Order fulfillment software is critical to the success of your eCommerce business. The right software can uncomplicate multichannel fulfillment and save you money with better inventory management. Your eCommerce fulfillment processes will run more smoothly once you have the right order management system in place. You’ll see fewer errors and customer service nightmares,
But successful eCommerce automation through order fulfillment software doesn’t happen by magic. It starts with thorough research to find the right solutions to help you manage your order fulfillment processes efficiently. Here are the basics to help you find the best order fulfillment software for you.
What is fulfillment software?
Order fulfillment software is one or more integrated apps that help you manage core order fulfillment functions. Your order management suite should include these functionalities:
- Automated warehouse management system (WMS): You only need this if you handle your fulfillment in-house. If you use a 3PL, your fulfillment company should have a WMS in place.
- Inventory management: Gain visibility and insights about your inventory for better inventory planning and demand forecasting.
- Multichannel order management: This lets you view orders from all your eCommerce platforms in a single dashboard.
- Across-the-board integration with all of your sales channels: Integration is critical.
- Product management: Track and catalog all the items you sell.
- Track backorders: With improved inventory management, you should have fewer backorders, but you can’t plan for every possible supply chain disruption. Your order fulfillment should be capable of tracking backorders to make sure you fill them as quickly as possible.
- Track orders: Follow orders from the shopping cart, through the pick and pack process, to shipping and delivery.
Types of order fulfillment software
There are many apps to improve your order fulfillment processes. The trick is to choose the right software for your eCommerce business and sync all your systems to work together. Here are a few of the types of order fulfillment software to consider.
Multichannel order management
Multichannel order fulfillment software can help you with a variety of tasks. Here are a few of the ways software automates omnichannel fulfillment operations:
- Manage product listings across sales channels
- Streamline multichannel marketing
- Set up an integrated order management system (OMS)
- Provide cross-channel customer service
- Link your inventory with multiple marketplaces
- Provide reporting and analytics to help you improve your multichannel fulfillment
WebRetailer has created a list of multichannel order management software. The list is a great place to start your search for the right apps for your order fulfillment.
Inventory management is complex, particularly if you use multiple warehouses for your order fulfillment. However, managing your supply chain and controlling your inventory are the heart of your operations and significantly impact your profitability.
Inventory management software can make this task manageable by automating core elements of inventory planning. Here are some of the features to look for in inventory management software:
- Automate inventory tracking, removing purchased items from stock
- Generate reorder reminders when stock levels reach predetermined levels
- Create reports to help you set safety stock and reorder levels
- Analyze your inventory data to show seasonal and annual sales trends
- Track products from factory to fulfillment center
- Provide demand forecasts and other reports to help you plan ahead
There are lots of great inventory apps for eCommerce businesses, including some that are free. Here’s a list of some of the best to get you started.
You can use multiple apps to automate different aspects of your order fulfillment, or you can use a single software package that has all the features you need. The best solution for you is software that you find simple to use and that integrates well with your other eCommerce apps.
Warehouse management system (WMS)
A warehouse management system, or WMS, is the software that powers a fulfillment warehouse. If you have your own order fulfillment warehouse, you’ll want a WMS to ensure smooth operations.
Here are some of the capabilities of a WMS:
- Track all inventory coming in and going out of the warehouse, including the location of each SKU on the shelves
- Automate tasks such as shelf locations for new products and box sizes for order fulfillment
- Calculate optimal placement of high- and low-volume items to make the picking process more efficient
- Generate pick lists for picking orders
- Estimate shipping costs based on product weight and size
- Provide reporting to help you evaluate the efficiency of your warehouse operations
If you use 3PL services, your fulfillment company will have its own WMS. You only need to purchase this software if you run in-house fulfillment operations. Make sure your order fulfillment software will integrate with your 3PL’s WMS. Fulfillment is as much about technology as it is about the physical movement of products through supply chains. So, the tech that runs your fulfillment operations is just as crucial as the packaging your products ship in.
Benefits of order fulfillment software to automate your eCommerce processes
The ideal operational model for eCommerce businesses is lean and agile management. To survive in online retail, you need to adapt quickly to market trends and keep operations costs low. Order fulfillment software lets you expand your business while controlling expenses and reducing overhead.
Reduce errors and save money
Order fulfillment software can automate queueing, tracking, and order processing. Apps provide guidance, so fulfillment workers don’t have to make choices on the fly during the pick and pack process. Accurate order fulfillment saves you money by lowering your return rate. And it grows your business by creating happy shoppers who might become repeat customers.
Increase visibility into inventory and reduce stockouts
Even if you don’t purchase any other order management apps, invest in inventory management software. You’ll save more than you spend on the app. And, by improving your inventory visibility and insights, you’ll keep your products and sales flowing. Fewer out-of-stock items, backorders, and inventory errors will lead to more satisfied buyers.
Improve your order fulfillment process
Order fulfillment software can show you ways to streamline your order fulfillment processes. Your apps can help you choose the best picking strategy for your orders and chart the most efficient route through the warehouse for pickers.
Provide consistent customer experiences
Marketing is essential to get your products in front of consumers and generate sales. However, your brand relies on much more than appealing product listings. Everything that happens after the sale matters just as much to the long-term health of your eCommerce business. Consistently accurate, on-time fulfillment with packages that arrive in perfect condition will improve your brand image.
You can have the most beautiful eCommerce site in the world, but it won’t get you far if you can’t deliver the goods. Using apps to automate your order fulfillment makes it easy to ship orders correctly every time.
Generate reports and analyze trends
By automating essential functions, you can get the reporting and data you need to make good decisions. And, while you might not have time to create those reports on your own, order fulfillment software makes reporting easy and quick.
Leverage your software’s reporting power to improve your operations, including:
- Optimize inventory levels to avoid over-ordering, tying up too much capital in your products, and getting stuck with outdated items. Reporting and analysis can help you find the sweet spot where you keep inventory levels low while avoiding stockouts.
- Make projections for the next quarter or the following year. Reporting makes it easier to understand your business cycle. That lets you prepare your supply chain to meet future demand.
- Show you which products sell together often and should be kitted. Kitting can boost sales and make order fulfillment cheaper and faster.
- Provide data about your business that will help you plan for a successful future. For example, the software can show you where your customers live. That can help you determine the best fulfillment warehouse locations.
- Find out where your business is bleeding money. Hidden expenses or money-losing transactions are one of the biggest dangers for any company. Order fulfillment reporting can help you find out where you’re losing money and take steps to stop the bleeding.
Do more with less
Automating operations with order fulfillment software allows small businesses to look big. It lets you spend less time on operations and more on marketing. And order fulfillment software enables you to run your business with fewer employees, a big money saver.
Choosing your order management software suite
At this point, you may be wondering which order fulfillment software is right for your business. There are hundreds of apps to choose from, so it can feel overwhelming.
Look for order fulfillment solutions that offer free trials to see how you like the interface. Research order fulfillment systems and read user reviews. Remember that the best order fulfillment software is the one that fits your business model, not necessarily the most popular or highest-rated app.
Here are some of the factors to consider when you’re choosing your order fulfillment solutions.
Start with integrations
Make sure that your order fulfillment software integrates with other apps and all your sales channels.
Self-fulfillment or third-party fulfillment?
You’ll need a WMS only if you run your own warehouse. If you use a third-party fulfillment company such as Red Stag Fulfillment, your 3PL will provide warehouse management, including the software.
Compatibility, customization, and the cloud
One of the fundamental choices about order fulfillment solutions is whether to use a cloud-based app. Cloud-based software has the advantage of letting you and your staff access data from multiple devices. You might have to pay an annual fee since most cloud-based apps are SaaS (software as a service), but you’ll have the benefit of constantly updated software.
Also, consider compatibility with other software you use to power your business, such as an accounting app. Find out whether you can customize the software if you have a particular need that doesn’t come off the shelf.
Take the long view on cost
The cost of order fulfillment software is an essential factor in your buying decision, particularly if you’re starting small or bootstrapping your business. You could start with the free services of one or more apps and move up to premium levels as you grow.
However, don’t let a focus on cost obscure the true value of order fulfillment software. If automation can save you from needing a new hire, balance that against the cost of the solution. Software that boosts your growth and improves your profitability is a good investment in your future.
Pick software that can grow with you
Plan for success by picking order fulfillment software that can scale as your eCommerce business grows.
Integrate your 3PL into your order fulfillment system
Your 3PL is a vital partner in your order fulfillment. Plus, your fulfillment company can be a valuable source of insight when you’re evaluating order fulfillment solutions. Ask your rep for recommendations of apps that have worked well for other clients. Make sure the order fulfillment software you choose integrates with the warehouse management system of your 3PL.
At Red Stag Fulfillment, we don’t think of ourselves as simply a warehouse that ships orders. We want to help you grow your eCommerce business. We help each client with the knowledge we have gained from storing, packing, and shipping thousands of orders. We’d like to help you grow your business.
More ways to optimize your order processing:
- Do You Really Need to Own Your Own Warehouse?
- How Can a Third-Party Logistics Provider Help Me Save Money?
- 5 Ways to Improve Inventory Management