Considering Outsourcing Your E-commerce Order Fulfilment?

This is an essential guide for small and medium sized online retailers looking to make the right choice when outsourcing their order fulfilment.


There comes a point for most e-commerce businesses when order fulfilment requires an upgrade. The quality of the shopping experience and delivery is a significant factor for consumers and many will base a purchasing – or re-purchasing – decision on whether a brand can offer a wide range of reliable shipping choices, simple returns, and has a good reputation for fulfilment on review sites.

For example, according to YouGov research, 75% of UK consumers will abandon a retailer if they have experienced problems with an online order. So, for those small and medium sized online retailers who want to grow, outsourcing e-commerce order fulfilment can be an essential step towards efficiently responding to increased demand while also meeting customer expectations.

What is outsourced e-commerce order fulfilment?

Outsourced e-commerce order fulfilment is essentially handing over the logistics of packing and shipping to a third party. So, when a customer places an order it’s no longer your business that has the responsibility to get it out of the door in the right packaging and on time.

Outsourced e-commerce order fulfilment will cover warehousing your products, as well as packing them as instructed and then sending out as per the customer’s delivery choice.

When do you know it’s time to consider outsourced e-commerce order fulfilment?

For most businesses, especially those that are bootstrapped, making the jump to outsourcing order fulfilment can be confusing. Here's a few signs that you should!:

What should the right order fulfilment service be able to offer you and your customers?

With the right outsourcing support for e-commerce order fulfilment, your business can move to the next stage. But what should the ‘right’ service be able to offer you?


• You’re too busy to do anything but fulfil orders

• Your sales are cyclical and you’re paying for staff or on-site warehousing that you don’t use for half the year

• Your business doesn’t have the infrastructure to scale up fulfilment internally

• You're running out of room at your home office

• You can't afford to invest in the latest warehouse software, but you know this is holding you back regarding efficiency and inventory management

• Better and lower cost delivery options - giving your customers more choice

• Expansion – with outsourced fulfilment you can begin to grow across borders

• Reducing error – the support of a professional third party can help to reduce errors in packing and delivery

• A more adaptable service – handling peaks and troughs in demand

• Reliable returns – poorly handled, costly or complex returns are off-putting for customers

Download Our Order Fulfilment Guide

Download your free guide to outsourcing your e-commerce order fulfilment. Get more details about what to look for in a supplier and what the common pitfalls are.


Finding the ideal fulfilment provider – the questions to ask

Integration with your e-commerce platform. Find out whether this is achievable and how easy it is

Access to operations. Will you be able to go and see their facility and meet the people who will be working on your orders?

Training. Ask about the options for training the staff who will be packing for you, particularly if your brand has a very specific packing process/aesthetic

International reach. Do they have the international delivery solutions that enable you to expand cross-border efficiently

Market access. Can the provider help you to sell on a wide range of marketplaces and different e-commerce channels, in the UK and overseas?

Customer service. Find out what kind of customer support is provided

Returns. Establish exactly what happens to a returned item, what the cost is to you and what systems are in place if the wrong item is received by a customer

Timing. It’s crucial to know how far in advance you need to ensure the provider has your stock



In finding the right fulfilment provider you’ll need to assess the costs involved. Most outsourced suppliers have a number of fixed costs of their own, including warehousing and storage, staff, systems and infrastructure (e.g. shelving) - but these should not be directly passed on to you. You need a solution that is flexible and focused on variable costs.

If you’re paying for someone else’s warehouse then you may as well cover the cost of your own. However, fixed costs you may need to consider, depending on the supplier, are the monthly cost of account management, IT and systems integration, and storage.

Where a fulfilment company really makes its money is from processing orders - which is great for you as you shouldn't get stung during quieter months - but you should find out if they have a minimum fee, how patient will they be with you until they question if your business – and therefore the customer/supplier relationship – is sustainable.

Variable costs will include: warehouse space you are utilising, picking and packing, despatching, processing goods-in, returns handling and packaging materials. You can have an effect on how costly some elements may be. For example if stock is well presented when it arrives at the fulfilment centre the time to get it booked in and on the shelves will be quicker.



If international expansion is crucial for your business then a fulfilment provider with established international expertise is key for a number of reasons:

• Easy navigation of international customs

• Existing understanding of global rules of export

• Established international shipping networks

• Getting the best prices from international carriers

• Knowledge of global shipping timing and restrictions

• The best, most cost effective options for international returns as well as international shipping

Outsourcing your e-commerce fulfilment to Asendia could help you reach new markets of consumers all over the world. Our e-commerce fulfilment centre in Bedford ships parcels globally with direct access to Asendia's parcel solution that covers over 220 destinations. Contact us today to find out more.


Asendia's Order Fulfilment Centre is a modern facility located in Bedford that supports dozens of e-commerce businesses and has helped them grow in the UK and overseas.