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E-Commerce Order Fulfillment Tips to Help Your Store Compete With Amazon

No next-day shipping? No problem? We asked seven e-commerce experts for their advice on competing with Amazon and other e-commerce behemoths.

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We’re pretty sure nobody gets into the e-commerce industry because of their passion for packaging, boxing, and shipping out hundreds of orders. 

But what feels like the most tedious part of the job to you is actually the part your customers get the most excited about. 

That sweet dopamine high when you see those five magic words: “Your package has been shipped!”

The problem is, the bar is set pretty high when it comes to online shopping. 

Not only do customers want their packages fast, but they also value eco-conscious shipping practices. They want it to arrive safely, but they don’t want to pay extra for insurance. 

It seems like the only business out there that’s solved this packing paradox is Amazon. This raises the question, are they too big to beat?

The Top 7 E-Commerce Order Fulfillment Tips According to the Experts

We put a call out to e-commerce gurus shipping packages of all shapes and sizes worldwide and asked them what they do to stack up against big-box competitors. Here are some of the top tips we received. 

Create Free Shipping Triggers

When your product or service may cost less than the shipping fee, you have to get creative if you want to make money and keep customers satisfied. Forrest Radford, Co-Founder & COO of FixIts, suggests creating free shipping triggers.

“Design the trigger so that adding x + y makes it free shipping and make sure to have some kind of tracker bar on your website that shows how close the customer is to free shipping,” he notes.

“Sometimes the cost of just acquiring that customer is more than they might spend, so try to keep the AOV (average order value) higher by creating incentives for them to add more to their cart.”

Photo Credit: Oliver Why

Use Data-Driven Analysis to Reorder Products

According to Radu, Marketing Manager at Powerbank-Expert, too many shops make the mistake of trying to wing it through the holidays with whatever order fulfillment procedure they use in the off season.

Instead of just throwing it together, he suggests retailers “plan their fulfillment process to work optimally through the high-stress period, where you are swamped with orders. Being great at seasonal forecasting and planning allows you to edge out other stores when their orders start racking up.”

While on the topic of inventory, POS and retail expert at Fit Small Business, Meaghan Brophy, has some tips on how to order smarter. 

“Product sales data combined with current stock levels and open purchase order reports can help you accurately forecast demand. By forecasting customer demand, you know how much of each product to purchase. By avoiding stockouts and slow-moving stock, you can control costs and keep customers happy by fulfilling orders quickly. 

Using data-driven analysis can also help you predict any increased stock needs for seasonal fluctuations, like holiday sales.

Photo Credit: Emerge

Track Per-Sale Costs to Spot Opportunities to Compete on Price

When it comes to data-driven decision-making, Meaghan Brophy also shared a few tips on keeping your prices competitive and fair.

“Low price and speed of delivery are what makes Amazon an attractive option for shoppers,” she notes. 

“Tracking every sales-related cost possible, including the per-sale cost of goods, packaging, and shipping can help you determine the profitability of every item you sell and every sale you make. With this data, you can analyze whether or not you can lower prices to be competitive. This data is also important in pinpointing areas for savings that lead to increased profits. Regularly reviewing your fulfillment and delivery rates allow you to keep an eye on how quickly your products get into customers’ hands.”

Offer Flat Rate Shipping

With a bit of a different approach to pricing, Gilad Rom, Founder of Huan, suggests simply offering a flat rate for shipping irrespective of the size of the order. His rationale?

“This will encourage customers to purchase more items given that they won’t be charged additional shipping!”  

Operate With Multiple Warehouse Locations 

As Max Cohen, Founder of Gift Kosher, pointed out, “one of Amazon’s biggest weapons is their ability to dropship their inventory from locations around the country that carry the same products as every other location. This allows Amazon to expedite orders and ship products with formerly unheard-of speed and efficiency.” 

While some smaller e-commerce businesses may not be able to afford to stock items across the country, Stephen Light from Nolah Mattress believes that having at least two other facilities besides your primary fulfillment center can do the job. 

“Multiple warehouses expedite order fulfillment by shortening the travel time of the item to the customer. The system chooses a warehouse that can send the item in the least time to the customer. In the setup, the customer is happier with the faster service and is more likely to patronize the shop in the future.”

Create the Perception of Speed

Even if your products can’t leave the warehouse as quickly as Amazon, you can still keep your customers in the loop about their order, notes Bryce Welker, CPA owner of CPA Exam Guy.

“By letting your customers know their item has shipped immediately, it can arrive days later, and you will still have people impressed with how quickly you were able to get their item out the door.”

Be More Memorable Than Amazon

When all is said and done, if your shipping speeds still aren’t what you want, you’ll want to be sure to put extra effort into your final delivery. 

“If you are using Shopify as your eCommerce store, you can determine whether a person is a first-time buyer or a repeat one,” notes Bryce.

“Various WMS solutions have automation rules that allow you to add personalized notes and even free complementary products based on the customer profile and what they ordered, which is something Amazon can’t do.

For Jeremy Rice, Owner of House Floral, this looks like putting tons of TLC into the presentation. 

“Opening one of our orders is like opening a gift. We use standard kraft boxes but seal them with custom-designed paper gum tape, which helps brand and create excitement to receive it.  When they open the package, they find the entire contents wrapped in a sheet of kraft paper, sealed with a sticker with a fun image of the three owners. Also included in the first order is a card thanking them for their order and a QR code to join our contact list. We even put in seasonal cards with family recipes of our favorites!  My grandmother’s Fool-Proof Peanut Butter Fudge Recipe was a huge hit during the last quarter.”

While most online businesses cannot directly compete with Amazon when it comes to shipping, Amazon can never compete with TLC like this. 

Amazon operates at a loss when it comes to shipping, and they make up revenue from other sources.

So if your business focuses on proper inventory management, invests in multiple distribution locations, and includes personal touches, you’re sure to be irreplaceable!

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