What Types of Order Fulfillment Are There?

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When most people think of order fulfillment, they think of shipping products from a warehouse to a customer. However, there are actually several different types of order fulfillment methods, including in-house fulfillment, third-party fulfillment, dropshipping, and hybrid fulfillment, are that companies can use to get orders to their customers.

Different Types of Order Fulfillment

In-House Fulfillment

With in-house fulfillment, a company can take orders directly from customers and ship them out of their own warehouse or store. This type of order fulfillment allows companies to have better control over the process, as it eliminates the need to rely on outside services for shipping and handling.

Businesses that decide to fulfill their own orders hire staff, equipment, and purchase or lease the necessary warehouse space to fulfill orders.

This is a great option for businesses that have the means to do so without sacrificing the customer experience.

Third-Party Fulfillment

With third-party fulfillment, companies outsource their order fulfillment services to a third-party logistics service (3PL). This allows them to take advantage of the expertise and resources that the third party provides in order to get orders shipped quickly and accurately.

The order fulfillment partner handles everything from managing the inventory levels, product packaging and shipping, to customer service. They also provide detailed reports about the progress of each order and can be quickly scaled up or down depending on demand.

This is a great option for businesses with high-volume orders who want more control over their supply chain operations but don’t have the resources to manage fulfillment in-house.

It is also a great option for companies that are seasonal, as they won’t be forced to pay for warehouse space or staff that are not needed for large portions of the year.


Dropshipping is a popular method for small businesses and entrepreneurs who are looking to get their products to customers without having to carry any inventory. With dropshipping, a business’s supplier or manufacturer sends orders directly to the customer.

Much like third-party fulfillment, this leverages a partner to handle the logistics and order fulfillment process, freeing up the business to focus on marketing, customer service, and innovation.

Hybrid Order Fulfillment

Hybrid fulfillment is a combination of in-house and third-party fulfillment. It sometimes also combines dropshipping.

With hybrid fulfillment, a business will handle some of its own fulfillment operations, but it will also use a third-party fulfillment company to handle other aspects of fulfillment. Hybrid fulfillment allows businesses to combine the benefits of both in-house and third-party fulfillment, and it can be a flexible and cost-effective way to manage fulfillment operations.

An example of how a company might choose to use hybrid order fulfillment would be a company that chooses to fulfill local orders in its region or state, but leverages a third-party order fulfillment supplier for national shipments.

Which Type of Order Fulfillment is Right for Your Business

Choosing the right type of order fulfillment for your business can be a difficult decision, as there are several different options available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. In order to choose the best option for your business, it is important to consider your business’s unique needs and circumstances, as well as the costs and benefits of each type of fulfillment.

One of the main factors to consider when choosing a fulfillment method is the size and scale of your business. If your business is small and has relatively low order volume, in-house fulfillment may be a good option, as it can be less expensive and allow for greater control over your inventory and processes. If your business is larger and has higher order volume, third-party fulfillment may be a better option, as it can provide the expertise and resources of a professional fulfillment provider, which can help to improve efficiency and accuracy.

Another important factor to consider is the cost of fulfillment. In-house fulfillment can be less expensive in the short term, but it can also be labor-intensive and require a significant investment in inventory management and fulfillment technology. Third-party fulfillment can be more expensive, but it can also provide economies of scale and other cost savings, such as discounted shipping rates.

Seasonality can also play a role. If your business does a large percentage of its sales volume around the holidays and is much slower the rest of the year, does it make sense to pay for staff and warehouse space that is unneeded 75% of the time?

Hybrid fulfillment can be a good option for businesses that want to combine the cost savings of in-house fulfillment with the expertise of a third-party fulfillment provider.

Dropshipping can make a lot of sense for a business getting started or for testing the viability of a new line of products before making the investment in inventory and storage space.

In addition to size and cost, there are also other factors to consider when choosing a fulfillment method. These can include the level of control and customization you want over your fulfillment operations, the level of customer service and support you want to provide, and the speed and reliability of your fulfillment process.

Overall, choosing the right type of order fulfillment for your business is an important decision, and it is important to consider your business’s unique needs and circumstances when making this decision. In-house fulfillment, third-party fulfillment, and hybrid fulfillment are all viable options, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. By carefully considering the costs and benefits of each option, you can choose the best fulfillment method for your business.

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