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Fulfillment rate 101: How to maximize every grocery order

Attracting customers is hard work. When someone has chosen your store, selected the products they want, and made it to checkout, it might look like all your hard work is about to pay off. But there’s an all-too-common way you can still lose them: if you can’t fulfill their order with the items they requested.

In the grocery industry, competition is fierce and the bar for consumer expectations continues to rise. If you can’t meet those expectations, it’s usually far too easy for customers to find a competitor who can.

At the very minimum, customers expect to receive the items they’ve ordered. So when you capture an order that you can’t fulfill, this creates a problem. For customers, it can cause a negative experience and may deter them from shopping with you in the future. For your business, you risk losing a portion of revenue or losing the order altogether.

To avoid these outcomes, you’ll want to pay close attention to your fulfillment rate.

What is fulfillment rate?

Fulfillment rate is the portion of requested items that you’re able to fulfill from your existing inventory. This includes out-of-stock items that you’re able to fulfill with substitutions.

Any time you deliver an incomplete order, that counts against your fulfillment rate. But if you have items in stock that are similar enough to those the customer wants—like a different brand of baking soda—in most instances, you can still fulfill the item.

Why fulfillment rate is important

Businesses today have a lot of data. Recognizing which metrics to concentrate on isn’t always straightforward. Fulfillment rate is worth adding to the list for a few main reasons. Knowing your fulfillment rate can help you:

Increase revenue

To drive growth for your business, it’s important to maximize each order for its full revenue potential. Tracking your fulfillment rate helps you manage your inventory and ensure that the products people like most are available when they want them. More complete orders can translate directly to more sales.

Improve customer experience

When you’re consistently able to deliver customers everything they want, it creates a positive experience with your brand and encourages repeat business over time. Even if an original item is out of stock, you can still salvage what could become a negative experience by recommending a relevant item substitution. This is a win-win for your customers and your bottom line.

Optimize inventory forecasting

Inventory forecasting is the practice of analyzing past data to make more accurate predictions about future sales. By learning about your top out-of-stock items, you can make better plans to avoid future fulfillment issues.

Metrics affecting fulfillment rate

The fulfillment rate calculation shared above applies to the overarching metric that businesses use to track performance, but you might want to keep track of these other key metrics also:

  • Found rate. Found rate measures the number of original requested items you’re able to fulfill in an order. Unlike fulfillment rate, it does not include items fulfilled using substitutions.
  • Replacement rate. Replacement rate is the portion of items that you’re able to replace with a substitute when the original items from the order can not be found or is out of stock.
  • Completion rate. Completion rate refers to the percentage of requested orders you’re able to deliver. While this metric does not directly affect fulfillment rate, it can help uncover underlying fulfillment issues that may be addressed through replacements and tighter inventory management.

Along with fulfillment rate, these 3 metrics can help you gain a better understanding of how effectively you’re delivering on what customers want. They can also help you strategize about inventory management moving forward.

How to improve fulfillment rate

Tracking fulfillment metrics arms you with information that you can act on. If you notice that your fulfillment rate and associated metrics are falling short, these strategies can help you get back on track:

1. Manage your inventory. For grocery retailers in particular, it’s critical to leverage inventory management software and analytics to forecast consumer demand for items with certainty. By monitoring item-level performance and by understanding how those items affect your overall sales, you can make strategic inventory adjustments based on those insights.

2. Make substitutions. When items are out of stock, it’s important to offer customers intuitive replacements. If you can’t offer their first choice, letting them review and approve substitutions can improve their overall shopping experience while protecting your bottom line.

3. Expand your online catalog. To ensure that you’re able to replace out-of-stock items with suitable substitutions, it’s important to evaluate your online catalog regularly and increase selection where necessary. Start by identifying your top-selling items. Then make sure you have a sufficient assortment of SKUs in the category to support substitutions.

4. Train employee shoppers. Shoppers are the link between the order and the customer, so it’s important that shoppers understand how to successfully fulfill orders, especially if they’re relying on technology from a third-party delivery platform. For retailers that employ shoppers, train your team on how to navigate replacement features, share product updates, and provide any educational materials (such as video tutorials or how-to guides) that can flatten the learning curve.

How Uber Eats can help grocers improve fulfillment rate

You don’t have to do everything yourself. Partnering with a third-party delivery platform like Uber Eats can help you improve your fulfillment metrics by providing product features and tools that give you more control over order fulfillment. Here’s how this looks in practice:

Simplifying the experience for shoppers

Using the Uber Eats platform, shoppers can easily search for original and replacement items by typing in the product name or SKU or using bar code scanning to ensure item accuracy. This makes the process of fulfilling orders at the item level more seamless, which can lead to a more efficient and positive experience for shoppers.

Giving customers power over replacements

When customers order an out-of-stock item, shoppers can search for replacements or choose from a list of best-match alternatives. After a replacement suggestion is made, customers have the power to approve, reject, or request specific items before the order is sent out for delivery. All of this can add up to fewer surprises for customers and more revenue opportunities for your business.

Supplying automated reporting and analytics

Uber Eats Manager is a comprehensive dashboard that tracks relevant metrics for you. Through automated reports and emails, you’ll be able to use information about total sales, average order value, top out-of-stock items, and more to make informed decisions about your business operations.

Uber Eats is committed to helping you increase your fulfillment rate and improve the customer experience. Whether you join the Uber Eats marketplace to reach new customers or add Uber’s white-label delivery solution to your own website or app, getting started with grocery delivery is easy.

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