So you’re an e-commerce business owner. Chances are, you’ve got an awful lot on your plate.

When you were first getting started, there were only so many orders coming in at a time. You were still bringing in pretty good revenue, but fulfilling and shipping orders—and all the other logistics that go along with running an e-commerce store—wasn’t too tall an order.

But then the business began to grow…

Your revenue increased and business boomed, and all of the sudden those logistics tasks like fulfilling orders and processing returns weren’t as quick as they used to be.

More orders means more logistics to manage.

With all of these tedious tasks on your plate, how are you ever supposed to find time to bring in more customers and grow the business like you did before?

Of course, you can’t just ignore your e-commerce logistics tasks and let orders fall through the cracks. But the time you’re spending on logistics management is keeping you from reaching new heights for your business.

The good news is this:

There’s a much simpler way to manage your e-commerce logistics.

Before we dig in, let’s answer one important question:

What does e-commerce logistics actually mean?

To put it simply, e-commerce logistics is the collection of processes for acquiring, storing and shipping products or resources, and managing the costs and revenue associated with those processes. Logistics is what connects all the dots and allows all the elements of your business to work together as efficiently as possible.

The goal for any e-commerce business is to make logistics as fast, cost-effective and headache-free as possible.

To do that, there are five key questions you should be asking about your logistics processes, and a collection of tools you can use to effectively manage logistics.

Let’s dive in.

1. Where are your products coming from?

First, ask yourself where your products are coming from and what your current ordering process looks like.

The first step in the logistics process is making sure the people you’re working with are setting you up for success.

If you’re not working with reliable suppliers, you’re leaving your business open to a number of painful scenarios. A customer could place an order for a product that your supplier stopped carrying without letting you know. Or you could be paying premium prices for cheap products. If you don’t know and trust your suppliers, you’re putting your entire business at risk.

When you’re working with suppliers you know will deliver, the whole process becomes hassle-free. To help you find the best suppliers for your business, Shopify shared an in-depth guide on how to choose a wholesale supplier for an online business that’s worth checking out.

2. How are you managing your inventory?

After you’ve found the right suppliers to partner with, you need to figure out how to manage your inventory.

A lot of new e-commerce business owners think the only option they have is bulk ordering a ton of product and storing it in their basement, around the office and anywhere else they can find room. We don’t recommend this approach. Not only will it clutter up your space, it’ll cost you a ton of money up front and require very hands-on tracking of how much product you have on-hand.

To put it simply, it’s an awful lot of work for you.

Instead of trying to manage the inventory process on your own, the inventory management systems highlighted in this Shopify Plus post from Aaron Orendorff can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. From basic storage to inventory tracking, taking this load off your plate will free up time to keep growing the business.

3. What is your process for fulfilling orders?

If your order fulfillment process involves you or your team reviewing and confirming every order, manually packaging every order, then personally putting every order in the mail, you’re losing an awful lot of valuable time.

When you were first getting started, manually processing and fulfilling orders was probably more cost-effective than outsourcing to an order fulfillment company. That said, as your e-commerce business grows and demand increases, fulfilling every order by hand becomes borderline impossible. In this beginner’s guide to e-commerce shipping and fulfillment, Shopify explains how to take advantage of third-party order fulfillment systems.

With third-party order fulfillment systems, you can…

    • Make the entire process hands-off for you.
    • Guarantee every order is processed and shipped on time.
    • Customize your packaging and labels to fit your brand.
    • Choose the best packaging materials for your product.
    • Track every step of the fulfillment and shipping process online.
    • Save hours and hours of your own valuable time.

Not only will this make the entire process painless for you, but you’ll also be able to deliver on your shipping promises to customers without working yourself to the bone every night to get orders in the mail.

4. How long does shipping take and how much does it cost?

For your customers, the time between placing an order and finding a delivery on their doorstep can make the difference between ordering again in the future and saying bye-bye to your company for good.

In a world where Amazon Prime can ship internationally in two days or less, customers expect their stuff to arrive fast. If it’s taking weeks for them to get what they ordered, they’ll be hesitant to order from you again.

There are two things you need to be asking yourself when it comes to shipping:

How can I get customers what they ordered as quickly as possible? And how can I do it at a lower cost without sacrificing quality?

The less you spend on shipping, the greater your profit margins will be. The quicker you can deliver the goods, the greater your chances of leaving customers happy and willing to come back. To make this process as pain-free as possible, make sure you’re working with an order fulfilment partner that you can trust to ship orders on time every time.

5. Do you have a system in place for processing returns?

If your returns management process is basically just you or someone on your team manually handling every return request that comes through, you’re losing valuable hours that could be spent on things that really help the business grow.

So how do you free up those hours you’re spending on returns?

You could just choose to stop offering returns altogether, but the negative reviews that are sure to follow will do even more harm than a manual returns system.

Luckily, you don’t have to nix returns entirely. Instead you can automate as much of the returns process as possible so you don’t get bogged down in tedious tasks like creating labels and getting approvals for each return.

You can use Return Magic to handle everything from the return request to the return labels to the emails a customer receives along the way so you can stay focused on growing the business.

Now over to you.

Take some time to dig into each of these five questions. Figure out where your business currently stands and what processes you have in place to manage each component of your e-commerce logistics.

Once you recognize the areas where you’re putting in way more effort, time or money than you need to, you can take advantage of the tools we’ve highlighted at each stage of the logistics process to make your life so much simpler.

If you can take these tedious tasks off your plate, you’ll be able to spend more of each day focusing on the things that inspired you to start your business in the first place, whether it be working closer with customers or building a great product. The less time you spend managing every order, the more time you get to spend doing what you love.
What tools have you used to simplify your logistics management process? Drop a comment and tell us about your successes!