7 Steps to Streamline Your eCommerce Order Fulfillment Process

ecommerce order fulfillment

Projections reveal that by 2021, e-commerce sales will account for approximately 17.5 percent of all worldwide retail sales. 

However, as demand continues to grow, the challenges of running e-commerce stores are bound to increase. One process that becomes a lot more complicated is that of fulfilling customers’ orders.

E-commerce order fulfillment is one of the most critical processes for any e-commerce store. Without a proper order fulfillment process, you will not be able to deliver products to your customers when they expect them.

This article will discuss what order fulfillment is and the various steps you can take to streamline that process.

What Is E-Commerce Order Fulfillment?

E-commerce fulfillment involves obtaining and processing orders and delivering the completed orders to the customer.

The first step of order management is the receipt of inventory from your suppliers or producers.

After receiving, counting, inspecting, labeling, and adding to your warehouse management software, the product can now be shelved and ready to be shipped to the customer upon request.

The speed and efficiency at which you are able to handle this process will have a significant impact on your bottom line.

The following are 7 tips to streamline order management process.

1. Automate

As your online business grows and more and more orders stream in, you will soon find that your old methods will no longer serve you as well as they used to. At this point, it is necessary that you consider investing in an automated solution.

Technology is necessary for two primary reasons: it reduces human error and it makes business operations much more efficient. When it comes to order fulfillment, those are two areas where you need to enlist all the help you can get.

As such, your online business should be taking advantage of e-commerce tools to help in smoothening operations. Automation helps in cutting out any manual or repetitive steps that limit the effectiveness of your fulfillment process.

2. Integrate With All Your Partners

Chances are that you do not manufacture the products you are selling. You probably outsource your wares from several suppliers, store them in warehouses, then drop-ship them to your customers.

If that is how you run your operations, then it is imperative that you have seamless connections with all your distributors. This can be made possible by an order management system.

3. Incorporate End-to-End Order Visibility

If you have already enabled the order management system, it means that you now have a real-time link to your suppliers. The next thing is to ensure that you can see everything that happens in the supply chain.

This is what is known as visibility.

It means that both you and the distributors should have access to everything that has to do with the e-commerce fulfillment process. Visibility allows all of you to know what items are available, their quantities, and where they are located.

Moreover, shoppers browsing on your site should be able to tell whether a product is in stock and how much of it there is.

End-to-end visibility is one of the most integral aspects of an efficient order management process as it guarantees customer satisfaction.

4. Have the Right Shipper

Now that you have your side of the operations running smoothly, the only thing remaining to complete the order fulfillment process is shipping.

Shipping is arguably the most important aspect of e-commerce fulfillment. This is because regardless of how efficient your other processes are, it is your shipper who determines whether your goods will arrive on time or not.

Therefore, if you have a less than stellar shipper, there will be delays in delivery and customers will feel shortchanged. Unfortunately, you will still take the blame.

This is why you need to invest your time and resources in looking for a reputable shipper with a track record of efficiency and timeliness.

5. Evaluate Your Promises

In a bid to create a reputation for themselves, businesses will make various promises to their customers.

Some will promise the lowest priced products while others might promise high-quality goods and value for money. Others will swear to deliver faster than anyone else.

Unfortunately, you cannot promise quick delivery if there’s an element of your order fulfillment process that prevents that from happening.

Therefore, it is best to manage expectations and be frank about when the customer can realistically expect their goods. This will help prevent disappointments.

6. Consider Your Warehousing Strategies

Since customers want their orders completed and delivered as quickly as possible, check whether your warehousing strategy is coming in the way of that. Ideally, you want to be using either or both of the following warehousing strategies:

  • Choosing a warehouse and shipper that can meet your quick-picking and quick-shipping needs

  • Storing your goods in various warehouses, located across your delivery areas thus allowing you to be closer to your customers

Whatever warehousing strategy you choose, it must be focused on enhancing your efficiency and enriching customer experience.

7. Keep in Touch with Your Customers

Remember, the whole idea behind streamlining your order management process is to give your customers the best online shopping experience.

As such, you need to be in constant communication with them throughout the process. Let them know when you have received the order, once you begin processing, once you ship, and when it is delivered. This shows that you care.

Summing It Up

E-commerce order fulfillment consists of all the activities involved in seeing to it that a customer’s order is processed and delivered to them in good time.

It is what decides whether a customer will have a good experience with you or not.

As such, it is in your best interests not to give your customers a reason to jump ship. An efficient e-commerce fulfillment strategy will go a long way in improving your customer experience.

Nonetheless, in order to make that possible, you need the guidance of an experienced and reliable e-commerce support provider.

The Marketplace Valet is one of the best resources for e-commerce entrepreneurs. If you are looking for strategies to help improve your bottom line, check out our blog.


Your Guide to Ecommerce Order Fulfillment

ecommerce order fulfillment

Congratulations! You’ve got a product people want. They’re clicking and providing payment information.

Now you need to get the product in their hands.

How quick and reliable is your ecommerce fulfillment process?

If you’re like most online retailers, your business could improve its fulfillment practices. But what are your gaps? How can you close them?

To help you find the answers, here’s a quick guide to ecommerce order fulfillment.


What Is Ecommerce Order Fulfillment?

Ecommerce order fulfillment is a series of processes. It starts with product availability and ends with your customer receiving and keeping your product.

There are three order fulfillment models:

  • Drop-Shipping

  • In-House

  • Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Each model has benefits and drawbacks. Deciding which is best for your company boils down to risk management.

But no matter which model you choose, ecommerce order fulfillment spans the same basic stages:

  • Receiving

  • Storage

  • Picking

  • Packing

  • Shipping

  • Returns

The more you understand each stage, the better equipped you are to make the right decision for your business.



This stage refers to products being received by the point of shipment.

That could be your warehouse or garage if you do your own fulfillment. With drop-shipping and 3PL, receiving means the exact products you sell arrived intact at the provider’s warehouse.

In the drop-shipping scenario, you rely on invoicing and tracking to know the inventory.

When you use the 3PL model, you send your products to the provider, which offers greater certainty about inventory.



It would be great if products could be received then immediately shipped. But for most businesses, that’s not possible.

Storage becomes a necessity when you have multiple product lines, sell at high volumes, or have sales peaks and valleys.

At first glance, storage might seem to be about space. In reality, it’s about much more.

The amount of physical space is the start. You need enough to hold all the products you expect to sell in whatever window of time you deem appropriate. Plus enough space for people to move through when picking the products for shipping.

More space equals more money in rent or mortgage. It’s space you can’t use for something else.

Storage facilities need to be climate controlled and secure. That takes resources as well as expertise.

With DIY fulfillment, you carry all the risk of storage.

The drop-shipment and 3PL ecommerce order fulfillment models divert that risk to the service providers, as long as you vet your fulfillment provider well.



Putting together a customer’s order starts before the actual picking of products from storage.

It starts with communication. How will the order picker know which products to select for packing?

There’s a wide range of ecommerce platforms. What kind of picklist does yours generate? What controls does it offer?

As the merchant, you need confidence that pickers get the details of each order quickly and without errors. Look for a system that leaves nothing but the physical retrieval vulnerable to human error.

And even that can be minimized with sophisticated validation processes.

When vetting drop-shipment or 3PL ecommerce order fulfillment companies, talk about picking accountability. Choose a company that is efficient, timely, and accurate.



How something arrives on the customer’s doorstep must be part of your marketing plan.

Beyond packing items so they arrive undamaged, think about the look and feel of the box and labeling. Think about how you want your customer to feel when they see the package and when they open it.

More than ever, packing orders is also about packaging. As online shopping grows more commonplace, expectations get higher. How a product is packed and packaged is part of the shopping experience for many people.

Off-the-shelf cardboard boxes might work for small businesses getting off the ground. But even they should consider packaging that extends a great customer experience beyond digital and into the real world.

Doing this yourself as part of in-house fulfillment can become costly. Packaging isn’t your core business.

But it is for high-quality 3PLs. Make sure your provider is open to working with you to establish the best packaging options and packing processes for your products. Check that they have ready access to the skills and equipment to make your packaging as outstanding and exciting as your products.



Customers are getting more impatient. In 2015, 96% of people surveyed considered “fast shipping” to be same-day delivery.

What if it takes 3-4 days? Sixty-three percent of people thought that was fast. And if it takes 5-7 days, that number drops to 18%.

In other words, you can’t mess around with shipping times. It’s imperative to your customers’ satisfaction. It’s vital to what they’ll say to their friends and family about your product and their experience.

You need an order fulfillment method that can get the order picked, packed, and out the door in hours, not days. Not every fulfillment company can do that.

It takes dedicated resources, refined processes, and strong relationships with freight carriers and couriers in multiple regions. And to keep the cost down, it takes consistently high volumes.



No business likes to plan for product returns but they happen. Handling them in-house can be cumbersome.

If you partner with a professional ecommerce order fulfillment company, they will have the facilities and resources to receive, validate, and process the return on your behalf.


What to Look for in an Order Fulfillment Partner

Order fulfillment is a critical part of your ecommerce business. You can do it yourself. Or, you can find a reliable fulfillment service provider and stay focused on your core business drivers.

But be careful. It’s easy for a company to have a warehouse and shipping dock and call themselves a fulfillment business.

For the health of your business, look for a company that acts more like a partner.

Find out what kind of support they offer. Are they supply-chain experts who can help you avoid pitfalls and issues? Are they equipped to support your multi-channel selling? Do they know the ins and outs of international shipping?

What’s their accuracy rate and processing time? Can they handle unexpected spikes in sales? Do they have a reliable return system that aligns with your customer service style and standards?


Get the Right Fulfillment Partner

At Marketplace Valet, we offer all that and much more. We’ve taken 3PL to the next level and help a wide range of online businesses achieve sustainable growth.

How does your current ecommerce order fulfillment process measure up?

If there’s room for improvement, discover how to get started with us today!