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Choosing the Right Fulfilment Method for Your Business

August 2017

E-Commerce fulfilment (or e-fulfilment) refers to the entire process from receiving an order to delivering to a client or customer. The main steps included are warehouse/stock organisation, order management, picking and packaging, despatch and customer communication. For any ecommerce online retailer or seller, it is vital e-fulfilment is done right.

Whistl has recently invested in e-fulfilment specialist Prism DM, increasing our offering to include supply chain solutions. For all growing ecommerce businesses, you should have an e-fulfilment strategy in place and there are three main methods to choose from.
Inhouse Fulfilment
Inhouse or self-fulfilment is the most popular method with new and small businesses. This involves the e-commerce company covering every aspect of the fulfilment process. So, from taking a customer’s order to picking, packing and delivering it, there will be no third party involved. Therefore, it is ideal for home sellers, small e-commerce businesses and those which have teams sizeable enough to deal with their number of orders.

The main advantages are that you retain full control over all aspects, aware of your inventory, what is going on with orders and can see where challenges and opportunities exist. Everything is done under one roof, until the delivery process where you simply need to find the best parcel delivery companies to work with. It can be cost-effective if your workforce takes care of all tasks within the process too, as only shipping or parcel delivery need paying for.

However, while it may save money, it will take up a lot of your workforce’s time. Especially if orders increase, it will mean more time is spent with fulfilment and less focusing on other areas, such as marketing, developing new products and more. By this point though, most e-commerce companies will have grown to incorporate some or all of the following two methods.   
Partnering with a drop-shipper is a much more hands-off approach to e-fulfilment. With this method, your products are sourced from a supplier and advertised through your ecommerce site. You stay in charge of all the online marketing, customer relations and social media side of things, but when a customer places an order this is sent to the drop-ship partner who takes charge of the picking, packing and parcel delivery side of e-fulfilment.

Drop-shipping offers an easy way to start an e-commerce business and grow, as you can quickly add a drop-shipper’s other products to your online store. Plus, as you aren’t producing the products you can test various products and work with different suppliers to see what works best in the market. No money is tied up with inventory, warehousing or other such overheads either.

On the other hand, you have less control over that part of the process, entrusting your brand’s reputation to the drop-shipper. Should there be an issue with a product or the service, customers will blame your ecommerce firm. Product supply is also in their hands, so should something go out of stock it can take a while to restock. There will also be none of your branding, making it harder to forge a unique brand in the market.   
Outsourced/Third Party Fulfilment
Between self-fulfilment and drop-shipping is simply outsourcing. You buy or create your own products to sell which are stored in your facilities, market them online through an ecommerce site and receive customer orders, the same as self-fulfilment. Then a third party will take care of anywhere from the picking and packing to shipping and delivery part of the process.

Again, this creates more time for your workforce to focus on marketing, product development and other ways to grow the business. You can choose just to outsource the shipping or parcel delivery aspect of the picking and packaging as well, so it’s flexible. Inventory can be bought in large orders for a discount, the same with shipping services. 

Decide which of these e-fulfilment methods best suits your business and discover the Whistl ecommerce services we offer that can ensure a smooth and successful process to aide your business growth.

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