Order Tracking Systems for Your Business
If your small business delivers or receives goods on a regular basis, electronic order tracking systems are essential
If you are an e-commerce business or other firm that delivers goods to customers on a regular basis, or you order goods from suppliers regularly putting an order tracking system in place delivers instant tangible benefits. Not only will you be able to keep on top of your own orders from suppliers much more efficiently, customers appreciate knowing where their goods are and how long they will take to get there.
This article provides an overview of order tracking; covering whether it is right for your business, the different systems available, and some useful contacts to get you started.
What are some of the benefits of order tracking?
An order tracking system is one that tracks goods from the moment the order is placed to when they are physically delivered to the destination location. Different systems deliver different benefits, but broadly some of the perks you can expect from order tracking are a perception of professionalism, cost efficiency, and additionally benefits for customers and suppliers.
As customers and suppliers can check themselves where their order is, your business will be perceived as transparent, trustworthy and professional. And order tracking is a win-win situation for suppliers and customers, as they will also benefit from knowing where their goods are in the process for the same reasons you will. Creating such a win-win situation is more likely to lead to repeat business in the future.
Finally when ordering from suppliers, an order tracking system can be integrated with inventory and stock control systems – ensuring you know exactly what you have at all times and only order what you need.
Is order tracking suitable for my business?
Broadly, you have two options when it comes to order tracking. Which one you choose depends on the requirements of your business. Here’s an overview:
Built-in order tracking offered by mainstream couriers
Almost all leading courier services offer an order tracking service as part of their general delivery service. If you only have a basic need for order tracking – for example, you want to let consumers know where their products are after ordering from your website – this option is likely to be sensible. Your options in this area are either an order tracking on the courier’s website or an e-commerce order tracking system.
Most mainstream couriers offer an order tracking on the courier’s website as part of their basic service. You will need to set up an email service to give customers the tracking number and other details they need to see the delivery status of their products on the courier’s own website.
Similarly, most e-commerce shopping cart software worth its salt should be able to integrate courier order tracking into the sales process, so customers only need to visit your own website to see where their order is. Check whether your own shopping cart software offers this.
Integrated order tracking
This should be your option if you have more advanced order-tracking needs, typically when they are tied into multi-stage processes or you wish to keep on top of inventory. Particular features include real-time inventory management meaning that if you have an item that is out of stock you can see exactly when you need to order it in and how long it will take.
An integrated system also includes status checks, you will be able to check exactly where an item is in the supply chain, such as in the warehouse, in transit or in production; and order histories – order tracking systems will automatically generate these, which can be useful for audits and other purposes.
How can I choose and integrate the right order tracking system for my business?
When you have decided whether your business is more suited to a built-in or integrated order tracking system, the next step is to choose the right system and integrate it into your business.
Setting up a built-in order tracking system
If you only need built-in order tracking, the first thing to do is to come up with order codes or catalogue numbers for every product and service you plan to sell. After this choose a courier company and follow their own process to get set up.
Make sure to check how long the courier you have chosen takes to deliver orders and let your customers know about these likely timeframes. Finally, set up a system that emails customers the details they will need to track their orders (catalogue numbers, which courier company is delivering and how long it will take) as soon as items are dispatched.
Popular couriers in the UK include:
Setting up an integrated order tracking system
For integrated order tracking, the system is a little more complex. You must first try out some basic order tracking through a mainstream courier to see how it will work in practice before committing to an integrated system.
After this conduct a cost-benefit analysis to see whether the investment will deliver the tangible benefits you need it to. In particular, look at the benefits of customer satisfaction, to what extent lead times will be reduced, how you could benefit from improved management information, the cost of the system over its life, including ongoing maintenance and the cost of any specialist training or extra hires that might be needed.
Finally weigh up your options (see below) for integrated supply chain management services and see which most closely matches the needs of your company. When you have settled on a system, put in a pilot order so you can closely track the process and see if it works.
Finally integrate the system in all aspects of your business that will be affected and consider matching your own systems with your suppliers’ to deliver benefits to both of you.
As a starting point, check out the following: