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What is a fulfilment service?


Written by David Renwick

Everybody loves sales in their eCommerce store. However, the steps that come after the sale are just as important! That’s why eCommerce fulfilment automation is crucial to your customer satisfaction.

eCommerce fulfilment is every step that comes after someone makes a purchase in your online store. This includes things like putting orders together, shipping, and tracking. Basically, everything that ensures a smooth shipping process for your customer!

This article will explain what fulfilment services are, why they are so important for your commerce store, and how you can start implementing fulfilment automation yourself.

Overview on fulfilment service

So the first question is: What is a fulfilment centre?

A fulfilment center is basically a warehouse that is tailored to ecommerce businesses. Instead of keeping excess stock or products in your spare room, fulfilment centers track orders, shipping and inventory numbers on your behalf.

Once a customer places an order, the fulfilment center is responsible for “fulfilling” the order.

Ecommerce fulfilment services are slightly different to dropshipping. Where dropshipping services fulfil orders using their products, fulfilment centers complete the order with your own stock or inventory.

The primary reason ecommerce businesses use fulfilment services is to outsource shipping and physical warehouse space to a third party.

What does a fulfillment center do?

In short, fulfilment services “fulfill” the order on your behalf.

Things that are usually included in ecommerce fulfilment solutions are

  • Holding inventory
  • Tracking inventory
  • Picking orders from the shelves
  • Packaging the products
  • Printing labels
  • Shipping and tracking the parcel

In other words, a fulfilment center completes all the post-purchase steps to make sure customers get the right order, at the right shipping price, in a timely manner.

One of the biggest benefits of using ecommerce fulfilment services is that you save time.

What does a fulfillment center do

Case study: HER Empire

Online fashion boutique HER Empire went from 50 orders a month to over 650 orders per month on average. In the past, they used to manually copy and paste addresses from Shopify into their courier services. Now, Starshipit automatically downloads all of their Shopify orders and then bulk prints shipping labels at the click of a button.

By using a shipping fulfilment service, they save 3 hours a day on order handling. In other words, using Starshipit gives them an extra 15 hours a week to spend on other areas of growing their business!

Cost of fulfillment services

The cost of ecommerce fulfilment services will vary from place to place.

They may charge either per hour or per unit shipped. In general, the cost of using a third party will consider factors such as

  • Warehouse leasing space
  • Labour costs
  • Shipping
  • Admin (e.g. Handling returns, packaging)

Outsourcing will always incur a cost. However, the benefits of using a fulfilment center mean that you can save yourself time, and usually means splitting the costs with other ecommerce businesses. For example, the cost of leasing a warehouse yourself might be quite high, but a fulfilment center is usually working with multiple brands which lowers the cost overall.

Why are fulfilment services important?

Using a ecommerce fulfilment solutions allows ecommerce businesses to

  • Spend more time on marketing, brand building and serving customers
  • Scale without running out of space
  • Improve customer purchasing experience through fast and efficient shipping
  • Get better shipping rates and returns because there is a higher volume or parcels leaving a warehouse than an individual

Most importantly, ecommerce fulfilment solutions keep customers happy.

48% of customers are unlikely to re-purchase from companies whose packages arrive late. Slow order fulfilment might be costing you a lot more than the price of fulfilment centers over time!

Australian brand Superpharmacy discovered the importance of fulfilment speed when they were forced to go online in 2020. By using Starshipit to fulfil their shipping, they instantly saw a further decrease in dispatch time and improvement in error rates for orders.

Steps involved in eCommerce order fulfilment

Think about all the steps you need to take once a customer places an order. Maybe you print out an order form, choose whether you are using your local or international courier, copy over their address and then package it all up.

Now imagine that all you had to do was make sure the customer is happy once they received it.

That’s what eCommerce fulfilment does for you! Here are the processing steps you would be taking out of your daily schedule.

  • Receiving inventory

Fulfilment services hold your products on site. That means that you can send inventory straight to them. Once it arrives, they can keep track of how many products are left in your store and update you accordingly. Some warehouses will also add SKUs to products to make tracking inventory even easier.

  • Inventory storage

Once they have checked that the right items have arrived, they store it all for you. No more finding cupboard space in your spare room or leasing out a work space! They will shelve it in a way that it can be processed and packaged efficiently as soon as a customer places an order.

  • Order processing

Now the exciting part- someone has placed an order and it’s ready to be processed! By using shipping or fulfilment software, you can integrate this with your ecommerce platform so that the fulfilment team can start processing it as soon as it comes in. No need to check your emails everytime you go out in case there is an order waiting to be pack when you get home.

  • Shipping

Ecommerce shipping can be one of the hardest parts of fulfilling orders. Choosing which courier to use, processing labels, undercharging for postage and wrong addresses all take up your valuable time. Whether you use a fulfilment center or a shipping integration like Starshipit, automating your shipping is one of the most important steps in fulfilling an order.

  • Returns processing

Maybe one of the best parts of using a fulfilment center is that they process returns for you. A massive 84% of online shoppers wouldn’t repurchase after a bad returns experience. Because they have so many parcels leaving each day, they can often negotiate better courier rates for your customers, making returns policies super simple.

Automating the order fulfilment process

The next step for fulfilment is to automate your processes. Ecommerce fulfilment automation is for businesses that are growing and can’t keep the same level of customer satisfaction.

Automated processing means automating or outsourcing steps like:

  • Sending orders to whoever is in charge or dispatching
  • Creating shipping labels
  • Courier tracking updates
  • Keeping track of inventory and keeping your online store up to date to avoid

These will help you avoid a lot of common problems with ecommerce order fulfilment.

Starshipit: Your one-stop fulfilment service

Using a fulfilment center will resolve common ecommerce challenges like shipping, returns, inventory tracking and keeping up with demand as you grow. While some issues may still come up, fulfilment automation will keep your customers happy (and keep them coming back for more!).

To get started with automated ecommerce fulfilment, Starshipit is the answer. Starshipit helps ecommerce brands like yours deliver more products to more people with fulfilment automation that does all the heavy lifting for you.

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David Renwick

David Renwick

David is Starshipit's Product Marketing Lead. When he's not whipping up a fresh new product update or chatting to customers for an exciting case study, you'll typically find him scoping out coffee spots and talking about what's on at the movies. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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