To succeed in ecommerce, you need to deliver fast, high-quality service. This means keeping your supply chain in check, and ensuring a seamless journey from when a customer orders to when the product is received. Ecommerce order fulfillment processes can be an intricate web to weave, but when managed correctly, they’re revolutionary.
What is ecommerce order fulfillment? What are the benefits of managing effectively? And how do you choose a fulfillment partner that’s right for you? This article covers everything you need to know to get your house in order — and delight your customers every time.
What is ecommerce order fulfillment?
Ecommerce order fulfillment is the end-to-end process of storing goods, picking and packing products, and shipping online orders to customers. It touches inventory management, order processing, and shipping, ensuring timely and accurate delivery of purchases to consumers.
Some businesses choose to manage fulfillment in-house, however others often elect to outsource fulfillment through third-party ecommerce fulfillment services to share some of the burden. There are pros and cons to each — and in both scenarios, setting up an ecommerce order fulfillment process is no mean feat.
What are the common challenges of ecommerce order fulfillment?
Common challenges of ecommerce order fulfillment range from complex inventory management, to navigating changing international regulations — all while staying within budget. Ecommerce businesses also have to predict demand accurately, and integrate the appropriate technology to be successful.
Here are some of the biggest challenges of effective ecommerce order fulfillment:
Inventory management is a core challenge in the ecommerce order fulfillment — and it demands innovative solutions. Implementing robust inventory management software facilitates accurate demand forecasting and real-time stock levels. Streamlining warehouse operations and establishing strong supplier relationships ensure timely restocking, reducing overstock and stockouts, thereby enhancing customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.
Using the wrong technology
When it comes to managing your ecommerce order fulfillment processes, it’s likely that there are a number of different tools or software solutions in the mix. Often it can be the case that businesses rely on tools that don’t integrate seamlessly — or in some cases work against one another. Spending time to construct the right ecommerce tech stack is vital, as your software should make life easier, not harder, as you scale.
Keeping up with changing regulations
When shipping internationally, you need to be aware of the different customs regulations in each country. This can be a challenge, as regulations are constantly changing. Navigating changing regulations means staying informed through reliable sources and leveraging legal expertise to adapt processes swiftly — and accurately.
Staying within budget
Additionally, any budget constraints may limit the scope of features available. Cost is another major factor when selecting a service provider for global ecommerce fulfillment.
Shipping rates, taxes, and other fees can quickly add up, making these services expensive, especially if they’re not available in certain countries or regions. This could lead businesses to sacrifice certain markets or risk incurring additional costs when shipping abroad. Returns can get especially tricky.
Building the right relationships with fulfillment centers
Finding the right partner. It’s not always easy to find a provider that meets all your business needs. Every company offers different features and advantages, so researching thoroughly and comparing strengths and weaknesses can be time-consuming.
What are the benefits of using ecommerce order fulfillment services?
Outsourcing ecommerce order fulfillment to a third party can bring numerous advantages — ranging from control over fixed costs, to a smoother process for managing returns. Businesses may also benefit from their economies of scale, bringing fulfillment costs down, as well as gaining access to their expertise.
Here are some of the potential benefits to partnering with an ecommerce order fulfillment services provider:
Control of fixed costs
Using an ecommerce order fulfillment service can help you scale your business without the need to invest in your own dedicated infrastructure. Even some larger businesses, whose sales reach into the millions each year online, find these services attractive.
Reliable delivery times
One of the most notable benefits of working with an ecommerce order fulfillment company is swift delivery times for goods — especially for those selling perishable products or those needing to meet consumer demand quickly.
Working with ecommerce order fulfillment companies allows you to meet customer expectations at scale as you grow. They get their products on time, and these large-scale fulfillment service providers usually provide multiple shipping options, which is attractive to customers.
Smoother returns processes
Customers also want returns to be easy and simple. Fulfillment services can provide a universal returns experience that increases customer satisfaction even when they don’t want to keep items.
Lower shipping costs
The best ecommerce fulfillment companies can take advantage of working with multiple carriers and earn discounts from them that would be unavailable elsewhere. This means businesses can significantly decrease shipping costs with these discounted providers.
How to choose the right ecommerce order fulfillment services
Choosing the ideal partner for your ecommerce order fulfillment is crucial for your business to thrive. However, lots of businesses take a purely cost-based approach to this task, which can be the wrong way to go. In fact, this can result in your business choosing the wrong fulfillment provider. Joe McIntyre, Founder of consulting company Twelve48, “When I talk with some [companies], they’re just not with the right provider. It’s not because the provider is good or bad, it’s just not right for them. That is often because they’re chasing cost versus looking at value… and nothing about supply chain can really be transactional.”
Before you dive into choosing a provider, it’s important to be clear on what your selection criteria are — and that you spend time evaluating whether these will ultimately help you build a successful partnership. The following worth considering on this journey:
Start with geography
It’s essential to consider where you’ll be shipping orders most often. Different ecommerce order fulfillment services specialize in different locations, and you want to be sure that your chosen partner covers the countries or regions you’ll be selling to. It’s also worth checking reviews for those regions to make sure the provider is delivering on the lead times they’re quoting.
Account for volume
One of the most important considerations for choosing a fulfillment company for your ecommerce business is shipping volume; you’ll need to find a partner that can handle your current demands — and can scale up as needed.
Evaluate the total cost
Of course, pricing plays an important role in determining the best fulfillment services for you. The lowest-cost option isn’t necessarily the best fit, so also consider how well ecommerce fulfillment centers meet your business’ — and your customers’ — needs.
Your order volume, frequency and other factors, such as storage fees, may influence your cost here, too. Having an automated inventory management system can help with this decision, by providing quality inventory data and forecasting to choose the optimal vendor.
Ask for a walkthrough of the process
When evaluating potential providers, you should be willing to enter into detailed discussions with them — rather than simply asking for their costs. According to Rayan Osseiran, Founder of Shorages.com, “the way to filter out a good fulfillment center or really any other outsourced partner is to have them walk you through [their] process.”
20 ecommerce order fulfillment services to consider
We’ve put together a list of third-party logistics providers (3PLs) so you have no shortage of choices for the best international ecommerce fulfillment service.
Activ8 is an online platform that helps ecommerce companies and organizations increase the efficiency of their operations. The company provides a variety of fulfillment services, including specialized pick-and-pack reporting and last-mile delivery.
Adstral Fulfillment is a U.K.-based fulfillment service providing comprehensive services to businesses of all sizes with global availability. Its ecommerce fulfillment service connects to major platforms such as Amazon and Shopify.
Australia Post, formerly known as Fulfilio, is an Australian-based e-commerce company that offers services including 3PL warehousing, pick-and-pack, and delivery. Same-day delivery is available in certain locations.
Boxme Global is an ecommerce logistics company based in Southeast Asia. The company provides ecommerce fulfillment and other services on quick timelines, with same-day shipping among the available options.
Deliverr is a logistics and delivery company that specializes in same-day and next-day deliveries. It offers a variety of all-inclusive delivery options for businesses of all sizes. Services include local and long-distance delivery, white-glove delivery and more.
DEVLND offers ecommerce fulfillment across many markets and over 40 channels, including easy shipping from the U.K. to the EU. It is also available via on-site support via phone, email and live chat.
Diamond Logistics is a U.K.-based logistics and freight forwarding company offering solutions for road, air and sea freight services, as well as customs clearance and warehousing. With a global network of partners, Diamond Logistics can offer international shipping and delivery as well as same- and next-day delivery.
eFulfillment Service specializes in handling a variety of marketplace orders in one centralized platform, along with a global network of warehouses. The company also offers value-added services such as gift wrapping and product customization.
FedEx Fulfillment operates 130 warehouses across the U.S. and Canada. They are able to dispatch the majority of their shipments via two-day ground services.
A distinct advantage to using this service is that as a seller you can package your products in custom boxes with your brand’s own logo. This can be a powerful way to drive customer engagement and retention.
Fulfillment.com is a full-service logistics and fulfillment company that specializes in e-commerce, retail, and direct-to-consumer fulfillment. They offer a range of services, including order processing, inventory management and shipping, to more than 150 countries.
Fulfillrite is a full-service logistics and order fulfillment company that provides online stores and other retailers with shipping, warehousing, and inventory management solutions. This company also offers same-day shipping and integrations for a variety of needs.
Huboo is a U.K.-based logistics and fulfillment provider serving the U.K. and Europe with a variety of fulfillment solutions and a dedicated dashboard.
James & James Fulfillment
James & James Fulfillment is a digital-native fulfillment services specializing in light-weight, fast-moving products. This focus helps the company deliver exceptional service in categories including cosmetics, fast fashion and subscription boxes. Services include order fulfillment, inventory management and returns management.
Pickit & Packit
Pickit & Packit is a U.K.-based logistics company that specializes in contract packing while also offering pick-and-pack and fulfillment, among other services.
Pro FS Group
Pro FS Group offers services from warehousing all the way through returns, with highlights including courier and delivery management, 4PL services and consulting.
ShipBob is a U.S.-based, technology-driven omni-fulfillment solution whose services cover order fulfillment, inventory management and returns management. It also serves Canada, the U.K. and EU, and Australia with a specialization in direct-to-consumer brands.
ShipNetwork, formerly Rakuten Super Logistics, uses a proprietary algorithm to match each package with the best pricing and service options. The company also offers U.S.-based phone support and a variety of fulfillment options, including product customization and returns management.
Shipwire is a full-service 3PL serving retailers, dropshippers and direct-to-consumer brands in 164 countries. The company provides cloud-based software for order fulfillment, inventory management and shipping, among other services.
Sprint Logistics is a full-service logistics provider with ISO 9001 quality standards, ISO 14001 environmental management systems and ISO 27001 information security accreditation. Among its services are a full suite for direct-to-consumer and ecommerce fulfillment. The company is tech-powered, with API integrations connecting directly with your supply chain.
Whistl is a U.K.-based order fulfillment service provider that offers domestic and international order fulfillment for established businesses. All fulfillment services come with bespoke pricing.
Find the right ecommerce order fulfillment service for your business
Ecommerce order fulfillment is an essential part of any online store. Whether you’re running a scaling startup, or an industry-leading enterprise that’s expanding to new markets, it’s vital that you streamline storing, packing and shipping your orders.
You might find it more effective to outsource for this, and we hope that the providers outlined in this article help with your decision-making process. When choosing a service provider, consider their services, locations, support and pricing, as well as how they integrate with the software and services you already use.
If you want to level-up your inventory management — and automate away unnecessary aspects of your ecommerce operation, let Linnworks help. Book a demo today to find out more.