E-Commerce

Why Your E-commerce Business Needs Automated Order Fulfillment

A guide to fulfillment automation and how it helps enhance every warehousing process such as inbound inventory, picking, packing, sorting, and shipping.

Team Hopstack
September 13, 2022
Why Your E-commerce Business Needs Automated Order Fulfillment

If you run an e-commerce business, you already know how valuable time is. Consumers who shop online not only want to receive what they have ordered, but they want it to arrive as quickly as possible. People are relying heavily on online shopping for all their needs, and it is essential to understand how you can provide the best service to your customers so you earn their loyalty. Your Order Fulfillment time in today’s competitive age could make or break customers' perceptions about your customer service. 

According to many industry experts, one of the biggest challenges in an e-commerce business is always Order Fulfillment. This does not come as a surprise. When you ship hundreds of orders every week, a lot can go haywire. Keeping track of your Order Fulfillment efficiency with so many moving parts is challenging.  

There is so much information out there, and if you do not know where to start, automating Order Fulfillment of your e-commerce business can be overwhelming. In this article, we will be focusing on everything you need to know when it comes to Automating your Order Fulfillment.

Why is Automating your Order Fulfillment Necessary?

Let us understand this with an example. Consider two e-commerce businesses selling T-shirts. Brand A has over 50 varieties of T-shirts in different colors and sizes. They have a large warehouse and enough workforce to cover the floor. On the other hand, Brand B has a similar situation. Still, the only difference between the two e-commerce businesses is that Brand A follows traditional/manual Order Fulfillment and Warehousing techniques, and Brand B has implemented a fully-automated Order Fulfillment and Warehouse Management System.

Now, let us consider the following scenario - it is the holiday season, and both these brands have received many orders that have to be fulfilled at the earliest. Brand A has traditional Order Fulfillment, and the Warehouse Management team has to pick, pack, and ship manually at every stage. This scenario requires repetitive human intervention to process the order forward. It takes much longer and is more prone to human error, as the warehouse personnel has to pick the all the items in the order correctly then process the order to pack manually.

On the other hand, Brand B has automated every stage of the Order Fulfillment process, which is much quicker and is prone to minimizing error due to limited human interventions. Hence, in situations such as the holiday season, Brand B is more likely to fulfill all its orders on time.

The benefits of automating the Order Fulfillment process through an advanced Digital Warehouse System are limitless. As everything is taken care of by the Digital Warehouse System, there is little paperwork as data is now handled more efficiently by the system. By automating the Order Fulfillment process, orders can be shipped on time, with or without anybody having to monitor them. As the Digital Warehouse System plays a vital role in this process, the pricing for tasks like shipping is standardized. Tasks are created and handled by the Digital Warehouse System, meaning the warehouse functions at optimal levels, maximizing productivity and increasing profits for you as an e-commerce business owner.

Another significant benefit of implementing Automated Order Fulfillment and Management is the verification of payment and shipping addresses. When the customer places an order on your e-commerce platform, the system must automatically verify if the payment method is valid and if the shipping address provided is deliverable. Doing so can save you lots of time, as manually verifying payment methods and shipping addresses can take up large chunks of time for your warehouse team. Order abandonments and other payment-related frauds can be avoided when you automate these. 

How can Automated Order Fulfillment Simplify your e-commerce Business?

To understand how Automating your Order Fulfillment process can simplify your e-commerce business, let us go over a few key steps that take place in an e-commerce order processing:

Inbound Inventory

Inbound Inventory is one of the essential steps in warehousing. Regardless of what your warehouse stores, it is critical to ensure a smooth inbound process right from the beginning. Every inventory that comes in has to be verified, counted, and inspected to ensure every unit of inventory received is of acceptable quality. Inventory management is a very tedious task, and just like every intensive task, it is more prone to error. 

That is where automating the inbound process can help eliminate these challenges. Doing so would require minimum human efforts resulting in faster inbound processing and reduced errors.

Inventory Sorting and Storage

After the inventory is received, it needs to be sorted. There are various parameters on how inventory has to be sorted and categorized. Some warehouses might want to sort inventory based on faster-moving goods. At the same time, others might want to sort inventory based on weight and dimensions. In any case, choosing the suitable parameters is key to ensuring you are utilizing the warehouse space effectively. 

When you implement a fully automated Warehouse Management System, you get real-time recommendations to sort and store inventory to make the most of your warehouse space while keeping in mind inventory safety. A fully Automated Warehouse Management system suggests ideal locations for your inventory based on algorithmic and automated ABC analysis.

Order Processing

When you receive an order, the Order Processing Management System has to run a strategic workflow to pick, pack and ship the order as per requirements. It has to systematically create and execute tasks to carry out the Order Processing with minimum time and maximum accuracy.

Every order is unique, and it is essential to process it right every time to ensure your customers are happy. Using Automated Order Processing guarantees every step in the order fulfillment process is streamlined and error-free. 

Picking

The picking process can be very challenging in a warehouse with a large inventory. Finding all the right items in an order and picking them up is tedious if your warehouse does not have an Automated Warehouse Management System. The idea behind automated picking is simple; the Warehouse Management System accurately knows precisely where a particular item is located. The system directs the warehouse associate to that location to ensure error-free picking. 

If your warehouse has robotic picking, things work much smoother, and the Warehouse Management or Control System directs the device to the location to pick the item accurately. In any case, Automated Picking can be a considerable advantage to e-commerce businesses.

Packing

The packing station is managed by the packing team or automated using robotic devices in a few warehouses. In any case, it is imperative to choose suitable packing materials. The priority is to achieve the lowest possible dimensional weight. While that is a priority, it is equally essential to ensure we are not compromising on package quality to make sure the order is not getting damaged during shipping. Implementing an Automated Warehouse Management System provides suitable recommendations on packaging materials to achieve all of the above requirements.

Shipping

The packed order is sent to the shipping partner in this section. The main objective of the Automated Digital Warehouse System is to recommend the optimal shipping solution. The system recommends the best shipping option among multiple solutions like airlines, freight lines, and postal services to find the right balance between delivery time and cost. All of this happens considering the shipping route, expected order delivery time, dimensional package weight, and many other parameters.

Returns Management

One of the most critical parts of any e-commerce business is Returns Management. Over 65% of online shoppers want to know if they can return the product if needed before placing an order on the e-commerce platform. Having a solid return policy and return management is key to running a successful e-commerce business. Hence, automating the returns process can be particularly beneficial. 

The main challenge in processing returns is validating them. You need to verify why the customer is returning an order before approving it. Once you approve the return, you must track the package back to your warehouse and check if the product qualifies for resale. That’s not all; customers expect different things from their returns, so you need to check beforehand if the customer wants a refund or an exchange, then do the needful. Having to do all of this manually can be very tedious and time-consuming.

When you implement an automated return process, all of this will be handled effectively by the Digital Warehouse System. As a result, the customers get what they want as quickly as possible, while e-commerce business owners can ensure their order return rate is as low as possible. 

To know more about the best practices for managing order returns, we recommend you go through this article.  

How does Automated Order Fulfillment Impact Omnichannel Strategy?

If your business has both a brick-and-mortar and an e-commerce store, Omnichannel Fulfillment can pose a challenge. In Omnichannel Fulfillment, effective warehousing and logistics are vital. Implementing Automated Order Fulfillment can facilitate order processing with fewer errors and faster shipping. As an e-commerce business owner, you can easily track your inventory throughout your warehouses and store locations. When a customer places an e-commerce order, you realize that a particular item is out of stock in your warehouse. You can instantly check if the same item is in stock at one of your stores and arrange for a pickup, ensuring all your orders are processed and shipped on time. Automating Order Fulfillment for your Omnichannel Business can significantly reduce your order cancellation rate due to inventory stock-outs. 

There are more benefits to Automating Order Fulfillment for your Omnichannel Business. As you have complete transparency of your inventory, you can confidently put them on sale and allocate them to each channel without wondering if you have enough stock in your warehouse. Doing so can help you drive more orders and increase your profits. According to the National Retail Federation, business owners and retail supply chain operation executives believe they can improve their earnings by over 10% each year if they automate their operations. That’s not all; Warehouse Automation technology is expected to grow and penetrate 80% of the industry within the next two years. More and more organizations are adopting modern technology to scale their business to the next level. In today’s challenging market, it is high time to get your e-commerce business acquainted with a robust Warehouse Management System that can effortlessly automate your Omnichannel Strategy and Order Fulfillment process to beat your competition to the punch. 

How can Hopstack Transform Your e-commerce Business?

With Hopstack, not only can you automate the Order Fulfillment process, but you can also do a lot more. Hopstack’s Integration Library, warehouse managers, and business owners can effortlessly synchronize more than twenty-five different e-commerce platforms and leading marketplaces all in one place. Every bit of information seen on the dashboard, be it orders, inventory information, or shipping details, is synchronized in real-time, so you do not miss anything.

With Hopstack’s Unified Order Management dashboard, you can access and handle orders from all e-commerce channels and offline channels like physical brick-and-mortar stores to gain complete control of all your orders from one dashboard. In scenarios where you need to know more, Hopstack’s Audit Trail feature provides complete details on the journey of each order.

Hopstack’s Automation modules use advanced AI algorithms to optimize inventory planning and placement. Hopstack’s intelligent AI algorithm combines order picking to reduce fulfillment time when there are similar orders from multichannel platforms. Hopstack recommends suitable packaging materials for each order along with automated carbonizations. Hopstack recommends the best shipping service considering real-time quotes and quick shipping routes with advanced shipping integration.

Schedule a demo with our product experts to learn more about Hopstack’s Automated Order Fulfillment strategy and Omnichannel Order Management suite. We at Hopstack understand what it takes to run a successful e-commerce business, and hence we are with you every step of the journey!

Team Hopstack Author
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Team Hopstack

Hopstack brings you the latest articles, guides and long-form explainers on topics relating to warehousing technology and automation, supply chain and robotics