Order to delivery

When an online shopper buys a product from your online store, it’s important that you have a reliable order to delivery process to make sure you deliver the right product efficiently. In this guide, we outline the key steps that need to happen across order payments, warehouse management and delivery. And we close with learnings on how to prepare for complaints and issues to support good customer service.  

Order to delivery process

How this guide raises your game.

  1. How to set up and manage payments and transaction rules through a payment gateway. 
  2. Learn about order validation, and the process of picking, packing and dispatching products from the warehouse. 
  3. Understand the importance of the last mile of the delivery, and how to prepare customer service teams for complaints and issues.  

Your digital media and online store website are what drives an online shopper to buy from you. But a “sale” isn’t complete until the product is in the shopper’s hands. 

To complete an online sale, you need to be able to process the payment, deliver the product safely to the shopper, and deal with any issues which might come up. 

That means you need to set up a reliable order to delivery system. 

Delivery driver handing over a brown package

Ready to test your knowledge?

What’s your starting level of knowledge about the order to delivery process? Take the 2 minute, 5 question Three-brains order to delivery process quiz and see how much you know about the order to delivery process already.


Online shopper expectations

Put yourself in the shoes of the online shopper for a minute. 

They’ve given you their credit card details. They trust the order will turn up as expected. And, that it will be as they saw it on your website.

Your order to delivery process is what you put in place to meet those shopper expectations.

In this guide, we’ll go through each step of the order to delivery process. We’ll identify how to plan each step to work as smoothly as possible. But, also we’ll look at key challenges and issues that often come up, and how to prepare for them.

There are many complexities to managing an online order. Things can go wrong. And when they do, your relationship with the customer suffers. So, it’s important to set up an efficient order to delivery process to keep your customers happy.

E-Commerce store experience

As we covered in our online store strategy guide, there are five key steps in the e-Commerce experience.

We cover digital marketing and the online store website in another guide, so, here, we’ll focus on payment, delivery and customer service.

What are the key things that need to happen once a customer places an order?

How do you mange transactions securely and make sure the right product gets to the customer?

And what happens if anything goes wrong? 

e-commerce planning process - 5 key steps in e-commerce experience

E-Commerce ideal experience

First off, let’s look at what happens with an “ideal” purchase. That’s one where everything goes smoothly for you and for the online shopper.

They’ve decided they want the product, so what happens next? 

The first choice is whether they can check out as a guest, or need to register their details to buy. So, you need to work out whether you allow both these options. 

From a purely selling point of view, it makes sense to allow both.

Recent research shows that for online shoppers, guest check-out is chosen about 20% more than the logged-in check-out, when both options exist. So guest check-out equals more sales.

In addition, the information an online shopper gives you to buy a product is not that different from the information they would give you to register.

So, it’s likely, they’ll give you email and phone contact details anyway. With guest check-out, you can add a registration, remember me, or sign-up for updates tick-box at the end of the check-out process and achieve the same result.

But there are a few circumstances where you might want to limit or restrict guest check-out. These are generally situations where you wish to place some more control over who can order from your store. Guest check-outs are more difficult to control, than when you ask people to register to buy.

So, for example, there can be times when you want to limit overseas orders, limit quantities per customer, and to manage the re-selling of products.

Limit overseas orders

While your online store gives you access to a global online market, there may be some countries you can’t or choose not to sell to. 

This might be because you know there are export / import restrictions on your products that would make shipping difficult. This applies particularly to products that are food related. Or, products sourced from natural materials like wood and plants. These can present bio-security issues, that mean products can be held up or rejected by customs. 

In these cases, it’ll generally be up to you as the seller to resolve the issue. You can add a note in your FAQs and Terms and Conditions about which countries you will and won’t ship to.

But be aware, this content is not always read by the online shopper.

When you request a registration or sign-up, you can make it easier to screen out orders from countries you won’t ship to earlier in the process. 

Limit quantity ordered

If you have limited stock and wish to fairly allocate that stock out to customers, this is difficult with guest check-out. With every guest check-out the customer is new and unknown. So, you don’t know if they have ordered before. 

And if they have ordered before, you don’t know how much they ordered. 

Though you could set a maximum quantity per order on the order form, it would be possible for that guest shopper to place multiple orders. Barriers like limiting the number of orders per email or address can be circumvented by determined buyers. 

When you force shoppers to register and disallow guest check-out, you have more data about that customer before they make a purchase. So, it’s technically easier to place restrictions on orders. Or, ban them from the site if they continually ignore your order limits. 

When you have a registered customer, you can allocate a quantity of items over a specific time period, so that person gets the same share as everyone else. 

This is much more challenging with guest check-outs. 

Prevent re-selling issues

Keeping the theme of limited stock, one of the causes of this may be that some buyers are re-selling on your stock at a profit elsewhere. Infant formula made in Australia being sold to China by daigou buyers is a well-known example of this. 

Though the practice causes some controversy, because it leaves stores out of stock, there’s nothing illegal about the practice. The buyers / re-sellers obviously have to make sure they follow all international shipping laws and procedures, though. But once, someone buys something from you, it belongs to them. They can do what they want with it.

The challenge comes when you start to lose ‘regular’ customers because your products are always out of stock.

If the quantities are large enough, you might want to set these re-sellers up as a separate channel, as if they were a trade customer. Registrations to buy help you identify who these types of customer are, and give you the option to create different buying experiences for them. You can’t do this with guest check-outs, because you don’t know who the “guest” is until they buy. 

The order starts with the order form

The order form is where the online shopper gives you the details you need to manage the transaction and delivery.

It’s the first part of the order to delivery process, and it’s important to set it up well.

If there are issues with the order form, it will disrupt every other stage that comes afterwards. 

You should aim to make the order form understandable and easy to complete.

The longer and more complicated the order form, the lower the chance that the online shopper will complete it. 

So, you want to capture the minimum amount of information needed to make sure the right product gets delivered in the right way to the right customer. You want to set up a number of data fields which the customer fills in on the form. Together, these fields contain all the elements needed to process an order.

The minimum components of an order form are as follows.

First name and Last name

These should be separate fields. 

Firstly, it helps avoid any confusion or mistakes when you talk or write to a customer. Some names can be both first and last names (Campbell, Hunter and Scott for example). If a customer is from a foreign country or culture, you may not be familiar with their naming protocols. Make sure you set the form up to make it as clear as possible 

This separation also makes it then easier to later personalise communications, either formally (last name) or informally (first name). 

Title (Mr, Mrs, Miss, Ms, Doctor, other. etc)

While not a mandatory field, it is highly recommended you include it. It helps you communicate with a customer politely and in the right way. 

It also as a side benefit let you split your customer data by gender, without having to ask which gender a customer is. 

Of course, there are a few exceptions as “Dr” for example can be male or female. It’s also usually worth leaving an option for other, as some customers might not want to identify their gender. Or, they may have a really unusual title like Lord, Lady, Sir or Dame. 

E-Mail 

You must have a way to contact the online buyer directly. Usually, you would make an e-mail address mandatory. 

It is the easiest way to contact a customer, especially with overseas orders, where they may be in a different time-zone. In most order form templates, you can set a check to make sure that an email format e.g. [email protected] is used. 

Delivery address

Your order form needs to include the full delivery address. You should make sure that both post-code and country are mandatory to complete.

It’s possible to set up postcode validation with for example Australia Post to make sure that only genuine postal addresses are given. This helps improve the accuracy of the order. It reduces the amount of incorrect or returned deliveries. 

You also need to make clear for apartment blocks, the need to include details of the apartment number, rather than just the building address. And, you should also decide in advance whether you will deliver to PO Boxes, or require a residential or business address. 

Payment address if different

Some customers may send the product to someone else as a gift. Or, ask for it to be sent to a work address. 

While, this is quite common, and is in fact, good customer service, it can mean that you don’t have the physical address associated with the credit card. It’s a helpful extra security check to ask for this, if it is different to the delivery address. 

Contact telephone number / Delivery instructions

Your aim is to make sure the product gets delivered safely and securely. But obviously, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong. What happens if the customer isn’t in when the delivery comes for example?

You should ask for a contact telephone number, so that if the driver is unable to make the delivery, he or she can contact the customer to ask what to do with it. 

So, it may be that they leave the product with a neighbour, or in a ‘safe’ place like in a shed or by the back door. 

You can similarly include a blank question field on the order form, so the customer can flag these sorts of delivery instructions when they place the order. 

It’s in the customer’s interests and yours, to make the delivery happen when it needs to, so these are important to include.

Permission to leave

This can be optional or mandatory, but it does help reduce your level of returned / undelivered goods. It puts the onus on the buyer to pick a delivery address where the product will be ‘safe’ to deliver.

Accept terms and conditions

You should have terms and conditions easily visible and searchable on your website. It’s good practice to have a required terms and conditions check-box that the customer ticks before placing an order. 

This can help you with any chargebacks or disputed orders later. 

This also clarifies that you have permission to contact the customer about the order, so there’s no issue with privacy or spam laws. 

This usually doesn’t give you permission then to contact the customer about ‘other offers’ after the order is complete though. You need them to confirm specific permission to do this. 

Payment details

This obviously depends on how you set up your payment gateway.

But, most payments would either be through a portal like Paypal, or with a credit card.

With credit cards, you obviously need the card number, the expiry data, and the CVN number on the back of the card.

You normally also ask them to confirm the name on the card. 

Wallet with credit cards

Payment validation

Payments are one of the key online selling requirements we cover in our guide to how to start selling online, and are one of the key functions of e-Commerce you need to set up.

You can’t “sell” without some sort of payment taking place, after all. 

Most online payments are made though a payment gateway. 

The payment gateway is a piece of software hosted online that securely manages the payment. It protects both your site and the shopper from hackers and fraudsters.

It acts as a “middle” man in the transaction. The credit card details for the shopper go to the payment gateway, and the payment gateway validates to you that the order is genuine. It then manages the transfer of money from the shopper’s bank account or credit card into your bank account. 

You should identify which payment gateway you will use as part of your online store business model. There are many to choose from. You should look at reviews online and decide which one meets your requirements. Popular providers include SecurePayEWayand Square.

Each provider may charge different rates for set-up, transactions and chargebacks. Fees may vary based on the number of transactions. Customer service levels can also vary, so it pays to do some research on what’s available before you decide. 

Payment gateway set-up and connection

When you identify which payment gateway to use, you then need to connect your online store website and bank account to that payment gateway. 

You will complete an order form which gives them all the relevant details to set you up as an online merchant. This will include details of your company, your contact details, your bank details and your Internet Merchant ID. 

It will also include your agreement to their terms and conditions. Make sure you review these before signing it. If unclear, you should get legal advice. Make sure you are clear what it commits you to do, and what commitments the provider gives. 

In particular, you should check details on their commitment to maintain the service. How fast do they commit to resolving issues? You should also check your obligations and notice period should you ever want to change payment gateway providers. There can often be quite lengthy notice periods, and assumed annual renewals. 

You’ll indicate on the form which of their payment products and plans you will use, based on your estimated number of transactions. 

You will receive a log-in and password access to their systems, along with instructions on how to make the website and bank account connections. You’ll receive details of how to contact customer support if there are any issues or the links don’t work properly.  

Hosted vs embedded payment gateways

At the simplest level with your online store website, this might be a setting up a link to a separate hosted payment page.

When the customer fills in the order form and goes to pay, they are redirected to a separate URL page hosted by the payment gateway to place the order. When complete, they are redirected back to your site. 

A better experience for the online shopper is when this is embedded into the form, rather than a separate page. It’s embedded via code that’s placed on your online store website. But importantly, this isn’t visible to the online shopper. To them, it feels like it’s one single order form. 

Payment gateways and individual orders

This payment gateway system access lets you track individual orders and transactions. This helps you to manage any refunds and make any adjustments to a payment. 

You will need a transaction or customer ID number to identify specific orders. You won’t be able to see or use the actual credit card number itself. 

Part of the protection against fraud for the shopper is that you never see their full credit card details. These are hidden with a system called ‘hashed’ data. This obscures the details of the card, but still lets the system identify the specific card itself via the transaction or customer ID. 

As refunds essentially transfer money back from your account to the buyer, you should take care who in your business you allow to do this. You should be clear when and how refunds can be given. In bigger businesses, this usually sits with the finance team.

You can also use this system to run financial reports on all the transactions which the payment gateway manages. So, for example, you can run reports on rejected payments, or refund levels to look for patterns in the buyer behaviour. 

Payment Security – PCI DSS

Because payment management deals with highly sensitive personal information such as the buyers credit card details and your bank account details, it’s important that the data is managed in a highly secure way. 

Online payments are governed by a system called the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, (PCI DSS) often shortened to PCI compliance.

You should check the PCI compliance of any payment gateway provider you use. It sets strict guidelines on how to securely manage payments and protects online shoppers and online businesses.  

If you choose not to use a payment gateway, and manage payments using your own systems, you need to make sure you are fully PCI compliant.

 

Order to delivery - PCI Home page

If you use a Payment Gateway, you still have some PCI obligations, but they are mainly taken up by the Payment Gateway provider.

Setting payment gateway rules

Within the payment gateway you can also set ‘rules’ for what types of payments you will accept. Some of these may be pragmatic, such as not shipping to countries where you know there are customs / import issues. But often, these rules are to reduce the number of fraudulent payments, which end up costing you money in chargebacks. 

Typical rules you can set through your payment gateway system include :-

Geographic

Limit to payments only from ‘allowed’ countries.

Repeat order from same name / address

Where you might want to manage stock levels, you can choose to limit multiple orders from the same name or address. So, for example, when selling concert tickets, promoters can apply this rule, to prevent ticket scalpers buying multiple tickets and then selling on at a profit. 

You should check order details on a regular basis, as we’ve seen cases where online shoppers create similar, but not exactly the same addresses. So, for example, it may be a house address, but they add unit numbers to the address to make it look different, even though there are no actual units.

So, Unit 1, 1 High Street; Unit 2, 1 High Street, Unit 3, 1 High Street and so on, where 1 High Street is actually a house. 

Repeat order from same credit card / IP address

If online shoppers recognise that you are trying to prevent multiple orders from the same name or address, they can invent new names and addresses to get round this. 

So, you can look at also adding the same rules about repeat payments, but based on credit cards or IP addresses to further prevent multiple orders. 

While neither is full-proof, setting up new credit card details and IP addresses takes a little more time and effort than making up a new name or address. 

Time and quantity limits

Similarly, to manage stock levels, you might set a rule around “Maximum X quantity every X days”, so that the customer cannot place another order within a specific time period. If you do this, you should make clear to the customer when they place the order, when they will next be able to re-order.  

You can also limit the amount of spend you will accept in one payment. People trying to use stolen credit cards will often aim to spend the largest amount they can, so it can often be an indicator of a stolen card. You should set a “reasonable” limit per transaction to reduce your potential exposure. 

Banned customers

At the most extreme end, where you have persistent challenges from a specific customer, you can choose to ban them. 

You can set the system up to reject specific details such as their name, address, credit card details, or even IP address. 

Of course, they may well find ways to create new identities and come back later, but this can at least slow down or make it harder for those who don’t follow the rules you set on payments and deliveries. 

man with hand flat out in front of face

Order Validation checks

Assuming the payment gateway verifies the payment as genuine, the payment is then confirmed. The customer is notified the order has been placed. 

All the details from the order form (apart from the payment details) are then captured in your online store website customer order database. 

For smaller businesses with limited online sales, this would result in an automated e-mail with details of the order being sent to whoever in the business manages customer orders. This could be the store owner themselves, or whoever manages operations for the business. 

In larger businesses with more regular orders, there may be a dedicated customer service manager or team, who regularly process orders. The order form details might be automatically entered into an internal order management system like SAP to be processed. (rather than sent via email) 

You can manually validate and release each order, if the numbers are small. Or, you can set up automated checks to make sure the order is genuine and valid. Validated orders are then released to the warehouse team to be picked and packed ready to be shipped to the customer. 

Extra validation checks may be required

Depending on the nature of the category and the order, there may be some extra validation checks you need to build in to the order to delivery system. Where possible, you should work with developers and IT teams to build these into the order form. 

For example, if you choose not to deliver to PO boxes or to certain countries, but someone requests this in another part of the order form, you can choose to reject that order.

If your product has any special delivery needs, this is also a good time to check the order can be safely and securely delivered. 

For example, if the delivery requires a constant temperature (say ice cream or frozen fish), the delivery details need to make sure this is covered. 

Or, if the delivery is high value, you may want to make signature on delivery mandatory. 

And if, there are any legal restrictions such as over 18 for alcohol deliveries, you want to make sure there is some sort of validation in place, before you send the order. 

Order details sent for picking, packing and dispatch

The validated order details are then sent to the warehouse team to be picked, packed and dispatched.

This might be by email, but more often there’s a data feed from the website order system or other internal system to the warehouse and delivery systems. 

It’s important to understand what details the warehouse and delivery functions need to properly manage an order. You need to make sure your website order form captures these specific details.

If data is missing or incorrect, it can make picking, packing and delivery more difficult. 

And if it’s more difficult, this leads to delays and more costs. 

You don’t want that. 

So, work with the team who will manage the picking, packing and dispatch to identify the information they need.

Ask them how they will manage and update the order details. Work out how your order form data will “talk” to their system.

 

D2C warehouse

Define who is responsible at each stage

In the set-up of your order to delivery system, you should define who is responsible at each stage. Set out what you expect them to do.

The order to delivery system passes an order along different functions and they each need to carry out specific actions. If one part of the system fails, it stops the rest of the system from working properly.

You need to work out the frequency at which orders pass through the system. Do they work in real-time? Or, do you save them up and release them in batches at specific times of day? 

Delivery companies will generally have windows of the day, where they like to collect orders from central locations. So, you need to synchronise the processing of the order with these times. 

In bigger businesses, you will want to integrate online store orders into your existing financial and operational systems like SAP. This means processes can be more centralised, integrated and automated. 

However, it does usually require more time and cost to set up than a more manual system. You need to factor this in to your planning. 

An SAP integration for an online store can typically cover these sorts of areas. 

  • Order ID creation
  • Creation of a new order type (D2C)
  • Creation of a new customer type (D2C)
  • A separate storage location (SLOC) for online store orders
  • Set up an invoice
  • Set up a delivery docket
  • Automated emails to the customer
  • Inventory managerment 
  • GST and delivery costs for finance reporting

Order picked, packed and dispatched

Once the warehouse receives the order, it is then picked, packed and dispatched. 

Picking refers to taking the product off the shelf where it has been stored. The shelf layout in the warehouse needs to make it easy to find specific products to be picked. In many companies, the storage location is often attached to the product number on the order form, or within the warehouse system. 

So, for example if you get an order for “male red-T-shirt large”, you don’t want the person picking the order to have to look for T-shirts, then men’s T-shirts, then red-T-shirts, then large ones. 

That’s clearly inefficient. 

 

Warehouse palet

But, if the location of that T-shirt is marked, let’s say Aisle H, Section 42, Shelf Level 2, Position 3, then the order picker knows exactly where to go.

How the order is then packed depends on the nature of the product, and of the order. If it is already packed in a way that is transportation-friendly, that helps.

But, what if it’s not?

Let’s say you sell malt whisky. You might store the bottles in boxes of 6 or 12, but what if a customer only orders one bottle?

With online stores, often quantities are smaller per order, and larger boxes need to be broken down. You need to work out where these broken down boxes will go when you’re done with them. You need to work out what extra packing materials you might need. So, bubble wrap or different size boxes for example.

When a customer orders multiple items, they generally expect them to arrive together and at the same time. So, you need to work out how you will combine items together for shipping with these sorts of orders. Do you have different sizes of boxes available for example? Or, can you wrap boxes together for deliveries?

You need to consider any factors that might impact the product while it is in transit.

If it’s a heavy object, you need to mark this on the box, so drivers take care when lifting it.

If it’s a fragile object, you need to mark this on the box.

And, if the object has an expiry date, or requires special storage while being transported, this all needs to be set-up and agreed with the warehouse and delivery company. 

If you are setting this system up, you need to work out all these options up front. You also have to make sure that you have ordered in enough boxes and materials for packing.

Fragile delivery

Inventory Management

You will also have to agree with the warehouse team how you will manage inventory levels. There are a couple of ways to do this. 

You can usually do it through your website order system, where when the order is processed, the stock level per unit drops by one. You can set re-order reminders to replace the stock at certain levels. 

This is the simplest approach. 

But, it’s not perfect. 

You have to set up the system to give access and visibility to the warehouse and delivery team, because it’s important to help them manage stock levels. 

There are many things that can happen, outside of the system that will impact inventory levels. So, you need the ability to go in and make adjustments. 

For example, if items get damaged or interfered with while in the warehouse, Or, if items get damaged or stolen at some point between the warehouse shelf and the delivery. Or, even if there’s just a miscalculation of the number of units when the goods go in to the warehouse. 

You may already have your own (SAP) system to manage inventory. The warehouse team may also have their own system. It’s important to make to make sure these systems all “talk” to each other.

Once packed, you need to label the product with the delivery details. The order details should have come through from the order form. You want to make sure, there’s a clear and automated system for labelling in the warehouse. 

Dispatch and tracking

Once packed and labelled, the order then goes into dispatch and delivery. 

In some cases, the warehouse provider and delivery service might be the same provider. In other cases it might different.

Either way, the package needs a unique ID tracker from the delivery company which you use to track the delivery.

Ideally, the systems integrate so that the consumer is also sent this ID number when you dispatch the order.

Order to delivery - packages inside a courier van

This helps them track when their order will be delivered. They can go to the delivery company’s website and enter this ID, where at each key point in the delivery journey, the status on the delivery will update.

The last mile and delivery

Once the product has moved to the nearest central storage area or distribution centre to the delivery address, it enters its final stage.

This is where delivery to the end customer takes place. 

This is often referred to as the last mile. In an ideal world, it goes smoothly and there’s no issue. But, in reality, there can be issues which lead to customer enquiries and complaints.

These can also add to costs, and we’ve a separate article on last mile costs if you want to explore that topic more. 

The last mile cost - food delivery guy on a bike with food in backpack

Online store customer enquiry and complaints examples

So, what happens if something goes wrong and the customer is not happy with the delivery?

There are multiple scenarios where there can be issues with the delivery.

You need to set up systems and processes to deal with these.

So for example, here are some typical customer enquiries you might need to manage.

Person sticking up one finger - the non-verbal way of swearing

“I ordered it X days ago, and it has not shown up”

“The delivery tracking number I got isn’t working”

“I didn’t get an order number” 

“The status is saying it’s delivered, but I don’t have it”

“I ordered product X, but product Y got delivered” 

“This product is not what it looks like on the website, I want a refund”

“I ordered X number of products, but only Y number of products arrived” 

“The product arrived damaged, and I want a refund”  

These are just a small sample of the types of scenarios that can happen when you manage a delivery from an online store. They happen across ALL online stores. For each question, you need to work with the warehouse, the delivery company and your customer service teams to work out the best response. 

Chargebacks

In most cases where the customer is unhappy, they will ask their credit card company to refund the payment. The payment company will then come to you to pay them back the money. 

This is called a chargeback. 

There’s often an administration fee of $25-$50 on top of the actual payment amount for the transaction too. 

Clearly, you want to minimise these chargebacks as much as you can. It will start to burn into your profit margins. 

 

Burning money

The vast majority of online shoppers are honest. You should set up your order to delivery system, and policies to keep customers happy. Accept that sometimes, things will go wrong, and it’s on you to resolve them.

Fixing the issues behind the questions above will add to your overall costs. But, they will also help improve your reputation for good customer service. Don’t underestimate this. This can often be more valuable in terms of creating more loyal, happier customers longer-term.

You should factor in a small percentage to your online store business model, say around 3 to 5% to manage these sorts of customer service issues.

Problematic customers

Where it can be problematic, is when you get less honest online shoppers trying to game the system. 

If they know you always give refunds, they might place repeated orders and claim multiple refunds.

It’s important then to be able to identify these specific cases, and put measures in place to manage them. 

At the most extreme, you can block IP addresses from accessing your website at all.

 

Angry face

But normally, you would look to use registration and payment gateway details to manage the journey a bit more smoothly.

So, you can identify and direct specific problematic shoppers to pages which say products are unavailable. You should also make sure your terms and conditions protect you.

Your aim is to make it as easy to shop for genuine shoppers, but also to make sure that no-one takes advantage of you.

Order to delivery process learnings

We recommend you speak to specialists in these areas if your store starts to scale. There’s no guaranteed way to protect against every eventuality. 

We’ve worked in setting up the order to delivery process in the past, but it’s not our core expertise. You need finance, supply chain and IT support.

But from our experience, we do recommend three specific areas to focus on. These can make your life easier. 

1. Test the system before you launch

As you set up your order to delivery process, before you make it live, test the system by placing and delivering simulated orders. Ask people who are not familiar with the system to place orders. Don’t brief them in advance, so they use the store like an actual customer would do. See what happens, and if anything “breaks”.

You want to identify any stress points early, so that you can plan ahead and fix them before the go live. Try to think of as many ways to “break” the system. It’s much better to fix problems while the store is still in development.  

Only push your order to delivery process live, when you are confident that it can handle most situations. 

2. Set up your data systems well in advance

As your online store grows, so the number of transactions and customer details will also grow.

It’s important to plan ahead how and where your digital data will sit. And, how you will access and use it. 

When a customer contacts you with an enquiry about an order, it’s important that your customer service team can easily check the status of that order.

 

Google Analytics

They need access to information systems quickly and easy. It’s not good customer service, to say they need to get hold of the IT or warehouse guy to check the status of an order.

Your digital data should define what the “master data” system is on your customer and order details. This master data should then feed any associated systems which also need that data.

3. Permission to Leave, Delivery Instructions and Signatures

The critical point in the order to delivery process is when the customer actually receives the product itself. The more thought you can put into making this part of the process robust and reliable the better. 

If appropriate, a Permission to Leave check-box can solve a whole host of issues around the delivery. Without Permission to Leave, when a customer is not at home to receive the order, you need to keep hold of the delivery and try to re-deliver it at another time. This adds costs to the order to delivery process. 

You don’t want that.

Try to encourage your online shoppers to make the most effort to make the delivery easy. Ask them for delivery instructions. Make it clear it’s in their interests to provide them. 

Make it easy to deliver to a work address for example. Or, encourage them to give clearer delivery instructions such as “leave in shed” or “leave with neighbour”. 

Check with your delivery company if they have any order delivery confirmation systems. Some will have the delivery driver take a picture of the item being left. For more expensive products, asking for a signature on delivery should be the normal approach.

Prepare for Customer Service

The order to delivery process can be complex to set-up. But, once the system starts working, it should become easier over time. You don’t know exactly how customers will interact with the system.

Even though you can prepare for the most common situations, there will always be customer enquiries that you can’t predict. You can add the most common questions to a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on your website to reduce the number of enquiries. 

But there will always be Infrequently Asked Questions too, that you can’t predict. 

 

Order to delivery process - customer service

You should make sure on your online store website, that there are clear ways for customers to contact you in these cases. Usually, this would be by phone or email, though social media messenger services and chat apps are also possible.

This means you need to prepare the technical infrastructure to manage these enquiries. 

So, you’ll need to set up phone number and any automatic call management system for example. You’ll need to set up a shop email address. And, you’ll need to make sure the right people have access to all the necessary systems.

Train your customer service team

You will need to train your team on how all these systems work. They also need to practice how to answer common questions, and what to do if they can’t answer a question.   

You’ll need to decide if one person is responsible for the overall order to delivery process. Or it’s a team of people, each responsible for different stages.

Whoever manages customer enquiries needs to be familiar with the products, the store, the terms and conditions, and all the system touchpoints in the order to delivery process.

They need to be able to access specific customer order details, and manage refunds, chase up the status on deliveries and deal with returns or damaged goods.

Customer service is a vital part of the online shopping experience. Bad customer service can drive customers away. It can damage your reputation. Your aim should be to deliver reliable customer service, that improves as your online sales continue to grow.

In our guide to managing an online store, we cover more ways in which you can continue to build improvements in customer service into the way you manage the order to delivery process.

Customer Service headset

Three-brains and e-Commerce

We have worked on many e-Commerce projects and have good experience across strategy, working with online retailers and building D2C stores. We know how to connect these expertise areas back into driving your brand marketing and growing your sales. 

If you want to know more about how we can support your e-Commerce to grow your business through our consulting services, click the button below to send us a message.

We’re here to help.

D2C Online Store Status dashboard
Click to download the pdf

Downloadable D2C status dashboard

Setting up an online store needs you to define your strategy and plan, work out the sales and marketing and also set up the whole operational side of the business including the finances and the delivery / supply chain model. It can be complex to manage.

That’s why we’ve used this project dashboard to great success in the past to have a simple one-page summary of the key actions require to set-up and manage a D2C online store. Download it here or from our resources section. 

Powerpoint and Keynote versions of this document available on request. 

Latest e-Commerce blog posts