You’ve started your e-commerce business of your dreams. Your website is getting traffic thanks to your marketing efforts. Now, you’re making sales! Congratulations!
But what happens next?
Well, you need to get your products (that you’ve worked so hard on) out to your customer of course aka Order Fulfillment.
Thankfully, you’ve got a few options on how to do this.
In this post, I’ll go over your fulfillment options with Shopify, how to choose what's best for you and your business, and give you some instructions on how to properly set up order fulfillment with Shopify.
But let’s start out with the basics - what is order fulfillment?
Order Fulfillment is the process that usually includes:
There are three ways that you can fulfill an order with Shopify:
There are some serious pros to fulfilling your own orders. For example, most of the time it’s cheaper to do it yourself and you'll have full control over the fulfillment process. However, you'll have to worry about sourcing, storing, marketing, selling, packing, and shipping all your products.
Shopify gives you two ways to fulfill your own orders - manually and automatically.
An automatic fulfillment is the best option for someone selling digital downloads or digital gift cards. When a customer purchases a digital product, an email is automatically sent with a download link and the order is marked as fulfilled.
A manual fulfillment is meant for any physical products that need to be sent.
To manually fulfill an order, follow these steps:
But what if your customer places an order with an out of stock product and an in stock product? Lucky for you Shopify thought about this already! You can partially fulfill an order.
Here's how you partially fulfill an order with Shopify:
Note: If you’re not using Shopify Shipping, you’ll need to manually enter the tracking number
Shopify also lets you fulfill an order with products at different warehouses and fulfill multiple orders at the same time. For more info on how to do that, click here.
A fulfillment service is a third-party warehouse that prepares and ships your orders for you. Using a fulfillment service is a great option if you don’t want to have to deal with shipping, or if you’ve grown beyond your existing warehouse capabilities to a point where you can’t ship items manually anymore.
When you outsource your fulfillment, you can expect:
Fulfillment providers have the staff, locations, and expertise to get your orders shipped in the fastest way possible.
With your fulfillment obligations being taken care of, you’ll have extra time to put back into growing your business.
When you outsource your fulfillment, you can expect to save more on shipping. These fulfillment services are experts in finding volume shipping prices and low warehouse costs. Shopify store owners save between 15% - 35% on shipping rates when they outsource their order fulfillments. These savings can then be passed on to the customer by offering things like free or discounted shipping!
One of the drawbacks of outsourcing fulfillment is that you won’t have the same visibility over orders that you would if you were fulfilling orders in-house.
Unfortunately, most fulfillment services do not give you the option to personalize packaging or offer gift wrapping. This would simply take up too much time and would affect the speed of deliveries.
When you outsource your fulfillment, you’ll be required to add extra apps into your Shopify store, which can seem a bit overwhelming. However, there is a way to reduce the amount of apps you’ll need and this is by finding a fulfillment service that provides multi-platform inventory management tools.
Outsourcing your Fulfillment costs money. More than likely, you’ll have to pay for storage, picking, packing, and shipping which all add up. One important thing to look into when choosing a fulfillment provider is find one that offers all-inclusive price (like Amazon FBA), with no long-term contracts or hidden fees.
The Shopify Fulfillment Network (SFN) delivers orders to your customers. They store inventory close to customers in fulfillment centers across the US and Canada for fast, affordable shipping and they manage all business data including shipment tracking, customer data, and inventory levels all in one place.
Currently, US-based and Canadian-based businesses are invited to apply and join the SFN.
Here's the requirements to be part of the SFN:
After you prepare and send your inventory to the network of fulfillment centers, they pick, pack, and ship your products to your customers when an order is placed, freeing up your time to focus on growing your business.
If you already have a fulfillment service that’s not part of Shopify’s Fulfillment Network, great! Shopify makes it pretty easy for them to have access to orders.
Here’s how to do it:
Ready to reach a wider audience for your product listings? One of the best ways to do this is by adding more places for potential customers to buy your products and diversify your sales channels.
You can use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) to store your inventory and fulfill your orders from an Amazon.com fulfillment center. Meaning - Amazon will store your products for you so you don’t have to worry about using your home, leasing a warehouse space, or using another third-party fulfillment center.
Having your own standalone ecommerce store for your brand is important. But, Shopify and Amazon both offer unique benefits to ecommerce entrepreneurs - why not reap all the rewards of both?
Another reason for diversifying your sales channels is that you can use your FBA inventory to fulfill your Shopify orders.
So, instead of worrying about storing and shipping items on your own or finding a third party fulfillment service, you can use Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment via FBA. Ultimately allowing you to scale and grow your business. Note: before you can set this up, you’ll need to have an Amazon Seller Central account.
Shipping speeds will also improve when you use Fulfillment by Amazon because your inventory will be placed in different Amazon warehouses across the country allowing for faster shipping speeds to your end customers.
But before you jump on creating an Amazon Seller Central account, here are some not so great things about using Fulfillment by Amazon:
Dropshipping is an entirely hands-off order fulfillment process. A third party supplier is responsible for sourcing, storing, packing, and shipping the products. All you're responsible for is marketing and selling them. Read more about dropshipping here.
Outsourcing comes with plenty of benefits but some considerations too. Once you’ve taken the time to weigh the pros and cons of using a fulfillment service, then price it up, trial a fulfillment provider, and don’t forget to ask a lot of questions along the way.
Outsourcing your order fulfillment can take a huge weight off your shoulders and you'll be able to use the time saved to grow your business. However, there are some things to take into consideration; like the control you’ll lose when you outsource and the costs associated with outsourcing. So, make sure you take some time to learn about your options, use the pro and cons list above, and try out some fulfillment services to decide what’s best for you and your business.
If you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out! I would love to hear from you. Also, shameless plug - if you’re in need of a brand new website or a website refresh, send me a note! I’d be happy to chat with you more about your business and the services that I offer!