What's the difference between ecommerce fulfilment, 3PL & 4PL?

When talking ecommerce supply chain management, third or fourth party logistics and full-service fulfilment may appear at first sight to be one and the same.


Helping you navigate ecommerce fulfilment industry jargon

Third party logistics (3PL), fourth party logistics (4PL) and full-service ecommerce fulfilment may seem, at first glance, to be pretty much the same thing. Probably because as ecommerce has grown, the boundaries have blurred. Some companies even offering 3PL fulfilment has added to this confusion. All of these terms refer to the business of managing and shipping product, it’s the scope which differs. 4PL’s cover from product source to end customer and may employ 3PL’s on your behalf. 3PL logistics businesses can include freight forwarders and courier companies, with services that include pick and pack, warehousing, and distribution. Fulfilment specifically focuses on the process of receiving, processing, and delivering customer orders, so it's a subset of a 3PL offering.


4PL fulfilment

A 4PL provides a more holistic approach to your supply chain management and can manage your supplier deliveries from the first mile. They look at the whole 'end-to-end' supply chain process and provide you with logistics strategies, tailored procurement and take responsibility for managing all elements of the supply chain from source to end customer. As you can imagine, there needs to be volume if you are to work with a 4PL.


3PL fulfilment

In 3PL, fulfilment centres typically have a wider scope than a standard ecommerce fulfilment house. 3PLs often manage logistics for several clients and offer custom solutions for each. They receive, manage, and complete online orders for customers on behalf of sales teams, sales reps and a variety of order processing mechanisms. This could incorporate store replenishment solutions, trade sales (on and offline) as well as ecommerce fulfilment.


Ecommerce fulfilment

An ecommerce fulfilment facility receives orders from businesses and consumers, they pick and pack the orders, then ship them to the customer. Many order fulfilment facilities can also provide additional services such as kitting, assembly, specialist packaging and returns processing.


Where do Spatial Global fit within these service offerings'

Spatial Global provide solutions for pretty much all the above, as a freight forwarder, we can help you navigate the import challenges from your source supplier anywhere in the world to our bonded storage facility. Where we differ is we’re much smaller than our competition, which means we are happy to look at smaller volumes.

If you import your goods - then we can give your business the edge in a highly competitive online marketplace - because our freight division can help you access the most competitive import prices - while our bonded warehouse means you only pay import duty on products as they are sold. Our mail team will enable you to take advantage of our 'volume discounts' on national or overseas parcel delivery - reducing your mailing costs to the same as the larger online brands.

Whether you sell online via eBay, Amazon, TikTok an ecommerce website, or a mix - our fulfilment services cost less than you think. Spatial Global provide a 'pay as you go' option – which has no upfront costs - you simply pay for each item we store or fulfil.


Helping you maximise profits and remain competitive.

A complete in-house solution means you have the added benefit of a reliable chain of communication between all parties. Our in-house approach allows us to develop and manage fulfilment technology platforms tailored for your business needs. As we do it all on site, you can come visit and see it for yourself.


Need Ecommerce fulfilment services for your online businesses'

If you want to talk to someone who knows how to remove the hidden costs from ecommerce fulfilment and take a look at what you're spending, where, and highlight if you could be paying less or getting a better service, then - CLICK HERE to find out about our FREE confidential Ecommerce Fulfilment Audit.

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