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Pick, Pack & Ship: A Beginner’s Guide to Fulfilment

– Written by Kristina Mertens​

As an eCommerce seller, a smooth and efficient order fulfilment process is crucial to ensure customer satisfaction and the success of your online business. From the moment one of your customers places an order in your shop to the moment the package is delivered to their door, the picking, packing and shipping processes play an important role in their overall customer experience. 

This beginner’s guide will take you through the fundamental steps in order fulfilment. Whether you want to handle the fulfilment in-house or work with a third-party logistics provider (3PL), the following chapters will help you understand the process and optimise it for your business. 

Picking: Selecting the Items 

The first step in the order fulfilment process is locating and selecting all the items that the customer has ordered from you. This step may seem simple at first glance, but it’s important to have an organised inventory management system and efficient picking processes in place: 

Organised Inventory 

It’s crucial that you maintain a well-organised inventory system. Each product should have a unique identifier, and the storage area should be clearly labelled. This helps reduce errors and speeds up the picking process. 

Picking Methods 

There are different picking methods to consider, such as “single order picking” (selecting items for one order at a time) or “collective picking” (selecting items for several orders at once). Single-order picking usually reduces the number of picking errors, but at the same time, it also minimises the number of parcels you can pick per hour. The choice of picking method eventually depends on the size of your operation, the volume of orders and how confident you are in your staff. 

Barcode Scanning 

It’s crucial to sooner than later implement a barcode scanning technology to improve picking accuracy. Each product and order should have a barcode that can be scanned during the picking process to ensure the correct items are selected. It can also automatically record the reduction of the product by one unit from your stock. This information is then sent to your inventory management or warehouse management system, which brings us to the next point. 

Software Usage 

Use a real-time inventory management system or – when you already have a bigger operation – a warehouse management system. This ensures that you always know the exact quantity of each item in stock to avoid overselling and reordering. You can also use the software to create stock forecasts. 

Packing – Preparing the Goods for Transport 

Once the right items are selected, the next step is to pack them securely to prevent damage during shipping. However, efficient packaging not only protects your products, but should also contribute to a positive unpacking experience for your customers and transport your brand’s essence. 

Appropriate Packaging Materials 

Choose packaging materials that match the type and dimension of your product(s). You should use packaging that’s not much bigger than the products you are sending. The larger the packaging, the more the products will fly around in it. To avoid damage, you’ll need a lot of filler. This increases the cost per order. In addition, the bigger the packaging, the more you pay for the shipping, as shipping costs are primarily based on the dimensions of your package.  

Branded Packaging 

Consider using customised packaging that showcases your brand. This adds a personal touch to the package and contributes to a memorable unpacking experience for the customer. Branded packaging can either be in your brand colours, carry your logo or have a special, haptic, brand-typical add-on. 

Packaging Efficiency 

Optimise your packaging process for efficiency. Standardise the packing steps to minimise the time per package and use dedicated packing stations. This becomes especially important during peak times. 

Documentation and Inserts 

Include all necessary documentation, such as invoices or delivery notes, as well as promotional inserts or thank you letters. This can encourage customer loyalty and provide important information to the buyer. Many brands also use inserts to promote their customer programme or to participate in cross-promotions with other brands. You can also simplify the return process for your customers by enclosing a return slip. 

Shipping – Choosing the Right Shipping Method 

After picking and packing, the final step is to ship the package to the customer’s address. Choosing the right shipping methods is crucial, as they will affect delivery times, costs and customer satisfaction. 

Shipping Options 

You should tailor your shipping options to the needs of your customer base. These options could include standard shipping, express shipping and international shipping. It’s worth comparing different carriers to find the best deal for each package weight, dimension and destination. For example, you can use one carrier for domestic shipments and another for cross-border shipments if they offer better rates. 

Shipping Costs 

Shipping costs are always hotly debated among online retailers. Offering free shipping can attract more customers, but it is important to consider these costs when setting product prices. Return shipping costs can also kill your profits, so you should either include the return shipping costs in the price design or pass them on to the end customer, at least partially. A common approach is to waive shipping costs above a certain basket value, e.g., 50€. It’s recommended to gather some data over time and then adapt to the order and returns behaviour of your customers. 

Tracking and Notifications 

Customers trust your brand with every purchase and take some risk as they do not receive the product immediately after purchase. Thus, they want to receive detailed information about the status of their order, the next steps and the expected delivery date of their parcel. Provide your customers with tracking information so they can follow the path of their package. Ideally, you’ll send automatic email notifications about order status and tracking updates. 

Shipping Partners 

Work with reliable shipping service providers who have a track record of on-time deliveries and good customer service. The performance of the shipping service provider directly reflects on the reputation of your brand. It only takes a quick Google search to find out which carrier is most popular in a country. In Germany, for example, DHL is the most popular and considered the most customer-centric courier service, followed by Hermes, GLS and DPD. 

Handling Your Own Fulfilment vs. Using A 3PL 

Sooner or later, eCommerce merchants are faced with the decision of whether to handle order processing (fulfilment) internally or to use the services of a professional fulfilment service provider. Both approaches have their pros and cons, but above a certain size and complexity of your business, working with an expert can make all the difference. 

In-house fulfilment allows companies to design the entire process their way and retain control over storage, picking and shipping. They can react more quickly to special customer requests or subsequent changes to orders. However, companies with their own fulfilment often run into scaling problems quite quickly as the business grows. Warehouse space, staff and processes need to be adjusted accordingly to maintain flexibility and professionalism at the same level, which requires additional investment. 

A fulfilment service provider also has a lot of experience, expertise, extensive technology and established processes to carry out order fulfilment efficiently. They can minimise errors and ensure higher picking accuracy.  A 3PL can also easily keep up with the growth of your business. They have the resources and infrastructure to handle higher order volumes without sacrificing quality. 

And although the costs for the service provider may be higher initially, they are often transparent and plannable. Reputable 3PLs charge precisely for each individual service they offer. They cover various aspects such as storage, picking, packaging, shipping and technology, which makes budgeting easier. 


Mastering the picking, packing and shipping process is critical to the success of any eCommerce business. A well-executed fulfilment process increases customer satisfaction, reduces errors and helps build a positive brand image. By maintaining a well-organised inventory, efficient packing processes and a variety of attractive shipping options, you can ensure that your customers receive their orders accurately and quickly. As you grow, continually optimising these processes is key to scaling your business while maintaining high customer service standards.