A fulfillment center is the physical location from which a third-party logistics (3PL) provider (also known as a fulfillment provider) fulfills customer orders for ecommerce retailers. A fulfillment center exists to get online orders to customers in a timely fashion and relieve ecommerce companies of managing this crucial-yet-challenging process.

How do fulfillment centers work?

Fulfillment center operations consist of the work that helps get online orders to your doorstep — also referred to as the order fulfillment process. An ecommerce business’s inventory is stored strategically in a 3PL’s fulfillment center in preparation for fulfilling customer orders. After a shopper completes a purchase on an ecommerce store, inventory is picked and boxes are packed, then labeled for shipment.

Fulfillment centers can process both business-to-business (B2B) orders — typically a high volume of product that is sent to a big-box retailer — as well as business-to-consumer (B2C) orders, which are shipped directly to an individual consumer’s home.