A Handy Guide to eCommerce Order Fulfilment Basics


Olivia Armistead


February 29, 2024
image of inside a fulfillment centre
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Order fulfillment is the backbone of any eCommerce business. It's a crucial process that starts from the moment a customer clicks "buy" to the point where they receive their product. Efficient order fulfillment ensures customer satisfaction, maintains inventory accuracy, and promotes repeat business. Let's explore the pain points that order fulfillment addresses, the various models available, the general process, the importance of investing in fulfillment providers, and tips on selecting the right partner.

Pain Points Addressed by Order Fulfillment

Effective order fulfillment can substantially alleviate common business pain points:

  • Inventory Management: Without proper fulfillment processes, managing inventory can be chaotic. Fulfillment systems ensure that stock levels are accurate and up-to-date.
  • Shipping Delays: Customers expect rapid delivery. A streamlined order fulfillment process minimizes the time between order placement and dispatch.
  • Order Accuracy: Mistakes in fulfilling orders can lead to returns and dissatisfied customers. The right processes and technologies substantially reduce these errors.
  • Cost Control: Optimised order fulfillment can reduce shipping and warehousing costs, which can be substantial for eCommerce businesses.

The General Order Fulfillment Process

The order fulfillment journey is complex and involves several key steps:

  1. Receiving Inventory: The start of the process involves receiving stock and managing it effectively.
  2. Storage and Warehousing: Items must be stored methodically, ensuring they are easy to find when orders come in.
  3. Order Processing: When a customer places an order, the items need to be picked, packed, and prepared for shipping.
  4. Shipping: The order is then sent to the customer using various delivery methods.
  5. Returns Processing: Handling returns efficiently is part of maintaining customer satisfaction.

eCommerce Order Fulfillment Models

Different eCommerce fulfillment models cater to diverse business needs. Let's explore several types, including the innovative Robotic Fulfillment.


simple self fulfillment process infographic

This DIY approach involves handling all aspects of fulfillment in-house, this includes receiving orders, picking and packing items, and shipping them to customers. It provides greater control over the fulfillment process and allows for customization, but can be labor-intensive, especially for high order volumes. This is suited for businesses with a manageable order volume and a desire for full control over the fulfillment process. It is also ideal for businesses that prioritize customization and personalization of packaging.


  • Control over process: Provides full control over the fulfillment process, allowing for quality control and customization.
  • Potential for higher margins: With no third-party involvement, the potential for higher profit margins exists. Even when you're utilising an order fulfillment software, there still may be chances of improving your profit margins with a software while having the control from self-fulfillment.
  • Direct customer interaction: Opportunity for direct customer engagement through personalized packaging and service.


  • Time-consuming: This can be labour and time-intensive, especially for businesses with high order volumes.
  • Infrastructure costs: Requires investment in warehousing, staff, and packaging materials. Not to mention, availing order fulfillment software can come with hidden costs.
  • Limited scalability: May struggle to efficiently handle sudden spikes in demand.

Third-Party Fulfillment (3PL)

simple 3PL process infographic

This model allows businesses to outsource to a 3PL provider who handles the logistics. Primarily, eCommerce businesses that prefer to concentrate on their core business operations, such as product development, marketing, and customer service, can benefit from outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL. By delegating the logistics aspect to experts, these businesses can allocate more resources to strategic areas of their operations. Likewise, eCommerce businesses experiencing fluctuating order volumes can benefit from 3PL services as they provide the flexibility to scale warehouse space and labor resources based on demand fluctuations.


  • Scalability: Businesses can easily scale their logistics operations based on demand fluctuations without having to invest in additional infrastructure.
  • Expertise: 3PL providers are experts in logistics and can offer specialized knowledge and technology to optimize supply chain operations.
  • Focus on Core Competencies: It allows businesses to focus on their core operations while leaving logistics to the experts.
  • Diverse Shipping Options: eCommerce businesses that need to offer diverse shipping options to their customers, such as expedited shipping, same day or next day delivery, international delivery, or specialized packaging, can leverage 3PL capabilities to provide these services.


  • Cost: Outsourcing logistics to a 3PL provider can be more expensive than managing logistics in-house, especially for small businesses. However, a 3PL provider like SKUTOPIA, accommodates all business sizes in scaling their operations and logistics with the power of robotic fulfillment.
  • Less Control: Businesses may have less control over the logistics process, which can lead to concerns about quality and customer service.
  • Dependency: Relying on a 3PL provider means the business is dependent on an external entity for critical operations, which can pose risks in case of disruptions.


Here, products are shipped directly from the supplier to the customer. Dropshipping is an eCommerce fulfillment model where the retailer doesn't keep products in stock. Instead, they fulfill orders by purchasing products from a third-party supplier who then directly ships the products to the customer. This model minimizes upfront investment and eliminates the need for inventory management, but can present challenges in quality control and timely delivery.


  • Low upfront investment: Retailers do not need to invest in inventory, reducing initial costs.
  • No warehousing needs: Eliminates the need for storage space and inventory management.
  • Wider product range: Able to offer a wider range of products without managing inventory.


  • Quality control: Limited control over product quality and shipping times.
  • Lower margins: Profit margins can be lower due to the need to pay the third-party supplier.
  • Supplier issues: Dependence on third-party suppliers can lead to issues with stock availability and product quality.

Robotic Fulfillment

preview image of robots in a robotic fulfillment centre

This cutting-edge method features robots working in fulfillment centres, enhancing efficiency through automation. 3PL providers like SKUTOPIA also utilise robotic order fulfillment, which involves the use of robotics and automation technology to streamline the process of picking, packing, and shipping orders in an eCommerce fulfillment centre. This model is well-suited for eCommerce businesses with high order volumes, a diverse inventory, a need for precision, scalability goals, and a focus on long-term cost efficiency.


  • Efficiency: Robots can work continuously without breaks, leading to faster order processing and reduced fulfillment times.
  • Accuracy: Robots are programmed to pick and pack items with precision, minimizing errors in order fulfillment.
  • Scalability: Robotic systems can often be easily scaled to handle fluctuating order volumes, allowing businesses to adapt to demand changes more effectively.
  • Cost Savings: Over time, robotic fulfillment can lead to cost savings through reduced labor expenses and increased operational efficiency.


  • Initial Investment: This model may involve initial setup costs, however, that varies from company to company.

Why You Should Invest in Order Fulfillment Providers

Investing in a robust fulfillment provider like SKUTOPIA offers many benefits:

  • Scalability: As your business grows, fulfillment providers can adapt to increasing order volumes.
  • Customer Satisfaction: Deliver products swiftly and accurately with fewer errors, enhancing the customer experience. An order fulfillment software, one especially flexible to your needs, can help improve customer satisfaction with a streamlined and optimised order fulfillment process.
  • Focus on Core Competencies: Outsourcing fulfillment allows business owners to concentrate on marketing, product development, and other key areas.

How to Choose an eCommerce Order Fulfillment Provider

Deciding on the right order fulfillment provider is critical. Consider these factors:

  • Technology Integration: Ensure the provider's technology can seamlessly integrate with your eCommerce platform.
  • Scalability: Choose a partner that can grow with you, handling increased order volumes without sacrificing quality.
  • Shipping Options: Diverse shipping options, including same day courier delivery, are important for meeting customer expectations.
  • Track Record: Assess the provider's reputation, stability, and experience in the industry.
  • Costs: Understand all associated costs to ensure they align with your business's budget.

Order fulfilment is not only a necessity but a strategic element in the success of any eCommerce business. From managing inventory to ensuring on-time deliveries, addressing pain points, and extending customer satisfaction, each aspect is pivotal. Robotic fulfilment centres, innovative software, and strategic partnerships represent not just options but imperative solutions for a thriving future in eCommerce. When asking "what order fulfilment is in eCommerce", remember they are the silent engines driving your business toward excellence.

By investing in a reliable fulfillment partner like SKUTOPIA, businesses can streamline operations, captivate customers, and elevate their brand. It's about transforming commerce into an experience where everything clicks into place – effortlessly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Take this pivotal step, and anchor your eCommerce success in the unparalleled capabilities of professional order fulfillment.