Fulfillment center Europe
An ecommerce fulfillment center is designed to rapidly process and ship orders, making it essential for scaling ecommerce operations efficiently. Learn about the benefits of a European fulfillment center, how these services streamline your supply chain, and improve the turnaround of your orders.
- the process of ecommerce logistics
- The phases of order fulfillment services
- Advantages of using a fulfillment provider
- In-house vs. outsourced fulfillment
Local fulfillment centers in Europe
Fulfillment centers enable quick order processing, as well as quick deliveries. This is especially true when you use local fulfillment centers for your cross-border sales. These are often able to offer same-day or next-day delivery.
There are a lot of logistics and fulfillment providers in Europe that aim for online retailers. Three European based ecommerce fulfillment centers that that we recommend for a medium sized online store are:
Active Ants is a cross-border fulfillment company with locations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. The company is known for its large-scale use of order picking robots. Retailers can outsource logistics but also product photography, customer service and payments.
Salesupply offers national and cross-border solutions for fulfillment and returns as well as customer service. The company works with 25+ fulfillment centers across the world, among them the following EU countries: Germany, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark and Sweden.
Direct Link is part of PostNord and offers cross-border ecommerce solutions. The company provides mail and parcel distribution as well as warehouse logistics. The fulfillment provider has offices worldwide, including 4 countries in Europe: Sweden, Poland, Germany and the United Kingdom.
If you are selling to multiple countries in Europe, you could consider using a fulfillment center in each market you sell to. They will know which carriers and transportation options are preferred by local customers. You could either partner with a fulfillment provider with a network of centers around Europe, or partner with multiple providers in several countries.
One op the options of ecommerce fulfillment in Europe is Amazon. This online marketplace has set up its own fulfillment center for its merchants. This is called Fulfillment by Amazon (or Amazon FBA).
These fulfillment services have many advantages, especially if Amazon is your largest sales channel. But they also come with their drawbacks. For instance, there are limited flexibility options, such as selling through other channels and the inability to make packaging changes or custom kitting.
Fulfillment: the process of ecommerce logistics
Ecommerce fulfillment is the complete process of fulfilling orders of an online store. This includes inventory management, picking and packing of orders, as well as the delivery process itself. While most online stores handle their own inventory and logistics at first, this can become a hassle once the product range starts growing.
And if the amount of orders grows quickly, it can be hard to scale in time to process them all. Additionally, if your online store grows cross-border, you will notice that international logistics comes with new challenges that require your time. Because of that, many retailers decide to use a fulfillment center.
Imagine a hub where inventory is received, customer orders processed and shipments dispatched. This is how a fulfillment center works. It is a space operated by a third-party logistics provider dedicated to making online selling easier. Unlike traditional warehouses that store goods for longer terms, fulfillment centers are designed for short-term storage, managing inventory consistently to facilitate a quick turnaround for order processing.
Fulfillment centers cater to a variety of clients and order types. For example direct-to-consumer (D2C) and business-to-business (B2B) orders, as well as large-scale freight orders for items such as furniture or oversized goods.
Technology behind fulfillment centers
Operations within a fulfillment center are significantly driven by technology. For example, through synchronisation, the fulfillment center receives the orders placed in your online store in real-time. They often also have option to integrate multiple sales channels, like marketplaces. Some of the key tools and systems used in fulfillment centers include:
- Warehouse management systems (WMS) and order fulfillment software, which automate order processing and increase efficiency
- Barcode and RFID scanning, which help track and manage inventory
- Voice picking systems, which guide warehouse workers through the picking process using voice commands
- Robotic systems, which automate tasks such as picking, packing, and sorting
Because of these tools, fulfillment centers are able to streamline processes. This minimizes errors, while working quickly and efficiently. These software systems are also necessary to ensure high customer satisfaction. However, while technology is essential in these operations, of course most fulfillment centers also still need employees to maintain quality of work.
The phases of order fulfillment services
Now that we have a basic understanding of what a fulfillment center is and its key functions, we will delve into the nitty-gritty of order fulfillment services.
Receiving inventory marks the start of the order fulfillment process. Fulfillment centers receive inventory sent by the sellers’ manufacturers or suppliers and store it conveniently for order processing. Once the inventory arrives at a fulfillment center, it is organized, sorted, and stored with unique identifiers like stock keeping units (SKUs) for easy retrieval during order fulfillment.
Picking and packing orders
The picking process commences after receiving an order in the online store. This involves retrieving the specified items from inventory. There are several strategies in picking available, which usually indicate how the fulfillment center is structured. Think of:
- Discrete picking
- Batch picking
- Zone picking
- Wave picking
After the picking process, the items are prepared for shipment. This includes boxing or bagging, labeling, and ensuring that items are well-protected during transit.
Shipping and delivery
Sending the product(s) to the customer is the final step in the order fulfillment process. Fulfillment centers often have contracts with multiple shipping companies for frequent pickups, ensuring that customer orders are shipped promptly. Some fulfillment providers also have their own logistics operations, meaning that they ship the orders themselves.
High customer experience and satisfaction levels depend on the efficiency of this process, spanning from processing to delivery and management of returns.
Advantages of using a fulfillment center
There are several advantages to using a fulfillment provider. Online sellers often choose to use these services when they need a more efficient and scalable order fulfillment process as their business grows. By using fulfillment services, they can serve a wider customer base, internationally for example.
Faster shipping is one of the main advantages of using a fulfillment center. Express shipping services provided by fulfillment centers guarantee delivery in two to three days. This meets customer demand for faster shipping speeds. This not only enhances the customer experience but also fosters repeat business and stronger brand loyalty.
Scaling made simple
Scalability is another advantage of using a fulfillment center. Online businesses can handle increased order volumes without the need for additional warehouse space by utilizing a fulfillment center’s global infrastructure. Furthermore, outsourcing fulfillment can be more cost-effective for businesses, as 3PLs offer flexible pricing that adapts to changes in order volume and growth patterns.
Focus on core business activities
Businesses can focus on strategic areas like customer service, marketing, and product development by outsourcing logistics. At the same time, businesses can service more customers and offer better customer experiences, which can include value-added services like custom packaging.
Handling returns and exchanges
Maintaining a positive brand image and customer satisfaction also hinges on efficient returns management. This includes streamlined reverse logistics, clear return policies, and efficient after-sales support to encourage repeat purchases.
In-house vs. outsourced fulfillment
Several factors need to be considered by businesses when deciding between in-house and outsourced fulfillment. Fulfillment centers can often negotiate lower rates with carriers, which reduces shipping costs for ecommerce businesses.
Evaluating the cost of storing inventory
Storing inventory in-house involves a wide range of costs, from facilities to operational expenses. In contrast, leveraging fulfillment centers can provide a variable cost solution with the flexibility of pay-as-you-go pricing.
It also reduces the need to maintain a storage facility, potentially cutting overall costs for businesses. However, do not underestimate the costs charged by a fulfillment partner.
When to consider a professional fulfillment center
When businesses can no longer keep up with managing their own warehouse and timely shipping of orders, or when they reach the maximum capacity of their current storage space, they should consider partnering with a professional fulfillment center.
In the fast-paced world of ecommerce, fulfillment centers play an important role. They not only streamline the order fulfillment process but also provide a strategic advantage to businesses by offering faster shipping, scalability, and the flexibility to focus on core business activities.
By catering to diverse ecommerce platforms, providing multi-channel integration, customization, and data-driven insights, fulfillment centers enhance the customer experience and build brand loyalty. Whether it is Amazon’s FBA model or other professional fulfillment centers, these hubs of logistics and order fulfillment have an impact on supply chain dynamics and the overall success of ecommerce businesses.
Frequently asked questions
Frequently asked questions about fulfillment centers are:
What does an ecommerce fulfilment center do?
An ecommerce fulfillment center is responsible for managing inventory, processing orders, packaging, and shipping products to customers or retailers. It serves as a crucial hub in the supply chain for efficient logistics processes.
What is the difference between a warehouse and a fulfillment center?
The main difference between a warehouse and a fulfillment center is that warehouses provide long-term storage and possibly value-added services, while fulfillment centers cover every aspect of the order fulfillment process, including receiving, storing, picking, packing, and handling last-mile delivery.