Creating a backend process for smooth online sales: Tips for small business

4 minute read

As you accelerate your move into online retail and start to receive more online orders, it’s important to stay on top of your growing e-commerce operations and ensure you are working as efficiently as possible.

From receiving an order to the moment it’s shipped to your customer, there are key areas within your operations to keep top of mind.

We’ll look at a few of these elements and provide you with guidance on how you can create or improve operational best practices within your business.

Receiving and managing orders

As you receive online orders, creating an organized and effective system is critical to ensuring you can manage new orders while also meeting your customers’ expectations and continuing to move your product.

There are many ways you can manage your inventory between your online and physical stores. You can manage inventory on your own – manually inputting and tracking sold versus available items – or you may choose to leverage a technology based solution from one of our partners that integrates with your point of sale systems.

You should also think about how you will manage orders in a physical space.

Optimizing your space

Establishing a separate area for unsold inventory, inventory that’s been purchased but not yet packaged and packages ready to be sent out can help you stay organized and keep orders moving in a timely fashion. Maintaining a clear distinction between inventory that can be sold versus inventory already spoken for is imperative for seamless operations.

Eliminating surprise from shipping

For your customers benefit, you will want to clearly outline shipping costs and expected delivery timelines at checkout.

With the current increase of e-commerce purchases being shipped, providing upfront information about fulfillment and potential shipping delays due to an increase of online activity is a critical element of meeting customer expectations.

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Preparing for shipping

As you are receiving orders, you also need to focus on fulfilling them.

The pick-and-pack stage is where you pick the items purchased from your inventory and pack them into appropriate packaging to safely ship them to your customers.

Efficient pick and pack processes are centered on managing costs, minimizing errors and managing customer expectations.

Keep in mind that when you give customers a delivery timeline, you should factor in the time it will take for you to fulfill their orders as well as the time it will take to ship.

There are a few different approaches you can take to determine how you’ll prioritize the flow of your order fulfillment. Here are some systems you can implement to fulfill your e-commerce orders:

  • First-in-first-out (FIFO) – Ship orders placed the previous evening until your cut-off time.
  • Speed – Prioritize orders such as those marked for next-day-delivery or those with a greater distance to travel.
  • Product deliverability – Ship when all items in an order are in stock.
  • Customer-service focused – Prioritize exchanges or replacements, or delight your most loyal customers with faster delivery times.

How well you pick and pack depends on how you access your inventory, how you optimize your packaging for your products and how you organize your space to process your orders.

Creating an organized, easy to manage and easy to follow protocol will enable your business to experience success and result in a better customer experience.

Optimizing packaging for customer experience

When it comes to packaging your products for shipment, the three packaging categories to choose from are boxes, protective mailers and bags.

Each come with their own benefits and draw backs. For example, boxes are stronger and more versatile, whereas protective mailers are light weight and cost effective.

You’ll want to evaluate the most compact way to ship your products. You don’t want to be filling boxes with a bunch of excess filler, but you also don’t want to be squeezing too many products into a polybag mailer. Ensuring your packaging fits your products snugly while offering enough protection during shipping is a tough balance, but one worth striving for.

Efficient packaging is also a great way to minimize the costs on your bottom line. Using the right materials and the right packaging can keep your costs in check, add value to your customers’ experience and can even be used as a marketing tool to further promote your brand.

Managing customer expectations through the delivery experience

Once packaged, you’re ready to ship your orders.

Give your customers a delivery experience with realistic timelines surrounding the expected delivery date of their order. As a matter of best practice, provide this information well before a customer completes their purchase. With a clear understanding of when to expect their products, customers can confidently proceed with payment.

Given the increased popularity of e-commerce shopping, if you are experiencing delays – whether due to your own fulfillment or challenges faced by your shipping partner – be sure to keep your customers informed.

Providing this information upfront helps customers avoid surprise pain points during the delivery experience. If you are shipping with a service that offers parcel tracking, provide customers with the tracking numbers so they can stay informed as their package makes its way to them.

The more steps you take to make the customer experience as seamless as possible, the more likely they’ll be to shop with you again in the future.

Setting your business up for success

It’s important to remember that your online storefront is an extension of your brand and your physical location. By establishing an organized end-to-end process, you set yourself up for short term and long term success.

Taking the time to institute practices that will allow you to manage orders and meet customer expectations, expedite the fulfillment process and take advantage of the best shipping practices for your business will help in establishing your online business for growth.

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See our tips to save time and money on packaging and shipping.

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