Fulfill Your Online Business Orders with Shipping Options

By Greg Holden

Being on the Internet can help when it comes to the final step in the e-commerce dance: order fulfillment. Fulfillment refers to what happens after a sale is made. Typical fulfillment tasks include the following:

  • Packing up the merchandise

  • Shipping the merchandise

  • Solving delivery problems or answering questions about orders that haven’t reached their destinations

  • Sending out bills

  • Following up to see whether the customer is satisfied

Order fulfillment may seem like the least exciting part of running a business, online or otherwise. But from your customers’ point of view, it’s the most important business activity of all.

The back-end (or, to use the Microsoft term, BackOffice) part of your online business is where order fulfillment comes in. If you have a database in which you record customer orders, link it to your website so that your customers can track orders.

Dreamweaver or ColdFusion can help you set up a database. (Dreamweaver contains built-in commands that let you link to a ColdFusion database.) Alternatively, if you don’t want to go through the effort of setting up the database yourself, you depend on your marketplace’s back-end capabilities, which may be more limited.

Provide links to shipping services

One advantage of being online is that you can help customers track packages after shipment. The FedEx online order-tracking feature gets thousands of requests each day and is widely known as one of the most successful marketing tools on the web. If you use FedEx, provide your customers with a link to its online tracking page.

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The other big shipping services have also created their own online tracking systems. You can link to these sites, too:

Present shipping options clearly

In order fulfillment, as in receiving payment, it pays to present your clients with as many options as possible and to explain the options in detail. Because you’re online, you can provide your customers with as much shipping information as they can stand. web surfers are knowledge hounds — they can never get enough data, whether it’s related to shipping or other parts of your business.

When it comes to shipping, be sure to describe the options, the cost of each, and how long each takes. Here are some more specific suggestions:

  • Compare shipping costs. Use an online service, such as InterShipper, that allows you to submit the origin, destination, weight, and dimensions of a package that you want to ship via a web page form and then returns the cheapest shipping alternatives.

  • Make sure you can track a package. Pick a service that lets you track your package’s shipping status.

  • Be able to confirm receipt. If you use the U.S. Postal Service, ship the package “return receipt requested” because tracking isn’t available — unless you use Priority Mail or Express Mail. You can confirm delivery with Priority Mail (domestic) and Parcel Post.

Many online stores present shipping alternatives in the form of a table or bulleted list of options — or, at the very least, a set of options that resembles a bulleted list. When you’re ready to pay for your items and provide a shipping address, you see the shipping options, which are lined up just like a bulleted list.

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