Visit to Order Time: What It Is and Why You Should Care

We discuss wholesale statistics your business should be tracking. Visit to order time is one of the most important metrics for wholesalers. Find out why.

Fiona O'Donnell-McCarthy
December 17, 2014

In this Wholesale Metrics series, we talk about some of the most important wholesale statistics you and your business should be tracking. Having had the opportunity to speak with many wholesale brands about their operations, our research shows that generally, wholesalers are only tracking dollars and cents (total sales, profit margins, expenses, commissions, etc.). We understand that cash is king, but by not monitoring other statistics about your operations, you’re also leaving money on the table. In our last Wholesale Metrics post, we talked about the importance of fill rate, or the percentage of orders that get shipped in full and on time on the first attempt. Today, we’re going to highlight visit to order time, which is the time between when an order’s captured at a store visit or trade show to when it’s placed.

Wholesale Statistics: Visit to Order Time

Why does visit to order time matter?

Visit to order time is a simple measurement of the amount of time that elapses between the moment you know what the customer wants to the moment your distribution center receives the order. As you already know, when your customers need something, they need it now. Visit to order time is a crucial segment of your overall fulfillment time, which is a determining factor in customer satisfaction and retention rates. Customer retention, in turn, has an enormous impact on your profits over the long term. The cost of bringing in a new customer can be up to 7x more than retaining one, according to KissMetrics. If you think about overall fulfillment speed, there are really only three periods of time you can influence:

  1. How long it takes for that order to get to your distribution center or manufacturer, i.e. visit to order time
  2. How long it takes for that distribution center to process and ship the order
  3. How long that order is in transit before finally getting delivered to your customer

Let’s think about those three segments. Out of the three, the stage 1 “visit to order” timeline is by far the easiest, cheapest one to control. It is the step closest to you and your sales team, and there are existing tools you can leverage to shrink it down (more on this later). By contrast, stage 2 is taken care of by your fulfillment center. Depending on how much involvement you have with that warehouse, you may or may not be able to directly influence how quickly they process orders once they’re received. Even if you do have some modicum of control, it’s much more challenging to hold them accountable to a certain standard. Likewise, Stage 3--the actual transit time--is almost impossible for you to control unless you shell out more cash for expedited shipping. Upgrading shipping speeds can be expensive, making it an impractical long-term approach for many wholesalers. In sum, visit to order time is a relatively easy fix, making it one of the most important metrics you can track as a wholesale business. Now let’s look at why visit to order times are too often drawn out, as well as how to shorten them.

What causes visit to order delays?

Visit to order delays are the result of inefficient order writing and submission processes. Many wholesalers are still writing their orders on paper and faxing them to their back offices, where data entry staff then re-enters those orders. Some companies have their sales reps do the data entry process themselves, and their busy schedules often dictate how long it takes for an order to be placed. This order writing/submission process can differ slightly from company to company, whether fax machines, phone calls, emails, or excel sheets are involved. Ultimately, however, delays stem from the fact that orders are required to be written twice. Another negative side effect of handwriting and/or faxing orders is illegibility. Customer service teams may need to make phone calls to confirm a SKU# or quantity because they can’t read what’s on the page. In the end, the overall cost per order increases with each man hour it takes to process it. As one wholesaler put it, “every time I have to touch an order, I’m losing money.”

How can you reduce your visit to order time?

In a world where we’re constantly connected, there’s no reason for order submission delays. Indeed, there are existing tools that can virtually eliminate the time between when an order’s captured and when it’s placed. Sales order management software is one such example. By replacing manual order writing processes, your sales reps can write an order in the field and instantaneously sync it with your back office systems for fulfillment. At the same time, they can send a confirmation copy to your customers, and the order can then be shipped out on the same day it was placed. This simple step removes the need for clunky order submission processes and extra staff to complete data entry tasks. In one fell swoop, you can cut your visit to order time from 1-3 days to a few seconds. This has huge implications for your business: shorter cancellation windows, faster cash flow, higher sell through rates, and happier customers.   Look out for new wholesale metrics posts in the future for more insights on the statistics your wholesale business should be paying attention to. Questions about visit to order time? Let us know in the comments.