What is warehousing? A guide to logistics

Effective warehousing offers a range of benefits for your e-commerce business. Whether you’re a startup shipping your first order or a multinational corporation with stock stored across the globe, keeping physical inventory provides much more than just having items available to purchase.

Find out more about warehousing and how you can benefit from operation below.

In this warehousing guide, you’ll learn:

What is warehousing?

Warehousing is the process of storing physical inventory for sale or distribution. Warehouses are used by all different types of businesses that need to temporarily store products in bulk before either shipping them to other locations or individually to end consumers.

For instance, many ecommerce businesses will purchase products in bulk from their suppliers, who ship them to their warehouse for storage. When an end customer then places an order from the ecommerce site, the business — or its third-party fulfillment provider — picks and packs the product from the warehouse and ships it directly to the customer.

Ecommerce has driven rapid growth throughout the warehousing industry. In fact, the market has doubled in the last decade as businesses around the world invest heavily in their supply chains to get goods to consumers and businesses faster and more efficiently.

This isn’t only limited to ecommerce businesses. Most physical retail businesses have limited space in their stores to hold inventory but still need to keep up with demand. Having additional inventory available in nearby warehouses helps ensure they are always able to restock their stores during high volume times like the holidays, even if their suppliers are in other countries and are slow to produce and ship new products.

Warehouse vs. distribution center: What’s the difference?

While a warehouse is technically any building that stores physical products regardless of the purpose, a distribution center is more specifically a type of warehouse designed for fulfilling orders for the purpose of distribution to other businesses or consumers. Distribution centers, therefore, need to be designed for not only compact storage but also efficient picking, packing, and shipping.

Why is warehousing important?

Warehousing is an essential part of the supply chain for most types of businesses that deal in physical goods. This could be consumer businesses holding a product that eventually makes its way to an end retail customer, or it could be business to business (B2B) companies storing products that eventually make it to business customers.

For retail and ecommerce businesses, warehousing allows:

In addition, warehousing allows businesses to store products in strategic geographic areas to reduce delivery times and shipping costs. For example, if a business is selling a product directly to consumers across the US, they may want to store inventory in multiple different regions of the country.

Similarly, if they’re selling to consumers around the globe, they’ll want to strategically place warehouses in different countries to speed up deliveries and minimize shipments that must go through customs.

With over 20,000 warehouses around the US and consumers now very accustomed to same-day delivery, this is becoming an ever more important aspect of businesses shipping directly to customers.

The elements of warehousing

While warehousing may seem simple since it mainly involves leaving products in storage, there are several processes involved to ensure it’s done efficiently and inventory can be moved in and out quickly, including:

Warehousing and the supply chain

Warehousing is an integral piece of the broader supply chain for physical products. Warehouses do not only serve as intermediary storage facilities — they also provide the ability for supply chain managers to reduce costs by optimizing inventory purchases, saving shipping costs and speeding up delivery times.

Warehousing even permits things like repackaging products for marketing purposes or to optimize the package for last mile delivery. These are important steps in ensuring products get through the supply chain to the end customer, ensuring they have the best possible experience with your company.

Warehousing and an integrated ecommerce stack

Warehousing provides a valuable tool for businesses to temporarily store products, often for storing inventory and optimizing shipping to their customers. If warehousing is an essential part of your business, you’ll need to make sure your ecommerce platform can integrate with your warehouse systems to keep track of inventory, place orders, coordinate fulfillment, and more.

Adobe Commerce makes it easy to synchronize your web store with both internal warehouse systems and third-party fulfillment centers.

Request a free Adobe Commerce demo to see how the next-generation ecommerce solution can help scale your warehouse operations.

Frequently asked warehousing questions

What is the definition of warehousing?

The definition of warehousing is to store inventory, be it goods or data, in a dedicated space, traditionally a warehouse.

What is the process of warehousing?

There are six areas of work that traditionally occur at a warehouse facility, though how many of these appear and on what regularity will depend on your business. The six warehousing actions include:

What is a data warehouse?

A data warehouse is a storage facility used to store, manage, and recall customer data. This data, usually collated through sales information, can be used to make business decisions, such as investment in popular stock lines or tailored marketing to a relevant audience.