Biggest Challenges in eCommerce Fulfilment and How to Handle Them?

  • Tejal Patel

  • 28.03.24

In the fast-paced world of eCommerce, fulfilment stands as the backbone of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. With the landscape evolving rapidly, businesses face a slew of challenges that directly impact their bottom line and customer loyalty.

Quick Stats and Why They Matter?

  • High Expectations: A whopping 36% of warehouse decision-makers feel the heat from rising customer expectations on shipping speeds​​.
  • Cost Concerns: Fulfilling an order can eat up to 70% of the order value, underscoring the hefty price of logistics​​.
  • The Speed Factor: 69% of shoppers won’t return if delivery lags by just two days, highlighting the need for speed​​. (Source)

The surge in eCommerce transactions has thrust fulfilment complexities into the spotlight. Warehouses and fulfilment centres are under pressure to overhaul operations to keep up with demand, maintain accuracy, and cut costs​.

So, how do businesses keep pace? Addressing e-commerce fulfilment challenges requires a blend of strategic planning, technology adoption, and process optimization. From inventory management to seamless returns, each challenge presents an opportunity to refine, innovate, and excel.

Seven Biggest Challenges in eCommerce Fulfilment

Challenge 1: Managing Inventory Effectively

Effective inventory management is critical for e-commerce businesses to avoid stock discrepancies, which can lead to overstocking, understocking, and ultimately, poor customer satisfaction. Several challenges contribute to inefficient inventory management:

  • Inaccurate demand forecasting: Without accurate predictions of future demand, businesses may struggle to maintain optimal inventory levels, leading to stockouts or excess inventory.
  • Manual inventory tracking: Relying on manual processes for inventory tracking increases the risk of errors and delays in updating stock levels, impacting order fulfilment.
  • Poor inventory visibility: Limited visibility into inventory levels across multiple sales channels can result in overselling or underselling products, causing fulfilment issues and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Inventory shrinkage: Theft, damage, or other forms of inventory shrinkage can result in discrepancies between recorded and actual inventory levels, leading to fulfilment delays and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Seasonal demand fluctuations: Seasonal fluctuations in demand can make it challenging to accurately forecast inventory needs and may result in excess inventory or stockouts.


  • Implement robust inventory management software: Utilize inventory management software that integrates with sales channels for real-time stock updates and centralized inventory control.
  • Utilize forecasting tools: Leverage forecasting tools to predict demand accurately based on historical data, market trends, and seasonality, enabling proactive inventory planning and management.
  • Adopt a just-in-time (JIT) inventory approach: Implement a JIT inventory strategy to minimize storage costs and reduce the risk of unsold stock by replenishing inventory only as needed, based on actual demand.
  • Implement cycle counting: Conduct regular cycle counting to verify inventory accuracy and identify discrepancies early, allowing for timely adjustments and preventing fulfilment issues.
  • Implement safety stock: Maintain safety stock levels to buffer against unexpected fluctuations in demand or supply chain disruptions, ensuring continuity of order fulfilment.
  • Utilize ABC analysis: Classify inventory items based on their importance and value (e.g., high, medium, low), allowing for prioritization of inventory management efforts and resources.
  • Implement vendor-managed inventory (VMI): Collaborate with suppliers to manage inventory levels directly, allowing for tighter control over stock levels and reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory.
  • Leverage cross-docking: Implement cross-docking strategies to streamline the flow of goods through the warehouse, reducing inventory holding times and improving overall efficiency.

Challenge 2: Minimizing Shipping Costs and Times

Shipping delays and high shipping costs are significant challenges in eCommerce fulfilment that can negatively impact customer satisfaction and business profitability. Several factors contribute to this challenge:

  • Inefficient order processing: Delays in order processing, such as picking, packing, and labelling, can lead to missed shipping deadlines and delayed deliveries.
  • Limited shipping options: Offering limited shipping options or relying on a single carrier can restrict flexibility and lead to higher shipping costs for customers.
  • Poor packaging practices: Inadequate packaging materials or methods may result in damaged products during transit, leading to additional shipping costs for replacements and returns.
  • Transit delays: Delays in transit due to weather, traffic, or other unforeseen circumstances can disrupt shipping schedules and lead to delivery delays.
  • High shipping costs: Fluctuating shipping rates, especially during peak seasons or for oversized items, can significantly impact shipping costs and eat into profit margins.


  • Streamline order processing: Implement efficient order processing workflows, such as automated picking and packing systems, to minimize processing time and expedite order fulfilment.
  • Negotiate rates with multiple carriers: Explore partnerships with multiple shipping carriers to negotiate competitive shipping rates and offer cost-effective shipping options to customers.
  • Invest in quality packaging materials: Use high-quality packaging materials and proper packaging techniques to protect products during transit, reducing the risk of damage and associated shipping costs.
  • Utilize dimensional pricing: Optimize packaging sizes to minimize dimensional weight charges and reduce shipping costs, especially for lightweight but bulky items.
  • Offer free or subsidized shipping: Implement free shipping thresholds or offer subsidized shipping rates to incentivize larger orders and offset shipping costs for customers.
  • Utilize regional fulfilment centres: Strategically position fulfilment centres closer to target markets to reduce shipping distances and transit times, improving delivery speed and cost efficiency.
  • Implement order consolidation: Combine multiple orders from the same customer into a single shipment to reduce shipping costs and minimize environmental impact.
  • Utilize split shipping: Split orders with multiple items into separate shipments from different fulfilment centres or carriers to optimize shipping routes and minimize transit times.

Challenge 3: Handling Returns Seamlessly

Managing returns efficiently is crucial for eCommerce businesses to maintain customer satisfaction and minimize operational costs. Several challenges contribute to disorganized returns processes:

  • Lack of a clear return policy: Unclear or inconsistent return policies may confuse customers and lead to delays or disputes in the returns process.
  • Manual returns processing: Relying on manual processes for returns processing can be time-consuming and error-prone, leading to delays in refunds or exchanges.
  • Limited visibility into return reasons: Without insights into the reasons for returns, businesses may struggle to identify trends or patterns and implement preventive measures.
  • Restocking and refurbishing: Processing returned items for restocking or refurbishing requires additional time and resources, impacting overall returns processing efficiency.
  • Customer disputes: Disputes over return eligibility or condition can escalate into customer service issues, potentially damaging customer relationships and brand reputation.


  • Establish a clear return policy: Communicate a transparent and user-friendly return policy to customers, outlining return eligibility, timeframes, and procedures clearly on the website.
  • Automate returns processing: Implement automated returns processing systems to streamline the returns process, from return initiation to refund or exchange, reducing processing time and errors.
  • Analyze return data: Utilize return data analytics to identify trends, patterns, and reasons for returns, enabling proactive measures to address root causes and reduce return rates in the future.
  • Utilize restocking fees: Implement restocking fees for returned items to discourage frivolous returns and offset the costs associated with restocking and processing returned inventory.
  • Offer return shipping labels: Provide prepaid return shipping labels to customers for convenience and to encourage timely returns, expediting the returns process and reducing processing times.
  • Utilize return merchandise authorization (RMA): Implement an RMA system to track returned items and ensure they are processed efficiently and accurately, reducing errors and delays in returns processing.
  • Provide self-service return portals: Offer self-service return portals on the website for customers to initiate returns independently, reducing the burden on customer service teams and streamlining the returns process.
  • Utilize liquidation channels: Partner with liquidation platforms or outlets to sell returned or excess inventory, recouping some of the costs associated with returns and minimizing losses.

Challenge 4: Inefficient Warehouse Picking Operations

Warehouse picking operations often suffer from inefficiencies, posing a significant challenge in eCommerce fulfilment. Several factors contribute to this issue:

  • Lack of a clear system: Without a structured system, pickers may waste time searching for products or selecting the wrong items, resulting in delays and errors.
  • Poor layout: Inefficient warehouse layouts can lead to unnecessary travel distances for pickers, increasing the time and effort required to fulfil orders.
  • Lack of technology: Without technology integration like RFID or pick-to-light systems, manual processes slow down operations and increase error rates.
  • Inexperienced pickers: Untrained or inexperienced staff may struggle to meet efficiency standards, impacting the overall speed and accuracy of the picking process.
  • Large product variety: Warehouses with diverse inventories present challenges in locating and selecting the correct items efficiently.
  • Poor inventory management: Inaccurate inventory records can lead to confusion and wasted time as pickers struggle to find items that may be out of stock or misplaced.
  • Limited storage space: Constrained storage areas make it difficult to organize products effectively, adding complexity to the picking process.
  • High volume of orders: A surge in orders can overwhelm picking operations, making it difficult to maintain efficiency and meet demand.


  • Use an order picking system: Implement pick-to-light or pick-to-voice systems to streamline picking processes and improve accuracy.
  • Implement zone picking: Divide the warehouse into zones and assign specific tasks to each area to minimize travel time and improve efficiency.
  • Use RFID technology: Utilize RFID technology for precise inventory tracking, reducing picking errors and optimizing efficiency.
  • Implement batch picking: Group orders together to be picked in one pass through the warehouse, reducing the number of trips required by pickers.
  • Use pick carts: Provide pickers with carts to transport orders, reducing physical strain and increasing picking speed.
  • Train pickers: Invest in comprehensive training programs to enhance picker skills and improve overall efficiency.
  • Review and optimize layout: Regularly assess warehouse layout and make adjustments to optimize picking paths and reduce travel time.
  • Use automation: Integrate automation technologies such as conveyor systems or automated picking robots to speed up operations and minimize manual labour.

Challenge 5: Damaged or Lost Items During Transit

Transit damage or loss can occur during the shipping process, leading to customer dissatisfaction and increased operational costs for businesses. Several factors contribute to this challenge:

  • Insufficient packaging: Inadequate packaging materials or methods may fail to protect products adequately during transit, resulting in damage or loss.
  • Poor handling practices: Rough handling or mishandling of packages during transit can lead to damage or loss of items, especially fragile or high-value products.
  • Transit delays: Delays in transit can increase the risk of damage or loss as packages spend more time in transit and are exposed to various environmental conditions.
  • Limited tracking capabilities: Inadequate tracking systems may result in limited visibility into the location and status of shipments, making it difficult to identify and address issues promptly.


  • Partner with reliable shipping carriers: Select reputable shipping carriers known for their careful handling practices and timely delivery to minimize the risk of damage or loss during transit.
  • Invest in quality packaging materials: Use high-quality packaging materials, such as corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, or foam inserts, and employ proper packaging techniques to protect products during transit.
  • Implement tracking systems: Utilize advanced tracking systems that provide real-time visibility into the location and status of shipments, allowing for proactive intervention in case of delays or issues.
  • Provide insurance for high-value items: Offer shipping insurance options for high-value products to provide financial protection in case of damage or loss during transit, ensuring customer satisfaction and minimizing losses.
  • Implement quality control measures: Conduct regular inspections of outgoing shipments to ensure that products are properly packaged and protected, reducing the risk of damage or loss during transit.
  • Offer alternative shipping options: Provide customers with options for expedited or premium shipping services that prioritize careful handling and reduce the risk of damage or loss during transit.

Challenge 6: Managing Multiple Sales Channels and Integration

Managing sales across multiple channels, such as eCommerce platforms, marketplaces, and brick-and-mortar stores, presents logistical and operational challenges for businesses. Several factors contribute to this challenge:

  • Inventory synchronization: Ensuring accurate inventory levels across multiple sales channels can be challenging and may result in overselling or underselling products.
  • Order consolidation: Managing orders from multiple channels and consolidating them for efficient processing and fulfilment requires coordination and integration between systems.
  • Shipping and fulfilment complexities: Different sales channels may have unique shipping requirements or fulfilment processes, adding complexity to order processing and fulfilment operations.
  • Customer communication: Providing consistent and seamless communication across multiple sales channels requires coordination and integration of customer communication systems.


  • Implement integrated eCommerce platforms: Utilize eCommerce platforms that offer built-in integration with multiple sales channels, allowing for centralized inventory management and order processing.
  • Utilize multichannel order management systems (OMS): Implement OMS software that consolidates orders from various sales channels into a single interface, streamlining order processing and fulfilment.
  • Automate inventory synchronization: Use automated inventory synchronization tools that update inventory levels across multiple sales channels in real time, reducing the risk of overselling or underselling products.
  • Standardize shipping & fulfilment processes: Establish standardized shipping and fulfilment processes that can be applied across all sales channels, simplifying operations and reducing complexity.
  • Implement centralized customer communication: Utilize centralized customer communication platforms or customer relationship management (CRM) systems to provide consistent and seamless communication across all sales channels.
  • Train staff on multichannel operations: Provide training and resources to staff members involved in managing multiple sales channels, ensuring they understand processes and procedures and can effectively navigate the complexities of multichannel operations.

Challenge 7: Adapting to Technology and Market Changes

The rapid evolution of technology and shifting market trends necessitates continuous adaptation for eCommerce businesses to remain competitive. Several factors contribute to this challenge:

  • Technological advancements: Keeping pace with emerging technologies, such as AI, AR, and IoT, requires investment in research, development, and implementation.
  • Changing consumer preferences: Shifts in consumer behaviour, such as preferences for mobile shopping or sustainability, require businesses to adapt their strategies and offerings accordingly.
  • Market competition: Increased competition in the eCommerce space requires businesses to differentiate themselves through innovation and agility.
  • Regulatory changes: Changes in regulations or compliance requirements, such as data privacy laws or shipping regulations, may impact business operations and require adjustments to processes and systems.


  • Stay ahead of industry trends: Invest in ongoing market research and analysis to stay informed about emerging technologies, consumer behaviour trends, and competitive landscape shifts.
  • Invest in scalable technologies: Prioritize investments in scalable technologies that can adapt to evolving business needs and market trends, ensuring long-term competitiveness and agility.
  • Embrace automation and AI: Leverage automation and AI technologies to streamline operations, improve efficiency, and enhance customer experiences, staying ahead of the curve in a rapidly evolving marketplace.
  • Cultivate innovation culture: Foster a culture of innovation within the organization, encouraging creativity, experimentation, and continuous improvement in products, services, and processes.
  • Monitor regulatory changes: Stay informed about regulatory changes and compliance requirements relevant to the eCommerce industry, and proactively adapt business practices to ensure compliance and mitigate risks.

Final Thoughts!

In conclusion, the landscape of eCommerce fulfilment is multifaceted, marked by challenges that demand innovative solutions for sustained growth. From inventory management to adapting to market shifts, each hurdle offers a chance for enhancement. Through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and strategic approaches, businesses can streamline operations, reduce costs, and elevate customer satisfaction.

We at Shipzip, a logistics company in Vijayawada, recognize the importance of seamless logistics in eCommerce success. Through our tailored solutions and dedication to efficiency, we enable businesses to thrive in a dynamic marketplace, driving growth and customer loyalty.