1. Overview of eCommerce Fulfillment Automation
The eCommerce industry is in the middle of a technological revolution, witnessing advanced solutions being developed every day that are improving customer and business experience. Such technologies allow businesses to perform more operations without the need to invest vast amounts of money. In this article, we talk about the advent of automation in eCommerce fulfillment and how it has impacted the eCommerce industry.
Automation has already helped several industries across the globe and fulfillment for eCommerce businesses is another domain that is benefitting from the superior capabilities of automation. Here we discuss the importance of eCommerce fulfillment automation, what it offers and how it helps businesses improve their operations and customer experience.
2. Understanding eCommerce Fulfillment Automation
The process of eCommerce fulfillment involves several steps that form a complicated chain of events, all responsible for ensuring that an online order is fulfilled, and reaches the end consumer without hindrances. Since, the eCommerce industry largely operates in the digital space, the items purchased in the physical world are dealt with by teams responsible for handling, storing, protecting and shipping items.
In order to manage these operations, businesses use advanced solutions that are capable of consolidating the control of these operations in a single dashboard. Ecommerce fulfillment automation allows businesses to perform repetitive, complex and arduous tasks in a matter of seconds. Businesses use advanced analytics and algorithms to execute these functions, allowing operations to be faster and more efficient, without the perils of human error.
3. Automation for different types of eCommerce Fulfillment
Businesses are largely involved with three types of fulfillment operations. There are businesses that use in-house teams to fulfill orders, while others outsource their fulfillment operations to third parties, and finally, businesses that use drop shipping as a fulfillment model. Here we discuss how automation works for different types of fulfillment operations for eCommerce businesses.
3.1) Automation for In-House eCommerce Fulfillment
For businesses that use in-house teams for fulfilling their online orders, automation allows them to manage multiple teams within the organization. These usually include the following teams:-
3.1.1) Teams responsible for the storage and safekeeping of stock
For companies with in-house, storage is a big responsibility. It involves managing large spaces and huge inventories of items along with a huge staff to ensure that stock is managed properly. Therefore, automation in warehousing operations allows businesses to manage inventory using software that allows them to update stock levels, tracking inventory, and even alert low levels of inventory automatically without having to employ to check these manually.
3.1.2) Teams responsible for processing orders received from customers
Businesses can use automated solutions to process orders received in real-time. This reduces gaps between receiving and finalizing orders, allowing businesses to accept orders quickly subject to pre-defined parameters that are used to automatically assign further operations related to orders to the relevant teams.
3.1.3) Teams responsible for dispatching orders to customers
Businesses with in-house fulfillment teams use automated tools to generate shipping labels, raise packaging requests and dispatch orders to right shipping partners for final delivery of the customers. Such tools automatically assign orders to the right partners and departments for further operations.
3.2) Automation for Third-Party eCommerce Fulfillment
For companies that use third-party fulfillment service providers, they can leverage automation capabilities in the following ways:
3.2.1) Automation for assigning orders
Businesses that outsource their fulfillment operations to third parties are able to use automation to automatically assign orders to the right fulfillment partners based on parameters and algorithms. This allows businesses to eliminate the need to take a look at every order and then assign different partners for them, instead they can simply rely on machines to make analytics-based decisions for them.
3.2.2) Automation for order management
Outsource fulfillment needs to be managed by businesses. This essentially involves informing fulfillment partners of new developments from the customer. Automation allows businesses to communicate any new information received from customers directly without having to manually send mail or messages to the partner. This means that fulfillment partners can receive information on changes and adjustments related to order immediately, increasing efficiency and speed.
3.2.3) Automation for tracking order status
Businesses can use automated tools to receive regular updates on the status of their order. Through automation, businesses are able to improve visibility and resolve exceptions in real-time. This is made possible by integrating with multiple partners and receiving notifications and updates automatically without the need to manually monitor every order.
4. Key Features of eCommerce Fulfillment Automation
Automation allows businesses to perform a variety of tasks much faster and efficiently than through traditional manual methods. Here are some of the ways automation helps businesses better manage their eCommerce fulfillment operations.
4.1) Warehouse management
Automation can be used to manage warehouse operations for businesses without employing more people. It can be used to keep track of the location of products within the facility, store products efficiently and manage storage space. It can also be used to adjust the location of products within the warehouse to ensure optimum use of warehouse space.
4.2) Inventory management
Businesses can use automation to manage their inventory to monitor the status of stock levels in the warehouse. This can be used to ensure that the required amount of products are available within the warehouse, and the business can be alerted as and when the stock levels drop below a certain point. It can also be used to assess which items sell better in a particular region to store them closer to customers.
4.3) Order processing
Ecommerce businesses can use automation for processing online orders and performing tasks such as capturing and processing data related to sales of products, collate and compute consumer data for marketing strategies, improving accuracy in order processing, and faster acceptance of orders.
Automated tools are used by eCommerce companies to select the right partner for shipping a particular product. When companies receive an order, automated solutions select the ideal partner to deliver the product to a customer based on parameters such as location, cost, size and type of products. This reduces time spent in manually selecting a delivery partner and improves the odds of businesses successfully delivering an item.
Automated tools for tracking orders and notifying businesses as well as customers of the status of orders can be used to improve the online shopping experience for both parties. This allows customers to be updated with the status of their orders and information such as estimated delivery date as well as delivery agent’s contact information. Automated can also be used to manage non-delivery reports (NDR).
For instance, ClickPost uses its NDR management system to notify customers whenever a delivery has failed and communicates with them through multiple channels to identify the cause of the failed delivery. Once the customer has communicated the correct information or reason for failed delivery, the delivery can be attempted again, improving the odds of successful delivery and reducing RTOs (return-to-origin) for products.
4.6) Post-purchase customer engagement
Automation helps businesses communicate with their customers automatically across multiple channels to ensure that all relevant information and updates are sent to the customer. This improves customer engagement and reduces the instances of WISMO (where is my order?) calls for eCommerce companies.
5. What are the Key Benefits of Automation in eCommerce Fulfillment?
Automation helps businesses in multiple ways, however, there are certain areas where it especially excels. Here are the key benefits of eCommerce fulfillment automation.
5.1) Improves speed of operations
When eCommerce businesses automate their fulfillment processes, they reduce the amount of time spent in executing certain tasks. This is made possible through advanced algorithms that are developed to use consumer and business data to perform procedures in real-time without waiting for personnel to process information.
5.2) Reduces labour costs
Automation allows businesses to reduce their expenses for fulfillment operations by eliminating human labour from several processes. As more operations are automated, businesses do not need to hire labour for performing various tasks, as a single automated solution is able to perform a variety of tasks. Since automated platforms are simultaneously deployed in multiple locations, a single system is capable of managing different departments of the enterprise.
5.3) Eliminates human errors
Automated tools are extremely accurate. Since all the tasks are executed based on predefined parameters, the scope of committing an error is virtually zero with automated solutions. This allows businesses to reduce the amount of man-hours spent in verifying & checking information in order to ensure accurate order fulfillment.
5.4) Provides scalability
Automation tools are highly scalable. As the business grows, traditionally they would be required to hire more and more talent, making it unsustainable after a certain threshold. Therefore, automation is a great choice for businesses as it can be scaled up without effort as and when the business grows. This allows businesses to grow organically without having to worry about hiring new talent or outside help for continuing business operations.
6. Final thoughts
Automation in eCommerce fulfillment has allowed businesses to increase efficiency manifold. The capabilities of automated systems are far more efficient and greater than their human counterparts. Notably, when businesses use automated tools, they can utilize their hired talent for more strategic ventures, thereby increasing productivity within the enterprise.
In an increasingly competitive market, businesses need to use advanced solutions that can help them grow and scale without worrying about factors that have the potential to hold them back. Automation is one of the most intuitive solutions that helps eCommerce fulfillment become a breeze, and provides great scope for business growth.