Inventory Management for Ecommerce Websites
Order Fulfillment Software and Services
When you set up an online shop you hope to make some sales. Probably you hope to make a lot of sales!
Once sales start coming in, however, keeping track of all the orders, processing invoices, making sure everything is packed and shipped as efficiently as possible, and processing returns (among other tasks) can be tedious and time consuming! Order fulfillment can be challenging, and unfortunately, customers aren’t always very forgiving when orders are delayed or incorrectly processed.
There are two primary methods that eshops can use to track and process orders: order fulfillment software and order fulfillment services. Software versus service: what are the differences and which is right for you? Let’s explore.
Fulfillment Software versus Fulfillment Services in Two Sentences:
When using fulfillment software, you and your team are still processing orders in-house, it’s just that you have a software service to coordinate all your activities.
When using a fulfillment service, your warehousing, shipping, returns, and in some cases even customer service can all (or in part) be handled by a third-party company.
Part I – Order Fulfillment Software
What can Order Fulfillment Software do for Your Online Shop?
Order fulfillment software can manage various aspects of your business. These include:
- order and stock management,
- inventory management,
- and management of shipping and returns.
All order fulfillment software packages try to fill their own niche, but here are some features that you should look for:
- cloud-based database with automatic backups;
- integration with ecommerce platforms (Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce, etc.);
- availability of mobile apps;
- integration with shipping services (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.);
- billing and invoicing management;
- package tracking for customers;
- returns management;
- and handling of multiple sales/ warehouse locations.
Here is a comparison of three powerful order fulfillment software solutions:
Based in the US and launched in 2010, Megaventory is a robust order fulfillment solution that supports multiple currencies and languages and provides advanced reports for shop managers. Besides integrating with Magento-powered ecommerce sites, Megaventory integrates with Salescast for demand forecasting and Zapier to respond to Triggers and Actions (Zapier’s service is similar to IFTTT for those may may already be familiar with that service).
Pricing for Megaventory is clear and rather affordable, starting at just $9.90 per month. Their software solutions are targeted towards home and small business owners all the way up to franchise networks and product manufacturing operations.
Check out Megaventory for:
- simple integration for stores running on the Magento platform;
- an intuitive, well-designed user interface;
- built-in data backups and ability to export data at any time;
- and clear, up-front pricing.
In addition to handling packing lists, invoices, and shipping, Linnworks offers bulk listing of products across eBay, Amazon, Magento, and BigCommerce marketplaces. This means that you can update the price of a product on every storefront from one convenient interface, and means that stock levels are always up-to-date across many different sites. Additionally, Linnworks handles multiple currencies and languages so that you can effortlessly sell your products in international markets.
The shipment integrations that Linnworks offers are rather impressive, and include USPS, FedEx, UPS, Royal Mail (UK), DHL, DPD, and more. They even work with clients to provide integration with local courier services.
Linnworks is a solid choice for eshops:
- operating on eBay, Amazon, Magento, BigCommerce, or with custom sites;
- that sell across multiple online marketplaces;
- that need easy integration with a large number of courier services, including in the UK;
- and for shops that need internationalization and automatic currency conversions.
BizAutomation offers a large set of ecommerce solutions that are not limited strictly to order fulfillment (they even offer business intelligence and site analytics). BizAutomation’s goal is to provide all the software that’s needed to run a business “under one roof.” As stated on their website:
“Retailers typically use QuickBooks for accounting, Volusion for direct web sales, ChannelAdvisor for multi-channel marketplace sales, SalesForce.com for CRM, another point package for POS, etc… the end result – retail chaos!”
Like Linnworks, BizAutomation lets you update prices and inventory one time and have it be automatically propagated across multiple online retail channels. Their retail management services integrate with UPS, FedEx, and USPS shipping services.
Consider BizAutomation if you want:
- an all-in one business management solution;
- a web-based interface (no mobile apps);
- integrated accounting without using QuickBooks;
- and integration with the biggest US shipping services.
Part II – Order Fulfillment Services
What can an Order Fulfillment Service do for Your Online Shop?
Order fulfillment services take fulfillment management to the next level by taking care of warehousing, shipping, returns, and sometimes even customer service for you. If your shop sells a large quantity of inventory or if you need a scaleable solution, an order fulfillment service may be just what you’re looking for.
We’ll compare seven different fulfillment services to see what they can offer for your eshop. One of the big considerations with a fulfillment service is where their warehouse(s) are located. Here are the locations of the seven services we will be considering:
Shipwire stores your shop’s inventory, works alongside your existing online checkout, and ships quickly “to reach domestic and international customers within a few days.” With warehouses in the US (Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia), Canada (Toronto and Vancouver), the UK, China, Australia, and soon in Germany and Brazil, Shipwire truly offers a global reach.
Consider using Shipwire for your order fulfillment if:
- you require international warehousing for products;
- you want the option of pre-packaging goods OR having them packaged for you;
- and if you want a service that will integrate with a HUGE number of shopping carts and marketplaces.
eFulfillment Service offers a 30-day free trial and integrates with many shopping cart and marketplace solutions. They stress their quality of customer service, and claim that they will match or beat whatever their competitors can offer. A family-owned business, eFulfillment Service is based in Michigan and boasts of being one of the first ecommerce fulfillment services to offer integration with multiple online shopping carts.
eFulfillment Service may be good for your eshop if:
- you primarily ship to customers in the USA;
- you want an individual company representative assigned to your account;
- or if your shop is based outside of the US and you need a reliable fulfillment company to service your US market.
Even though Amazon runs one of the largest online marketplaces in the world, their fulfillment service is multi-channel, meaning that you can have Amazon fulfill online orders coming from your own bespoke website. Unlike some other companies, Amazon charges based on storage space in the warehouses as well as orders fulfilled. Since this is Amazon, however, they’re able to offer some tempting perks as well, specifically when it comes to shipping: “… the cost of shipping is included in your fees with no extra charge for Amazon Prime Free Two-Day Shipping and FREE Shipping on orders of $35.”
Amazon provides a Revenue Calculator for eshops so that you can compare your current fulfillment costs with the projected cost for fulfilling your customer orders through Amazon.com.
Consider Fulfillment by Amazon to:
- offer your customers attractive free shipping options from a name that they trust;
- get access to warehouse locations around the US, Canada, and the EU;
- and to get Amazon customer service to handle all of your customer service and returns issues.
Rakuten’s main claim to fame is “1-2 day delivery to 98% of the U.S. via ground shipping.” That’s a bold claim, but is backed up by their strategic placement of five warehouses in New York, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Reno, and Scranton. Speedy deliveries also come with Rakuten’s promise to get your product shipped from their warehouse within 24 hours of a customer clicking the “Buy” button.
Rakuten Super Logistics could be the right choice for you if:
- delivery speed is business-critical or of very high priority;
- you desire dedicated support staff;
- and if you want access to “minute-to-minute visibility into your fulfillment operations” with Rakuten’s SmartFill™ Dashboard.
Ship My Orders is a US company offering shipping and order fulfillment services from east-coast and west-coast warehouses. Though their promised delivery timeframe isn’t as impressive as Rakuten’s, they can offer 2-day shipping to approximately 80% of the United States. With a simple web interface and integration with a wide range of marketplace and shopping cart platforms, Ship My Orders should easily integrate with most eshop’s operations.
Check out Ship My Orders if:
- your online shop does all or most of its business in the United States;
- you want to offer 2-day shipping most locations in the US;
- you use platforms that Ship My Orders integrates with, including eBay, Amazon, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, 3dCart, and more.
A family-owned business, Fulfillrite ships out of one warehouse location in Lakewood, New Jersey. They promise same-day shipping for any orders that are processed before 1pm Eastern Time, simple integration with your existing ecommerce platform, and straightforward fees: “what we quote you is what you will be charged.” Fulfillrite does all your product packing for you, so that you just need to send them merchandise in bulk to process and store.
Fulfillrite may be great for your eshop if:
- you want to work with a relatively small, family-owned company;
- you need access to the US market or do business mostly on the East Coast;
- you want to offer rush shipping options to your customers;
- and if you need integration for multiple channels (different shopping carts).
Choosing an Order Fulfillment Solution
The real decision as an eshop is not whether or not you need an order fulfillment solution, but rather which type of solution – a piece of software or a full-fledged service – is most suitable for your present and projected needs.
Once you have decided whether you need order fulfillment software or an order fulfillment service, you should consider the following:
For order fulfillment software:
- What ecommerce integrations does your store require (shopping carts/ platforms)?
- What shipping services will you be using (USPS/ FedEx/ UPS or also local couriers?)
- Do you need to integrate with accounting software such as QuickBooks?
- What is your budget and how might pricing change as your business grows?
For order fulfillment services:
- Where are the majority of your current and target markets located geographically?
- How quickly do you need products to be shipped and what delivery terms are you looking to offer to your customers?
- What packing services do you need? Do you plan to package items in-house to have a fulfillment service do it for you?
- What shopping cart and ecommerce platform integration do you require?
Each ecommerce site has its own needs. But ALL eshops need some order fulfillment solution. Whether you choose to go for order fulfillment software to help coordinate your order processing tasks or choose to have everything from invoicing to returns be handled by a third party, an order fulfillment solution will let you and your shop focus more on your site, your products, and most importantly on your customers.
Managed order fulfillment means fast shipping, fewer order errors, and many happy and returning shoppers! Customer satisfaction and customer devotion are the most important components of a successful eshop. With order fulfillment software and order fulfillment services you have the power to grow your business without sacrificing quality and the personal touch that your customers love.
Feel free to contact the WebiNerds team if you’re interested in learning more about how an order fulfillment solution can benefit your online shop. We’re always pleased to get questions and inquiries from our readers! And, as always, if you find this article helpful or interesting please share using the buttons below!