Second to actually getting the sale, filling out the customer’s order is the most important thing you’ll have to do.
Getting your first order can be very exciting as it validates your business idea and is proof that your business works.
Keep in mind that no matter how good the user experience was, if the item takes too long to be sent to the customer and not packaged the way they expected it… you’ll most likely never see that customer again. You should think about and plan how you’ll deliver the products before you start business. If you have a bad, inefficient system for packaging and sending items out… you’ll be in big trouble when the orders start coming in.
This section will talk about way to simplify the job of filling out orders.
If you expect a large amount of orders you may want to consider outsourcing your fulfillment orders to another company. If you expect 100 orders a month on the other hand… you can probably do it yourself without too much trouble or time spent.
Systematizing The Process
Ultimately the goal of your business is to make it run itself. You want to make it as simple as possible while still fulfilling the needs of the business.
You should have a clear idea of exactly what steps each item goes through from where and when it’s bought or manufactured to how and when the item is packaged and delivered. Write down all the step that needs to be taken on paper, it should be clear enough that others will be able to understand it and run your business. Once you understand the whole system, take a close look at how things are done and try to find ways to simplify and automate it for maximum efficiency.
For small businesses this is the cheapest and most practical approach. This approach is good for those people who like to have control over how their items are shipped.
The space required to store your products depend on the product. Items such as books, CD’s, DVD’s, naturally take up much less space and storage should not be a problem. If your product is large and takes up a lot of space, you may want to consider renting a storage space or warehouse.
If you get a rental storage you can send your product orders directly to the storage and the rental company can load the product in your storage (expect an extra fee of course).
You’ll always want items on hand to ship and you’ll want to order a new batch of product before your current batch runs out. If you have a company that ships the products to you, check out how long it takes so you know when to order a new batch without running out of product.
If you get a lot of orders and you’re doing business out of your house… you can always hire an employee to assist you in doing the work.
If your website sells a lot of product you should consider outsourcing your fulfillments to a company that specializes in doing so.
There are many companies that handle the shipping and handling for small businesses and you don’t have to be a multimillion dollar company to be outsourcing this task. Since companies that specialize in large fulfillment orders are efficient and effective… getting them to do it is much cheaper then you developing your own system. These companies that specialize in fulfilling orders are called “fulfillment houses”.
Many Fulfillment houses offer extra services such as customer service and reporting.
Make sure you find out how the fulfillment house packages and delivers the products and check to see how often and how fast they ship out their products.
As an alternative to big fulfillment houses is that you can also pay someone to fulfill all the orders for you from their own home. Many stay at home mothers do this since they can look after the kids while working.
Finding The Best Fulfillment House For You
As with any purchase you make, you must do your research.
There are many types of fulfillment companies, some completely handle all your orders and others only deal with packaging and delivery. Find the one that works best for you.
The costs can vary for each company so be sure it’s worth it for you. Factor in the fact that you won’t be needing employees and the time saved.
We recommend you check out the following companies:
UPS offers a service to small business that coordinates all the shipping, delivery, supply, and orders into an efficient system. Check out:
Be sure that the company you hire is professional and strives towards good service. You’re putting your reputation into their hands.
Shipping And Handling
Some customers are picky with how items are shipped to them so it’s good to give your customers options when it comes to delivery. You should always include the option for express delivery.
Be sure to indicate clearly exactly how you ship the items and how long customers can expect to wait before they get their product.
Amazon.com is an expert when it comes to offering customers shipping and handling options.
Options will let the customer know exactly what they can expect and it gives them a little control which makes their shopping experience more enjoyable.
Shipping Labels And Postage
With the explosions of internet businesses came many advances in web business technology. Many shopping carts systems can now create a print ready shipping label for you to use on your packaging.
There are many companies that now allow you to create printable postage. You usually have to give them your Visa number and they charge you per postage. Here are some companies that offer printable online postages:
Most big shipping companies now allow you create your shipping labels and postage. FedEx, UPS and the US postal service are just some of the companies that do it. With the shipping companies you can create an account and have access to forms so you can print your own labels.
As a side note, you’ll want to invest in an accurate weight scale as the weight is a requirement with the shipping companies.
Many shipping companies can now pick up your items. If you set up a business account with the shipping company they’ll come by on a regular basis to pick up your items. Most shipping companies can pick up your items in under 2 hours.
The only prerequisite of having a company picks up your items is that they all need to be labeled with postage (which you can do online).
There should be an option on your shopping cart for international shipping. International shipping is somewhat expensive hence you should charge your customers more during the customer buying process.
When shipping internationally you’ll have to fill out a customs forms and several other forms (for most shipping companies). When making your labels online, most shipping companies will have the forms required for international destinations.
Keeping Things In Check On The Back End
Keeping your back end in check should be a big priority for any business owner. No matter how good the front end looks… if the back end is in disarray… nothing will work.
The best way to keep a well functioning back end is to create systems and develop good habits to prevent things from falling apart.
This is pretty straight forward and there isn’t any secret to this and if you outsource your order fulfillment this won’t be issue for you.
The best technique is to place the most commonly bought items in the most accessible location and do not place items that look identical next to each other (16gig and 8 gig iPods for instance) as you might pick up the wrong one.
Create shelving units and label the shelves accordingly.