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Forward Logistics: What It Is and How it Differs from Reverse Logistics

Jake Rheude

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Logistics can mean the management of complicated operations or the movement of people or physical objects. In eCommerce, logistics services include the processes needed to move merchandise from manufacturer to customer. Forward logistics is the movement of goods from seller to buyer, including eCommerce fulfillment. Reverse logistics is eCommerce returns.

However, there’s much more to forward logistics. Here’s how forward and reverse logistics processes fit into your supply chain.

Reverse logistics solutions

What is reverse logistics?

Reverse logistics is a term commonly used for eCommerce returns because you are reversing the direction of the product movement back to the warehouse. When customers return items, the warehouse might return them to inventory if they are in salable condition. Damaged products that you can’t resell at full price are often sold at a discount or donated.

Beyond eCommerce, reverse logistics includes the return of equipment to the manufacturer at the end of its lifecycle. In manufacturing, reverse logistics can reduce waste by extending the life of electronics through refurbishing and by upcycling parts and components.

forward logistics

What is forward logistics?

Forward logistics is commonly referred to simply as logistics. The processes include:

  • Movement of raw materials and components to factories
  • Transportation of finished goods from the factory to the warehouse
  • Warehousing finished products before sale
  • Pick and pack fulfillment
  • Delivery to the end customer or distribution to brick-and-mortar retail outlets for sale

Fulfillment companies like Red Stag Fulfillment provide forward and reverse logistics for eCommerce companies. They process inbound inventory, safely store merchandise for clients, handle order fulfillment, and process returns.

How forward and reverse logistics impact your supply chain

Robust forward and reverse logistic processes are essential elements of your eCommerce supply chain. Problems with either type of logistics can impact your sales, customer acquisition, and profitability.

superior 3rd party logistics

Make your supply chain shine with forward logistics

Forward logistics problems can lead to lost inventory, stockouts, and higher return rates. Here are a few forward logistics best practices to improve your supply chain:

  • Move new inventory from dock to stock quickly. Your products can’t generate sales if they’re sitting on the dock. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment guarantees that we will process inbound shipments within two business days.
  • Work with a 3PL that offers a zero shrinkage guarantee. Inventory shrinkage will cost you money and can lead to inaccurate stock counts.
  • Use inventory management software to improve your inventory planning. Better demand forecasting will allow you to optimize your supply chain and minimize capital outlay.
  • Work with a 3PL that has low error rates. That will improve both your forward and reverse logistics.
  • Test your packaging to make sure it stands up to the rigors of shipping and delivery. Damaged packaging can lead to returns, even if the merchandise is undamaged.
  • Reduce your shipping costs and delivery times with flexible carrier selection. Red Stag Fulfillment can find the best carrier for each package, rather than shipping all your orders with one carrier. 
reverse logistics during COVID

Elements of a winning reverse logistics operation

Returns are an integral part of eCommerce. A positive return experience can even increase customer loyalty. Here are some ways to reduce the cost of reverse logistics while keeping your customers happy:

  • Make your returns policy transparent. Customers are often more willing to make an online purchase if they know it will be easy to return items that don’t meet their expectations. Include prominent links to returns policies on product and checkout pages.
  • If you have physical locations, allow in-store returns for online purchases. Give consumers as many options as possible to make returns easy. In-store returns will save you money, too.
  • Be as generous as you can afford. Free return shipping and longer return windows build customer loyalty.
  • Monitor reverse logistics trends and implement quality control measures to minimize returns. Errors in manufacturing and forward logistics can lead to higher return rates and customer dissatisfaction.
  • Continuously improve your forward logistics operations. The best way to reduce your reverse logistics is through accurate forward logistics.

Forward logistics best practices

Forward logistics aims to reduce customer lead time and provide the best ordering and delivery experience for your customers. And at the core of a terrific forward logistics operation are speed, accuracy, and accountability.


One of the greatest desires of every online shopper is fast delivery. There are several ways you can meet customer expectations around delivery speed:

  • Use same-day fulfillment to start the shipping process more quickly. When it takes days for your fulfillment warehouse to process an order, your customer perceives that as a shipping delay. Fast fulfillment turnaround reduces your order cycle time.
  • Choose warehouse locations that can reach your customers quickly. For national fulfillment, pick a 3PL that can place your products close to U.S. consumers without dividing them among too many locations. For example, Red Stag Fulfillment has two warehouse locations for West Coast and East Coast fulfillment that can reach 96% of U.S. addresses in two days or less.
  • Offer expedited shipping options for customers who need their orders more quickly.
same-day fulfillment


There’s nothing more disappointing to a customer than receiving an incorrect order. Fulfillment errors increase your reverse logistics costs and deprive your customers of delightful unboxing experiences. That’s why Red Stag Fulfillment offers accuracy guarantees. If we make a mistake in picking, packing, or shipping, we’ll fix it, and we’ll pay you $50 for your trouble. But, since we have one of the highest accuracy rates in the industry, we’ll probably just ship the right products to the right customers, and that will make everyone happier.


Your fulfillment warehouse shouldn’t be a black box where your products disappear. Supply chain transparency is essential to good fulfillment. At Red Stag Fulfillment, we consider our clients to be our business partners. If your business grows, so does ours. That’s why we work with our clients to solve fulfillment problems together, and we don’t stop working on each issue until it’s resolved.

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Red Stag Fulfillment provides expert forward logistics and returns processing

When you’re ready for award-winning forward and reverse logistics, it’s time to talk to Red Stag Fulfillment. We can help you get onboarded quickly, so you can start reaping the benefits of great fulfillment and watch your business grow.

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Ask how Red Stag Fulfillment can improve your logistics

Red Stag Fulfillment is a 3PL founded by ecommerce operators, and built for scaling businesses.

A team of fulfillment fanatics who care about our clients’ businesses like their own. We see things from our customers’ perspective, and have the guarantees to prove it.

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