your products make your online store special. Retailers who create their own branded site get to take full advantage of customers’ love of their products.
After Amazon’s product inventory, the other source of competitive fear is the company’s mastery of order fulfillment. Frankly, they invented the game. But here’s the great news: with the ecommerce fulfillment tools increasingly available, it is now anyone’s game. Across the spectrum, retail companies are figuring out ways to take their fulfillment operations to Amazonian-levels.
For instance, Amazon Prime set the bar with two-day shipping. For a while, they were the only company that could meet this expectation. Now, however, any merchant can leverage the network and technology that lets retailers deliver on a two-day shipping promise.
Alternatively, maybe your company’s current fulfillment process requires a lot of manual steps. Or your operations team has to repeat the same task, like confirming addresses multiple times. Or perhaps they have a hard time tracking inventory in real-time.
If your business has issues like these, remember: you don’t have to suffer through outdated technology. The tools exist to optimize fulfillment. They can be integrated with most ecommerce platforms, and they will reduce operational expense and frustration.
Our purpose here is to share some of the possibilities, so you begin to brainstorm how your fulfillment problems can be solved. In reality, the options are virtually unlimited, and the best fulfillment features depend on your specific business goals.
Automate Fulfillment Touchpoints – and Build Your Retail Brand at Every Step
Some retail companies worry that if they automate too much of their fulfillment process, their customers won’t get a fully-branded experience. If they use automation, their deliveries will feel like a robot put them together. Indeed, a robot may be working in the warehouse, but with the tools available now, merchants can work their company branding into nearly every aspect of fulfillment.
With this in mind, let’s talk about Shipstation. It’s the leading software of the fulfillment world and for a reason. It’s that good – and comprehensive.
Shipstation handles the importing, managing, and shipping of your orders. They’ve brokered deals with all the major shipping companies, including FedEx and DHL, to be able to offer discounted rates to merchants who implement their features. Plus, the software allows retailers to add an unlimited number of retail channels – think: Shopify, Amazon, Net-A-Porter, you name it – to your Shipstation account. As it factors in sales from all your different channels, it also automates the order fulfillment process. In the words of one reviewer of Shipstations’s Shopify app, “ShipStation has given me 40+ hours a week back.”
Another key point about these fulfillment options is that you can showcase your company’s branding throughout their features. While the software is automating fulfillment, shipping, and more, it’s communicating your unique branding to customers. In the case of Shipstation, it can be set up so your customers receive branded shipment labels and tracking emails, for example. Shipstation can also implement your branding throughout the return process. In our experience, it offers the efficiency of automation while keeping your company’s signature on every customer communication.
Stock and Manage Warehouse Inventory
Before you ship your products, you have to have them in stock, right? To this point, how does your business currently track inventory deliveries? Is there one place for this information or does your team have to parse it together from various sources? How often is the inventory status updated?
Peoplevox, a warehouse management system, provides streamlined answers to these questions (and more) for a growing number of merchants. The company specializes in automating the process of getting your goods into the warehouse.
Let’s suppose your company receives its products via purchase order. With Peoplevox, your warehouse team can use barcodes to scan it in as it arrives from suppliers. By automating this process through barcodes, it gets much faster with fewer human mistakes. The Peoplevox software also automatically reconciles the incoming inventory against the purchase order, so workers can easily see if an incoming order contains any mistakes. Additionally, they can use the software to scan inventory into the correct warehouse location, so it’s ready to ship when needed.
Now if you want to outsource your warehouse operations, you won’t need a warehouse management system. But, in the event you want to oversee your warehouse operations, as many retailers do, Peoplevox could be a really useful tool. It’s also interesting that Peoplevox was just acquired by Descartes, a company with a broader tech platform for ecommerce logistics. Beyond the warehouse, Descartes handles things like on-the-road transportation for goods and international shipping logistics. With this in mind, Peoplevox’s features are likely to grow more robust.
Offer Two-Day Shipping from Every Sales Channel
As we mentioned, one of the biggest pain points in competing with Amazon has to do with their two-day shipping capabilities. Simply put, Amazon’s promise has set expectations for online shoppers – now they expect this level of service across the board. Thankfully, Deliverr can help any retailer meet these high customer expectations.
Deliverr’s business model is built on the idea that retailers today sell via a wide range of channels – your ecommerce store, Amazon, and Verishop, for example. While these channels may sell the same products, they can have very different experiences in the final fulfillment. Deliverr aims to create more uniform experiences regardless of the channel. Retailers pay a single fee to be able to offer free, 2-day shipping for everything. Deliverr accomplishes this by hosting a warehouse network throughout the U.S. So, once you’re in the Deliverr system, your products are never more than 2 days away from most customers in the country.
Note: keep in mind that we advocate for ecommerce sustainability. Last year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study that asked online shoppers if they would choose a slower shipping method if it were better for the environment. More than half of the respondents selected the less resource-intensive method when given the choice. That said, if your ecommerce business sells something perishable, i.e. flowers or food, or your customers demand expedited shipping, Deliverr could be a strong solution.
Bolster Your Company Brand through Added-Value Services
In the name of brainstorming all that is possible to make your company’s ecommerce fulfillment sing, we want to share information about Radial. This company offers many of the features we’ve discussed from other software, but they are known for something unique: added-value services.
Let’s say that your company has a very detailed and specific way of packaging your products for customers. Maybe you always include branded tissue paper, a little card personally signed by a stylist, and top it all with a bow. Oh – and the product your shipping needs to be embroidered with a monogram. With Radial, this level of customized branding becomes possible.
Not every retailer will need this kind of offering, but for those who do, it may be very appealing to outsource it and direct your operational resources to other tasks. Again, every ecommerce business is slightly different – if not vastly different – and it’s exciting to think of all the potential solutions for your company’s specific business model.
Retail businesses have always felt the pressure to sell compelling products. Now in ecommerce, a new pressure is added: you have to send and deliver your products to customers in an efficient, engaging way. Amazon has managed to excel with both its products and fulfillment efficiencies.
As a retailer offering your own unique collection of products, you can use new technological tools to compete with Amazon’s fulfillment process. Whether it’s automating the process for your operations team, promoting your company’s brand at every step, or offering two-day shipping, you can do it. And much more. Best yet, by optimizing your fulfillment operations, you’ll save money and create happier customer experiences. In turn, this increases business profitability.