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What is Fulfillment?

Fulfillment refers to the process of preparing and delivering a customer’s order. While catalog companies and larger operations typically are equipped to handle customer order fulfillment themselves, ecommerce companies and smaller businesses often hand over that aspect of the business to companies that specialize in fulfillment.

The Fulfillment Process

Shipping a customer’s order often involves more than simply putting it in a box and dropping it off at the post office. Fulfillment companies take care of:

  • Warehousing, or storing, the product or its components
  • Producing or assembling the product, such as photocopying pages of a binder of materials or copying a CD to be mailed out
  • Packing the order in an envelope or box
  • Labeling the order for shipment
  • Shipping it using a major carrier, such as FedEx, UPS, or the U.S. Postal Service
  • Notifying the customer via email that their order is on its way
  • Processing payment and transferring funds to the business

Does it Make Sense to Outsource?

For many small businesses, the decision to outsource comes down to time. Not just whether they have the time to prep and ship customer orders out, but whether they can ship them in a timely manner consistently.

If you suddenly received a large influx of orders, does your business have the resources to produce, pack, and ship all the orders quickly enough to keep customers satisfied? Or does it make more sense to turn the entire process, and responsibility, over to a company that specializes in fulfillment?

The other issue is space. Does your business have the space available to stockpile quantities of your product(s) to satisfy customer demand? Or is that space better put to some other use? Only you can answer that.

Another consideration is consistent quality. Is your business able to consistently deliver the same reliable quality of finished product to customers? Or would a fulfillment specialist be better able to do that? It may depend on the company.

How Fulfillment Houses are Paid

Each fulfillment house has a different fee structure and capabilities. Some can print and assemble binders, books, and packets, or burn CDs and DVDs, while others can warehouse completed products and ship them as ordered.

Many fulfillment houses will charge on a per-piece basis up to a set quantity, so that you can confirm up front that each order will still be profitable for you, even after shipment. The higher the quantity, the lower the per-piece cost.

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