With global online sales expanding as rapidly as they are, those companies that have targeted online sales and have done it well are also experiencing unprecedented levels of growth.
And with growth comes growing pains, and challenges that need to be overcome.
There’s no easy way to scale from processing 10 sales per day to 100 overnight, or 100 to 1000. Companies planning for rapid growth in their online sales also need to have a good strategy for scaling their order fulfilment process right along with it, or risk the wheels falling off the applecart at the worst possible time.
Understanding the challenges associated with scaling your order fulfilment is the first step towards scaling smoothly and effectively. It will help you anticipate bottlenecks and sticking points in your processes and plan to mitigate them effectively.
1. Sufficient Stock Levels and Storage Space
Accommodating an increase in sales means increasing your stock levels. Selling over and above your capacity will result in long delay times with customer orders and result in cancelled orders and an almost 0 repeat purchase rate.
Planning to scale your sales means you need to plan to scale your warehousing and storage facilities to accommodate the increased levels of stock required and the increase in quality control and stock control measures needed. This means having the space and facilities ready to store your stock and house the personnel you need to process it.
It also means you need to plan for the increased level of picking, packing and kitting required.
2. Picking and packing – speed, accuracy and quality
More sales means a busier warehouse. Scaling your sales means that you need to plan for having sufficient staff members on hand to pick and pack more orders than you are currently processing.
Without having sufficient staff numbers with the right training, growing companies are likely to experience a shortfall in the number of orders processed on time, and an increase in the mistakes made with order picking.
This in turn can result in cancelled sales, reduced repeat purchases and an increase in returns.
3. Delivery times – maintaining speed and providing options
Online customers are more demanding than ever, and excellent delivery times, late order shipping (e.g. 9pm), and same day and next day delivery are becoming requirements for most. In addition to this, choice of couriers is also becoming one of the more sought after expectations of online stores.
As you scale, delivery time analysis, delivery rates and courier comparisons are activities that can often be overlooked, but it’s critically important to keep on top of them.
Internal processes are only one way that order fulfilment can be held up and if you’re gaining customers with your delivery times and options, it’s important to keep that going, making sure you are delivering the optimum brand experience as well as receiving the best rates available.
4. Customer service – keeping up with customer expectations
More customers means more enquiries – pre-sale enquiries, product enquiries, post sale support enquiries, calls, emails, support tickets – the list goes on. Growing companies often face a real challenge when it comes to scaling customer service team capabilities to keep up with the growth in sales and in the customer base.
Not only does it require additional personnel, time and expertise to handle the increase in customer service requests, but it also means that the internal customer service processes need to be fit for purpose as well.
For example, communication channels need to be more clear and accessible than before to accommodate the growing numbers, and today’s customers will look for support across every channel available to them including online chat, email, phone, social media, WhatsApp, FB and more.
And good support content like FAQs and support libraries are needed to minimise the time spent dealing with repeat enquiries, and these need to be prominent and readily accessible.
Companies whose customer service doesn’t keep up with scaling sales risk missing out on sales, delivering a below par customer service, and can ultimately stall their momentum entirely.
5. Returns – more sales, more returns
It’s an unfortunate fact that no matter how good a company’s product is or how good their pick and pack team is, more sales means more returns.
Even companies who manage to scale their pick, pack and kitting teams along with their sales and who manage to maintain a low error rate while doing so, will still inevitably experience an increase in returns.
Forward thinking companies view returns as an opportunity to deliver real brand value and increase the likelihood of future sales and word of mouth referrals.
But without having sufficient staff and the right processes to deal with this increase in returns in a timely and efficient way, growing companies will struggle to provide the best customer brand experience they can.
This can result in reduced repeat purchases and a bad brand reputation and can be damaging to the future growth of the company.
One of the top challenges that rapidly growing companies need to overcome is maintaining their adaptability. Adaptability usually contributes in no small way to the initial growth of the company – the ability to spot a demand in the market and fill that gap quickly and effectively, before competitors get there first.
As a company scales, it gets harder to maintain this adaptability and it can be detrimental to future growth. If the market shifts considerably, can you adapt in kind, will your company be in a position to capitalise on new opportunities or will it stagnate and be left behind?
What if your main courier goes bust? Or a recession hit in one of your primary target markets? What if consumer demands shifted overnight? Or a key manufacturer goes out of business?
Or as we’ve experienced over the past 6 months, what if all of your staff suddenly had to social distance?
When it comes to scaling your order fulfilment, companies need to future-proof new processes as they are introduced to reduce the risk of stalling and retracting in the face of these changes.
Speak To A Customer Success Manager Today
If you are looking for a quote for your order fulfilment, arrange a time to speak to one of our Customer Success Managers today. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on +353 1 902 9510 (Ireland), or +44 1 6043 00340 (UK).