What is Order Processing for an Online Store

eCommerce Order Fulfillment

If you’ve already set up your online store, you’ll know that making a sale is just the first step in a long and multifaceted task. To make the online shopping experience as enjoyable as possible, it’s important to process orders as efficiently as possible.

From the time that a customer places an order through your store to the time that they receive the order, your brand is held accountable for delivering the goods in the shortest time frame.

To keep costs as low as possible, it’s important to have a clear process flow for your employees to follow. This will help maintain the smooth running of your online store’s operation.

What is Order Processing?

In simple terms, order processing is the length of time between the date that an order is placed and the date when the order is shipped to the customer.

Order processing forms part of a greater process called order fulfilment. Here, the entire process; from the first customer inquiry to the final delivery of the goods; is tracked. To keep the waiting period as short as possible and to keep costs low, a well-documented operation should be followed.

Order processing includes several stages. First, the item or items that have been ordered are collected from a warehouse or storage. Next, they are sorted, packaged and prepared for delivery. Lastly, the complete order is given to a company or service provider in charge of the final delivery.

No two eCommerce businesses are alike, and so the order processing stage will differ for each company. In a general sense, the order processing stage can look similar to the following:

1. Assess available inventory

Once the customer has placed an order and the payment has been received, the business will need to confirm whether the correct stock is available.

Here, an employee may visit the warehouse or storage facility to confirm the availability of items. This manual method is somewhat outdated. Human error can easily create delays or disruptions in the order processing phase. To prevent this, an inventory management system can be used.

If you’re thinking of using an inventory management tool, make sure it is integrated with all of your sales channels. If you sell items in a physical store as well as online, make sure the inventory management tool syncs with the point of sale system in your store.

2. Collecting and sorting the order

Next, an employee will collect the products due to be delivered. For complicated orders with multiple items, it is advised to use a pick list. A pick list is simply a list that documents exactly which items need to be selected to fulfil an order. Often, employees will collect a number of items required for multiple orders. After this, the items must be sorted.

Once the employee has returned from the warehouse or stock supply, they’ll need to sort the collected items. The collected items will need to correspond to the respective customer’s order numbers.

To keep track of orders and each one’s separate items, a packing slip can be used. A packing slip breaks down the items required for each individual order. As one item is assigned to its corresponding order number, it can quickly be ticked off the list from the packing slip.

3. Package items

The next step is packaging the items. Items will most likely be reinforced or secured using a protective substrate. Popular materials include bubble wrap, foam sheets, waterproofing protectants or vacuum packaging for air-tight sealants among others.

Once the products have been protected, they are more than likely wrapped or placed within branded packaging. The packaging of an online order itself is a contact point for your brand. Beautiful, functional and conceptual packaging can add texture to the experience of purchasing through your online store.

If you’re still busy designing your packaging or are thinking of redoing your branded packaging, make sure that it is functioning well, fits the dimensions of the delivery company’s packaging request, and is visually appealing.

Next, the end package is placed in the final delivery boxes or containers. Sometimes, a hard copy of the invoice and order details needs to be included with the final package. If your business ships internationally, make sure you are familiar with each country’s customs requirements and abide by best practices.

4. Prepare for delivery

The last step in the order processing stage is to finalise the order for collection by the delivery company. Before collection, a tracking slip or delivery waybill will be drawn up. This includes the delivery details of both the seller and the customer, as well as delivery-related particulars such as taxes, delivery instructions or similar.

Each courier or shipping company’s waybill will include a tracking number. This unique code must be passed to the customer so that they can map the delivery process of their order.

5. Contact customer

Once the order has been collected by the delivery company or dropped off at the shipping centre, the customer must be alerted that their order is on its way. Here, supply the customer with the tracking number and also send them advice for tracking their order, for example, send them a link to the online tracking portal for the shipping courier.

Also within this contact message, it’s a good idea to remind your customer that your communication channels open. Here, reiterate your customer support contact addresses or send them a link to shipping and delivery related FAQs.

How to Improve Order Processing for your Online Sales

Throughout the order processing journey, there are many areas where various factors can cause delays. To help automate this stage of the order fulfilment process, consider using a WMS (Warehouse Management System). Not only will using a WMS automate various processes in the inventory assessment, collecting and sorting phases, but it’ll also decrease the propensity for human error.

If you’d like assistance with refining the order processing stage of your online store’s purchase experience, or if you’d like help in setting up and managing a WMS, consider outsourcing these services to an experienced business. Keeping your order processing time as short as possible will create happy and satisfied customers. For this, it’s worth investigating and investing in this step.

BuzzBrand offers a range of eCommerce setup and management services including the management and delivery of online orders. If you’d like assistance in managing your stock and the delivery thereof, contact BuzzBrand and speak to one of our team members.

Do you have a tried and trusted sequence for your order processing? What have you found helps or hinders this process? Share your comments or questions below.

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