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Order Fulfilment Process Challenges: Meeting Expectations

 11 mins min read

Whether you run a small business, a growing organisation, or handle order fulfilment, meetin...

Whether you run a small business, a growing organisation, or handle order fulfilment, meeting customer demand is crucial. Your goals, sales, and products should revolve around creating a positive customer experience. However, the rising expectations set by big multinational companies and their services have put significant pressure on eCommerce businesses.

As we enter 2024, the order fulfilment process is overwhelmed by commercial pressures, demanding fast delivery and zero logistical errors to stay competitive. Unfortunately, many eCommerce businesses lack the resources to meet these expectations and handle the pressure. It's essential to grasp these growing expectations and implement strategies to navigate this process.

This guide delves into what customers expect from businesses, highlighting their desires and challenges. It offers insights on overcoming these obstacles to ensure a successful order fulfilment process. We'll discuss five steps to surpass consumer expectations, covering challenges faced by 3PLs in meeting customer needs and the advantages of teaming up with a reliable partner.

What is Meant by Customer Expectations?

Undoubtedly, your customer base will be varied, with multiple needs, goals, and desires for your service. Expectations combine these diverse needs, which can also be amplified by what your competitors offer or other societal or economic factors like the current cost of living. 

Poor experiences or customers receiving services below their expectations have an impact. Over 86% of customers would not remain loyal to a brand if they have had as few as two poor experiences with them. For context, almost 50% of consumers noted leaving a brand in the past year due to failure to meet their expectations.

Expectations alter over time depending on buying trends. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, buying habits changed, with more emphasis placed on the expectation of fast delivery speeds. The rise of fast fashion and other next-day services has left the eCommerce industry subject to rapidly altering expectations, highlighting the importance of correctly recognising customer needs depending on your target audience. 

How to Identify Customer Needs and Expectations

Customer expectations are dynamic and influenced by industry norms, customer demographics, previous experiences, and marketing messages. Below, we have provided a breakdown of typical customer expectations to assist you in identifying the possible demands of your consumer base. 

Product or Service

Over the years, products and services have always adjusted to meet customers' needs, and the first thing customers notice if something is wrong is the service quality. 

  • Quality and Performance: Customers expect reliable and effective products and services.

  • Features and Benefits: Customers anticipate products and services meeting their needs as advertised.

  • Value for Money: Customers expect a fair price for quality and benefits.

Customer Interactions

In addition to expectations surrounding your product or service, how your business or order fulfilment service interacts with your customer base can be subject to specific expectations. These can vary depending on your target audience, but typically include:

  • Professionalism: Customers expect respectful treatment from employees.

  • Responsiveness and Helpfulness: Customers anticipate prompt and helpful assistance.

  • Communication: Customers expect clear, concise, and timely communication.

Overall Experience

The growth of eCommerce platforms and the internet has benefited many businesses by allowing them to reach a broader audience. Nevertheless, the rising simplicity and speed of buying products or services online have pressured organisations to ensure that their offerings match the user-friendly nature of other eCommerce services. This means establishing a streamlined order fulfilment process.

Critical examples of everyday customer desires in this context include:

  • Convenience and Ease of Use: Customers expect user-friendly products and services.

  • Efficiency and Speed: Customers anticipate efficient processes.

  • Positive Emotions: Customers expect pleasant interactions with the business.

Understanding and managing customer expectations are crucial for business success. Active listening, feedback collection, and exceeding expectations contribute to building trust, loyalty, and positive word-of-mouth.

Now that we know how to identify the typical needs and expectations of a 2024 customer, let’s discuss five key expectations of your customer base and how to navigate these pressures. 

5 Ways to Meet Customer Expectations 

The rise in customer expectations on speed, product quality, and global shipping means that eCommerce businesses must adhere to the increasing pressure to meet this demand. This industry's growing importance and competitive nature mean that meeting these expectations is the main way to organisational success. 

As your customer needs will vary depending on your target audience and services, streamlining the order fulfilment process in line with trending demands is the most impactful customer retention method. 

Customers are 2.4 times more likely to commit to a brand or business that fixes issues and processes quickly, in line with their ideals. This means it’s now more essential than ever to formulate targeted strategies that meet changing customer expectations. 

The below section will explore our top order fulfilment strategies to ensure you meet your demand. 

1. Actively Strive for Efficient and Transparent Communication

Transparency and communication are emerging as key themes in business in 2024. 49% of customers who have abandoned a brand they were previously loyal to within the last 12 months attribute their departure to inadequate communication. This is particularly crucial in the eCommerce sector, where companies strive to provide flawless order fulfilment and real-time updates to customers.

Key aspects of effective communication strategies include:

  • Real-Time Updates: Businesses are focused on keeping customers informed about their order status, shipping progress, and potential delays through timely updates.

  • Transparent Policies: Companies transparently communicate shipping, returns, and refund policies on their websites to ensure customers have clear information before making purchases.

  • Proactive Issue Resolution: Priorities are anticipating potential problems, proactively communicating solutions, and demonstrating a commitment to resolving issues promptly and maintaining customer satisfaction.

  • Setting Clear Expectations: Businesses are transparent about what customers can expect from their products, services, and customer support and aim to exceed those expectations whenever possible.

  • Timely and Empathetic Communication: Use clear and empathetic language to inform customers about any changes, delays, or issues affecting their experience.

The importance of effective communication is evident. Therefore, investing in clear, timely, and empathetic communication practices is essential for businesses in the UK to retain customer loyalty and thrive in the competitive marketplace.

2. Create a User-Friendly Experience

Ensure your website is mobile-friendly to create a user-friendly experience, as over three-quarters of shoppers prefer buying from their phones. Prioritise ease of navigation, as 65% of consumers consider it non-negotiable when shopping online. 

Implement responsive design for a consistent user experience across devices, optimise mobile-friendly navigation, and prioritise fast loading times. If your eCommerce business fails to prioritise these aspects, you risk losing potential customers to competitors who offer a more seamless and efficient online shopping experience.

Let’s discuss the key ways in which you can ensure a user-friendly experience for your customer base: 

  • Responsive Design: Implement a responsive design that adapts to various screen sizes and devices. This ensures a seamless and consistent user experience whether customers access your site on a smartphone, tablet, or desktop.

  • Mobile-Friendly Navigation: Optimise navigation for smaller screens using a mobile-friendly mindset, such as a menu, to simplify access to vital categories and products. Easy navigation is crucial for a positive shopping experience.

  • Fast Loading Times: Optimise images, minimise HTTP requests, and leverage caching to prioritise fast loading times. Mobile users often have less patience for slow-loading pages, and faster load times contribute to better user satisfaction and increased conversion rates.

Implementing trusted payment gateways for online transactions will simplify navigation, enhance security, and improve the overall order fulfilment process. In the digital age, accessibility and streamlined services are crucial for reaching and satisfying customers.

3. Organise Your Logistics and Delivery 

The demand for fast and correct delivery has significantly reshaped the eCommerce landscape, stemming from the increase in multinational organisations providing instant gratifications to consumers. This expectation for speedy delivery has become a norm, influencing and affecting businesses of all sizes. 

Now more than ever, customers seek expedited and multiple delivery options. In fact, more than half of Britains expect same-day delivery options, and 62% expect next-day delivery from most eCommerce businesses. 

Meeting these delivery expectations can prove incredibly challenging for small or growing businesses. As customer expectations continue to escalate, the gap between what small eCommerce businesses can offer and what the consumer desires widen, highlighting the need for solutions. 

Efficiently organising your logistics and delivery will help you stay organised and reduce the likelihood of your customer base experiencing delayed or incorrect orders. Your business can take several steps to ensure your logistics and deliveries run smoothly. These include:

  • Invest in Order Management Software: Automate tasks to minimise manual errors and speed up fulfilment.

  • Optimise Your Workflow: Analyse what your customers say about your delivery speeds and logistics overall. Implement efficient packing methods, such as pre-packaging popular items and labelling efficiency, to prevent incorrect or delayed orders.

  • Explore Delivery Providers: Research and use multiple couriers, competitive rates, and flexible delivery options. Offering these to your consumers can increase your reach and satisfy more customers. Offer free delivery if possible, as this can influence customer buying habits. 

  • Real-time Inventory Management: Using inventory trackers is essential, especially for eCommerce businesses that promote their services and products on various platforms. 

  • Offer Live Tracking to Increase Transparency: 97% of customers expect to be able to track their orders in real time. 

4. Personalise Your Customer Service

Understanding and meeting customer needs is essential due to the consistent development of the eCommerce world. A deep understanding of customers' preferences, purchase history, and needs is necessary for providing a positive overall experience.

2024 is the year of personalisation, with a recent survey suggesting that 72% of respondents expect businesses to recognise them as individuals. If your eCommerce business desires loyal customers, some key methods exist to get to know your customers while streamlining your order fulfilment process to meet demand. 

Simple ways to personalise your content include:

  • Gather Customer Feedback: Regularly collect feedback through surveys, reviews, and customer interactions to understand their expectations of you so that you can personalise your goals.

  • Know Your Customers: Gather insights into customer preferences, buying patterns, and individual needs to ensure your services match customer expectations. 

  • Tailor Communication: Provide personalised responses and recommendations, encouraging a sense of value and understanding among customers.

  • Accessible Support: Offer accessible and responsive customer support channels to ensure quick issue resolution and enhance overall customer satisfaction.

Accenture says almost half of loyal customers (48%) look forward to receiving special treatment to recognise their loyalty. This could mean receiving discount codes or being part of a loyalty program. 

5. Partner with an Order Fulfilment Service 

Partnering with a 3PL (Third-Party Logistics) service can significantly enhance a business's ability to meet and exceed customer expectations in order fulfilment. However, choosing a 3PL with suitable capacity and integrations is crucial to handling your business's diverse nature and needs. 

Though third-party eCommerce fulfilment services typically provide many services that can assist businesses in fulfilling their customer expectations, ill-equipped 3PLs may encounter challenges when dealing with the volume of clients or the difficulties of various order requirements. Examples of these challenges include:

  • Demand Understanding: Not accurately predicting what customers want may result in challenges in meeting their expectations.

  • Flexibility in Operations: Being unable to quickly adapt operations to handle sudden increases in demand can lead to service delays.

  • Communication with Customers: Ineffective communication about order status or changes can impact customer satisfaction and perception.

  • Knowing Customer Trends: Failing to stay updated on customer preferences and trends may make it challenging to meet evolving demands.

Meeting customer expectations becomes problematic when a 3PL lacks the necessary technology and logistical capabilities. Businesses, especially those with complex order structures and the demand for expedited delivery, need a 3PL that seamlessly integrates into their operations.

A reputable 3PL is vital in ensuring a smooth order fulfilment process. It should offer essential integrations that include multi-channel and multi-partner fulfilment, enabling businesses to seamlessly manage orders from different sources and allowing customers to choose from various shipping providers.

How Exactly Can a 3PL Help?

Late cut-off times for order processing, delivery promises, and accurate tracking with real-time updates are crucial aspects of a 3PL’s service that can ensure that your consumer base is satisfied with your order fulfilment process. This enables your business to combat any issues related to logistical errors. 

Real-time stock counts and changes are essential for businesses that require accurate inventory management. This feature helps prevent stockouts, backorders, and errors in product availability, contributing to a more reliable and efficient order fulfilment process.

Additionally, a well-equipped 3PL should provide a straightforward returns process. Easy returns contribute to a positive customer experience, as customers feel more confident making purchases when they know returning items is hassle-free. This capability improves customer satisfaction and strengthens the business's and clients' relationships.

Choosing a 3PL with these capabilities allows businesses to navigate the challenges of increased order complexity and the growing demand for same-day or next-day delivery. A well-equipped 3PL ensures that companies meet customer expectations by providing efficient, accurate, and timely order fulfilment services. 

Perfecting the Order Fulfilment Process: Final Thoughts

As we navigate the order fulfilment process in 2024, the challenges of heightened customer expectations require a strategic approach. The order fulfilment process is under constant pressure to meet the demands for speed, product quality, global shipping, and overall customer satisfaction. In this environment, organisations, significantly smaller eCommerce businesses, must adapt and implement effective strategies to ensure success.

Understanding customer expectations and how your eCommerce business can address these without exceeding its capacity is essential. Embracing technology, transparency, and personalised customer experiences will be crucial in meeting and exceeding modern consumers' expectations. Collaborating with a reputable 3PL can provide you with support as your customers' demands alter depending on the season or trend. 

By addressing these challenges head-on, businesses can position themselves for sustained success in the competitive world of order fulfilment.

Partner with a Leading Order Fulfilment Service 

We are a leading 3PL that specialises in ensuring that your business is able to meet all customer expectations We recognise the challenges facing companies and 3PLs and have developed our integrations, insights, and services to overcome these.

Since 2014, our services have been tailored around ensuring the success of innovative eCommerce businesses of all sizes. Partnering with a diverse range of companies, combined with our own knowledge, allows us to understand and personalise our services to your fulfilment needs. 

Contact us today to discover more about our available integrations to satisfy your customer base. 

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