A Fulfilment Service allows you to manage how to deliver goods that have been ordered by your customers.
By default, most stores start out using Manual fulfilment. This means that the way that you deliver your goods is entirely up to you. Usually this means packing up the goods in a parcel and taking it to the post office, or maybe calling a courier to pick it up.
Of course, as your business grows, this process can become more time consuming, and you need to look for better ways to manage the process. This is where a Fulfilment Service comes into play.
There are basically two types of fulfilment that we need to consider. Real-time versus Batch fulfilment.
With the real-time fulfilment model, all of your inventory is stored by the fulfilment service company. You need to organize with them how to send your goods to them, and how to manage the process of adding new inventory to their stock.
When an order needs to be fulfilled, a message is sent directly to the fulfilment service when you mark an item to be shipped, and the fulfilment service takes care of the packing and shipment of the goods to your customer.
This type of service allows you to outsource the entire fulfilment process. It is a variation of the drop-shipping model, except that you provide the stock to be dispatched.
Shipwire is an example of a real-time fulfilment service.
The other form of fulfilment is used where you still look after all your own inventory, and you are also responsible for packing the goods. Once you've processed and packed all your orders for the day, you can submit an order to the fulfilment service, usually a postal or courier service.
This type of service allows you to streamline the process of getting your parcels shipped. The fulfilment service will allow you to manage the packing of your items and will provide printed labels for each parcel. The batch of parcels that is created can then be priced and charged automatically to your account, and you can organize for them to be picked up or dropped off at a post office or depot.
Usually, you can expect to receive some sort of discount over the standard retail shipping rates based on the volume of items that you are sending.
Australia Post eParcel is an example of a batch fulfilment service.