Guide

Fulfilling online orders

Physical delivery of goods

Ensuring that customer orders are delivered quickly and efficiently is integral to any e-commerce service. Delivering what you promised relies on seamless interaction between your business processes and the actual fulfilment service that you use.

For those products requiring a physical delivery, the issues associated with conventional logistics need to be addressed alongside the technology needed to manage the process.

Distribution channels

The distribution channels available for the delivery of these goods include sending the goods directly from:

  • your own business to your customer
  • a local warehouse to your customer
  • national distribution centres to your customers
  • digital distribution

For businesses selling small numbers of small items, using postal or courier services is likely to provide a satisfactory solution. Outsourcing your distribution may also be an affordable alternative for your business.

Linking processes and tracking goods

Linking processes and tracking orders allow you to predict delivery times earlier on. Thi lets you keep customers updated on where their goods are and improve your service.

This can be achieved through a single, shared database as long as your staff are trained to keep it up to date at all stages of the process. If you outsource your delivery requirements, many logistics companies offer delivery tracking as part of their service, which you can use to advise customers.

More sophisticated techniques for doing this include:

  • Enterprise resource planning software, which integrates product planning, parts purchasing, maintaining inventories and tracking orders into one system.
  • Radio frequency identification (RFID), which involves tagging objects so that they can be tracked. RFID tags can be read by equipment that is out of line of sight, at a range of around 6 metres to 30 metres or more, depending whether they are passive or active tags. While the reading range of passive tags is less, they are considerably less expensive - they also don't use battery power like active tags - and can be disposed of with the product packaging.

Handling customer returns

Not all customers will be happy with the quality of products purchased via the internet and there will undoubtedly be a certain percentage of defective or damaged products, irrespective of the quality or type of product being sold.

The fulfilment process must therefore include the capability for handling the returns. This should include giving the customer the option to have a replacement item supplied or their money refunded. Agreed procedures should be in place to facilitate either option. Read more about customer protection.

It is important that your business monitors why and how often individuals or companies return goods. If your business runs a customer relationship management system then this is the best place to do it.