How To Fulfill Orders On Shopify
While we know you'd rather be focused on creating or sourcing the amazing products for your Shopify store, you need to also keep on top of the "fun stuff" like making sure your customer experience is top-notch, monitoring your sales channels, overseeing shipping details, tracking your inventory, and fulfilling customer's orders.
Order fulfillment is the process of getting a customer's order together and sending it off to them. It's a vital procedure that can end up defining how customers view your business.
Just how vital is it? Well, according to research up to 83% of shoppers prioritized free delivery as the most crucial factor when considering online order fulfillment while 53% valued the speed of delivery. This means that more than half of your customers are basing their overall shopping experience on order fulfillment.
So, what does fulfillment processing mean and how do you successfully fulfill orders? Let's look at the various aspects and we'll guide you through the basics to get you started...
Once a customer has placed their order, you need to prepare and deliver the items to them. This is the process of order fulfillment and, as mentioned above, is made up of various steps.
You'll need to gather the ordered items, package them in an envelope or box, label the order in preparation for shipment, and then ship the package using the carrier of your choice.
Shopify is known for being user-friendly and this is no exception. While there may be various options such as manual or automatic fulfillment, carrier service, labeling, etc., once you've got your order fulfillment process set up, it then becomes just another routine admin task you will complete in the day-to-day running of your online store.
When setting up your order fulfillment process you have the option to fulfill your own orders or use a fulfillment service.
We're not going to dive too deep into this here but basically, if you're a newer/smaller business fulfilling your own orders is probably going to be less expensive and gives you the option to really personalize your packaging.
If you're a medium to large enterprise then fulfillment services will take a lot of the admin off your hands as these services usually store, package, and ship the items for you.
You might also need a combination of different fulfillment methods for one order depending on the items ordered. For example, if a customer orders a custom product (products you make) and a dropshipped product, you will fulfill the first item and the dropshipper will fulfill the second item.
If you use a fulfillment service you can either choose a custom fulfillment service or a service that integrates with Shopify using an app.
Whichever method you choose, you will need to make sure it is properly activated on your Shopify store.
When you set up your store, you will also need to set up the various aspects of shipping including the shipping service you want to use, shipping costs, and labels. Why are we mentioning this here? Well, you can't successfully fulfill an order if you don't have your shipping set up correctly!
There are various shipping methods available on Shopify. You can choose to use an external third-party shipping carrier or you can utilize Shopify Shipping.
You'll see Shopify Shipping mentioned below in the tutorial. It is Shopify's in-house shipping solution and is currently only available in the US, Canada, and Australia.
Basically, it offers discounted shipping rates and multiple mail classes with DHL, UPS, and USPS. You can also buy and print shipping labels directly from Shopify (including return labels) and access features like same-day shipping, package pick-ups, shipping insurance, tracking information, and even international shipping.
For those of you not within the US, Canada, or Australia, you can easily ship with any of the shipping providers within your region.
Once you have selected your fulfillment method, you now have two fulfillment options:
- Manual fulfillment
- Automatic fulfillment
By default, Shopify will use manual order fulfillment but you can change the settings under the Order processing settings. Whichever option you choose, just know that it will apply to all fulfillment methods except local pickup orders.
Manual order fulfillment is a good option if you have products available for pre-order, are a smaller business that makes products to order, or sometimes have out-of-stock items.
To fulfill an entire order manually:
From your Shopify admin page, click on "Orders" in the left-hand navigation bar.
Click on the order you want to fulfill.
If you're using Shopify Shipping (only available to stores based in the US, Canada, and Australia), you can select "Create shipping label" to buy a shipping label for your order.
If you're using a third-party carrier service then click on "Fulfill order" and make sure all the items are being fulfilled in the right quantities.
Enter the tracking details provided by your carrier in the tracking number field and select the carrier from a list by clicking on the "Shipping carrier" text box. You can then choose to notify your customer of the shipment and click "Fulfill items".
Once fulfilled, you will be directed to a page showing the fulfillment status and all the order information.
The order information also includes the order timeline, the ability to resend the fulfillment notification email, and a text box where you can leave comments as needed.
The tracking URL will appear in the customer's Shipping confirmation and Shipping update emails.
Before we move on to automatic order fulfillment we'd like to expand a bit on partial order fulfillment.
Some of your customers might place an order that has one or more items that are either pre-order or out of stock. If this is the case, you will only fulfill part of the order and then fulfill the rest when the product is released or you have restocked.
Right, now let's take a look at the automatic order fulfillment process!
Shopify's automatic fulfillment option is best-suited to medium to large enterprises, businesses that exclusively sell digital downloads, those using dropshipping suppliers, and companies that use an order fulfillment service for all their products.
The great thing about this is that once the customer places the order and pays, the order fulfillment process is started with no action needed on your part.
On your Shopify admin page, click on "Settings" at the bottom-left of the screen and then select "Checkout".
This will open all your checkout settings. Scroll down until you see the Order processing box. Where it says "After an order has been paid" you'll have the following options:
- Automatically fulfill the order‘s line items
- Automatically fulfill only the gift cards of the order
- Don’t fulfill any of the order’s line items automatically
Select "Automatically fulfill the order's line items" and then check "notify customers of their shipment".
If you use fulfillment services, a fulfillment request is sent to your service when the order is paid. You don't need to contact your fulfillment to request fulfillment.
If you want to automate and streamline your fulfillment process, you can also look at the Shopify app store. We searched "order fulfillment" and it came up with over 1000 apps, so you definitely won't be short of options!
If you run a slightly bigger store and are still fulfilling orders manually, you may want to cut down on the admin by fulfilling multiple orders at the same time.
This is super easy to do!
Simply click "Orders" in the left-hand navigation menu to access your orders. Next, select the orders you want to fulfill. Click on "Fulfill orders" and a pop-up will appear where you can choose to send an email notification to the customers whose orders you have just fulfilled.
Click "Mark as fulfilled" and voila!
You can now also bulk print shipping labels and packing slips. However, you will need to go into each order to manually add the tracking number and shipping carrier.
Another great option for larger stores that want to fulfill orders in bulk is to explore the fulfillment apps available on the Shopify app store. The app store has more than 1000 outsourced fulfillment solutions to suit a variety of online store needs.
What we've covered in this tutorial are the basics of order fulfillment. There are so many moving pieces in this process and each store is unique, so you'll need to find what works best for your brand.
With retail giants out there offering speedy shipping times and quick turnarounds, you need to have an equally appealing experience that draws customers in.
Perhaps your shipping time is slower but you offer exceptional quality custom-made items, maybe you offer same-day shipping, custom packaging, or a fun notification email sequence.
Whatever it is, make sure that your chain of fulfillment actions is well thought out before launching your Shopify store!
We hope this little guide gave you some insight into getting the process started. If you want to learn more about setting up a successful Shopify store, feel free to take a look at our other tutorials!