Consistency and precision. Those are the two key qualities you need to successfully run e-commerce operations. That’s how you can spot potential issues before they become problems and ruin your day.
But here’s the thing: even though ops leaders tend to be more organized and meticulous than the average person, it’s still not easy. Our job is to — essentially — keep an eye on every single moving piece in the business and jump in with a fix before it knocks everything else out of whack.
That’s why operations routines are absolutely essential.
I’ve developed (and refined) mine over the last twenty years and it makes our days run smoother. That’s why I’m going to share it with you today. Use it to build or refine your own behind-the-scenes process. Or to see how other ops leaders tackle the daily grind.
Like most daily processes, my morning usually starts with the same thing:
If there’s one thing I can guarantee, it’s this:
Every time you open up your fulfillment reports, you’ll see D2C orders stuck in the pipeline from the day before. And it’s your job to find them, figure out why they’re stuck, and then send them on their way. Quickly.
To see each day’s lollygagging culprits, eliminate any orders that came in after your warehouse’s fulfillment cutoff time. For example, if your 3PL has a fulfillment cutoff at 11 am, only pull the open orders that went in before 11am yesterday. On most typical days, I have to deal with about 5 to 11 open orders.
Next, we get to the fun part: figuring out why these orders got stuck. I start by going through the the most common reasons:
After I’ve identified the culprit, it’s time to fix things. This may mean adding a dummy zip code for Hong Kong bound packages, verifying the billing address or getting on the phone with the warehouse to track down missing stock. Do whatever you need to do to clear out those open orders and get them to the warehouse.
When that’s done, it’s time to put your detective hat on and run checks for:
Some of this will mean slacking or zooming with different team members. Or calling the warehouse. Or the customer. And when everything is nice and clean on the D2C side — and you’ve worked your way through your third coffee — it’s time to run the daily B2B checks.
B2B orders are larger and — typically — more complex. Unlike D2C orders that flow through Shopify, Amazon or eBay, some smaller B2B orders typically come through email and larger ones come through as EDI orders. Dealing with them is more complicated because you need to check inventory availability, vendor guide and shipping requirements and confirm payment terms with the accounting department.
This is the process I use to make sure B2B orders flow smoothly without costing us inventory or creating extra stress.
B2B order management requires a lot of juggling, manual decision making and having a very clear view into your inventory. And it takes a lot of focus.
Making sure D2C and B2B orders are flowing smoothly, inventory is on track, all warehouses are fulfilling everything as expected, and none of the systems are down is a tall order. And a major part of your day. But, as you’re taking care of all this, you also have to keep up with a constant stream of emails and Slack notifications.
I usually get about a hundred emails that need some kind of direct response or action each day. Maybe customer service has a whole stack of questions. Maybe there are a bunch of warranty questions and warranty returns. Maybe there are outstanding billing questions. Or the warehouse needs specific vendor guidelines communicated. Or a vendor needs some personal attention. The supply chain management is also a key daily focus, including knowing when freight is inbound and managing approvals for manufacturing and shipping products.
Here are just some things you have to keep an eye on while you’re chasing down outstanding orders:
These are just some of the operations curveballs that can show up at any time. I like to keep a checklist of them that I run through at the end of the day — this helps me make sure nothing gets missed.
Operations is a dynamic job. Even though a typical day usually goes like this, there are plenty of atypical days. Days when Shopify is down. Or Amazon is introducing a brand new update that changes the way they read keywords which affects orders. Or there’s a supply chain break.
On those days, all you can do is keep your head above water and hope that things return to a normal level of stress by the next one. But even on the worst days, this process helps keep me sane.
Kathleen Sullivan Garman has been an Ecommerce Operations Leader for 20+ years, helping dozens of companies set up the right backend processes. She’s currently running ecommerce operations at Remaker Labs (the masterminds behind CarryHitch).
As Pipe17’s Ecommerce Operations Advisor, Kathleen provides valuable input to our product team and advises customers on best practices. Kathleen is an avid snow skier and scuba diver and would rather be under the ocean than above it. She volunteers as the executive director of Mended Hearts of Spokane, a cardiac charity.