4 Fulfillment Types for Your Online Business

Consider all angles to choose the best fulfillment solution for you.

by Seth Boylan
- May 17, 2013

Many people look at fulfillment with the wrong perspective. You shouldn't ask: Is fulfillment a good idea? You should ask: Which kind of fulfillment is good for me?

Fulfillment is no different from anything else in your business, be it insurance, office chairs or lighting—if you don't choose one that is appropriate for you and your circumstances, you are going to be unhappy.

To prevent this from happening, there are two sides of the equation you need to know inside and out: how your business ticks, and the different types of fulfillment available.

Then, instead of applying a one-size-fits-all solution, you can tailor make the best fulfillment solution for your business.

A great fulfillment company is going to know your business as well as you do. It will anticipate any problems and be prepared if they come up. They allow you to focus on what you do best.

So let's take a look at the different fulfillment options available to see what you should consider.

E-commerce fulfillment

You're probably most familiar with e-commerce fulfillment services. When it comes to these, you don't have to worry about a thing. Every part of the process is looked after. You just send in your items to the fulfillment company, and the fulfillment company takes care of the rest.

A good e-commerce fulfillment company is going to allow and promote growth, and be part of your company accomplishing everything it wants to

The warehouse is stocked, the orders come in and the deliveries go out without you having to do anything. The fulfillment company will pack your shipment and ship it, and ensure the buyer receives your items in a timely fashion.

A good e-commerce fulfillment company is going to allow and promote growth, and be part of your company accomplishing everything it wants to. You can capitalize on its expertise and capability, and its wealth of experience getting items to their destinations.

When the partnership goes well, you are free to concentrate on core business matters, but when it doesn't, you may feel frustration because of the lack of control.

If a company ever can't do its job as it should, the fulfillment benefits become redundant and everything that attracted you about it no longer exists.

You don't want to worry about human resources issues in the warehouse and how staff is performing there. That is someone else's problem, which is why you are outsourcing this part of your business.

As you consider e-commerce fulfillment companies, also make sure you are aware of how much the fulfillment is going to cost and what you are liable for in a host of different circumstances. For instance, if the company makes a mistake, who is going to pay for that?

Third-party fulfillment

Third-party fulfillment is simply outsourcing the warehousing and distribution of a company's products as opposed to e-commerce fulfillment, which is just the fulfillment of orders online. Xpert Fulfillment offers both.

The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to third-party fulfillment is to make sure both parties are on the same page. You may be selling food, or you may be selling clothes—the company you work with has to know how best to ship and deliver your products.

You, in turn, need to be sure the company knows what you require of it.

Literature fulfillment

Also known as print fulfillment, everything that is related to printed material falls under the umbrella of literature fulfillment. This includes brochures, catalogs, presentation folders, binders, postcards, sales packets, etc.

If you decide that fulfillment is for you, do your research so as to make sure you have the provider that is best for you

Online sellers will use literature fulfillment when they are selling large numbers of these types of products, or if they want to send printed promotional materials to lots of buyers.

Literature fulfillment is a time-consuming process, as things are grouped by destination following which postage is applied. They are then picked up and sent to postal distribution centers by destination.

One of the reasons people like literature fulfillment is that it usually involves sending out thousands and thousands of items, and so it is very labor intensive and time consuming.

Mail-order fulfillment

Mail-order fulfillment applies to anything that is sold online. It is good for a business that doesn't want to deal with order setup, warehousing, distribution, negotiating rates with carriers, filing claims, processing returns, to name just a few things.

Xpert Fulfillment also offers discounts that are not possible to receive unless you are shipping a very large numbers of packages.

When do people use this type of fulfillment? In circumstance like this one: A magazine like People has tens of thousands of subscribers. The staff doesn't want to be bothered with sending out all of those magazines and getting everyone's correct address. So the magazine may use a mail-order fulfillment service that will ensure everything is sent out and gets to the receiver on time.

For this to be worth your while you need to have a high volume of mail going out; otherwise it just wouldn't make sense.

Let your business guide your choice

The decision regarding fulfillment, and what type or types you should use, is going to be influenced by your business—its type and the numbers you're working with.

For some companies, fulfillment makes no sense whatsoever, but for others it could be the best decision they've ever made.

If you decide that fulfillment is for you, do your research so as to make sure you have the provider that is best for you.

About the Author

Seth Boylan is the owner/operator of Xpert Fulfillment, an order fulfillment house with locations in Michigan, Minnesota and Europe. An avid race car driver, Seth also enjoys snowmobiling, offroad 4-wheeler trail riding and camping. He has 10 years of experience in the fulfillment and logistics industry.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

Other Entries by this Author

Follow Us