Fulfillment vs Distribution

Fulfillment Centers vs Distribution Centers: Which is Right for You?

The order fulfillment process is the backbone of any efficient distribution network. It comprises two crucial elements: the fulfillment center and the distribution center. These centers play distinct roles in the world of eCommerce, and understanding the differences is essential for making informed decisions. In this article, we’ll delve into the intricate web of fulfillment and distribution centers, comparing their pros and cons, and helping you decide which one is the best fit for your business.

What Is a Fulfillment Center?

A fulfillment center is like a well-oiled machine, designed to store, process, and efficiently ship orders to end consumers. These centers primarily cater to business-to-consumer transactions, ensuring that your customers receive their orders in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Key Points:

– Negotiating Shipping Rates

You can often negotiate shipping rates with your fulfillment provider, helping you cut costs on this essential aspect of eCommerce.

– Unique Order Fulfillment Services

Some fulfillment centers offer unique services like reverse logistics processes, adding value to your operations.

What Is a Distribution Center?

Distribution centers are strategically located near ports or airports, and their main function is to redistribute products to various stores in a timely manner. These centers serve as crucial intermediaries in the supply chain, receiving, sorting, and redistributing inventory to cater to the needs of eCommerce store customers.

Key Points:

– Better Control Over Inventory

Distribution centers offer customization options, providing better control over your inventory, a crucial aspect of efficient operations.

– Cost-Effective Storage

They are often more cost-effective than fulfillment centers, making them an attractive option for businesses aiming to manage inventory economically.

Pros and Cons of Fulfillment Centers

Before diving into the world of fulfillment centers, it’s essential to weigh the pros and cons.


1. Low Shipping Fees

Fulfillment companies have established connections with shipping companies, allowing them to deliver directly to your customers and reduce your shipping costs.

2. Variety of Services

Fulfillment centers offer a wide range of inventory management services, including kitting, sorting, packing, and storing inventory for you.

3. Better Inventory Choices

E-commerce retailers can store large quantities of goods in their fulfillment centers, ensuring products are always in stock.

4. Professional Services

Fulfillment facilities have trained personnel to handle your inventory storage, freeing you up to focus on your core business strategies.


1. Trust Issues

Finding a reliable fulfillment warehouse is essential as it might mean losing some control over your inventory management.

2. High Storage Fees

While shipping costs may decrease, storage costs tend to rise over time, making long-term storage less ideal.

Pros and Cons of Distribution Centers

Now, let’s examine the pros and cons of distribution centers.


1. Improved Business Scalability

Distribution centers have qualified staff to handle order processing efficiently, making them an excellent choice for businesses aiming to scale.

2. Cost-Effective Storage

They offer cost-effective space management for inventory, often being more budget-friendly than fulfillment centers.


1. Longer Shipping Time

While distribution centers are detailed and efficient, they may take longer for shipments, particularly if the market is further away.

2. Higher Processing Fees

Distribution centers may charge higher fees for handling and processing goods, but they ensure minimal damage to your products.

Differences between Fulfillment and Distribution Centers

Type of Services

Fulfillment centers handle receiving, processing, and shipping orders to customers, offering various additional services. In contrast, distribution centers primarily focus on storage and redistribution, with fewer services.

Size of Orders

Fulfillment centers typically handle smaller orders, primarily serving business-to-consumer transactions. Distribution centers, on the other hand, deal with larger orders and focus more on business-to-business customers.

Delivery Times

Fulfillment centers excel in fast shipping, often delivering orders in as little as two days. Distribution warehouses, on the other hand, ship in bulk to save costs, resulting in longer shipping times.

Fulfillment Center vs Distribution Center: How to Choose?

The decision between a fulfillment center and a distribution center hinges on several factors:

– Size of Your Company

If you’re just starting your business, a small distribution center may suffice. However, as your business grows, you might consider engaging a fulfillment center for efficient order processing.

– Type of Products

The nature and size of your products play a crucial role. Large or bulky items may require a fulfillment center with ample storage space and value-added services.

– Shipping Needs

Consider the volume of items you need to ship. Fulfillment centers are equipped to handle high volumes, while smaller distribution centers may be suitable for fewer shipments.

– Budget

Both fulfillment and distribution centers can be expensive, so budget considerations are essential. The proximity of the center to your customers also impacts shipping times.


  1. Are Fulfillment Centers and Distribution Centers the Same?

No, they are not the same. Fulfillment centers handle processing and shipping orders to end consumers, while distribution centers are intermediaries in the supply chain, sorting and redistributing products to retailers.

  1. Which Is Better, Fulfillment Centers or Distribution Centers?

The choice depends on your business type. Retailers often benefit from distribution services, while wholesalers or those selling to retailers may prefer fulfillment centers.

  1. What Is the Primary Difference Between Fulfillment and Distribution Centers?

Fulfillment centers manage order processing and shipping to end buyers, providing a wider range of services. Distribution warehouses focus on storage and redistribution, with fewer services.

What’s Next

While there are similarities between fulfillment and distribution centers, understanding their unique pros and cons is crucial. It’s essential to align their capabilities with your business needs and goals. Don’t hesitate to consult us if you have any questions. We’re here to help, and customer satisfaction is our top priority.

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