DIY Efficient Ecommerce Order Fulfillment

DIY Efficient Ecommerce Order Fulfillment

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Not every ecommerce store is big enough to require the services of a fulfillment center like ShipWire, or Amazon Fulfillment. Many Shopify merchants handle the packaging and shipping of orders themselves. DIY order fulfillment means you have substantially more control over the process, and you should constantly work to optimize your workflow. 

Here are six tips you can implement to help make your fulfillment as efficient as possible.

1. Set Up a Routine

Get into the habit of fulfilling orders on a regular schedule. If you fulfill orders everyday, make sure to do it at the same time each day. This helps take away the drudgery that many people feel when fulfilling orders. When you do it the same time each day it becomes a task like brushing your teeth, after a while it just's second nature. This becomes particularly useful when you need to get other things done during the day. Block off a set time when you handle fulfillment and make sure to get it done during this time. Like any other task, having a set timeframe to finish your packaging will make you work more quickly in order to finish on time. 
Another advantage of fulfilling orders based on a set routine is that you will feel generally more confident that your orders were shipped correctly. When you are rushing to ship out a bunch of orders you've been putting off for a week or two, it's easy to overlook something. When you fulfill and ship your orders on a regular cycle, you can feel confident that everything has gone smoothly and no one was forgotten.
Fulfilling orders is a skill just like any other. People rarely become great at something by putting bursts of effort in every couple of weeks. We learn to be better by consistently performing the task at hand. Keep to the routine and it will certainly pay off. In no time, you will be fulfilling orders like a pro.

2. Don't Let Special Requests Bottleneck Your Flow

If you are packaging a large number of orders, you'll surely get into a good flow. This is when your efficiency is at it's peak and you should do whatever you can to avoid disturbing it. Don't let special requests or weird orders bottleneck your fulfillment flow. If you have to leave your fulfillment zone, spend an excessive amount of time, or any other activity that will put a kink in your packaging rhythm, skip the order and return to it once all of the regular ones are finished. When you have to switch mind sets to complete little tasks required by outliers you greatly decrease your efficiency. 

3. Define Your Workspace

It's hard to be as productive as a fulfillment center since you don't have a warehouse dedicated to the task at hand. You can help level the playing field by creating a designated space for you fulfillment tasks. It's terribly difficult to package orders if you have to move things from one side of you couch to the other. This doesn't mean you need to own a dedicated office just for fulfillment. What you need to do, though, is clear off enough space to comfortably do your packaging before you start. Eliminating the obstacles that force you to fall out of your packing rhythm will instantly increase your efficiency.

4. Study Your Fulfillment Process

Every step in the fulfillment process is an opportunity to make it even more efficient. This is the secret to insanely efficient organizations. They actively spend time identifying weak points and make noticeable improvements whenever possible. The more you are conscious of the steps required to complete your oder fulfillment, the greater the chance of improving it are. Make it your goal to refine something each week and you will see the improvements in your order fulfillment in no time. 

5. Grab a Friend

If at all possible, you should find someone to help you with your fulfillment duties. Nothing makes a not-so-appealing task seem even less glamourous than being the only one who has to complete it. Having more than one person fulfill orders also reduces the likelihood of taking excessive breaks and loosing focus. When there are multiple people working on packing orders, no one wants to be the person slowing down the process. 

6. Try Using a Shopify App

If you're a Shopify merchant, there are plenty of apps available to make DIY order fulfillment easy. For example, PixelPrinter is a free lightweight option that generates and prints invoices and packing slips and other documentation needed for shipping.

15 comments

  • Elliot Taylor
    Elliot Taylor
    June 13 2012, 11:13AM

    Would be really helpful if we could mark an order as being processed. Just having New and Fulfilled is limiting…

  • numan
    numan
    June 13 2012, 11:20AM

    @Elliot, isn’t fulfilled same as processed? what is the difference in your mind?

  • LineGiguere
    LineGiguere
    June 13 2012, 01:42PM

    bonjour sa fait 1 mois que jai ouvert ma boutique et je nai toujour rien vendue se nest pas normal il me manque quelque chose a quelque part que je ne connait pas.

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    June 13 2012, 02:03PM

    LineGiguere: Thanks for your comment. Check out my post “17 Ways to Make Your First Ecommerce Sale,” it should help get the ball rolling! http://www.shopify.com/blog/5893075-17-ways-to-make-your-first-ecommerce-sale

  • amyzho
    amyzho
    June 14 2012, 05:16AM

    wow!cool

  • Priyanka
    Priyanka
    June 14 2012, 08:39AM

    Good Blog Post……..Keep it up!!

  • @Shopify Mark Hayes
    Mark Hayes
    June 14 2012, 11:21AM

    Thanks amyzho and Priyanka!!

  • Bjorn Forsberg
    Bjorn Forsberg
    June 20 2012, 03:16AM

    Great article Mark!

    Just wanted to mention here that an alternative to PixelPrinter is OrderlyPrint, it let’s you print the documents in bulk (up to 250 orders at a time) whereas PixelPrinter is one at a time. It’s a paid app (PixelPrinter is free) but customers say it pays for itself many times over with the time saved each day.

    Just thought I’d mention it as it’s certainly something for making order fulfillment more efficient.

    All the best,
    Bjorn Forsberg
    OrderlyPrint

  • Andrew
    Andrew
    June 26 2012, 11:51AM

    @numan, there is a difference. For us, we produce canvas prints and there are a lot of steps in between. Our biggest customer issue is they assume that Unfulfilled means we aren’t working on it (despite receiving emails from us telling them we are). And since our time from start to finish can be as long as three weeks, unfulfilled is a big problem.

  • Tim
    Tim
    July 12 2012, 04:00AM

    Just wanted to mention that I found this great app to help with e-commerce fulfilment. It is called ShippingEasy.

  • Bill C.
    Bill C.
    July 13 2012, 04:17PM

    These are some great tips and advice for order fulfillment. I’d like to see some details of specific products you would recommend to help order fulfillment in the warehouse process.

  • Elliot Taylor
    Elliot Taylor
    July 17 2012, 05:18AM

    @numan – apologies for slow reply – would be good if Shopify had email if reply given on their comments.

    We create our product. So our work flow needs to be

    1) New Order
    2) Order printed and set to processing. The order is then created.
    3) When it is completed it is shipped and fulfilled. You add a tracking number and a confirmation is sent to the customer.

    Massive problem not having step 2.

    Haven’t found an answer to this yet.

    Elliot

  • lin
    lin
    July 25 2012, 04:12AM

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  • Liz
    Liz
    August 31 2012, 10:04AM

    @Eliot we have a similar situation in our business. Have you found a way to resolve / best communicate ‘processing’ with customers?

  • Harry Lee
    Harry Lee
    July 15 2013, 06:17AM

    Nice article and I hope you will keep to share more like.

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