One of the most challenging factors of growing an eCommerce store is managing fulfillment as you expand into new markets. Your company can only sell as many products as it can fulfil. As your business grows and more orders come in, it will be necessary to develop a robust order fulfillment infrastructure in order to remain competitive and fulfill customer expectations.
I-Fulfilment is a leading technology fulfillment provider in the United Kingdom, providing global end-to-end 3PL services for B2C and B2B orders. Our approach combines a diverse array of value-added services, such as marketplace management and digital marketing.
We assist our clients by tailoring our service offerings to include more than just fulfillment. I-Fulfilment can assist you in expanding into new markets or specifically in the UK.
Understanding Fulfillment Centers
A fulfillment center is part of the supply chain management and serves as the hub for all logistics processes required to deliver a product from the seller to the customer. A fulfillment center handles the entire order fulfillment process, from order picking and processing to packaging and shipping. It ensures that online orders are delivered to customers on time and relieves eCommerce companies of the burden of managing this critical and yet challenging process.
I-Fulfilment offers an easy outsourced fulfillment solution for many eCommerce merchants using a variety of marketplaces such as Shopify, WooCommerce, eBay, Amazon, and more.
What does a warehousing solution do?
When we talk about warehousing, we’re talking about a company that stores products for a long period of time. A warehouse is a large storage facility or industrial space designed to house bulk inventory. There will be forklifts, containers, and shelves stacked high and stocked with a vast quantity of products.
There are wholesale fulfillment warehousing providers and businesses that primarily do wholesale or B2B eCommerce orders in large quantities. Some large retailers will have their warehouse(s) to store excess inventory, while others rent warehouse space in collaboration with other eCommerce businesses.
How does a fulfillment center operate?
Fulfillment centers are responsible for managing the entire process of online orders from the time they are placed with an eCommerce retailer until the package arrives at the customer’s doorstep.
In general, the fulfillment process can be simplified like this:
- The products are delivered to the fulfillment center.
- The inventory is then assessed for quality and stored.
- Orders are processed through an eCommerce store.
- The order’s items are selected and packed under the specifications required of the eCommerce store.
- A shipping company then ships the order from the fulfillment center to the customer.
- The fulfillment center also handles any returns (with the items returned to inventory if suitable).
Some fulfillment centers can provide value-added services such as customer service (for example, running call centers on behalf of their eCommerce clients), delivery tracking and notification, subscription box fulfillment, and more. If you run an eCommerce store, it is evident that fulfillment centers, as opposed to traditional warehouses, provide a complete solution for order fulfillment.
Difference between warehousing and fulfillment centers
The difference between a fulfillment center and a traditional fulfillment warehouse needs to explain clearly. In logistics and supply chain management discussions, the two terms are frequently used interchangeably, implying that some businesses consider them synonymous. Both are large structures that store business inventory, but the services provided may differ.
For most retailers, the warehouse is usually the best option, with a diverse inventory and large quantities of products to stock. Large retailers may have the capital to purchase warehouse space, but leasing is usually the most cost-effective option for small and mid-sized retailers. Renting a storage unit is sometimes the best option for small businesses.
A fulfillment center serves some of the same functions as a warehouse but also provides additional services. A fulfillment center will fulfill customer orders in addition to storing inventory. When a customer places an order through an eCommerce store, the order is routed to the fulfillment center, where the merchandise is picked, boxed up, labelled for shipment, and shipped to the customer.
Long-term vs short-term storage
A warehouse is a long-term storage solution that is part of a fulfillment center and is used to store a merchant’s inventory in specific locations. On the other hand, a fulfillment center frequently provides temporary storage facilities whose primary purpose is to turn inventory over as quickly as possible. Inventory should only be kept in a fulfillment center for a short period of time. A higher warehousing fee will be charged if the inventory is stocked in a fulfillment center for long-term storage.
A warehouse’s primary function is to provide nothing more than storage, while a fulfillment center is a much more complex and constantly evolving operation that aims to improve the customer experience by streamlining the fulfillment process and ensuring that items are delivered on time. Fulfillment is the process of preparing and delivering the products sold online to customers. 3PLs or fulfillment service providers typically handle the warehousing, processing, packing, and shipping of orders and manage any exchanges and returns.
Frequency of pickups by shipping carriers
A fulfillment company can collaborate with a variety of shipping companies. Because a fulfillment center fulfils direct-to-customer orders as soon as they are placed, shipping carriers must pick up goods at least once daily to ensure they deliver them on time. Shipping carriers may be required to pick up orders for any guaranteed shipping service chosen by consumers at specific times each day, depending on the service a fulfillment company provides.
In contrast, it is more cost-effective to send out all orders at once and have boxes packed together on a pallet than to process individual packages; thus, a warehouse will frequently require scheduled and less frequent pickups.
Benefits of using a fulfillment center
1. Focus on selling
You will have more time to expand and grow your business now that manual labour is no longer required. You can explore new business opportunities, increase your inventory, or close deals with clients.
2. Lower shipping costs
Fulfillment centers have warehouses to store your products, employees who will prepare your orders for shipping, and delivery service to ensure that your products arrive at their destination. Furthermore, because they operate on a larger scale, business owners would pay lower fees to perform all of these functions.
3. Increase shipping speeds
Top fulfillment companies have efficient and effective fulfillment processes that allow them to deliver your products to your customers quickly. This is because they have a large number of strategically located fulfillment warehouses as well as simplified order fulfillment software.
4. Communicate accurate shipping information to customers
As orders are entered into the system, workers are informed of which items must be collected and packed for each order, ensuring that customers receive exactly what they ordered. This will also improve your company’s customer service experience because there will be less room for error in order fulfillment.
5. Lower operating costs
While outsourcing fulfillment is expensive, so is self-fulfillment. Only a portion of the time is spent packing and shipping. Retailers frequently need to pay more attention to inventory storage when calculating fulfillment costs. If you have to rent warehouse space, your costs can increase. You save money by outsourcing fulfillment because you only pay for what you use. Third-party logistics companies typically charge for picking, packing, shipping, and storing your goods.
6. Extend your reach as a retailer
Fulfillment centers have multiple warehouse locations, making your products more accessible to customers and allowing you to virtually expand your market from the comfort of your own home or office.
7. Integrate better with technology
Advanced fulfillment centers utilise warehouse management systems that give businesses visibility into their inventory, allowing them to determine which items are in high demand and must be restocked more frequently. This ensures you always have the correct levels of stock to keep your loyal customers happy.
8. Make customers happier
Faster, cheaper shipping, more accurate delivery information, global support, and more time spent on marketing and sales result in happier customers. This is your company’s ultimate goal, and outsourcing fulfillment can help you get there.
Learn more about fulfillment centers and I-Fulfilment
Are you looking to enter the UK market but wondering if your company is ready? What works best for any individual seller is determined by the type of service required. A warehousing service that only stores inventory may be useful if long-term storage is required or the company still performs a proportion of fulfillment in-house. Working with a 3PL to handle the fulfillment, customer service, shipping, and end-to-end logistics is the best option to help grow your business if you need a quick turnaround for large orders.
You can save time dealing with warehouse crises or chasing down customer issues when you work with a top fulfillment center like I-Fulfilment. Our precise fulfillment services and professional inventory management system allow you to concentrate on business development while your logistics operations run smoothly.
If you need fulfillment service and want to partner with I-Fulfilment, we’d love to hear from you. Contact us today.