When to Outsource Order Fulfillment for Your E-commerce Company


Shipping is a critical part of e-commerce, especially as the busy holiday shopping season gets closer. If you can’t meet your customers’ expectations around shipping and delivery, it doesn’t matter if you have the most amazing product ever; your business is going to have a hard time.

Since the most popular big-box retailers offer free two-day shipping options, today’s customers expect fast and affordable shipping whenever they shop online. Sounds intimidating and expensive, right? But don’t worry — if your business is ready to outsource fulfillment, a third-party logistics (3PL) company can help take the hassle and struggle out of shipping.

When your ecommerce business is still brand new, it probably makes a lot of sense to fulfill orders yourself. It can be less expensive, give you more creative control over packing and labeling orders, and doesn’t take a ton of time or resources. But as more and more orders come in, it might be time to consider outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL. Here’s how to know if your business is ready to outsource fulfillment.

Signs you should outsource order fulfillment

1. You’re running out of time to do anything *but* ship orders

Are you spending the majority of your time searching for the right box sizes, layering your items in bubble wrap, playing Tetris to pack the box, printing labels, and standing in line at the post office or UPS store to ship your ecommerce orders?

If your order volume has increased to hundreds of orders a month, and you can’t keep up, it’s time to outsource order fulfillment to a 3PL. This can free up your time to focus on more strategic and high-level initiatives, like product development and marketing, which are especially important as the holiday season approaches. As a small business owner, your time is valuable and limited; by outsourcing the tasks and hassles associated with fulfillment, you can focus on growing your business.

2. You’re running out of space to store your inventory

If your garage, storage shed, living room, etc. is full to bursting with your inventory, outsourcing inventory management to a fulfillment center can reduce strain on your infrastructure. Using a fulfillment center allows your business to seamlessly scale without the growing pains of running out of space.  Fulfillment centers can store more inventory than most online merchants, so you don’t have to worry about running into any (literal) growing pains as your business expands, including renting warehouses or hiring operations staff.

3. You’re using an ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce

Rather than manually fulfilling orders that come through your ecommerce platform or marketplace, you can work with a 3PL to automatically fulfill orders. Look for a 3PL whose technology integrates with your online store. This means that orders are automatically sent from your ecommerce platform or marketplace to your 3PL, who will then pick, pack, and ship the orders to your customers.

In addition to saving you time by automatically fulfilling orders, connecting your online store to a 3PL’s technology helps get your orders delivered to your customers much quicker. This lets you offer the fast turnaround that your customers expect. This technology also automatically keeps customers updated on their packages throughout the process.

Outsourcing fulfillment

Overall, if you are spending too much time and space fulfilling orders yourself and are selling on an ecommerce platform or marketplace, it’s probably time to outsource fulfillment to a 3PL. Partnering with a 3PL can help you get back the time you need to grow your business. 3PLs can automate the entire process, so you can simply integrate your store, sync and send your inventory, and let the 3PL do the rest. With the holidays fast approaching, you can quickly get started with a 3PL to make sure this busy shopping season is your most successful one yet!