Order Fulfilment Services: A Guide

In the fast-paced world of e-commerce, the difference between a successful business and an also-ran often boils down to one critical operation: order fulfilment. It’s the backbone of your e-commerce business, ensuring that your products reach your customers promptly and in pristine condition. But as your business grows, managing the complexities of order fulfilment can become a Herculean task. That’s where order fulfilment services come into play, offering a streamlined, efficient solution to keep your operations humming and your customers happy.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore everything you need to know about order fulfilment services. From the nuts and bolts of the process to selecting the perfect partner for your business, we’ve got you covered. So, let’s get started and discover how these services can transform your e-commerce operations!



What is order fulfilment?

At its core, order fulfilment is the complete process from the moment a customer places an order online to the final delivery of the product to their location. Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s more to it than meets the eye. This process encompasses several key steps, each critical to ensuring a smooth, efficient delivery experience.

In essence, order fulfilment is the art and science of ensuring that every step of the product’s journey from warehouse to doorstep is executed flawlessly. It’s a complex ballet of logistics, technology, and customer service that, when done right, goes unnoticed by the happy shopper. For businesses, choosing the right fulfilment partner can mean the difference between a smooth operation and logistical nightmares. With the right support, companies can focus on what they do best: creating products that people love, leaving the logistics to the pros who make sure those products find their way into eager hands.

Types of order fulfilment

Understanding the various types of fulfilment services is crucial for e-commerce businesses to make informed decisions that align with their operational needs, customer expectations, and growth objectives. Here’s a closer look:

In-House Fulfilment

In-house fulfilment, also known as self-fulfilment, is when a business manages all aspects of the fulfilment process internally. This includes storing inventory, picking and packing orders, shipping, and handling returns.


  • Complete control over the fulfilment process.
  • Direct oversight of inventory management and order accuracy.


  • Significant investment in warehouse space and logistics infrastructure.
  • Challenges in scaling operations during peak demand periods.

Third-Party Logistics (3PL)

Third-party logistics providers, like Impact Express, take over the fulfilment process on behalf of e-commerce businesses. This arrangement covers everything from inventory management to shipping and returns. 3PL services are ideal for businesses looking to scale without the added overhead of managing fulfilment operations.


  • Access to expert logistics and fulfilment services.
  • Scalability to handle fluctuating order volumes.
  • Reduced operational costs through shared warehousing and shipping resources.


  • Less direct control over the fulfilment process.
  • Requires careful selection to find a 3PL that aligns with your brand’s values and service standards.


Dropshipping is a fulfilment model where the seller does not keep products in stock. Instead, when an order is placed, the seller purchases the item from a third party and has it shipped directly to the customer.


  • Minimal upfront investment and risk.
  • No need to manage inventory or handle shipping logistics.


  • Lower profit margins due to reliance on third-party suppliers.
  • Limited control over shipping times and product quality.

Hybrid Fulfilment

Hybrid fulfilment combines different fulfilment strategies to meet specific business needs. For example, a business might use a 3PL provider for most orders but handle special products or peak periods in-house. This approach offers flexibility and can help businesses optimise their fulfilment operations.


  • Flexibility to choose the best fulfilment method for different situations.
  • Ability to balance control with convenience and scalability.


  • Can be complex to manage multiple fulfilment processes.
  • Requires careful planning and coordination.

The Order Fulfilment Process: A Step-by-Step Breakdown

The order fulfilment process is a cornerstone operation for any e-commerce or retail business, ensuring that customer orders are efficiently and accurately processed, packaged, and shipped.

1. Receiving Inventory

The fulfilment process starts with receiving inventory from suppliers or manufacturers. Upon arrival, products are inspected for damage, counted, and inventoried. Utilising advanced inventory management systems is crucial at this stage, as it helps keep track of stock levels and ensures products are ready to meet customer demand.

2. Inventory Storage

After the inventory is accounted for, it’s stored in the warehouse. Effective storage is not just about finding space on a shelf; it involves strategic placement to optimise picking efficiency and speed. Products may be organised based on size, sales velocity, and other relevant factors to facilitate quick and accurate order processing.

3. Order Processing

Order processing is a multi-step operation that includes picking and preparing for shipment. When a customer places an order, the ordered items are picked from their storage locations with the help of technology such as handheld scanners, which guide employees to the correct items and ensure order accuracy.

4. Packing

Next, the items are packed, considering the type of packaging material that best protects the product during transit while being cost-effective and sustainable. The goal during packing is to ensure products are secure and presented in a way that aligns with the brand’s values and meets customer expectations.

5. Shipping

Once an order is packed, it’s ready for shipping. This step involves choosing the best delivery method based on the customer’s preference, cost, and the need for speed. Partnerships with various carriers allow for a range of shipping options, from standard to express delivery. The objective is to deliver packages safely and promptly, enhancing customer satisfaction.

Customers are provided with tracking information, offering transparency and reassurance as they await their delivery. This communication is key to maintaining trust and providing a positive shopping experience.

6. Returns Processing

Handling returns efficiently is as important as managing outbound shipments. Effective returns processing can significantly impact customer satisfaction and their likelihood of repeat business. Returns involve inspecting, processing, and restocking or disposing of returned items as per the retailer’s policy, alongside managing refunds or exchanges for customers.

Technology plays a vital role at each stage of the fulfilment process, from inventory management and order processing to shipping and handling returns. Integrating cutting-edge technology helps ensure efficiency, accuracy, and transparency, providing a competitive advantage in the dynamic e-commerce landscape.


Benefits of Outsourcing Order Fulfilment

Outsourcing order fulfilment comes with a many benefits that can significantly impact the efficiency, scalability, and customer satisfaction levels of an e-commerce business. Here are some of the key advantages:

Focus on Core Business Activities

One of the primary benefits of outsourcing fulfilment is that it allows business owners and managers to concentrate on their core competencies. Whether it’s product development, marketing, or customer service, outsourcing the complex and time-consuming tasks of order fulfilment frees up valuable time and resources. This enables businesses to innovate, expand their product lines, and enhance their customer engagement strategies without being bogged down by logistical challenges.

Cost Savings

Outsourcing can lead to substantial cost savings in various areas of the fulfilment process. Fulfilment companies often have economies of scale that individual businesses cannot achieve on their own. This means lower shipping rates, reduced costs for warehousing, and savings on packaging materials. Additionally, businesses save on the capital expenditures required to establish and maintain their own fulfilment infrastructure.

Access to Expertise and Advanced Technology

Fulfilment providers specialise in logistics and have extensive knowledge and experience in optimising the fulfilment process. By partnering with these experts, businesses benefit from best practices in inventory management, order processing, and shipping. Moreover, fulfilment companies invest in the latest technology, offering businesses access to advanced inventory and order management systems. These systems provide real-time data and analytics, enabling better decision-making and improved customer service.

Scalability and Flexibility

Outsourcing fulfilment offers e-commerce businesses the ability to scale their operations up or down with ease. Fulfilment providers can handle fluctuations in order volume, whether it’s a seasonal spike or a rapid business growth phase, without requiring the business to invest in additional resources or space. This flexibility ensures that businesses can meet customer demand at all times, without incurring unnecessary costs during slower periods.

Enhanced Customer Satisfaction

Fulfilment providers are equipped to ensure that orders are processed and shipped quickly and accurately. Faster delivery times and reliable service contribute to a positive customer experience, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty. Additionally, many fulfilment companies offer a range of shipping options and handle returns efficiently, further improving the customer experience.

Expanded Market Reach

Outsourcing fulfilment can also help businesses expand their market reach. With fulfilment centres located in various regions, businesses can ship their products more efficiently and cost-effectively to worldwide shipping destinations. This geographical advantage can significantly reduce delivery times and shipping costs, making the business more competitive in new markets.

Risk Management

Outsourcing order fulfilment can help mitigate various risks associated with inventory management and logistics. Fulfilment providers have robust systems in place to manage inventory accurately, reducing the risk of stockouts or excess inventory. Additionally, by leveraging the expertise and infrastructure of a fulfilment company, businesses can minimise the impact of logistical challenges, such as disruptions in the supply chain.

In summary, outsourcing order fulfilment offers a compelling proposition for e-commerce businesses looking to streamline their operations, reduce costs, and enhance customer satisfaction. By partnering with a fulfilment provider, businesses can leverage expertise, technology, and infrastructure to scale efficiently and focus on their core mission: growing their business and serving their customers.

Choosing the Right Order Fulfilment Partner

Selecting a fulfilment service is a critical move for your e-commerce business. Here’s a streamlined guide to ensure you pick a partner that aligns with your needs:

  • Technology and Integration: Opt for a partner with robust order management systems and seamless integration with your e-commerce platform for efficient processing and real-time updates.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Choose a provider that can adapt to your business growth and handle order volume fluctuations smoothly, ensuring they can scale with you.
  • Geographic Reach: Consider a fulfilment service with strategic warehouse locations or a wide network to reduce shipping times and costs, especially if you’re targeting customers in diverse locations.
  • Customer Service Quality: Prioritise a provider known for excellent customer support, responsive service, and efficient returns handling to keep your customers satisfied.
  • Cost Structure and Transparency: Look for clear, upfront pricing without hidden fees, ensuring the cost aligns with your budget and the value offered.
  • Cultural Fit: Ensure your fulfilment partner shares your business values, whether it’s sustainability, innovation, or customer focus, to extend your brand ethos through the fulfilment process.

Streamline Your Business Operations with Impact Express

In today’s fast-paced business environment, efficiency and agility are paramount to staying ahead of the competition. Streamlining your business operations can significantly contribute to this goal. Our fulfilment services are designed to optimise every aspect of your supply chain, from inventory management to shipping and returns.

By partnering with us, you leverage our expertise, technology, and infrastructure to ensure your products are delivered to your customers quickly, accurately, and cost-effectively. Say goodbye to the complexities of logistics and focus on what you do best – growing your business. Get your quote online today!

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