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E-commerce Fulfillment vs. DTC Fulfillment: Is there a Difference?

Preparing to sell your products to more people, you and fellow stakeholders in your organization may have questions about the difference between e-commerce fulfillment and direct-to-consumer fulfillment.

When building your business, you’ll face decisions about how exactly you plan to get your merchandise into the hands of consumers as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the same time, you need to view your supply chain logistics options to ensure they match your company’s goals for speed, accuracy, and reliability, among other concerns.

Partnering with the right 3PL company can make all the difference as you work to ensure plenty of repeat business and cultivate a core group of loyal customers. This is the case whether you are involved in subscription box programs and want to streamline the process, or when examining current warehousing options.

With so many transactions being conducted 24/7 online or with the help of sales consultants by phone, customers are accustomed to placing orders for fast delivery. The B&C Logistics team is here to help you handle the fulfillment of your online store orders and ensure your products reach customers quickly. Discover how our third-party logistics team can help you grow your business faster, thanks to our expertise in e-commerce solutions.

Read on for insight into logistics services and things to keep top of mind as you weigh potential providers offering warehousing, distribution, and fulfillment solutions.

What Is Order Fulfillment?

Order fulfillment is the process involved in delivering your company’s products to the people who purchase them. The basics of fulfilling orders include maintaining warehouse facilities, being able to receive items to put into inventory, keeping track of the inventory, and processing orders.

As purchases go out the door, you need to package them and be prepared to receive returns, such as items customers have rejected or because of product recalls mandated by the government.

Companies can fulfill orders themselves or with the help of 3PL experts.

What Is Direct to Consumer (DTC) Fulfillment?

Businesses that rely on direct-to-consumer fulfillment are devoted to streamlining the process of getting their products out of their facilities and into the hands and homes of consumers. People make online orders, such as through your company’s online store or e-commerce portal.

You might establish a store based on DTC e-commerce fulfillment, which as the term implies, is conducted only online, but goes directly to the customer.

E-commerce Fulfillment vs. DTC Fulfillment

People might think that DTC fulfillment and e-commerce fulfillment are the same thing, but there is a difference. Essentially, e-commerce fulfillment has a core online component to it. This is the case whether you are selling items from your own online catalog, or through a large aggregator of products supported with social media and digital product demonstrations.

In contrast, direct-to-consumer fulfillment does not necessarily need online sales. You also have an offline sales channel to work with. For example, you run a downtown gift boutique, and people order items in the brick-and-mortar establishment as well as through an app, your website, or even by phone.

warehouse workers scanning packed packages along a conveyor belt direct to consumer fulfillment

Consider these five differences:

Sales Channel

E-commerce fulfillment is a friction-free business model that many companies employ, especially when first starting out and testing the waters. With just an online sales channel, your company can arrange for customers to get their items thanks to fulfillment with the help of 3PL experts. DTC fulfillment has both an online sales channel and an offline sales channel. Third-party logistics teams, such as at B&C Logistics, can assist you in boosting your DTC fulfillment sales or take over all e-commerce tasks on your behalf.

Target Audience

When you take the DTC fulfillment approach, you can harness a treasure trove of information on current and potential customers. Knowledge of sales history and the types of things different groups of customers prefer or dislike help you forge stronger bonds with them.

In e-commerce situations, you may not be privy to all of the information about your customers. There’s a tradeoff between the popular online services, such as Amazon or other big stores, steering more customers your way (with less customer insight) and a DTC option where you have more data on each customer but perhaps not as many sales as you’d get through a massive portal.


You have an intermediary with e-commerce sales delivering items as they are ordered. For DTC fulfillment, you do not need to rely on an intermediary, as you are sending directly to each customer yourself.

Customer Data

As you consider your target audience, you need to remember that you’ll have more customer data to analyze and exploit to generate more sales more frequently, and for larger shopping carts when you take the DTC fulfillment route. You’ll depend on analytics software and perhaps IT experts to help you manage and make sense of the torrent of data. With e-commerce setups, you will likely not receive nearly as much customer data.


Companies, especially smaller ones that are just starting out, may be able to get by without outsourcing their order fulfillment if they are involved in DTC sales. This is seen in the example of a boutique taking orders online as well as in-store for future fulfillment. For e-commerce strategies, you’ll be outsourcing fulfillment, while reaping the rewards of having a simple online shopping experience to manage while experts handle e-commerce fulfillment on your behalf.

Choosing the Right 3PL for Your Needs

As your company grows in size and scope, you may find that fulfilling orders by yourself is taking too much time and far too many of your precious resources. Consumer demand may actually exceed your current capabilities, which is an enviable position to be in, despite the challenges of your increased success.

At this point, it makes sense to consider outsourcing your service requirements to third-party logistics professionals, such as the team at B&C Logistics. Whether you need direct-to-customer fulfillment assistance or require a firm with experience in e-commerce fulfillment, we’re standing by to assist.

With years of 3PL experience, we’re adept at handling all supply chain issues, including warehouse services and subscription box fulfillment. To learn more about our expertise in warehousing, subscription box fulfillment, e-commerce fulfillment, please get in touch with us today.