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How to streamline fulfillment operations: Choosing between using 3PLs or in-house fulfillment

Written by
Mary Kate McGowan
Jul 7, 2023
3:40 pm
minute read

Quick hits:

  • Ecommerce brands have two common options for order fulfillment: partnering with a 3PL or implementing an in-house fulfillment system.
  • Partnering with a 3PL offers scalability and flexibility, expertise and infrastructure, cost savings and operational efficiency, geographic reach and faster delivery.
  • Establishing an in-house fulfillment system gives enhanced control and brand experience, tailored solutions and adaptability, brand loyalty and customer relationships, quality control and customer satisfaction, plus long-term cost efficiency.
  • The choice between 3PLs or in-house fulfillment depends on scalability requirements, control preferences, brand experience goals and financial considerations.
  • Depending on the chosen path, you must also implement the right supply chain systems: an inventory management system for 3PLs or a warehouse management system for in-house fulfillment.

Are you an ecommerce brand looking to level up your order fulfillment game? In today's ever-evolving digital world, ecommerce brands continually strive to optimize their order fulfillment process.

As businesses expand and customer expectations rise, choosing the most efficient fulfillment strategy becomes crucial. Brands often contemplate two common options: using a third-party logistics provider (3PL) or establishing an in-house fulfillment system. 

In this blog post, we delve into the pros and cons of both approaches, highlighting the need for robust inventory management systems or warehouse management systems, depending on your chosen path.

Option 1: Why ecommerce Brands should consider using 3PLs

As the ecommerce industry continues to expand and evolve, the demand for efficient and reliable fulfillment solutions has never been greater. This is where 3PLs play a crucial role in helping ecommerce brands meet their customers' expectations while focusing on their core competencies. 

Here are compelling reasons why ecommerce brands should seriously consider partnering with 3PLs:

Scalability and flexibility

One of the primary advantages of using a 3PL is the ability to scale operations quickly and efficiently. As an ecommerce brand experiences growth, the 3PL can seamlessly accommodate increased order volumes, warehousing needs and distribution requirements. This scalability allows businesses to focus on strategic aspects, such as product development, marketing and customer acquisition, without the constant concern of fulfillment logistics.

Expertise and infrastructure

3PLs specialize in logistics and fulfillment, bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. They have established advanced infrastructure, robust technology systems and efficient shipping networks that have been refined over time. 

By partnering with a reputable 3PL, ecommerce brands can tap into this expertise and infrastructure, benefiting from optimized processes, reduced transit times and improved delivery accuracy. The 3PL's industry knowledge enables them to navigate complex shipping regulations and handle international logistics, expanding the brand's reach and customer base.

Cost savings and operational efficiency

Choosing a 3PL eliminates the need for significant upfront investments in warehousing space, equipment and technology infrastructure. By outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL, ecommerce brands can avoid the costs associated with building and maintaining their own fulfillment centers. These cost savings can be redirected towards other critical areas of the business, such as product innovation or enhancing the customer experience.

Additionally, 3PLs bring efficiency gains to the fulfillment process. They leverage automation and technology to streamline order processing, inventory management and shipping logistics. With access to real-time data and analytics, brands can gain valuable insights into their supply chain, allowing them to optimize operations and reduce costs further.

Geographic reach and faster delivery

Partnering with a 3PL provides ecommerce brands with a broader geographic reach. Many 3PLs have multiple strategically located distribution centers, enabling faster and more cost-effective shipping to customers across different regions. 

By leveraging the 3PL's existing network, brands can tap into their well-established transportation and delivery systems, ensuring prompt order fulfillment and reducing transit times. This, in turn, enhances the overall customer experience and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.


For ecommerce brands, partnering with a reputable 3PL can be a game-changer. By leveraging the scalability, expertise, infrastructure, cost savings and geographic reach provided by 3PLs, brands can streamline their fulfillment operations, enhance customer satisfaction and fuel business growth. 

With the right 3PL partner by your side, ecommerce brands can confidently navigate the challenges of order fulfillment, leaving them free to focus on what they do best — delivering exceptional products and experiences to their customers.

Option 2: Why ecommerce brands should consider using in-house fulfillment

While partnering with a 3PL offers numerous advantages, there are compelling reasons why ecommerce brands should also consider implementing an in-house fulfillment system. Here are key factors that make in-house fulfillment a viable option:

Enhanced control and brand experience

Establishing an in-house fulfillment system empowers ecommerce brands with complete control over the entire fulfillment process. From order processing to packaging and shipping, brands have the flexibility to customize each step to align precisely with their unique vision, values and brand guidelines. 

This control allows for consistent branding, personalized customer experiences, and the ability to accommodate special requests or unique packaging requirements, thereby fostering a stronger connection and loyalty among customers.

Tailored solutions and adaptability

In-house fulfillment allows brands to implement customized strategies and workflows that cater specifically to their product lines, customer base and business objectives. Brands can optimize inventory management practices, warehouse layout and fulfillment processes based on their unique requirements, leading to increased efficiency, reduced errors and faster turnaround times. 

This adaptability enables brands to pivot quickly in response to market trends and customer demands, ensuring a competitive edge in the ecommerce landscape.

Brand loyalty and customer relationships

Direct interaction with customers throughout the fulfillment process can significantly impact brand loyalty and customer relationships. In-house fulfillment enables ecommerce brands to establish a direct connection with their customers, providing opportunities for personalized communication, order updates and exceptional customer service. 

By handling fulfillment internally, brands can create memorable experiences and strengthen customer relationships, fostering trust and repeat business.

Quality control and customer satisfaction

Maintaining quality control is vital for ecommerce brands, as it directly impacts customer satisfaction. With in-house fulfillment, brands have full visibility and control over product quality, packaging and shipping standards. They can implement rigorous quality control measures, conduct regular inspections and ensure that orders are accurately fulfilled and promptly shipped. 

This attention to detail and commitment to quality results in higher customer satisfaction rates and a positive brand reputation.

Long-term cost efficiency

While establishing an in-house fulfillment system requires upfront investments, it can yield long-term cost efficiencies. By bringing fulfillment operations in-house, brands eliminate ongoing expenses associated with outsourcing to a 3PL, such as service fees or transaction charges. As the business scales, the cost per order decreases, making in-house fulfillment a more cost-effective option over time. 

Moreover, brands have the opportunity to optimize processes, leverage technology, and negotiate favorable deals with suppliers, further driving down costs and maximizing profitability.


While using a 3PL offers undeniable benefits, implementing an in-house fulfillment system provides ecommerce brands with unique advantages that align with their specific needs and brand goals. Enhanced control, tailored solutions, direct customer interactions, quality control and long-term cost efficiency are all compelling reasons to consider in-house fulfillment. 

By carefully assessing their requirements, evaluating the long-term benefits, and investing in the necessary resources, ecommerce brands can establish an in-house fulfillment system that elevates their brand experience, enhances customer satisfaction and drives sustainable growth.

Deciding between partnering with 3PLs or growing through in-house fulfillment 

Choosing between using a 3PL provider or implementing an in-house fulfillment system is critical for ecommerce brands seeking to optimize their order fulfillment process. Both options offer distinct advantages and considerations that need to align with the brand's goals, resources and long-term vision.

Ecommerce teams must also invest in the appropriate systems to ensure streamlined operations. For 3PL partnerships, an inventory management system (IMS) provides real-time visibility, seamless coordination and optimized inventory replenishment. 

On the other hand, implementing an in-house fulfillment system requires a robust warehouse management system (WMS) to optimize warehouse activities, automate processes and enhance overall operational efficiency.

By making an informed decision and implementing the appropriate fulfillment strategy, ecommerce brands can deliver exceptional customer experiences, increase operational efficiency and drive sustainable growth in the competitive ecommerce landscape. 

Need help deciding? Reach out to the PorterLogic team, and we can help you evaluate your growing ecommerce brand’s fulfillment needs. Contact us today.

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