Why It’s So Important to Nail Customer Fulfillment

“In retail, the sale isn’t the end point of customer conversion. In today’s omnichannel environment, retailers must follow through with a good supply chain experience to ensure the shopper’s emotional fulfillment,” says Retail Dive.

“At the heart of every customer experience is fulfillment. It’s not until the order is actually in their hands and they’re happy with the entire process—from beginning to end—that the essential emotional aspect of the transaction is fulfilled.”

~ IBM via Retail Dive

Everything that precedes a transaction—from branding and marketing to promotional incentives—is a complete waste if customers end up dissatisfied with the manner in which their order was delivered, whether into their hands, to their door, or to a designated pickup location.

The entire fulfillment process influences whether the customer becomes a lifetime fan with a high Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) or whether they jump the fence into your competition’s back yard.

Let’s take a look at 5 ways fulfillment keeps buyers happy and leads to customer retention:

1. Free shipping

As Yotpo points out, the top reason for cart abandonment is expensive shipping.

Today it’s become standard practice for top brands to offer at least one free shipping option. Notably, a 2017 study revealed that 88% of customers are more likely to make a purchase when offered free shipping.

Instead of worrying about how this could cut into your profits, focus instead on the increase in conversions and retention you’ll enjoy for the long haul.

2. Quick Delivery

Did you know that Amazon Prime customers convert 74% of the time while non-prime customers convert just 13% of the time?

The reality is, buyers are willing to pay for quick delivery, and that’s why marketplaces like Walmart are giving more visibility to listings with fast shipping tags.

Slow shipping can drive buyers elsewhere. But you can strengthen customer relationships by delivering high quality, fast delivery services.

3. Return policy

Harsh return policies do not encourage people to buy from you. In fact, 51% of shoppers will avoid making purchases from businesses with poor return policies.

If you want to cut down on returns, consider giving your customers more detailed product information—including reviews and user-generated photos—to help them get a better picture of your product’s full range of use.

As a retailer, you want your customers to spend more. You can make that happen by making the return process quick, convenient, and as painless as possible.

4. Follow-up

Ever heard the saying, “The fortune is in the follow-up?”

According to Strategize Your Success, “Following up with customers and clients can be one of the most important business actions a business owner can take . . . It’s an essential key to success that once mastered will bring you awesome results.”

Within a few days of delivering a customer’s order, send an email to check in and gauge their satisfaction. You might also consider asking them for a review, a photo of them using the product, and/or a mention on social media.

You can then continue to build the customer relationship through a nurture email drip campaign, with highlights on relevant products, services, and special offers.

5. Problem Solving

Stuff happens—shipments get lost, items get damaged,  customer credit cards accidentally get charged twice. Yes, it’s frustrating, but it’s just part of doing business.

The good news is, unfortunate mishaps don’t have to ruin the customer experience. “How you handle unexpected trouble is crucial and has a lasting impact on your customer relationships,” Yotpo says. You can use these incidents as an opportunity to demonstrate your awesome problem-solving skills.

Create policies on how to deal with slip-ups—a discount, a personalized gift, free delivery, a handwritten note, or something that’s unique to your brand—and share them with everyone on your team.

6. Visibility

Enabling consumers to track orders online is becoming the norm. In fact, in the most recent Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey by Boston Retail Partners, it was discovered that 73% of US consumers want to be able to track orders “across all points of interaction.”

A 2018 YouGov survey of more than 6,000 consumers in the US, UK, France, and Germany also found that 78% of online shoppers expect to receive updates on the status of their orders once they’ve made a purchase.

These statistics demonstrate that consumers are, as Retail Dive says, “demanding new approaches to fulfillment because e-commerce has exposed the once-hidden supply chain.”

“Shoppers can now weigh a retailer’s fulfillment capabilities when considering a purchase, making fulfillment a competitive asset or liability.”

~Retail Dive


“Fulfillment can be more important than the initial marketing outreach or the actual purchase because customers tend to most vividly remember the last thing that happened to them,” says Jeff Geoffroy, global product marketing manager for IBM Watson Commerce.

He goes on to say, “A poor fulfillment experience acts like a leak in a bucket. You pour in marketing spending on the front end, but you lose some of those customers because they’re not satisfied with the follow through on the fulfillment end.”

As Retail Dive suggests, retailers can’t afford to let supply chain modernization take a back seat anymore. The customer’s final purchasing step MUST be placed at the forefront of their fulfillment strategy.

Find out how retailers like you are saving time and making money with the Rain POS system. POS, E-commerce, and Marketing all in one.

Sherene Funk is the author of the contemporary romance Autumn in Your Arms and two small business e-books. She is a voracious reader who owns more books than she can ever read in this lifetime. A graduate of Brigham Young University, she worked in advertising for many years before moving to her current writing position at Rain Retail Software. She researches non-stop to see what successful retailers do and loves to share what she learns with small business owners.