Massively scale e-commerce order fulfillment in high-volume situations

Apr 5 2020

By Andrew Slate

At a time when e-commerce firms are facing incredible demand, it’s more important than ever to ensure timely and high-quality service that builds brand loyalty and keeps customers coming back. In this post, we’ll show you how e-commerce firms can massively scale orders by automating the fulfillment process from purchase to delivery.

It’s no surprise that e-commerce has grown 14% year-over-year for the past 3 years. Today’s increasingly digital world has culminated in a universal demand for products and services sold over the internet. But meeting that influx of demand without experiencing shortages in supply, delivery delays, and other issues that harm your brand is impossible when the different systems in your fulfillment process aren’t communicating. And over time, organizations like yours are becoming increasingly remote, reducing your oversight and making it harder for you to monitor performance in those systems. What you need is the ability to react nimbly to changes in the market that might suddenly increase demand for your services, especially when you work in a potentially high-volume industry like e-commerce. In such cases, you need your tools to be tightly integrated so they can seamlessly flow important data, such as customer orders and shipping details, instantly and error-free.

T10286 E-commerce share of total global retail sales. Source: eMarketer

With an automated fulfillment system in place, your business can adapt to sudden changes in demand by seamlessly integrating orders from your e-commerce platform (like Shopify) with enterprise resource planning systems (like Netsuite) and logistics management platforms. This process offers a simple, scalable solution for a cohesive fulfillment experience that can grow with your business.

To automate this process, we used a General Automation Platform (GAP), a low-code platform for designing automated processes called workflows. These workflows integrate multiple cloud tools with logic-based helpers in an easy-to-use interface.

Walkthrough: Automating e-commerce order fulfillment

We’ve separated our walkthrough into two stages:

  1. Managing new and updated orders - We first listen for new or updated orders in our e-commerce platform, Shopify. Then, we sort by new orders and cancellations. For new orders, we add them to our enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, Netsuite; assign them to a driver in our logistics platform, WorkWave Route Manager; and notify the team that we’ve processed a new order. For cancellations, we cancel the order in our e-commerce platform and remove it from our delivery route.
  2. Closing delivered orders - After we deliver an order, we close it out in our e-commerce platform to notify our customers that their delivery has arrived.

Stage 1: Managing new and updated orders

To start, we need to identify the orders in our e-commerce platform that we want to process. Then, we can sort those orders and route them to different outcomes. Here’s what that looks like in our GAP:

e-commerce-order-fulfillment 1 Listening for new and updated orders

On new order or update - Our Shopify trigger listens for any time a customer places a new order or updates an existing one in our e-commerce platform. Our trigger informs when our workflow will run.

Note: GAPs give you the flexibility to customize your trigger to respond to different events, including when a customer places their order in a cart, on checkout, or when fulfillment begins, among other actions.

Get order details - Whenever customers place or update their orders, we get the details of those orders from our e-commerce platform, including status and customer delivery information.

New order? - Next, we use a Boolean (true/false) helper to evaluate the order’s status to determine if this order is new or updated. Depending on the result, we route our workflow into one of two outcomes:

  • If the order is new, we proceed with processing and fulfillment.
  • If the order is not new, we instead route our workflow to check for cancellations.

e-commerce-order-fulfillment 2 Managing new orders and cancellations

If the order is new:

Create fulfillment - Once we’ve confirmed that this order is new, we create a fulfillment object in our e-commerce platform. This step notifies our customers that we’re working on their orders and they will ship as soon as possible.

Add to ERP - Now, we sync the order with our ERP system, which manages inventory and uses order data to inform our supply chain.

Assign to driver - We also add this order to our logistics system to manage shipping and delivery. In this example, we’re integrating with a route optimization software that uses customers’ shipping details from our e-commerce platform to map the most efficient routes for our delivery team. We can connect to this software and virtually any other tool with a data source using the Tray Toolkit, which lets anyone build out additional custom connectivity in addition to native integrations.

Notify #new-orders - Finally, we send an alert in our internal communications tool to let the team know that we’ve processed a new order. Alerts like this one provide much-needed visibility into team performance and can help boost morale in increasingly distributed organizations.

If the order is not new:

Order canceled? - If we’ve confirmed that this order is not new, we need to check if it has been canceled to process it accordingly. We use another Boolean helper to route our workflow to one of two outcomes:

  • If the order was not canceled, then we end our workflow.
  • If the order was canceled, then we cancel the fulfillment object we previously created in our e-commerce platform and remove the order in both our e-commerce and logistics platforms.

Now, you have an automated system in place for managing new orders and cancellations. But customers today expect a seamless experience from when they first visit your website to when your product arrives at their doorstep. In the next stage, we’ll show you how to close out orders after they’re delivered.

Stage 2: Closing delivered orders

We want to notify our customers immediately after they’ve received their order. Let’s review this process in our GAP:

e-commerce-order-fulfillment 3 Closing out delivered orders

On order delivery - Here, we listen for when a driver marks an order as ‘complete’ in our logistics platform.

Get details - When an order is delivered, we pull additional details about the order to find the matching record in our e-commerce platform.

Complete fulfillment and close order - Using the order context, we complete the fulfillment object and close the order, instantly alerting our customer that their order has arrived.

You just automated the order fulfillment process from purchase to delivery. With a process like this one in place, your e-commerce firm can meet growing demand and scale its efforts without sacrificing quality of service. Additionally, you can start to implement automation in different areas of your business to maximize revenue efficiency and ensure a robust supply chain.

Support scalable growth with an automated tech stack

An automated and fully-integrated tech stack allows you to do more with less by maximizing the effectiveness of revenue processes across your revenue function. If you’d like to learn more, check out our case study with Snow Commerce, an e-commerce agency that drove 6% higher revenue by consolidating inventory from 160+ microsites. And for more automation inspiration, join our next weekly group demo.

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