Some of the biggest challenges small businesses face in the current environment are related to shipping dand fulfillment.
Larger businesses tend to have the capital and the resources to deal with shipping issues so that they can make sure their customers are getting fast and accurate delivery. Big businesses have a science behind their fulfillment, and the process is often fairly seamless.
Small businesses may feel like they don’t have the means for full-scale automation in their fulfillment, but they do.
Shipping and fulfillment software can actually allow businesses to be competitive with much larger organizations in these particular areas.
Some of the many challenges small businesses deal with when it comes to fulfillment include:
- The use of technology. Technology streamlines fulfillment. Customers are simply not at a point where they’ll tolerate inaccurate or late deliveries because so many alternatives are available to them. Technology plays an enormous role in improving fulfillment systems, and it helps provide everyone involved with detailed information on how orders are getting out, where they’re at in the processing chain, and what’s going on in every part of the fulfillment process. Automation not only streamlines the process and makes it more efficient, but it reduces human error. The challenge comes from the fact that some small businesses are uncomfortable with the introduction of new technology.
- Seasonal fulfillment can be a particularly different area for small businesses. Seasonal order fulfillment is inherently hard to keep up with, and then all of the normal challenges you might experience are just compounded during this time. The use of predictive software and data analytics can help small businesses have an advanced view of when increases might occur, so they can prepare for busy periods that are outside of what they might otherwise expect.
- Inventory management is another area that challenges small businesses. It’s hard to predict buying trends, and as a result, for small organizations, their inventory isn’t in line with demand. Sometimes, the sales are down, so there’s too much inventory. There are also large-scale factors like economic uncertainty.
- The cost of transportation is going up, which disproportionately hits smaller businesses. When you’re trying to get items from one location to another, no matter the form of transportation, it’s currently very expensive, and that’s going to then increase the price for your consumers. Supply chain risks aren’t just affecting small businesses right now. They’re affecting organizations at every level.
- Order tracking is a key part of fulfillment, and it can create a challenge for small businesses. Customers want to be able to see where their items are and what the expected arrival is.
While shipping software can’t take care of every issue above, it can help with a lot of them.
What is Shipping and Fulfillment Software?
Shipping expenses are determined by a variety of variables ranging from the weight and dimensions of what’s being shipped to the shipping zones. Trying to calculate the rate for every shipment going out is time-consuming and often leads to small businesses overpaying.
Shipping programs are solutions that will often integrate with your existing eCommerce platforms so that you can get real-time calculations for shipping products. You can also compare shippers in real time, and you can print your shipping labels.
Features to Look For
Some of the many features you might consider as you compare shipping and delivery management software include:
- Shipment visibility will give you the data you need to gain insight, and if a situation does arise, you can solve it faster. With software that delivers visibility into every aspect of a shipment, you can take action, improve customer satisfaction and make sure that you’re optimizing your customer service.
- Branded tracking pages: Because of Amazon and advancements in eCommerce, customers expect visibility to track their order and see where it is in real-time at any time. A fulfillment platform should offer the ability to set up a branded tracking page. When you have a branded tracking page, it strengthens brand awareness, drives engagement after purchases, and it’s going to increases your loyal repeat customers.
- Shipment notification: This can help you keep engaging customers after they make a purchase. Again, it’s about visibility but also facilitating a sense of trust and increasing delivery rates.
- Analytics help you improve your delivery experience. The analytics you can get from a quality shipment solution are going to put you on equal footing with much larger enterprise organizations.
- You can set and manage expectations with a platform that offers delivery date predictions that are accurate and easy to locate.
- If you can find a solution with an ordering widget for tracking, then visitors can enter their tracking number on your site. With pre-input tracking numbers, customers can track in one click by going to their order history page.
- If you can find a solution that makes returns easier for customers and for your business, that’s always going to be ideal. Too often, small businesses don’t think of returns and the process as part of growing their business and customer loyalty and satisfaction, but it’s actually a big part of it.
- For a business with specific shipping requirements, the software might include API access to customize everything to exactly what you need.
Above are the features that are primarily going to benefit customers, but there are also going to be things to look for that are going to benefit your organization internally.
For example, shipping solutions will automatically calculate shipping costs across multiple carriers so you can make comparisons. You can find shipping options quickly that are going to offer different speeds and priorities. Many shipping solutions work to partner with large carriers to offer discounted shipping rates.
With a platform to manage shipping and fulfillment, you can skip going to the post office because you can buy and print your labels wherever you’re working.
Overall, investing in a shipping and fulfillment software solution is ideal for businesses, particularly in the environment they’re in right now.