How Does the Order Fulfillment Process Impact Customer Experience?

There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to running a modern, growing online business, and order fulfillment may often be overlooked. But, we’re here to tell you that it shouldn’t be.

Did you know your order fulfillment process directly impacts your customer experience? While slow shipping speeds and boring, generic boxes will leave customers frustrated and unexcited about your brand, a speedy delivery with customized boxes can help you deliver a better customer experience—one that satisfies your customers and give them a personal connection with your brand that will lead to repeat sales.

What Is Customer Experience?

Essentially, the customer experience, or CX, can be defined as the “impression you leave with your customer, resulting in how they think of your brand across every stage of the customer journey.” Multiple touch points factor into the customer experience process—for example, when a current or potential customer visits your website, interacts with your social media pages, buys a product from you, calls up one of your sales or support reps, or engages with your brand in virtually any way, it influences their customer experience. The order fulfillment process is no exception, and we’ll get to that in a moment!

The Importance of the Customer Experience

The reason the customer experience is so important is because, well, your customers are so important. Without people to buy your products, your online business wouldn’t be able to keep its virtual doors open very long. The problem is that today’s marketplace is incredibly competitive, especially for online sellers. There are many businesses out there selling similar products that can do similar things. So how can you differentiate?

When you’re able to give each and every customer a pleasant or unique customer experience, it can help you develop an incredibly valuable competitive advantage. How? If a customer has a great experience with your brand, they’ll keep coming back to you time and time again. With so many options out there, determining which products and services are actually worth buying can be an overwhelming task for consumers. So, when they find a brand they like, they’re likely to stick with them long-term—largely because it’s so much easier than having to repeat the daunting research process and take a risk on a new company all over again.

So, if you can provide the customer experience of your target audience’s dreams, you can build brand loyalty that drives repeat business—plus gets your customers to refer your business to their friends and leave you positive online reviews. This will help amplify the reach of your brand and build your customer base even further, meaning more revenue and lower new customer acquisition costs!

What Is the Order Fulfillment Process?

There are a lot of steps in the order fulfillment process, only some of which are visible to the consumer. But they all work together to deliver an ideal or unique customer experience. Here’s a quick look at some of what goes into successful order fulfillment.

  • Order Processing: Customer orders are placed online or over the phone.
  • Picking: The merchant physically retrieves the correct items for storage.
  • Quality Check: The item is inspected for any damage.
  • Packaging: The item is packed for shipping. This important step has many considerations, including product fragility, weight and dimension, type of box, and cushioning materials. 
  • Shipping: Once packaged, the item is ready for shipping. This is when the most efficient method for transportation is decided based on the packaging considerations and the customers needs.
  • Tracking: Products are tracked to be sure they arrive at their final destination, and if possible, customers are provided notifications on when to expect their order.
  • Returns Management: Even these best companies have occasional returns. Returns management is taking the appropriate measure (refund, return and replace, etc) based on internal policy when a customer is not satisfied.

5 Ways to Improve the Order Fulfillment Process for a Better Customer Experience

Today’s eCommerce shoppers have pretty high expectations; online retail giants such as Amazon have spoiled them into thinking all products must arrive at lightning-fast speeds and that all shipping should be free. While offering this isn’t always a possibility for small and medium-size online sellers (although you should check out our blog How to Offer Free Shipping for ideas), an excellent order fulfillment process can still transform your user experience. Here are five ways to do this:

1. Provide an Easy Ordering Experience

This is step one in the fulfillment journey. If your customer can’t place an order with ease, they’re likely to become frustrated. It’s important to be sure your website is easy to navigate. It also needs to be responsive, meaning it will automatically adjust to whatever size device your customer is ordering on (after all, studies show that today more than 50% of all internet traffic shopping is done on a mobile device.

Another thing to remember: Don’t surprise your customers at checkout with hidden prices. One of the biggest frustrations for buyers is to discover the cost of shipping at the end of their transaction. If the amount is too high, they may abandon their cart and look elsewhere (estimates reveal that 55% of abandoned carts are due to shipping costs). So, depending on your product, you might consider a flat-rate shipping system to provide the fee upfront. Or, allow them to enter their zip code before they’ve progressed to the checkout so that the shipping costs can be calculated prior to checkout.

One final thing to consider if you have enough volume is to have staff on hand to answer customer questions via phone; or, your website could include an artificial intelligence-enabled chatbot to answer basic questions. If neither of these are an option, make sure you have a robust FAQ section on your website.

2. Deliver on Shipping Speed Demands

Thanks to the rise of new technologies, consumers are demanding faster shipping speeds than ever before. With Amazon Prime’s one- or two-day delivery speeds being the new norm, can you blame them? If you want to deliver a great user experience that turns one-time customers into repeat buyers, you need to be able to align with these evolving expectations. After all, if you can’t keep up with shipping demands or have a slow fulfillment process that pushes back your delivery timelines, your customers will simply turn to competitors who can get them the products they need faster. In fact, 53% of consumers say they’ve abandoned an online purchase because of slow delivery times.

By working with a fulfillment company who has a streamlined, efficient order fulfillment process, you can ensure your products are getting to your customers safely and quickly. For example, the Fulfillment Lab works with DHL to provide exclusive Time Definite express services that guarantee delivery in two to three days. Similar to Amazon Prime’s two-day shipping speeds, DHL can guarantee international door-to-door delivery by a specific time, or by the end of the next possible business day.

By working with a fulfillment company who has a streamlined, efficient order fulfillment process, you can ensure your products are getting to your customers safely and quickly. When your customers get their packages when you say they will, they’ll be satisfied with the user experience and more likely to purchase from you again. This is a huge area of opportunity because if you have a fulfillment company that is able to deliver your products on time, you can develop a valuable competitive advantage and stand out from the competition that doesn’t have such a reliable, efficient fulfillment process.

3. Increase Accountability and Visibility

Think about the last time you got a confirmation email after making an online purchase that said your package would arrive Monday, but it didn’t show up until Thursday. You weren’t very happy, were you? You’re not the only one! Consumers are experiencing a decline in the quality of service provided by fulfillment companies. In 2018 alone, 78% of consumers say they experienced packages arriving late (up from 70% in 2017), and 56% received damaged packages (up from 42% in 2017).

If you’re wondering how to improve your customer experience, increasing transparency and accountability can certainly help. By working with a fulfillment company who can ensure your products are delivered on-time and damage-free, you can better satisfy your customers. But let’s be realistic—sometimes, mistakes happen. That’s why it’s important to work with a fulfillment company who can also be transparent about their fulfillment logistics and provide real-time visibility into their end-to-end fulfillment process. This way, if there is an unfortunate error, you can see exactly where it was made so you can reach out to the customer, provide accurate updates, and ensure the issue doesn’t happen again in the future.

This transparency can go a long way in delivering a great customer experience and building long-term brand loyalty! In fact, 53% of consumers are likely to consider brands that they feel are transparent, and 94% say they are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers transparency. This is yet another area of opportunity that the Fulfillment Lab’s partnership with DHL can help you take advantage of! Time Definite express services ensure fast delivery that will help you align with consumer preferences on shipping speeds and provide full visibility for end-to-end tracking and customs clearance. This can enable you to give your customers the full transparency they’re looking for!

4. Get Personal with Fulfillment Marketing

Most fulfillment companies will pick, pack, and ship your products in generic, boring old brown boxes. But, let’s be real—that’s not very exciting and it does nothing to help your brand stand out. With increasing competition for eCommerce businesses, you need a way to differentiate and build brand recognition. The solution? An idea we invented called fulfillment marketing. With fulfillment marketing, you have the ability to tailor the fulfillment experience based on the preferences and buying history of your specific customers, not general trends.

Through customized packaging, inserts, coupons, and more, you can deliver a personalized, unique customer experience—one that can change dynamically with a few clicks—based on each buyer’s demographics, purchase history, and stage in the buyer’s journey.

This can effectively turn one-time buyers into repeat customers and loyal advocates for your brand! As a matter of fact, personalization can reduce customer acquisition costs by as much as 50%, increase revenue by 5–15%, and increase marketing spend efficiency by 10–30%. Plus, it will help your package stand out in a sea of boring brown boxes on doorsteps, helping you to leave a lasting impression with each customer and build a recognizable brand.

5. Provide Excellent Returns Management

Returns happen to the best of us, but the good news is that 92% of consumers surveyed said that they will buy again if the product return process is easy. So, to keep customers coming back, it’s important to allow returns—and that requires a strong online returns management system.

To provide an excellent returns management, there’s a few things to consider:

  • Controllable vs. uncontrollable returns. Are the majority of your returns controllable (a poor online description led to a customer getting something other than what they expected or an item was poorly packaged resulting in damage) or uncontrollable (a customer simply had a chance of heart)? While you can’t fix uncontrollable returns, controllable returns can be repaired to reduce returns (for example, better item descriptions or stronger packaging/insulation).
  • Have a clear return policy. Make sure your return policy is clearly stated on your website (and include a hardcopy on it in your shipping package). This makes sure there is no confusion on the customers’ part about refunds, exchanges, return deadlines, etc.
  • Use an order fulfillment center. Returns management is one of the most time-consuming tasks a small or medium-sized business must take on. But they don’t have to! With a fulfillment center, you can offload this work to a third-party logistics (3PL) company that will handle after-sales support following a return, recouping money or credit from couriers if an issue was their fault, shipping a replacement item to the customer, and answering customer questions.

Are You Ready to Elevate Your Order Fulfillment Process?

"The key is to set realistic customer expectations and then not just to meet them, but to exceed them – preferably in an unexpected and helpful way."

      - Sir Richard Branson

Now that you know just how crucial your order fulfillment process is to your customer experience, you’re probably wondering how you can actually implement changes in your own online business to improve it. The Fulfillment Lab is here to help! Our fulfillment services include:

  • Reliable global fulfillment
  • 14 total fulfillment centers (2 domestic and 12 international) for faster deliveries
  • Expedited shipping options with delivery guaranteed in 3 days or less
  • End-to-end visibility throughout our entire fulfillment process
  • Proprietary, easy to use fulfillment software
  • Customized packaging for limitless branding potential
  • Dynamic integration with every major eCommerce system

It’s time to say goodbye to a slow, disorganized, and complex fulfillment process with limited visibility and hello to fast, simplified, reliable fulfillment that makes your customer experience unique and efficient to every buyer—even at mass volume! Ready to get started? Contact us today!

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