What Is a Fulfillment Center?: Why Fulfillment Centers Are Important in eCommerce

With more and more people staying at home and avoiding in-person situations due to the coronavirus pandemic, eCommerce businesses and online ordering have become more popular than ever before. Because of this, it’s vital for online retailers to provide a wide selection of; available products, easy ordering, quick shipments, simple returns, and excellent customer service on top of all that. For the busy, time-crunched digital entrepreneur, it’s sometimes necessary to work with a fulfillment center to offload some of the complicated, time-consuming jobs of inventory management and order processing.

This article will discuss what a fulfillment center is and why it’s a crucial tool for business owners to have in their arsenal. 

What Exactly Is a Fulfillment Center?

Whenever you order something online, a fulfillment center is often the entity that shipped it to you.

A fulfillment center is a space meant to house a wide array of goods that fulfillment center workers will send to people who order products from various online sellers. These retailers might not be able to store all the items that they sell; thus a third party is sometimes necessary to hold the items and ship them out as orders come in. 

The third-party logistics providers (3PLs) might also handle an array of other services, including printing, custom packaging, and more. Due to the number of sellers that may need to use a fulfillment center, they often have a larger capacity than individual warehouse spaces. 

How a Fulfillment Center Works 

Rather than storing and shipping products themselves, some sellers prefer to focus on other areas. While doing so, sellers will rely on a third party to handle the rest. A fulfillment center is essentially the location that facilitates getting online orders transferred to the purchaser. Sellers deliver their inventory to fulfillment centers that keep it in stock until someone purchases an item. Then, the fulfillment center handles picking and packing the items and ensuring they get to the customers who ordered them. 

Fulfillment companies go beyond the services offered by warehouses. They also handle a wide variety of tasks in the fulfillment process; from taking in the initial goods to packing and shipping orders and even taking care of any necessary returns. 

Direct-to-customer shipments aren’t the only process that fulfillment centers handle. Many will also offer B2B services where they ship items to retailers who will then resell those goods. 

Benefits of Using a Fulfillment Center

You could handle all your inventory yourself as an online business owner. However, over time you might find that you want to focus less on inventory management and more on other parts of your business. There are several significant benefits of working with a fulfillment center. 

  • Easier Inventory Management — Running an ecommerce business takes considerable time and effort. To scale your operations to any degree, you need to learn what tasks to outsource; as well as what you should continue doing yourself. Often, online sellers will partner with a 3PL to store their products in a fulfillment center until someone buys it online. At that point, the 3PL can handle the time-consuming business of sending orders to individual buyers. 
  • They Handle Returns — While it’s not what you’d prefer, customers do return products. Fulfillment centers can help save your valuable time by processing returns for you. 
  • Dedicated Storage Space — Perhaps one of the most obvious benefits is that a fulfillment center stores items for you, meaning you don’t need to rent warehouse space or, in the case of smaller businesses, store all your products in your home. 
  • Better Shipping Options — In the age of Amazon, your customers expect speedy, seamless deliveries. 3PLs can help you make quicker shipments and better shipping rates a reality through their fulfillment centers. 

Differences Between a Distribution Center and a Fulfillment Center

You may have heard the terms “distribution center” and “fulfillment center” used to describe the same part of the ordering process, but the two entities serve different, though both important, roles. Let’s examine the critical differences between the two. 

  • Fulfillment Center — Fulfillment centers work on behalf of B2B or B2C retailer clients to handle a number of duties related to shipment and order logistics. Tasks can include getting the initial order, gathering and packaging the goods, and shipping packages to their end recipients. 
  • Distribution Center — As opposed to fulfillment centers, which are fully equipped to take orders and send products to customers, distribution centers are more focused in temporary product storage. They may be used as one stop along a shipment’s journey or may be used by large businesses to store excess goods. They are less ideal for situations where shipments need to be packaged and delivered to individual customers. 

Partnering With a 3PL for Fulfillment 

How do you think the most popular and sought-after brands and retailers scale their businesses? They make smart business partnerships and outsource certain jobs to focus on the things they do best. If you’re interested in growing your business but not so interested in having all your time consumed with shipping packages and processing returns, you may want to consider working with a 3PL (third-party logistics provider) like Print Bind Ship to outsource your inventory management and fulfillment warehouse needs. Here are a few ways that working with a 3PL like Print Bind Ship can help you. 

Fast 2-Day

Fast shipments equate to happier customers. Print Bind Ship handles your order fulfillment in-house to get products to your customers faster. 

Easy eCommerce integration

Print Bind Ship keeps operations simple by integrating with selling platforms you likely already use.  

Handles Returns

No business owner likes to hear about returns, but Print Bind Ship can make them as easy as possible for you and the customer. 

Custom Packaging

First impressions are everything when a customer receives a new order from you. Print Bind Ship can help you manage your reputation with customized, on-brand packaging. 
If you’re ready to let go of inventory management in order to focus on growing your sales and business, reach out to us for a free quote.