by Sam Franklin | October 02, 2022 | 15 min read
The eCommerce business owner’s guide to order fulfilment softwareGet funded
Last updated: October 06, 2022
Over the past two decades, the proliferation of the internet into every area of our lives has benefitted a range of industries. Sectors like data and technologies have seen huge funding and activity boosts. However, the eCommerce industry has seen explosive growth in recent years, especially following the pandemic. With this success, more and more eCommerce business owners are turning toward order fulfilment software to keep up with market growth.
Between 2020 and 2027, the eCommerce industry is expected to keep a continual 14.7% annual growth rate, with 2022 seeing the industry reach a total revenue of 4.23 trillion USD. To sustain this rate of growth, business owners have turned to fulfilment solutions to simplify the logistics element of their business.
In this article, we’ll turn to the world of order fulfilment, demonstrating how fulfilment software supports eCommerce businesses and provides a range of useful solutions. By the end of this, you’ll be a pro in understanding how order fulfilment software works with eCommerce businesses.
Table of contents
- What is order fulfilment software?
- What are the main features of effective order fulfilment software?
- Why should eCommerce business owners consider fulfilment solutions?
- Top four fulfilment software solutions in 2022
- Final thoughts
What is order fulfilment software?
Order fulfilment software is all about automation, with these systems linking together eCommerce platforms and inventory management software within warehouses. From alerting your fulfilment company partner whenever an order comes into your eCommerce platform to ensuring they know what products to pick off the shelves and package up, order fulfilment software will cover every step of the journey.
As with any great tech solution, fulfilment software should naturally integrate into your existing tech stack, with business owners not needing to change anything in order to reap the benefits of these platforms.
While fulfilment software is a generalist term to describe a platform that has many functions related to logistics, the most common aspects that you’ll find in this software are:
Order tracking information
Warehouse management systems and support
Order processing and detailing
In short, absolutely anything that integrates into the third-party logistics process comes under the fulfilment software umbrella.
What are the main features of effective order fulfilment software?
As suggested above, order fulfilment software can come in many shapes and sizes, making it fairly difficult to pin down. With this, some eCommerce business owners aren’t sure where to begin when searching for the core qualities of effective order fulfilment software.
Most of the time, when choosing to partner with certain fulfilment services, the provider will have their own order fulfilment process and software for you to use. However, although a specific fulfilment system may have a fantastic location and promising case studies, you should always ensure that their software is up to par.
When discussing order fulfilment solutions with a potential partner, always check to see if they:
Can fully automate - Automation is one of the biggest advantages of order fulfilment solutions, as it allows business owners to spend less of their own time worrying about the logistics process. If the fulfilment company you’re thinking of working with doesn’t provide automatic software that will make the process a natural flow, then this is a big red flag. Everything from order management, pulling data from multiple sales channels, and communicating with your solution providers should be as automated as possible.
Directly integrated with eCommerce platforms - Especially for larger eCommerce businesses, an order management system that cannot directly integrate into their current eCommerce sales platform will lead to huge problems down the line. Always check that the order fulfilment software that you’re going to be using has seamless integration ports to whichever eCommerce platform you use. Without this, the restructuring you’ll have to do in terms of your sales channels and online store will create more hassle than it's worth.
Search and edit orders - While new sales may come into a centralised order management system, you'll experience customer service issues if customers don’t have an opportunity to cancel or edit their orders. Be sure to check whether you can edit customer data, their orders, and shipping costs depending on any modifications a customer might make within the appropriate window. As an eCommerce business owner, you’ll know that the ability to meet customer expectations should always be a priority.
Invoices and order histories - With complete transparency between the eCommerce platform and the fulfilment software, especially in terms of checking invoices and order histories, you can reduce potential errors. When the fulfilment centre you work with can check and double-check the order they’re processing, there is a lower risk of mixing up shipping labels or shipping orders to the wrong location.
Inventory management system - Understanding more about the supply chain of your eCommerce business is vital when working with an order management platform. From understanding current inventory levels to getting a notification when it’s time to restock, you should always have an insight into the warehouse space you’re storing inventory in. This clear visualisation is key when keeping items stocked and the entire supply chain running smoothly.
Order fulfilment software that lacks even one of these five areas will most likely lead to problems for your business. If you’re planning on scaling to the size of other major eCommerce platforms, a flawless understanding of your supply chain and every step of the fulfilment process is vital.
Before partnering with any fulfilment company, always spend time going through their management system and all other processes related to the logistics of your products. A product demonstration is a great way to get early insight and is often provided by most third-party logistics companies.
Why should eCommerce business owners consider fulfilment solutions?
Every eCommerce business owner that’s reached some level of success will have experienced the moment where they start to spend more time printing labels and focusing on the shipping process than they actually spend running their business. Especially for small businesses that suddenly find a degree of success, managing the entire process of picking products, packaging them, and shipping them out can become incredibly time-consuming.
When a business owner has to spend time running their logistics, they suddenly don’t have time for things like marketing, product planning, or customer service. This can lead to low customer satisfaction and stall the company’s growth. With this in mind, many eCommerce business owners will turn to a third-party logistics provider who will support them.
By working with fulfilment companies, small businesses can direct their focus elsewhere, with every element of order processing, item packaging, shipping, and returns management being covered by their fulfilment partner.
Typically, this partnership leaves the business open to experiencing a range of strong benefits:
Ability to scale
Automation reduces error
Offers eCommerce order tracking for customers
Discounted shipping rates
Faster shipping speeds
Let’s break these down further.
Ability to scale
One of the main benefits of working with a third-party logistics company and utilising their fulfilment software is that it saves time. While business owners will be familiar with eCommerce platforms that track core data and metrics about their company, much of the fulfilment process is normally in the dark for them.
But, when working with a fulfilment system, business owners can instantly get a detailed understanding of the entire supply chain. Every step from when a sales order comes in is now tracked and covered by a third-party, helping business owners stay in control without spending their own time.
Instead of having to package hundreds of orders themselves, a business owner can now simply delegate the process to their fulfilment partners. Suddenly able to recuperate hours of their day, all of this time saved can be directed into growing the business. From focusing on the customer acquisition process to developing new products for the store, business owners can then focus on more beneficial areas.
Especially for small businesses, every hour of time really does count. The ability to completely hand off the logistics side of the business (while still being able to visualise it through order fulfilment software) is a huge growth opportunity.
Automation reduces error
When doing everything alone, inventory management can quickly become a huge hassle. There are many moving parts to monitor, from tracking what stock is where and how much stock is left after a batch of customer orders. Over time, processing orders can get confusing, with a small mix-up between shipping labels or what items are in which order leading to dissatisfied customers.
At the beginning of a company’s journey, when not many orders are coming, picking and packaging orders is a fairly easy job. But, as the success of the company increases and more orders start to come in, this becomes increasingly difficult to keep track of. Even one small error can lead to a bad customer review, a negative customer experience, and a loss of income.
On the other hand, inventory management and order fulfilment software is specifically designed to solve these problems. The vast majority of fulfilment centres boast their near-perfect accuracy, with many having millions of packages shipped with a 99.99% success rate. Alongside providing a business owner with more free time, partnering with fulfilment services dramatically reduces space for human error.
Shipping products accurately and quickly is one of the most important parts of running an eCommerce company. With this in mind, inventory management systems and software are great ways of keeping everything running smoothly.
Offers eCommerce order tracking for customers
An overwhelming90% of customers want to be able to track their packages, with this high percentage demonstrating just how valuable total order visibility is to eCommerce customers. If your business uses in-house order fulfilment, then you’re likely using your local carrier or post office to send orders.
While this serves a particular function, it also leads to many customers being unable to track their orders. Up to 30% of online orders don’t provide the option to track their parcels, which is a huge frustration point for customers.
By working with a third-party logistics centre and using their order fulfilment software, you’ll be able to extend their order tracking to your customers. At any point in the delivery journey, a customer can enter their unique tracking information and get a detailed schedule of where their package has been and where it is currently located.
If customer satisfaction is one of your priorities, then using an external order fulfilment process is the way to go for your business.
Discounted shipping rates
The very best order fulfilment software is always attached to established companies that have been in the game for quite some time. The advantage of working with companies like these, especially as a growing business that’s only just getting its start in the industry, is that you can directly benefit from all of your partner's connections.
Many order management and fulfilment platforms have long-standing links with expert outbound logistics companies. Everyone from FedEx to USPS could be a partner of the fulfilment centres that you’re considering. With these partnerships, you can take advantage of the discounted shipping rates established by the warehouse management company.
Instead of paying the public standard for shipping packages, you’ll be able to pay a significantly reduced rate to get your packages where they need to go. The discount can be incredibly favourable with some shipping carriers, allowing you to ship for much less.
Faster shipping speeds
Alongside cheaper shipping rates, the established partnerships between courier services and fulfilment centres also mean that you can take advantage of faster shipping speeds. Instead of having access to the narrow selection of shipping options, working with a fulfilment centre provides you direct access to the very best possible solutions.
What’s more, there are two core characteristics of fulfilment centres that facilitate them offering lightning-fast shipping:
Location - Most order fulfilment centres are located in a location that provides easy access to major shipping routes. Picking a central spot in the country allows packages leaving the facility to get to their location as quickly as possible. This strategy helps to save time and ensures that your packages get to where they need to go as quickly as possible. If you’re wondering how online retailers offer two-day delivery, their secret is most likely a great order fulfilment partner.
24/7 Service - When running logistics for your own business, you can physically only ship packages whenever you’re awake and focusing on that task. It just won't get done if you don’t have the time in the day. However, order fulfilment centres work around the clock to get your packages where they need to go as quickly as possible. The very best order fulfilment software will help you track how quickly the warehouse responds, with many companies offering under 24-hour shipping windows.
Considering that over 80% of customers say shipping speed is one of the most important factors they take into account when making an online purchase, increasing your shipping speed by any means possible is vital. By working with state-of-the-art order management software, you’ll always be one step ahead, easily overseeing the fulfilment process from start to finish.
Top four fulfilment software solutions in 2022
When partnering with a third-party order fulfilment business, going with your nearest 3PL provider is rarely the best option. Considering the international scope of many eCommerce businesses and the need for comprehensive logistical solutions, a few companies have come out above all else due to the quality of their support.
There are many world-class fulfilment software solutions that you can choose to partner with:
Let’s explain why these are the top recommended companies for a comprehensive order fulfilment system partner.
ShipBob - Great for inventory management
ShipBob is one of the biggest names in the American fulfilment market and has now expanded internationally. They're a fantastic option with low shipping costs, a thorough inventory management solution, and flexibility that will fit any online retailer.
ShipBob offers various services, depending on what your business is looking for. Everything from dropshipping businesses to subscription boxes and even Amazon fulfilment is totally covered by ShipBob, making this a great option for those with many product offerings.
As cloud-based software, you can access the ShipBob platform from absolutely anywhere, with their inventory management solution being one of the best available.
Selery - Fantastic order management software
Out of all of the fulfilment software solutions on this list, Selery might be the most straightforward. But, we don’t mean that in a bad way. On the contrary, this out-of-the-box solution has absolutely everything you need in one place and will easily integrate into almost any eCommerce sales platform.
When you partner with this fulfilment centre, your business gets a unique login to its warehouse management platform. From there, you can instantly check in on your products, even using your mobile device to process orders, receive inventory alerts, and monitor your entire supply chain.
Selery assigns a customer service partner to every single one of their partners, with this meaning you’ll always have a real person to talk to if you have any questions about the logistics process.
As with others on this list, they offer all of the key features you’d look for in a great inventory management system, with their fulfilment service being top-notch.
Fulfilment Bridge - Fantastic international range
If you’re a business looking for order fulfilment on an international scale, then Fulfilment Bridge is most likely the best option for you. With international shipping and returns management, they offer a comprehensive solution for businesses.
Founded back in 2016, their order fulfilment system and software have been honed over the years. Now a cloud-based mammoth with seemingly endless features, you can find individual packing slips, order data, insights into your order fulfilment process, and anything else under the sun.
As a great way to save time while still having total insight into the fulfilment process, this software solution is a fantastic choice and partner.
Zoho Inventory - Excellent warehouse management integrations
Although Zoho has over 25 years of experience in providing services and software solutions, the company only turned to the world of order management and fulfilment back in 2015. After eight years of continual development, the current product is an impressive solution for eCommerce retailers.
The shining star of this fulfilment platform is the number of integrations it can offer. Currently, Zoho supports over 100 different eCommerce platforms, making this one of the most effective ways of adapting your business to an order fulfilment system. With the sheer number of potential integrations, it’s highly likely that your platform will seamlessly integrate with their services.
Beyond just eCommerce integration, they have over 40 different shipping carriers as a core partner. With this, you can readily switch between different international services, getting your packages absolutely anywhere in the world.
Alongside this, Zoho is a firm believer that their eCommerce partners should be able to eliminate as many manual processes as possible. Their cloud-based solution allows users to customise their order management system and optimise it wherever possible. All of the key features we included in this article are represented within the Zoho system, making this a fantastic choice when looking for a fulfilment partner.
From warehouse management to complete order fulfilment, the software that accompanies a fulfilment centre comes in all shapes and sizes. That said, some are more effective at helping you run your eCommerce company than others.
Moving through this article, we’ve documented what you should look for when choosing an order fulfilment software solution. Pay attention to the software solution’s structure and the advantages it can lend your business, and you’ll easily be on your way to outsourcing the entire logistics process.
Sam founded his first startup back in 2010 and has since been building startups in the Content Marketing, SEO, eCommerce and SaaS verticals. Sam is a generalist with deep knowledge of lead generation and scaling acquisition and sales.