How to Improve the Order Fulfillment Process – 7 Tips

How to improve the order fulfillment process, factory worker stands surrounded by boxes.

Remember when you were a kid, and you spent hours swinging from the monkey bars, pretending the ground was lava?

We think it’s a perfect way to describe order management.

From juggling incoming orders to navigating your warehouse, the whole process can feel a bit like a high-stakes game of The Floor is Lava. One wrong step, and you may just fall into a piping hot mess.

At Goods, we know the feeling. So we’ve called together our expert team of logistics nerds to whip up a list of our favorite order fulfillment tips. Read on to discover tricks, tactics, and the latest in order fulfillment strategies. Soon, you’ll be solving order problems before they begin.

Worried your company is too small or too big to benefit from these tips? Don’t sweat it. Whether you’re a fledgling startup or a tested enterprise, streamlining your order fulfillment process is key for growth, success, and continued scaling. So strap in and let’s make sure you clear those dangerous gaps in your order fulfillment process . . . one monkey bar at a time.


Before we dive into specific strategies, it’s not a bad idea to freshen up on what is meant by “order fulfillment.” Put simply, order fulfillment describes the lifecycle of every order placed and delivered by your company, from customer to business and back again.

The typical steps of the process include:

  1. Order Placement: The process begins when a customer places an order. Orders are usually placed via a variety of channels: through a website catalogue, over telephone or email, or in person (as with a physical point of sale).
  2. Order Processing: Once a customer places an order and the business receives it, it needs to be processed. Processing an order includes verifying the order details are correct, checking inventory levels to make sure there is sufficient stock on hand, and confirming the customer’s chosen payment method. As more businesses take advantage of automation technology, this step is often handled by software that integrates with shopfronts, inventory management, and payment processing systems.
  3. Picking: Let’s assume our order is processed successfully and all details have been locked in. Now it’s time for the warehouse team to take the wheel. Their role begins with locating and selecting the proper item from the warehouse shelves. This is called the picking process.

Depending on the size and complexity of the operation, picking may involve manual picking (where employees physically gather the items) or automated picking (where technology such as robots or conveyor belts are used to retrieve items). Often, it involves a mix of both, with human employees assisted by tech solutions.

  1. Packing: It’s not enough to pick an item—it also needs to be packed properly to ensure a safe delivery and a happy customer. A skilled packing team will know how to select the right packaging materials, how to arrange the items securely within the package, and when to add necessary documentation. Don’t forget the packing slips and invoices!
  2. Shipping: It looks like our order is packed and ready to rumble. A savvy operations manager will ensure the business is using the most cost-effective shipping methods, verify that shipping labels are all up-to-date, and coordinate with carriers to arrange for a timely delivery.
  3. Delivery: Our favorite and final stage of the standard order fulfillment process is delivery. In this step, the package arrives at the customer’s doorstep. This may be handled by a mix of a business’s own delivery vehicles, third-party logistics providers, and/or major shipping companies like UPS, DHL, or FedEx.

Throughout the order fulfillment process, accuracy and efficiency are critical. Any errors or delays can result in broken items, lost sales, angry customers, and damage to your reputation.

In order words . . . drop the ball during any step of the order fulfillment process, and you’ll wind up in the lava.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen.


1. DON’T WING IT. Map out your order fulfillment process before you begin.

You wouldn’t set off on a grand journey without some kind of a map to guide you, right? (If so, please don’t tell us about it—we have enough anxiety.)

The same principle applies to your order fulfillment system. Take the time to fully plan and describe every step involved, from the moment your customer places an order to the moment they rip open the package. This will help you customize your plans to fit your business size, type, and products. It will also help you to identify chokepoints, redundancies, slowdowns, and areas for improvement.

At Goods, we believe in freely sharing operation-essential information with our team. We suggest you make sure your relevant employees get a copy of your “map” so they can offer advice at every level of operations.

2. DON’T GUESTIMATE. Invest in inventory management software to keep tabs on your stock.

A Goods tech dies a little inside every time we hear a horror story of a business owner or manager who “guestimated” their inventory incorrectly . . . and brought a big order screeching to a halt.

There’s no need for sloppy guesswork in today’s inventory management world. The right inventory management software can do a lot more than keep accurate numbers—it can track your inventory in real-time, automate reordering processes, and even provide detailed demand forecasting.

3. DON’T LET THE DISHES PILE UP. Always keep your warehouse organized.

Even warehouse management veterans can’t make a shipshape operation out of a disorderly mess. It’s critical that your warehouse is laid out for quick, painless navigation.

That usually means making sure:

  • inventory records reflect accurate stock amounts and shelf locations for all items
  • warehouse employees can access those records quickly enough to meet order demands
  • items are shelved (and reshelved) in specific, reliable locations throughout the warehouse
  • warehouse workers are able to easily move throughout the warehouse without being physically blocked by vehicles, items, storage, or other employees
  • fast-moving inventory is frequently replenished to keep ahead of demand

Additionally, any warehouse operation will usually benefit from designated, planned picking routes to help warehouse employees reach their destinations faster. As a starting point, we recommend prioritizing the order in which inventory moves through each area of your warehouse.

There are plenty of tools available out there to help you optimize picking routes, from AI-based software to professional analysts to warehouse layout strategies. Make use of them, and you’ll see a big improvement in your warehouse team’s speed, accuracy, and performance. Not to mention a reduction in errors and returns.

4. DON’T DRAG YOUR FEET. Implement proven pick-and-pack strategies to reduce walking time.

If your warehouse is in great shape but you’re still experiencing slowdowns during pick and pack, it may be that your team’s methods need refinement. Optimization is key to keeping labor costs manageable and making sure your employees aren’t overwhelmed.

We recommend trying a blend of strategies like:

  • Batch picking: multiple orders are picked at once before packing begins in the designated zone
  • Zone picking: each warehouse picker is assigned a specific zone to specialize in, thereby better avoiding crossed wires and mix-ups
  • Subdividing shelf space: each inventory area is clearly subdivided and labelled by signs, dividers, containers, and other organization tools to guide the pick and pack team
  • Voice-directed pick routes: warehouse workers are equipped with headsets and aided by voiced picking directions, keeping their eyes up and their attention on their surroundings
  • AI-generated pick routes: software (sometimes AI-based) highlights optimal picking routes for each employee, then displays them via handheld devices

Whatever strategies you choose, remember to revisit and reprofile often in order to improve.

5. DON’T KEEP IT OLD-SCHOOL. Embrace automation, new tech, and robotics—but at a pace that makes sense for you.

Automating your software solutions via integrations and omnichannel platforms represents a huge step forward for most businesses, especially scaling SMBs.

But when it comes to technology, don’t feel pressured to jump right to the newest, highest-tech solution. It’s more important to take one controlled step up at a time.

For example, simply upgrading from paper-based pick and pack to a barcode scanner can be game-changing for your team. Are you still doing things manually because you aren’t a fan of traditional scanning guns? You can choose from a variety of barcode-scanning mobile apps your warehouse employees can download on their personal devices.

6. DON’T FORGET TO SHIP AROUND. Offer multiple shipping options to save money and time.

We always recommend diversifying your shipping options to offer your customers the best value for their needs.

Smart managers don’t paint all customers with one brush. Some customers need their order fast, and others would rather save every possible penny. Casting a wide net by offering multiple carriers, shipping speeds, and budget options will in turn widen your net of customers.

7. DON’T FORGET RETURNS . . . because customers won’t forget you.

Returns are a part of life, even for the most streamlined business operation. Keep your bottom line healthy by creating a return system that synchronizes with your order fulfillment process.

That means:

  • Make it easy for customers to initiate returns. You might think a difficult return process will discourage customers from returning items, but in reality, it only tends to anger them. Remember: it’s better to deal with a return than to lose a customer.
  • Train and maintain a superb customer service team. Make sure you’re supporting your customer service reps by providing them up-to-date information about order status and delays. We recommend finding an order fulfillment platform that integrates with your customer service team’s software.
  • Build returns into your restocking and reshelving systems whenever it is appropriate to do so.
  • Develop a foolproof system to ensure that reshelved items are still in optimal condition. In our experience, the best way to accomplish this is to simply listen to your customers. Make note of their complaints—and do your best to identify the source of the problem internally.


At Goods, we know that mastering your order fulfillment process is no playground game.

But we also know that you can’t go wrong when you apply the right strategies, a little patience, and the courage to explore new tech solutions. At the end of the day, if you focus on improving your order fulfillment process step by step, you’ll benefit from a smoother, happier operation at every step of the way.

Even when the floor is lava.