Top 5 eCommerce fulfilment mistakes...and how to fix them

Top 5 eCommerce fulfilment mistakes
Top 5 eCommerce fulfilment mistakes

eCommerce fulfilment is like an engine: it requires constant maintenance if it is going to run well and get you where you want to be. Unfortunately there are a lot of mistakes that can be made in eCommerce fulfilment and any one of them can be what sends your site from the go-to to the no-go.

Fortunately for eCommerce companies, we have put together a list of the top 5 eCommerce fulfilment mistakes with tips on how to fix them.

eCommerce fulfilment mistakes and their fixes

Mistake 1 - The detrimental double-check

eCommerce fulfilment mistakes
eCommerce fulfilment mistakes

It happens in warehouses of all sizes; someone, be it the warehouse manager or another operator, decides to double check someone else’s work. It’s for the benefit of the company, right? Making sure that no mistake has been made.

Wrong! In our experience, and we've been around warehouses for quite some years now, the more human interaction with an order, the more likely it is for an eCommerce fulfilment mistake.

How to fix it

Implementing warehouse management software will not only reduce the amount of human interaction with a product, it will eliminate the need for double-checking because orders should be picked with 99.99% accuracy every time. A client of ours dealing with the distribution of mobile phone accessories went from performing 30-40 errors a day to just 1 or 2, of which were generally mistakes on the carriers’ part.

[Related: 3 reasons to automate your warehouse]

Mistake 2 - Reliance on long-standing individuals

Mark has been working at the warehouse for more than ten years. He knows every aisle and location as well as he knows his own home. Sunglasses? Far west corner. Bikinis? Aisle nearest the pack bench. Its has become habit for the other warehouse operators to seek Mark out when they can’t find an item, with the assumption that he’ll send them in the right direction.

Summer comes around and Mark decides to take a much-deserved holiday. Temp staff are brought in to make up the numbers but no one really has the time to teach them the layout because orders are coming in fast. Fulfilment is slow and mistakes are being made all over the warehouse.

How to fix it

With an automated system, all locations and items can be barcoded so that, when an order comes in, warehouse operators can simply follow the system designated route. Not only will this route take them to every item for all orders, it will advise the quickest route so operators won’t spend their day walking back and forth across the warehouse.

eCommerce fulfilment mistake
eCommerce fulfilment mistake

Mistake 3 - Not prioritising goods in

Getting orders out and on their way to customers is obviously an important action. If stock isn't listed as available to buy online, however, there will be far fewer orders to ship due to the vast number of missed sales opportunities. Prioritising goods in over despatch means that stock can be updated online immediately for customers to place their order. The main reason that goods in is usually neglected is because it can take up a great deal of time identifying and counting every item received.

How to fix it

A barcode system can significantly reduce the time it takes to complete goods in without sacrificing accuracy. A sports and outdoor clothing retailer working with our system went from using 5 people to unload 10 pallets in an eight hour shift to same number of workers unloading 35 pallets in the same amount of time. This is a saving of almost 2 days which can be better spent improving order fulfilment.

Mistake 4 - Inaccurate stock online

Scenario 1: Polly orders a framed watercolour painting of the Kentish countryside for her sister’s birthday. Unfortunately, the last copy of this painting was despatched earlier that morning but the figures were not updated online. Polly phones up customer service, angry that she won’t receive what was clearly listed as available online.

Scenario 2: Fernando wished to order a waterproof camera for his scuba-diving trip. He’s spent hours researching exactly which model he wants but your website lists the camera as out of stock when there are in fact two of them sitting in the warehouse. As a result, he places the order on a competitor’s site instead.

[Related: How eCommerce companies should be buying inventory]

How to fix it

The warehouse system you are using for eCommerce order fulfilment should have three main categories for inventory.

On-hand: everything that is inside the warehouse.

Allocated: all items that have been allocated to an existing order.

Available: everything that is available for sale across all channels.

Provided that this system integrates with your website, stock figures online should be 100% accurate meaning that Polly gets her watercolour painting and Fernando buys his camera from your site instead of a competitor.

eCommerce fulfilment mistakes
eCommerce fulfilment mistakes

Mistake 5 - Mispicks, ahoy!

Like the piranhas of the warehouse, mispicks are an unpleasant feature that will eat into your profits and your reputation. Alice has ordered a pair of sky-blue flip-flops for her beach holiday. Your picker, however, accidentally chooses the midnight blue pair instead. He checks them off against the pick list and despatches this along with the flip-flops to Alice. Alice calls to complain that she has been sent the wrong order but the system has registered that it was correct upon despatch. This leads to an unhappy customer, inaccurate stock figures and potential for a bad review.

[Related: Top 5 eCommerce order picking mistakes part 1]

How to fix it

If pickers use a barcode scanner when they are sent out to pick an order, there is a considerably lower chance that they will make a mistake than if they picked the order manually. With a scanner, the picker simply scans the item and they will receive an error message if it doesn't match what was ordered. Another fashion retail client of ours reduced the number of mispicks from 20-30 a day to just 1 out of stock sale in every 40,000 items.

Key takeaways

>> Reduce human interaction with orders to reduce errors

>> Use an automated system to provide optimised picking routes

>> Use a barcode system at goods to eliminate missed sales opportunities

>> Categories inventory to ensure your system shows available stock online accurately

>> Arm your pickers with barcode scanners to significantly reduce mispicks

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