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For any business that relies on e-commerce or specializes in order fulfillment, managing and maintaining your orders can be one of the biggest challenges you face.

Whether it’s keeping track of orders, monitoring your order handling processes, or managing the people involved along the way, the way your warehouse handles order management can have a huge impact on the processes of your entire company. If you feel like your business has been falling behind in regards to order management and you want some tips on how to improve your processes to keep your orders flowing in and out of the warehouse as smoothly as possible, here’s a few we’ve pulled together:


Maintain visibility, tracking, and documentation for all orders & products

The first step in making sure your orders are being handled as efficiently as possible is to implement strict tracking and documentation on all current inventory and incoming orders. No matter how small, all orders have to be documented and tracked internally to ensure accuracy and assess the impact on inventory. On-hand inventory counts need to be performed as often as possible to avoid over-ordering of in-demand items (and to provide accurate estimates on when popular items are returning to stock,) and implementing the ability to track orders and notify customers in real-time will both keep your customers happier than ever and allow them to get a better idea of when they can expect their orders.


Use smarter warehousing & storage

As much as we’d all like to have Amazon-style warehouses spread out across America to fulfill orders more quickly, the reality is that most businesses only have one or two warehouses to their name, and that means they need to be as organized and well-laid-out as possible. Outfit your warehouse with as much wire shelving, pallet racks, and warehouse shelving as you can to comfortably accommodate your entire inventory and make sure each item has a consistent, well-documented, and easy-to-locate home. You might also consider abandoning the traditional FIFO (first-in-first-out) method of storage for a system based more upon item popularity; by keeping the more popular or commonly-shipped items in an easy-to-access place, you can fulfill common orders more quickly and keep your customers satisfied.


Keep open lines of communication at every step along the way

One of the leading causes of order inaccuracy, inventory issues, and/or customer dissatisfaction is poor communication during the order process. From your vendors to your end customers, make sure to maintain frequent, accurate, and informative communication. Work with your vendors to maintain constant understanding of where your items are, what shipments you can expect, and what can be done in the event of an error in shipping. Set up an automated email system to keep your customers appraised of where their items are in the shipping process (and keep them happy and coming back.) And make sure any potential inventory issues or shortages are well-documented throughout the entire warehouse and that all of your workers are aware of the order handling process, no matter how simple or obvious it might seem.


Find the best possible shipping methods for your budget

Keeping a good relationship with your vendors goes beyond simply getting the items into your warehouse in the first place. Work with any of your potential shipping providers and get a clear understanding of what kinds of shipping methods they offer—can you get overnight shipping for impatient customers that are willing to spend a little more? What about lighter-than-load trucking for longer journeys? Is there a flat-rate option you can offer that takes longer but provides a ‘budget’ option for penny-conscious shoppers? Make sure you’re aware of what shipping options you can offer your customers, and implement them as soon as you can—today’s shoppers need as many shipping options as you can offer if you want their business.


Follow up after shipping to ensure satisfaction

Order management doesn’t stop after the product leaves the warehouse. A lot of customers are going to have questions or need some kind of follow-up after the order arrives, and it’s those customers who will need that little bit of extra attention to turn them into repeat shoppers. Find a way to automate follow-up emails that ask if they were satisfied with their item and/or if they need anything else to make them as happy as possible (maybe with some little incentive like a discount on their next order.) This will help your customers feel like they were listened to, and prevent any issues or returns from totally blindsiding your staff and catching them off-guard.

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