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What is order fulfilment and which one is best for your ecommerce business?

What is order fulfilment and which one is best for your ecommerce business?

George - 20 Sep 2022 14:00:00

Whether you are new to ecommerce or have been running your online store for some time, you will agree that customers today want to shop as quickly and as easily as possible. They want fast and preferably free delivery. 


From storing your products, to picking, packing and shipping, an order fulfilment service is essential for today's growing ecommerce businesses. If you are striving to improve your ecommerce store, then looking into the benefits of order fulfilment should be high on your list.


How does an order fulfilment service work?


Put simply, your products are sent to a fulfilment provider's warehouse, where they will pick, pack and deliver every order that your customer makes on your online store. The fulfilment provider will handle all aspects of fulfilling your orders, and will even handle the inventory making sure you don’t run out of stock or over sell. 


Some fulflment companies such as Huboo will even assign an individual person to your store, so that you always have the same person picking, packing and sending your products, allowing you to establish an effective working relationship, providing you with as much or as little control over your customers buying experience as you require.


What are the 4 types of order fulfilment?


There are four main types of order fulfilment strategies that businesses use to improve their ecommerce business. In-house, 3PL, dropshipping and hybrid.


In-house order fulfilment.


This is the most common type of fulfilment for businesses just starting up or smaller ecommerce stores. The business owner or team of staff are responsible for the entire process. The items are stored at the business location, picked, packed and shipped entirely in-house. This type of fulfilment could grow organically as the business grows, perhaps relocating to a dedicated warehouse space with a team of trained staff to dispatch orders.

Pros of in-house order fulfilment

  • Allows you tight control of the entire customer shopping experience from start to finish.

  • Helps you to maintain strong customer relationships.

Cons of in-house order fulfilment

  • Limits your ability to scale your business.

  • Is time consuming therefore prevents you from developing and improving other areas of your business.


Third party order fulfilment (3PL).


A popular option for ecommerce businesses that have outgrown their own storage space, or are perhaps making more orders and have less time for picking, packing and shipping, could be to move over to a 3PL order fulfilment service.


A 3PL order fulfilment company can take care of the whole fulfilment process for you. From ordering more stock from your manufacturers, dealing with returns to carefully packaging and sending out your products in your custom packaging. 


Huboo fulfilment’s 3PL model


Pros for 3PL

  • Gives you the opportunity to save on your shipping costs due to the fulfilment company obtaining discounts from the carriers.

  • You don’t need to spend on renting warehouse space, or use valuable office/home space to store your products.

  • You can benefit from the fulfilment provider's extensive knowledge of shipping therefore avoiding complicated and time consuming issues.

  • No extra staff need to be employed just to handle your orders.
  • Allows you to keep up with increasing demand, and offers the ability to grow your ecommerce store easily.

  • By partnering with a fulfilment company with warehouses in locations throughout the globe, you can offer a wider, cheaper and faster service to your customers.


Cons of 3PL

  • If you don’t choose a reputable company you could compromise your valuable customer trust if they don’t keep to your packing and shipping requirements or they fail to offer the same dedication that your customers expect. 




Dropshipping is the process of selling a product online that is produced and distributed directly from the manufacturer. The ecommerce merchant does not store or come into contact with the goods being sold at anytime along the customer journey.


Pros for dropshipping

  • Minimises the overheads making it a good option for startups.

  • Allows you to keep prices down due to eliminating the middle man.

  • Merchants can test new products without the risk.


Cons of dropshipping

  • It can take control away, particularly where inventory is concerned.

  • Shipping may take more time and be more expensive due to manufacturers often being located overseas, far from the merchants location.

  • Customer service can be limited.  

Hybrid order fulfilment.


Hybrid is a mix of 2 or more fulfilment types, depending on the needs of your ecommerce business. Perhaps some items are fulfilled in house, while larger or more popular items are fulfilled in a 3PL warehouse.


Pros for hybrid order fulfilment

  • Gives you greater flexibility for storing and shipping a diverse range of products.

  • Allows the merchant greater control over the customer journey than one fulfilment method alone.

Cons of hybrid order fulfilment

  • Can be tricky juggling different methods of fulfilment, particularly where inventory is concerned, and the different systems the fulfilment providers are using.

  • You are unable to offer a consistent service to every customer due to the different shipping methods and different locations of your products.

  • Margins are almost always much lower.

How to choose the best order fulfilment service for your ecommerce business.


Getting the fulfilment service right is key to the success of any ecommerce sale. After spending the time and resources getting the products perfect, and your customers hooked, it would be disastrous to let the process down by failing at the fulfilment stage.


You know you have found the right order fulfilment service when you:

  1. Have lower shipping costs

  2. Never sell out of products

  3. Never have too much of a product

  4. Reach new customers

  5. Gain positive reviews

  6. Have more time for running your business


Choosing the right fulfilment service for your business is key when it comes to successful ecommerce. The demands of today's customer is such that if you get it right, your business will have all the elements for growth and more importantly, happy customers. Choosing a fulfilment centre with locations around the world is an important consideration if you plan to enter new territories. For example, Huboo fulfilment has a network of European fulfilment centres, successfully helping many US companies fulfil their orders throughout the UK and EU.


If you are looking to save money, save time and increase your dependability, then an order fulfilment company is a powerful addition to your ecommerce business.  


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