Small businesses have often struggled with order fulfilment and with the current demands of today’s global shoppers, it is more challenging than ever to create an efficient and effective order fulfilment system.
Order fulfilment challenges
Businesses face several challenges throughout the order fulfilment process, from demand planning and inventory control to logistics and supply chain optimisation.
Demand planning is the ability to predict in advance, what the demand for a product will be and to have the right quantities of inventory stock available to meet that anticipated demand. Consumer buying habits are extremely difficult to predict and you can end up with inventory stock that doesn’t match what’s in demand or have too much of one item and not enough of another.
Take the time to understand your products, sales trends and history so you are better informed to accurately forecast demand across all channels. Predictive ordering software solutions improve demand forecasting and help small business better prepare for any unforeseen demand spikes.
Order fulfilment is all about meeting customer expectations and that’s hard to achieve if the items your customer wants are out of stock. Poor inventory control impacts everything from profitability to customer experience and often leads to rising fulfilment costs and dead inventory stock.
Conversely, effective inventory control allows you to know exactly what and how much inventory you have, and where it is located. This stock visibility is important to overcome the order fulfilment challenges that result in backorders, delays and disappointed customers.
Leverage the scope and potential of cloud-based inventory management systems and solutions to optimise inventory control and drive order fulfilment success.
What do you do when you are low on stock or out of stock completely and more importantly, how quickly can you get the products back in stock?
Partnering with the right suppliers will ensure a unified, collaborative supply chain where the management of supplier relationships is critical to the effectiveness of order fulfilment.
It is also important to identify potential supply chain risks to assess all possible scenarios and their likelihood of occurring. This way you can develop strategies to manage each of these risks to reduce order fulfilment challenges from unexpected events.
It takes a lot of effort to consistently ship the right package, to the right destination, on time and undamaged. There are many stages in an order fulfilment system. If you are taking orders through multiple channels it can further complicate things.
If in-store inventory is not being accurately tracked, orders could be sent to a store that doesn’t have the stock necessary to fill the order. A lack of real-time inventory control can result in eCommerce orders being filled at the expense of product availability for instore customers or stock on the shelf versus in a shopping cart is unaccounted for.
Implementing a fast and efficient order fulfilment process is one of the biggest challenges retailers face. Integrated systems with real-time inventory data and systematic returns management support the functionality required to operate a store as a fulfilment centre.
Systems should provide end-to-end visibility into customer orders and inventory stock to optimise fulfilment processes.
Transport and logistics
Rising transport costs continue to affect the order fulfilment industry, ultimately driving up the price for consumers. Resource management processes need to ensure that customer orders are prioritised to meet dispatch deadlines.
Spend time to understand your products and customer needs, evaluate various shipping options and shipping providers to choose the options that best suits your business. Have alternative delivery options to mitigate order fulfilment challenges caused by disruptions to shipping, such as airline strikes or road closures.
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.