July 28, 2015
FLO Cycling - A Startup e-Retailer’s Journey to Efficient Fulfillment
A Startup e-Retailer’s Journey to Efficient Fulfillment." Feel free to check it out here or read the full article below.
When you started your business, you likely devoted the majority of your efforts toward creating a product that would shake up the industry and prove all your naysayers wrong. And once the orders began to flood in, you probably thought the hard part was over.
But in putting so much focus on your physical product, you neglected to plan how you would actually deliver it to your customers.
When my brother and I first started shipping our product, we had absolutely no idea what we were doing. We handled everything ourselves, filling a two-bedroom apartment with bicycle wheels and boxes and personally packing and sending every order.
While we enjoyed the benefits of playing a direct role in sending our product out the door, this inefficient process came back to burn us as we grew.
In-house shipping works just fine for many companies, but an inefficient process may be wasting time and money. Here are three questions that will help determine whether your process is in need of streamlining:
How much time do you currently spend shipping?
At first glance, spending a lot of time fulfilling and shipping orders sounds like a pretty sweet problem to have. Congratulations — you run a successful business. But this is still a problem. If you’re spending all of your time shipping your product, who’s running the rest of your business? You don’t see Papa John delivering pizza.
Is your software holding you back?
My brother and I wasted countless hours manually entering shipping addresses and customer data into spreadsheets. Save yourself from this headache — some simple computer programming can turn days of work into minutes and those migraines into serenity.
Are you shipping fast enough?
On day one, my brother and I were able to fulfill about 80 orders per day. We knew this wasn’t nearly fast enough, so we rethought our process and tinkered with other methods. Eventually, we were able to boost our in-house shipping number to 330 orders per day.
If you’re not satisfied with your answers to these questions, it’s time to revamp your shipping process. A quick and efficient process allows your customers to swiftly receive their purchase — an essential part of the user experience that cannot be overstated. While patience is a virtue, they want to play with their new toys as quickly as possible.
Here are three tips that will help gear your shipping process toward efficiency:
1. Follow Henry Ford’s example.
Assembly lines are successful for good reason. My brother and I quickly learned that we wasted an enormous amount of time focusing on one order at a time. Instead, focus on one task at a time and carry it out on multiple orders. For example, instead of printing one shipping label for each package as it’s processed, print 800 labels and apply them to boxes ahead of time.
2. Let computers work for you.
My brother and I wasted too much time hand-entering data into spreadsheets. We knew there had to be a better way to do this, so we hired a computer programmer to help us find it. A few hundred dollars later, a day’s worth of work magically turned into one simple click of a button. Computers should make you more efficient; they shouldn’t slow you down.
3. Consider outsourcing.
Even after maximizing the efficiency of your in-house methods, you may still feel like you’re devoting too much of your personal time toward shipping. This happened to us: We fell behind on running our business, and it started to show. Since then, we’ve hired a fulfillment center that specializes in receiving, storing, and shipping product, leaving us free to refocus on being entrepreneurs, not shippers. Finding the right fulfillment center for your business can provide enormous benefits.
Fulfilling orders shouldn’t be a headache; it should be the most exciting part of your business. Free yourself up and please your customers with speedy delivery by fixing your shipping process.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. Please leave your comments and questions below.