Partial shipment: E-Commerce Explained

Learn everything you need to know about partial shipment in e-commerce with our comprehensive guide.

Understanding Partial Shipment

Let's start with the basics. Partial shipment refers to the process of dividing an order into multiple shipments. Instead of shipping all the items in an order at once, businesses may choose to split the shipment into two or more deliveries. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including inventory constraints, order fulfillment delays, or customer requests.

Definition and Importance

Partial shipment is a common practice in e-commerce, and it can have significant benefits for businesses and customers alike. By splitting large orders into multiple shipments, businesses can improve their order management and fulfillment processes. This can help reduce order fulfillment times, improve customer satisfaction, and streamline inventory management.

For example, let's say a customer places an order for ten items, but five of those items are currently out of stock. Rather than delaying the entire order, the business can ship the five items that are in stock immediately and then ship the remaining five items once they become available. This allows the customer to receive some of their order faster, which can help improve their overall satisfaction with the buying experience.

Benefits for E-Commerce Businesses

For e-commerce businesses, partial shipment can provide a range of benefits. By breaking orders into smaller shipments, they can reduce the risk of lost or damaged packages. It can also help businesses manage inventory more effectively, enabling them to prioritize high-demand products and reduce backorders. Additionally, partial shipment can improve order fulfillment times, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Another benefit of partial shipment is that it can help businesses save on shipping costs. By breaking up large orders into smaller shipments, businesses can take advantage of more cost-effective shipping options, such as ground shipping or regional carriers. This can help reduce overall shipping costs and improve profit margins.

Common Challenges and Solutions

While partial shipment can be beneficial, it can also present some challenges. One common problem is ensuring that all items are shipped to the customer on time. To address this, businesses can use automated inventory management tools that help track product availability and prioritize shipments based on customer needs. Additionally, customer service representatives can provide regular updates to customers regarding the status of their orders.

Another challenge of partial shipment is managing customer expectations. Customers may be confused or frustrated if they receive multiple shipments for a single order, especially if they were not informed of the partial shipment beforehand. To avoid this, businesses should clearly communicate their partial shipment policies on their website and during the checkout process. They should also provide customers with tracking information for each shipment so they can easily monitor the status of their orders.

In conclusion, partial shipment is a valuable tool for e-commerce businesses looking to improve their order management and fulfillment processes. By breaking up large orders into smaller shipments, businesses can reduce shipping costs, improve inventory management, and increase customer satisfaction. However, businesses must also be aware of the potential challenges associated with partial shipment and take steps to address them effectively.

The Order Fulfillment Process

To understand how to manage partial shipments effectively, it's essential to first understand the order fulfillment process. This process involves several key steps, including inventory management, picking and packing, shipping and delivery, and customer communication.

Effective order fulfillment is critical to the success of any business. It ensures that customers receive their products on time and in good condition, which can lead to increased customer loyalty and repeat business. In this expanded version, we will take a closer look at each step of the order fulfillment process and explore some best practices that businesses can use to improve their fulfillment operations.

Inventory Management

The first step in the fulfillment process is inventory management. This involves keeping track of product availability, ensuring that products are in stock, and ordering new products as needed. Effective inventory management is essential to ensuring that orders can be fulfilled in a timely manner and that customers receive the products they need.

One key best practice for inventory management is to use inventory management software. This software can help businesses track product availability, prioritize shipments, and reduce the risk of backorders or out-of-stock items. By using software to automate inventory management, businesses can save time and reduce the risk of errors.

Picking and Packing

Once the order is received and products are available, the next step is picking and packing. This involves selecting the correct items from inventory and packing them securely for shipment. Picking and packing can be a time-consuming process, but there are several best practices that businesses can use to streamline this operation.

One best practice is to use automated picking and packing tools. These tools can help businesses reduce errors and increase efficiency by automating the process of selecting and packing items. Automated tools can also help businesses reduce labor costs and improve overall productivity.

Shipping and Delivery

After the order is packed, it is ready for shipment. When shipping large orders, businesses may choose to split the shipment into multiple deliveries. This can help reduce transit times and improve customer satisfaction. To ensure that all items are shipped correctly, businesses must carefully track each shipment and provide regular updates to customers.

One best practice for shipping and delivery is to use a tracking system. This system can help businesses track each shipment and provide customers with real-time updates on the status of their order. By providing regular updates, businesses can improve customer satisfaction and reduce the risk of lost or delayed shipments.

In conclusion, effective order fulfillment is critical to the success of any business. By using best practices for inventory management, picking and packing, and shipping and delivery, businesses can improve their fulfillment operations and provide customers with a positive experience.

Partial Shipment Scenarios

Partial shipment can occur in a variety of scenarios in e-commerce. Below are some of the most common examples:

Pre-Orders and Backorders

When customers pre-order products or order out-of-stock items, partial shipment can be used to deliver available products first. This can help improve order fulfillment times and reduce customer frustration.

Split Shipments for Large Orders

For large orders, businesses may need to split shipments into multiple deliveries to improve transit times and reduce risk of damage or loss. This is particularly common for orders that include bulky or fragile items.

Dropshipping and Third-Party Fulfillment

In some cases, e-commerce businesses may use dropshipping or third-party fulfillment methods. In these scenarios, partial shipment can help businesses manage multiple locations and improve overall shipment accuracy.

Customer Communication and Expectations

When it comes to partial shipment, one key factor to consider is customer communication. To ensure that customers are aware of partial shipment policies, businesses must clearly communicate shipping policies and provide regular order updates. Some best practices include:

Transparent Shipping Policies

Businesses should clearly communicate their shipping policies, including any partial shipment practices. This can help set customer expectations and reduce confusion or frustration.

Proactive Order Updates

Regularly updating customers on the status of their orders can help reduce concerns and build trust. This can be done through automated emails or SMS updates, or through customer service representatives.

Handling Customer Inquiries and Complaints

Finally, businesses must be prepared to handle customer inquiries or complaints. When customers receive partial shipments, they may have questions or concerns about the status of their orders. Providing prompt and helpful customer service can help improve satisfaction and build long-term loyalty.


Partial shipment is a key component of effective e-commerce order fulfillment. By understanding the order fulfillment process, managing inventory effectively, and communicating transparently with customers, businesses can reduce order fulfillment times, improve customer satisfaction, and streamline their shipping and delivery processes.

Do you want to make better marketing decisions?

Try ThoughtMetric and start understanding the performance of your e-commerce marketing today.

Sign up for free