A Guide to Shipping from Your Medical Office

The online healthcare market is booming: As a group, the health and beauty retailers in Internet Retailer’s 2017 Top 1000 grew by 18.3%, reflecting $9.17 billion in spending.1 This means that healthcare providers are branching into the more retail-focused world of shipping products directly to consumers.

As this practice continues to grow, the logistical challenges of in-office fulfillment become apparent: Where are the items stored? Who does the packing and shipping? How can sellers ensure that items will reach the customers in a timely manner?

Most medical offices are not equipped to handle these challenges—but it isn’t difficult to get there. If you’re thinking about setting up a fulfillment space in your medical office to sell recommended lotions, vitamins, toothpastes and medical supplies more conveniently, get started with these steps.

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    Learn the in-store fulfillment process.

    Before you can set up your space or train your staff, you have to understand the shipping process and see how it could be implemented in your office. Make sure your online store is set up so that it can communicate in an efficient way with your brick-and-mortar store.

    With a digital e-commerce system in place, there are three steps to prepare an item for shipment: picking, packing and shipping. For example, a staff member sees an online order come in, then picks the item from the shelves, packs it into the most efficient-sized box and ships it quickly and cost-effectively.

    For a more in-depth tutorial on what in-store fulfillment requires, take a look at this inventory-management video as well as this article on training your staff to ship-from-store.

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    Find space for storing and processing products.

    When a customer places an order through your online store, it’s important that you have what they wish to buy in stock at your office. Whether it’s blood-sugar test strips or tooth-whitening packs, find a place to store your inventory.

    The area for inventory doesn’t need to be large, but it should allow for easy access, and be well organized. Install shelving in an empty closet or open corner. Then affix labels that make it easy to find items that have been ordered and need to be shipped.

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    Set up your shipping station.

    A dedicated space will be needed for your employees to pack shipments after orders have been picked. Set up a small table and keep it clear of clutter. Nearby, have containers or cabinets well-stocked with all your shipping supplies—boxes, envelopes, scissors, tape, pens, etc.

    Keep easy-to-follow instructions and a list of packing best practices accessible. Hang a poster or provide a laminated handbook that employees can refer to as they are packing orders. This will help ensure that items are always properly packed to avoid damage or shipping delays.

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    Train staff on their new responsibilities.

    Order fulfillment calls for a different skill set than most medical office employees ordinarily use in their day-to-day routines. Make sure to brief your employees in advance on your plans to start shipping from the office. Then begin training them on the picking, packing and shipping process.

    Hold a training session with the full team to introduce the concept of in-store fulfillment and its benefits. Take them through the dedicated inventory-storage and shipping stations, and talk through how to pick, pack and ship products effectively. Before you start shipping to customers, run a few trainings sessions during which employees can fulfill test orders and nail down all the steps.

    It may also be helpful to set up dedicated shifts for fulfillment so that incoming orders don’t entirely disrupt how your employees work.

Key Takeaway

Once employees are up to speed on what is needed for this new venture, start selling the items you have in stock. Continually streamline the process and train employees to optimize your in-office fulfillment. With a robust shipping offering, your practice can gain a new stream of revenue from new and current customers.

Preparing Your In-Store Staff for Ship-from-Store Fulfillment

Optimizing a brick-and-mortar retail store to manage ship-from-store processes is a complex and intricate task. One of the biggest hurdles is training and motivating retail sales staff to accurately fulfill online orders. These employees are hired to assist customers in person and most likely don’t have training in picking, packing and shipping inventory.

To successfully implement ship-from-store fulfillment, retailers need a well-trained and highly motivated staff that can execute sales on- and offline. Here are four important tips for building a staff that will support ship-from-store.

Think (and Staff) Ahead

If you anticipate a greater demand for shipping, bolster your ship-from-store operations by staffing up. Bringing in dedicated support for picking, packing and shipping can help offset training time and concerns about commissions for your regular sales staff.

Train Your Staff on Fulfillment

Adding in-store fulfillment for online orders calls for a different skill set than that of a customer-facing sales team. Develop reference materials like booklets and posters, and use them as part of ongoing training programs to help employees performing fulfillment functions implement easy-to-follow processes. Training should include:

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    Train your staff to pick products for online orders in the most efficient way. This is best done in batches when in-store customer traffic is low, like before the store opens, after it closes or during slow periods throughout the day. Scheduling it during these time periods will cut down on in-store distractions that slow down the picking process. Having staff members assigned to either fulfillment or customer sales also makes picking easier to implement without hurting the customer experience.

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    Next, you’ll need to teach your staff the proper way to pack items. Create a dedicated packing station that is stocked with all the right tools—boxes, envelopes, fill material, scissors, tape—and that displays instructions for properly packing items to ship. It is considered best practice to use consistent packaging across fulfillment channels to avoid any issues. If a product is improperly packed, it could be damaged, lost or delayed, causing a customer to ultimately lose trust in your store.

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    Shipping time is a huge factor in customer satisfaction. Develop a process that takes into account pickup times and also ensures that employees check off all the necessary steps before sending. For example, a package being shipped internationally would need different paperwork and postage than a local one.

Provide Emotional Motivation

Adjusting to ship-from-store standards and processes can be taxing for everyday sales employees. They may see the addition of fulfillment as losing productive hours and commissions or feel underappreciated and overworked. In your orientations and trainings, make sure to address these emotional pain points—transparency and reassurance helps show your appreciation for your hardworking staff.

Provide Financial Motivation

Hand in hand with emotional motivation comes financial motivation. If your employees are worried about losing in-store sales, adjust your commission structure to fit the new ship-from-store strategy. Bring ordering technology into the store with laptops or eCommerce apps that employees are trained to use. This will improve the experience of a customer who can’t find what they need in person, and will help your sales staff seamlessly close deals for products bought online.

In Conclusion

Implementing a ship-from-store process in your brick-and-mortar stores requires understanding and participation from employees. Transparency along with robust, ongoing training for staff members can help any store optimize its new fulfillment strategy.