How Auto-fulfillment Can Make Your Business More Efficient
[ Article was originally posted on www.sba.gov ]
Automation isn’t just about adding robotic arms to manufacturing facilities. There are plenty of different ways companies can save time simply by putting processes into place to automatically handle recurring tasks.
For a lot of small businesses, ordering supplies and inventory or processing and fulfilling orders counts as one of those menial tasks that could easily be automated. This is where auto-fulfillment comes in.
Basically, this concept just means sending out recurring orders on a set schedule or as needed, rather than manually placing and fulfilling orders each time. There are several ways businesses can make use of this concept. Here are explanations of a few of them.
Auto-fulfillment for E-Commerce Businesses
Fulfilling every order individually requires a lot of time and resources from ecommerce businesses. In fact, retailers pay an average of 70 percent of the order value on tasks and resources related to fulfillment. This includes everything from shipping supplies to man hours spent processing each order. While you can’t necessarily cut out all of those costs, you can streamline your operations to cut down on wasted time and resources, which can ultimately improve your profit margins.
With auto-fulfillment, you can allow your customers to set up automatic orders on a specific timeline or as needed. With this information, your business is better equipped to plan so you’ll have the inventory ready and the fulfillment processes in place to get those orders out on a set schedule.
In addition, providing auto-fulfillment options can improve the experience for your customers. They don’t need to spend as much of their time placing orders. And it also improves the likelihood of repeat purchases, which means more money in your company’s pocket.
This concept may not be applicable to every single ecommerce business. But if you offer supplies or items that people are likely to repeatedly order, like snack foods, household supplies, and personal care products, providing an auto-fulfillment option for your shoppers could make your business more efficient and help your customers at the same time.
Auto-fulfillment for Replenishing Inventory
Poor inventory management costs businesses hundreds of billions of dollars each year. From markdowns for surplus products to misjudgment of available products, it can be easy for businesses to make mistakes when ordering inventory manually. And even if you don’t make any actual mistakes, you can waste a lot of time figuring out what to order and going through the process manually each time.
Auto-fulfillment takes a lot of the guesswork, and thus the mistakes, out of this process. You can automatically order new products based on real-time data from your POS system. Or you can set up recurring purchases based on sales analytics from past years. This allows you to essentially cut out the inventory ordering process and makes the ordering decisions much easier, since it’s always based on actual sales data.
Auto-fulfillment for Purchasing Supplies
Even if you work in an office or service business where you don’t handle physical products, auto-fulfillment can still support your operations. Think about all the office supplies or tools you use on a regular basis. If you need to spend time ordering things every time you run out of a commonly used item, that’s time away from other important business tasks.
For offices, this concept can be especially useful when it comes to supplies you use at a steady rate throughout the year, including paper, pens, and printer ink. You can either set up a specific schedule with your provider or even use IoT devices to handle this part of the process automatically.
This concept can also apply to service businesses that use certain supplies or tools on an ongoing basis. For example, a dental or medical facility could set up auto-fulfillment for things like latex gloves, gauze, and syringes. And contractors could use it for plumbing, electrical, or painting supplies.
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