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Steps in an e-commerce fulfillment operations: How can businesses sell to deliver?

Part of the recipe for building a following of devoted customers is an excellent approach to order fulfillment, in addition to having an interactive and mobile-optimized storefront, well defined marketplace listings, responsive customer service across all your channels and the best retargeting campaigns (to name a few e-commerce success elements).

As much as e-commerce businesses need to focus on the customer-facing elements of the business, to truly ensure success, they will also have to live under the maxim of “selling to deliver”.
E-commerce order fulfillment is one of the key backend procedures that supports the front-end efforts of e-commerce businesses in delivering product and satisfaction to customers.

What is E-commerce fulfillment?

E-commerce fulfillment or order fulfillment encompasses processes of executing online orders. This is the link in the e-commerce supply chain that oversees the receiving and managing of the inventory, processing orders, picking, and packing the right items, shipping them to customers, and handling returns.
          According to 73.6% of consumers, the delivery process is the most important aspect of an online purchase.

The process of fulfilling orders is virtually the same across every scale of e-commerce operations. But as your store gets bigger and the volume of orders get larger, there will be some advancements that you would want to consider such as automation technologies and integrations between your storefront and your inventory management system.

How to know when to outsource your E-commerce fulfillment operations?

Before we head on to the process, let us first know what are the indications that you may need to outsource your e-commerce fulfillment operations.

High-quality products are just one part of the e-commerce success equation. Once you’ve mastered other facets of the business such as pricing, marketing, customer service, to name a few, it will be evident in your order volumes and raving customer feedback that your brand or product has taken off.

Your orders outgrowing your team is a key indicator that you may need to outsource some expert help to avoid letting the quality of your service to suffer. Signals like fulfillment errors, less responsiveness to chats or miscommunications with customers, and losing focus on other important aspects of running your e-commerce business will manifest.

One common challenge among fast-growing brands and companies is demand planning. Overselling and understocking (and the opposite) can be costly not only in terms of sales but also in terms of your brand reputation. Online retailers can contact the customers to let them know that the item is out of stock, but instances like this may result in lost sales and negative consumer perception. Cases like this may deter consumers from purchasing as it may just be another case of an inaccurate stock listing.

Outsourcing fulfillment operations will not only improve the efficiency of your assets and resources but will also solve challenges that are directly affecting the customers such as lacking transparency due to mismanaged inventory and lack of integration across your e-commerce platforms.

In summary, here are the benefits of having a reliable e-commerce fulfillment partner:
  • Enhances customer satisfaction
  • Reduced delivery times
  • Optimized inventory management
  • Improves branding and sustainable packaging
  • Effective returns management
  • More focus on selling, branding, and other important aspects of business
In this blog, we are going to show you what goes behind the daily operations in our fulfillment centre. We hope this gives you an idea on what you need to consider as you scale up or expand your product offering and delivery across different markets.

How does E-commerce fulfillment work?

  • Inventory receiving, putaway, and storage

As mentioned in our previous blogs, inventory is the heart and soul of any retail business. Order fulfillment process doesn’t start only after a consumer purchase. It starts even before that.

 Inventory receiving and putaway is the start of the order fulfillment process. As the inventory is stocked or replenished, necessary quality checks are to be done to ensure the quality and quantity of the items as they are stored in the appropriate bins and added into the system.

A systematic putaway can help reduce the chances of misplacing or losing items, making sure that every single product is accounted for. Once orders are placed by consumers, an organized storage process will speed up the picking process as the location of products are easily tracked. It is also important for the accuracy of stocks being shown on your online store.

Once the inventory is received in our fulfillment centre, quality and quantity checks are being done to ensure that the right items are received before assigning SKU’s for speedy retrieval later. Once all items have been checked, it  will be sorted and stored in specific storage locations.

  • Order Processing, picking, and packing

The product selecting and packing processes are predetermined by an order processing management system for each received customer order. Order processing is initiated once an order is placed by a consumer through the online market. By integrating the ERPs with the shopping cart in an eCommerce storefront/ website or online marketplace, the fulfillment team will be notified of the items that they need to process and ship to the consumer as fast as they can.

As the orders are received, a pick list is created and given to the assigned picker who will locate the correct products according to the SKUs, color, quantity, size descriptions as detailed in the picking list. Proper checking and labelling of the inventory received becomes very important for the picking step to be fast and efficient.

Once the pick list has been completed, the packer will then pack the orders and will be ready for dispatch.

  • Shipping Orders

Shipping and logistics of the orders are the next most important step in the order fulfillment process. Following the picking and packing, the orders will then be dispatched through the customers’ chosen delivery service. As some transportation and distribution service providers may have different rules when it comes to sizing and dimension of the items, it is best to coordinate and follow these shipping rules with the delivery carrier to avoid unnecessary delays that may arise from rejection of the parcel due to non-conformity. Mastering the shipping process will give a satisfactory experience to your customers and will affect how your brand will be perceived in the long run.  

According to a 2018 study, free shipping was the most important benefit for online customers. It persuaded 83% of online buyers to make a purchase. Additionally, one of the main causes of shopping cart abandonment is the cost of shipping.

Speed is important, too: 25% of customers canceled their orders because of sluggish shipping.
  • Reverse Logistics

Reverse logistics is also referred to as returns management. Returns may occur due to reasons like lacking complete product details such as sizes and colors which may result in erroneous orders by the consumer.

Returns, when handled efficiently or avoided in the first place, is a win not only for your business, and your customers but for the environment as well. Adequate information will aid the buying decision of the consumer which may also result in positive feedback about the service. Placing a good and transparent return policy is helpful to manage this kind of situation.

Whenever returns happen, careful checking of the items returned has to be done to ensure that the items are still in good condition for restocking. Malfunctioning or soiled items are obviously not appropriate to be restocked anymore so they are either returned to the vendor or manufacturer or sent to the recycling center.


Customers are king in today's connected and sophisticated society. They are always searching for the best possible experience. In the thriving world of online businesses, the fulfillment process that is happening behind every parcel ordered has consequently become a crucial part of providing a great customer experience. effective e-commerce fulfillment implementation is required. Prioritizing how the fulfillment of the orders is done

To provide excellent delivery experiences for your customers and gain a competitive edge in the dynamically expanding market, observing the best practices in all aspects of e-commerce business is important, and that includes ensuring highly efficient product delivery.  

Don’t hold back on your e-commerce business success! Explore the ways you can win your customers here in the Middle East, Africa, and India! Reach out to us now via: contact@rsa.global

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