24-Hour Order Fulfillment an Industry Standard in Wholesale Distribution

By
Sarah Leung
October 8, 2015

Thanks to offers of free and expedited shipping from services like Google Express and Amazon Prime, consumer demand for speed has grown exponentially over the last decade, and retailers are transferring these expectations on to their suppliers. Indeed, in today’s on-demand economy, wholesale distributors are laser-focused on providing “Amazon-like” experiences to their customers. In other words, wholesale brands are prioritizing the speed of their fulfillment processes––including faster submission of orders from the field to the back office and expedited picking, packing, and shipping––to speed up cash flow, increase inventory turn, and provide a stand-out customer experience. Let’s take a look at the new industry standard, and what your business can do to keep up.

The New Order Fulfillment Benchmark

As revealed in the recent 2015 Wholesale Technology & Sales Trends Survey report, 68% of survey respondents reported that the average time lapse between when an order was written in the field and received by the back office team was less than 24 hours. 30% reported a lapse of less than one hour. And when it came to shipping, 47% of respondents reported that once an order was received by their back office, it was shipped within 1 day––a clear benchmark for the rest of the industry.

Shipping-Speed

The bar is getting higher, however, as a growing segment of companies seeks to outdo competitors with an even faster turnaround time. Of the companies able to ship orders in less than 1 day, a quarter of them are able to ship orders out in less than 12 hours.

Ship Time Breakdown

Clearly, a new benchmark for fulfillment in wholesale distribution has been solidly set. So how are companies achieving this level of speed? A lot of it has to do with submission speeds, i.e. how long it takes for a sales rep to get an order to the back office so that the order fulfillment process can begin. Order submission times are often delayed, because sales reps are required to either fax, scan, and/or email orders from the field, or even re-enter orders directly into an Excel spreadsheet or ERP system. These manual processes can significantly slow down the process, especially when sales reps wait until the end of the week to send in orders. It’s not surprising therefore, that those companies using order writing software are able to get orders from the field to the back office faster than their counterparts using manual methods. With order writing software, reps can simply sync their orders from the field to back office systems. According to survey findings, 83% of companies using order writing software are able to get their orders to the back office in under 24 hours, compared to 67% of companies using manual methods. Incredibly 49% of respondents using order writing software are able to get orders to the back office in less than an hour, compared with just 17% of respondents still doing things the old way.

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How to Speed Up Order Fulfillment

So it’s clear that faster fulfillment should be a priority. Every day you don’t ship is another day the product isn’t on the shelf in stores turning and generating cash flow. In order to meet industry benchmarks, your company must:

1. Digitize the Order Writing and Submission Process

Make sure your fulfillment pipeline is no longer dependent on your sales reps doing repetitive, uninspiring paperwork, data entry, and other administrative tasks to get those orders in. Doing data entry for orders is a waste of time, and it’s extremely error-prone. It slows down your shipping cycle, and it’s bad for your customers when they receive product late (or it’s not what they ordered because someone fat-fingered the SKU when typing it into the ERP). Take this problem off your sales reps’ plate, and let them focus on what’s important––selling. Investing in a digital order writing software will get orders in much more quickly without making it your sales reps’ problem.

2. Organize Orders Coming In From Different Channels

If you have internal sales reps submitting orders one way, your independent reps all submitting orders with their own methods, and customers calling in and sending emails to your team to place reorders, your order processing will be a mess. Making strides to standardize this process across all your reps will save some time. In addition to a digital order writing solution, investing in other technology like a B2B eCommerce platform will allow you to consolidate your field sales orders along with your customer-driven orders in one place. Digitizing the process and consolidating all your sales channels will give you one simple, fast way to bring those orders in and get them ready to ship.

3. Give Your Reps Easy Access to Inventory Information & Customer-Specific Pricing

Another speed bump in the relationship with your customers is taking orders for things you can’t ship. Make sure that your reps and customers know what’s in stock up front by providing inventory information. Everybody hates backorders, and much of the time, they’ll order something else if you tell them it’s out of stock. Also make sure that your reps and customers know what their price is. Wholesale distribution has complex pricing terms everywhere, and you don’t want to have your reps and customer service team calling your customers to explain why the price they thought they were paying isn’t correct. That conversation not only hurts the relationship, but if they need to change the order, it also wastes fulfillment time.

Concluding Thoughts

With demand for speed at an all-time high and a large group of companies regularly shipping orders within 24 hours of receiving them, the need to streamline and speed up order fulfillment is more important than ever. According to survey results, digital order writing software is the most common order writing method among wholesalers. With the ability to submit orders almost instantaneously to the back office for fulfillment, companies using this technology have a major advantage over their counterparts still writing orders on pen and paper. Investing in these kinds of changes is key to success. This blog post features just a few insights from our recently published Wholesale Technology & Sales Survey Report. To get more insights on the current state of the wholesale distribution industry and how you stack up to the competition, you can download the entire report for free here.