Even if online retail is a small portion of your company’s business, the fulfillment center is crucial to your success.

If customers don’t get what they want when they want it — without delays and mistakes — your business looks bad.

No matter how many SKUs you carry, organization is key. Knowing what you have and what you need is important, but so is making sure your employees can find the right item and send it out easily.

Everybody Is Shopping Online

Did you know nearly 70 percent of customers buy clothing online now? And nearly half buy personal electronics or shoes and accessories?

The most popular items customers buy online are unique items — Etsy alone did more than $2.4 billion in 2015, up from $895 million in 2012.

But more and more often, people are even getting things like groceries and daily basic needs online, saving a trip to the store. Commodities and groceries are on the rise: In a Nielsen study last year, one-quarter of online respondents say they order grocery products online, and more than half (55%) are willing to do so in the future

With all this demand, what could possibly go wrong for e-commerce companies?

Imagine you're a customer looking for a hard-to-find item. You finally find it online, but it’s out of stock. Or maybe you find what you want and order it, but receive the wrong item.

Would you go back to that site again? Probably not.

Part of building a relationship with your customers is having what they need when they need it, and making sure they get exactly what they ordered. It’s easier to get people to place their first order than to keep them coming back. One mistake and they will take their business elsewhere.

Get Inventory Management Right

So how do you avoid costly mistakes as often as possible? Your fulfillment center needs a great inventory management system.

Learning Opportunities

The right inventory management system can cut down on oversells by providing immediate system updates. It can also track sales trends so you know when you need to reorder an item without having to be overstocked on it. But what it can do with the human side of the equation is even more impressive.

A good inventory management system can map out the most efficient order picking routes and ensure orders go out faster.

It can help cut down on mispicks by ensuring proper identification of similar-looking items through the use of barcode scanners. That's important, since companies including Pcdata USA estimate mispicks in 2016 will cost individual warehouses more than $500,000.

What's more, inventory management systems can identify your best employees — ones who are most efficient and productive. Efficiency is crucial to online order fulfillment. Anyone can send a customer an item eventually, but getting the right item out the door right away is what will set you apart in your customer's’ eyes.

Spending the money on a good warehouse management system can take your online retail business to the next level. Getting your customers what they want when they want it is crucial-remember it’s easy to get that first order, but getting them to come back requires excellent customer service.

Take a look at this infographic to learn more about warehouse management systems and online retail.

Infographic outlining customer complaints

How do you handle order fulfillment and related customer complaints? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

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