4 common pain points in e-commerce fulfilment

Gift boxes on white floor

Now more than ever, customers crave a seamless online shopping experience – and for their favourite brands to provide it as standard. This usually consists of an easy and enjoyable browsing session, finding what they want at a good price, receiving their goods quickly and being able to return them if needed, without fuss. At the retailer side, this is all made possible due to tight and efficient order fulfilment workflows – a glitch in which can lead to mistakes, delays, disgruntled customers and potential brand damage if reviews or word of mouth take a nosedive. 

Read on for 5 of the most common pain points in e-commerce fulfilment, and how retailers can tighten their processes to ensure their customers keep coming back for more.

1. Obscured multichannel sales

In this new age of e-commerce it’s rare for a brand to sell items through one channel alone (its website, for example). Customers now shop for their favourite branded products through Amazon, ASOS or Walmart, from high street bricks-and-mortar outlets and department stores, boutique Etsy stores, or even through social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

For a retailer, keeping track of all of these multichannel sales is critical to successful fulfilment. If sales for different channels come through separate, disconnected systems, or are centred on reams of spreadsheets that require hours of meticulous manual consolidation from staff, you risk data gaps, delays or even losing those all-important orders. 

Solution: Use a central source of truth for all channels

A retail operating system such as Brightpearl brings all order data from separate channels together into one central source of truth, so the entire business can access accurate insights that update automatically, all in one place. Brightpearl also easily extends to new apps and channels using its library of Plug & Play integrations, so retailers can expand or switch out channels as their business expands. This connectivity makes the order fulfilment process streamlined and seamless, and also facilitates amalgamated reports and easy performance assessments across the whole business.

Case Study: Unimart.com 

Online department store Unimart.com operates via a complex network of sales channels, but having moved the business from California to Costa Rica (where online shopping deliveries were often unreliable), the brand was well situated to dominate the market if they nailed their operations. After a surge of orders left their warehouses stuffed and deliveries significantly delayed, the team implemented Brightpearl and synced it with warehouse picking software Peoplevox – and was able to clear 3-4 months’ worth of backlogged orders in only one week. Read the full Unimart story here.

2. Slow order processing

Manual order processing might work temporarily if you’re a new business with a slow but steady stream of orders, but as business grows, delays can become one of the most negative impacts on customer satisfaction. These days shoppers expect to get their goods at lightning speed, especially when there are so many competing brands who have nailed next-day or even same-day delivery and raised consumer expectations across the board. 

There are plenty of points in the order process that can slow things down – manual picking and packing, using a glitchy or slow e-commerce platform or legacy ERP, over-dependence on spreadsheets, or a messy and obscured inventory system.

Solution: Automate and streamline your manual workflows 

When a retail business scales, automating your manual tasks should be the first port of call – and retail-focused software such as Brightpearl makes this easy. Its powerful Automation Engine automates time-intensive tasks not just in ordering but inventory, warehouse, shipping and fulfilment so that customers get their goods quicker – and formerly tied-up staff are free to work on other, more human-focused areas of the business such as customer service or growth. 

Case Study: Goose & Gander

Automation worked wonders for UK-based apparel brand Goose & Gander, who improved accuracy and increased order efficiency by an incredible 500% after their ERP-based order system crashed and created significant customer delays. Olly White, Director of the brand, said; “Brightpearl has totally transformed our business. We now feel in control of our behind-the-scenes processes and everything runs like clockwork, including our stock and order management,” said Olly.

“Our main priority when we signed up for Brightpearl was being able to successfully manage our stock and to get orders out the door as quickly as possible – Brightpearl have helped us do that, and lots more.” 

Read the full Goose & Gander story here.

3. Shipping errors

Customers expect their deliveries on time; when they don’t it’s corrosive to brand reputation as well as costly and time-consuming to correct. Incorrect addresses, sending out the wrong item, incomplete or damaged items and delayed deliveries all send the message to customers that your company isn’t trustworthy. Though a lot of the responsibility lies with shipping providers, it’s the retailer’s responsibility to choose one with the best performance record. Everything that happens before the item is shipped out should also be slick and efficient in kind. 

Solution: Combine high-quality shipping providers with high-end technology

Reliable operational software can automate clunky fulfilment processes such as picking and packing, inventory and warehouse communications and sending out tracking information to customers – so that when deliveries go out, they’re less impacted by slow logistics and human error. 

This comes in especially handy when unpredictable surges in demand have orders flooding in. A retail-focused operations system such as Brightpearl is designed to handle increases in orders and flexibly support a business as it scales, so a boost in popularity won’t impact your ability to send out packages on time. It also swiftly extends to popular 3PL and shipping providers such as Shipstation, FedEx or Hermes with its impressive library of Plug & Play integrations, so your data will flow seamlessly to the right place, for ultimate accuracy.

 4. Clunky, costly returns

The average e-commerce return rate hovers around 20-30%, and at huge cost to the retailer. It’s not just having a lost sale and having to refund the customer, but the cost of labour, inspection, shipping and other reverse logistics, which can end up costing around two thirds of the original item’s price. This includes any losses that are suffered as a result of customer acquisition (which is getting more and more expensive), if those paid for customers go on to return.

It’s vital to streamline and automate the sorting of returned packages, or you could face real erosion to profit margins – especially at peak times such as after Christmas. 

Solution: Automate the returns process

Processing returns can have multiple touch points – so rather than undergo the complex process of consolidating every point from warehouse, inventory to accounts, a retail operations system like Brightpearl should initiate actions across the various departments in your business automatically.  

With Brightpearl, having integrated, automated systems and centralised data helps to speed up the returns process and save money. Reduce labour and costs by including reason codes on in-package returns slips – so you can identify common trends, including problem suppliers or serial returners, and take action to reduce returns. Additionally, you can automatically keep customers informed at every stage of the returns process to reduce time and costs spent on manual customer service.

To see for yourself how Brightpearl’s retail operating system (ROS) transforms fulfilment processes for high growth e-commerce retailers, get in touch to book a demo with us today.