In-house fulfillment has become all the rage for Shopify stores. Despite its popularity, handling fulfillment in-house can be a daunting juggling act.
There are plenty of opportunities for disaster to strike, from delayed shipping, poor logistics planning, to disappointing inventory management! That is why we have created this expert guide to achieving internal fulfillment success for your eCommerce business.
What Is In-house Fulfillment?
In-house fulfillment is an eCommerce business process where stores manage orders without involving a third party. This process is also referred to as merchant fulfillment or self-fulfillment and is extremely popular with newer merchants, compared to outsourced fulfillment.
Unlike outsourced fulfillment, this internal fulfillment strategy gives you total control over the storing, packing, and shipping of your products. It is also a cost-effective fulfillment strategy any company can use.
Startups and small businesses prefer fulfilling orders in-house because it requires a lower budget and allows for scalability.
The Most Common In-House Fulfillment Process Looks Like This:
- A customer places an online order.
- The merchant sends out an email notifying the customer that they’ve received the order and informing them of the shipping process.
- The company prints out a detailed packing slip or picking list to check when picking, packing, and shipping orders.
- Staff will go into the warehouse or product storage area, and pick the ordered items. Here the staff can look at the packing list as a guide.
- Once picked, they will package the products for shipping.
- They print shipping labels and notify the courier to collect the package from their warehouse.
- Most merchants will send a shipping confirmation email to the customer, letting them know exactly when they ship orders and when they can expect their delivery times and dates (estimated). Companies can also include a professional-looking invoice to the customer.
While this process may seem simple enough, shop owners need to be aware of several risks that can derail their process. Luckily, shop owners can mitigate those risks with the correct planning and tools.
The Benefits Of Internal Fulfillment
No fulfillment method is without pros and cons. The same is true for in-house fulfillment, no matter how popular it is! First, let’s look at some of the most common benefits faced by Shopify businesses with self-fulfillment.
Lots of third-party logistics and/or fulfillment providers require that your packaging adheres to their strict guidelines. These guidelines often limit the opportunity to be creative with the unboxing experience and show off your unique brand; something you can achieve if you pack in house.
Your fulfillment process can grow alongside your Shopify store. You can start with just one or two employees, and as the business grows, hire more staff to help handle your entire business in-house.
It also helps you to better manage your cash flow as you scale your business, as you have complete control over costs and process transformation.
Better Shopping Experience
With no third-party involvement, you can give your customers a better shopping experience focused on quality, trust, and custom offerings. Add a small gift or thank-you card to each order. Give some free samples to entice customers to come back for more.
The Biggest Internal Fulfillment Challenges
Here are the biggest challenges of not choosing outsourced fulfillment.
Packing Incorrect Products
The most common issue faced by Shopify merchants is packing orders incorrectly (ie: with the wrong packaging or incorrect products). Perhaps your business experiences a growth spurt and your order volume is at an all-time high. Or maybe your staff were under pressure and forgot the exact details of the order. Mistakes happen to the best of us!
You can manage these mistakes, and avoid frustrated customers, by printing out a detailed packing list. Armed with a picking list, your warehouse staff can pick, pack, and ship the right orders.
Not Notifying Customers
Poor communication is another challenge you must manage when you fulfill orders online. A well-informed customer is a happy customer. Show that love and respect by keeping them notified.
Update your customer:
- When you receive the order (order confirmation email)
- Once you’ve shipped the order (shipping confirmation email)
- The day of delivery date (with supported carriers)
- Post-delivery- check-in, survey, thank you
While it may seem like an unnecessary administrative burden, it doesn’t have to be. There are a few apps that help automate parts of this process.
Your Branding Doesn’t Sell Your Business
With so many new eCommerce stores opening their virtual doors, the competition is on to set your brand apart. Even during the fulfillment process, merchants should use every opportunity to help define their brand and remind customers whom they are dealing with.
For example, use professional, customized email templates to design beautiful emails that you send to your customers. Add a designer touch to your invoices and notifications without having to hire a developer or expensive designer to do it for you. Customize your packaging with free catalogs, product recommendations, and notices of your competitive shipping rates.
As with any brick-and-mortar business, it’s important to train your staff in the processes and the software they’ll be using. You don’t want your admin staff to jump in and pack orders because the packing team is behind schedule.
Spending the needed time to train your staff will save you time and money and the pressure of logistics-gone-wrong.
Efficient and Safe Warehouse Management
Another critical aspect of self-fulfillment is managing your fulfillment center or inventory warehouse. You need a safe space to store your orders. To start, this shouldn’t be much of a problem, but as your business grows, so should your warehouse space.
Along with a growing warehouse comes the responsibility of keeping an inventory record of all your products, including where and how you store inventory and storage fees. Your staff needs the correct training on how they must monitor inventory levels against the volume of available space and the proper storage and packaging of all your products.
The safety of your products also matters, so your warehouse management must include safety against fire and other hazards, including insurance to cover your goods.
How To Improve Your In-house Fulfillment Service
When considering self-fulfillment, proper planning is important. By doing diligent research and planning your fulfillment process step-by-step, you can eliminate some of the most common problems experienced by eCommerce businesses. You can also use these tips to improve your in-house fulfillment.
Train Your Staff
The first and easiest way to improve in-house fulfillment is by training your staff. It will improve the speed and quality of your order fulfillment and reduce the costs incurred when they fail to fulfill orders.
Have The Right Technology
Keep things simple by finding tools to help you manage more time-consuming tasks. For example, using apps that print your slips for you. Using the right digital tools can bolster your business’ growth and productivity.
Strategize With Your Staff
One way to improve the efficiency and growth of your operation is to sit down with your team and discuss the problems that they face.
Should you rearrange the layout of your warehouse? Do they need printing software that can print out orders in bulk to help save time?
Having these meetings every couple of months should be insightful and can help improve your operation.
Final Thoughts: Is In-house Fulfillment Right For My Shopify Business?
After reading through our expert guide to in-house Shopify fulfillment, you may have doubts about whether this method of fulfillment is suitable for your business. While the strategy requires fantastic management, it can help you cut down the costs of scaling, maintain control over your fulfillment process, and avoid the bottlenecks that arise from outsourcing your fulfillment.
Plus, you can avoid most of the risks involved with fulfilling customer orders in-house with careful planning. Streamline your operation with the handy apps and tips we mentioned.
Congratulations on reaching this point! You have done most of the hard work by doing proper research. Now, all you have to do is plan your self-fulfillment process and start fulfilling those orders.