Business Strategy – Absolute Fulfilment
There are thousands of helpful articles and blogs around that can help someone new to eCommerce set up and run their online store. The problem is that many of them are written by someone with a product to sell or an axe to grind.
In our earlier series of blog articles on Traffic Strategy, we considered the various options available to drive traffic to your new shop from the perspective of someone who has done it for many years. In the process, the author found out the hard way where time and money can be wasted doing ‘busy work’ and often with very few tangible results. With some early testing and a creative approach, a lot can be achieved with modest resources.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at other aspects of setting up and running an eCommerce shop with some tips and tricks to avoid the usual pitfalls along the way.
So let’s assume you have your eCommerce site set up, you’ve got some good traffic and your products are ready to roll. Maybe this is your first time retailing at all or perhaps you are adding an online sales option to an existing retail store. Or possibly you are upgrading your operation from a marketplace environment where you ran a shop on Amazon or eBay. Whatever your reason for moving forward online, one of the key ingredients to winning new and repeat business is your fulfilment capability.
Now so much depends on upon the product that you are selling as to what options you can offer and it’s worth thinking about the scenarios before you get too far along the line.
Here are some basic questions to ask yourself first:
Do I want to fulfil the orders in house or use a third party specialist?
What options should I be offering on my website?
Do I offer overseas delivery?
What dispatch time will I guarantee?
Will my delivery charges reflect the cost of shipping the individual item (i.e. weight or size based) and does my checkout basket allow for this? If not will I need to average it out to have a single rate?
What packaging will I use?
What is my returns policy and does it conform to the rules in all territories in which I am shipping goods?
Have I factored in the costs of fulfilment (picking and packing time) to my prices?
Do I have sufficient space to store efficiently all the products I am selling?
There are no ‘right’ answers to these questions - as every online store is different. If you are new to eCommerce then you will be unlikely to know the volumes of product you will be shipping in the early stages – so it doesn’t make sense to over-engineer the process if you are only sending a few items a week. However, if you have reason to believe that volumes will be substantial, then you need to think about a process that will be the most efficient.
Think about bar coding the products and possibly even the locations in your storeroom.
Make sure the items are readily available – even 30 seconds extra picking time per item can add to your costs.
Try to choose packaging that is easy and quick to manipulate. Self-sealing bags and quick print labels will save time – one of your most precious commodities.
Make sure your packaging is fit-for- purpose and protects your products properly during the delivery process. It doesn’t take many returns for damaged goods to erode your margins substantially.
And once you’ve got your product ready for shipment, you’ll need to think about your despatch method and the costs for doing so.
In the next article, we’ll look at ways to reduce costs and save time with that.