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What is Cost Per Order (CPO) and How to Calculate it?

cost per order

Knowing your cost per order (CPO) is crucial for e-commerce businesses to determine profitability. Calculating CPO gives you insights into how much it costs to fulfill each customer order. This metric helps make informed decisions about pricing, shipping options, and more. 

Definition of cost per order (CPO)?

Cost per order refers to the total costs of fulfilling a single online order, from processing to packaging to shipping. CPO provides a complete picture of the expenses attributed to each order to help identify ways to reduce costs and boost profit margins.

Formula to calculate cost per order (CPO)?

The cost per order (CPO) is an important metric for businesses to track profitability. It measures the total fulfillment cost incurred to process and ship each customer’s order. CPO is calculated by taking the total operational costs related to order fulfillment and dividing that by the total number of orders fulfilled in a given period. The formula to calculate the cost per order is:

CPO = (Total operational costs / Total number of orders fulfilled)

The main components that contribute to the total operational costs include:

  • Cost of goods sold (COGS) – the production or purchase price of the products in each order
  • Labor costs – wages paid to staff involved in processing, picking, packing, and shipping orders 
  • Packaging costs – materials like boxes, tape, and labels used to package orders
  • Payment processing fees – credit card processing charges incurred per transaction
  • Warehouse costs – rent, utilities, and equipment expenses for fulfillment centers
  • Shipping costs – amounts paid to carriers to deliver each order
  • Tracking CPO helps monitor and control fulfillment costs to maintain profit margins

Learn how to calculate and optimize your Cost Per Order (CPO) efficiently with effective inventory management strategies.

Why is the CPO important?

Calculating CPO is important for several reasons:

Evaluate profitability: CPO shows if you’re making or losing money on each order. A high CPO may indicate unprofitable shipping options, inefficient processes, or excessive labor costs.

Compare products/services: CPO helps determine your most and least profitable offerings by comparing CPO across products. 

Optimize operations: Analyzing CPO can identify ways to reduce fulfillment costs through improved workflows, discounted shipping rates, etc.

Set pricing: CPO provides a benchmark for setting competitive pricing that covers fulfillment costs and leaves room for profit.

Forecast budgets: Projected sales volume and CPO help plan budgets for operations, staffing, shipping, and other costs.

Discover the significance of warehouse types in influencing your Cost Per Order (CPO) and how to choose the right one for your business needs to enhance efficiency and reduce costs.

Advantages and disadvantages of Cost Per Order (CPO) as a pricing model

When setting prices for products and services, some businesses use cost per order (CPO) as an input to determine pricing. There are several pros and cons to consider with this approach.


  1. Simple and easy to calculate using available data.
  2. Focuses on fulfillment costs, providing insights to optimize order profitability. 
  3. Helps accurately factor in overhead and operating expenses beyond just COGS.
  4. Provides an objective figure to compare across products, channels, and periods.


  1. It can be difficult to isolate costs per order across departments. 
  2. Labor costs vary individually, so averages must be used.
  3. Ignores other costs like marketing expenses and platform fees.
  4. Limited view of profitability as it doesn’t consider revenue per order.

Explore the impact of pick-and-pack warehouses on your Cost Per Order (CPO) and learn how optimizing this process can lead to significant cost savings and improved order fulfillment efficiency.

Ways to decrease your cost per order 

Bringing down your cost per order takes work, but the payoff in profitability is worth it. Here are some proven ways e-commerce businesses can decrease their CPO:

  1. Map out your workflow: Analyze every step of your fulfillment process and look for redundancies, delays, and inefficiencies. Streamlining processes saves staff time and resources. 
  2. Process orders faster: Whether it’s better technology or more employees, faster order processing reduces labor costs per order. 
  3. Get shipping rate discounts: Negotiate with carriers for small businesses or high-volume shipping discounts to save on fulfillment.
  4. Outsource to a 3PL: Third-party logistics handles warehousing and shipping for you, letting you scale faster.

Uncover the importance of selecting the right fulfillment company for your business and how it can directly affect your Cost Per Order (CPO), ensuring seamless operations and cost-effectiveness in order fulfillment processes.

How Payless Prep Center can increase revenue by optimizing fulfillment

Calculating and analyzing CPO is an invaluable practice for e-commerce stores to make smart business decisions. While no metric is perfect, CPO offers an accessible way to understand order profitability. By regularly monitoring CPO, brands can maintain lean, efficient fulfillment while delivering excellent customer experiences. By partnering with a prep center like Payless Prep, brands can:

  • 2-day shipping: Meet customer expectations for fast, affordable delivery across the US.
  • Reduced fulfillment and shipping costs: Payless negotiates the best rates and optimizes the fulfillment process. 
  • Better inventory management: Leverage shared forecasting and inventory tools to reduce stockouts.

Learn valuable insights into optimizing your order fulfillment process to reduce costs and improve efficiency, ultimately leading to a lower Cost Per Order (CPO) and enhanced profitability for your business.


Calculating and tracking cost per order provides online retailers with vital insights into profitability and operations. While CPO will always be a moving target, brands can lower costs through workflow optimizations, order automation, carrier discounts, and outsourcing. The result is a leaner, more profitable e-commerce business.

What is the Cost Per Order (CPO)?

AnswerCost Per Order (CPO) is a metric used in marketing and advertising. It represents the average cost incurred by a business for each order received. CPO helps businesses evaluate the financial impact of their marketing efforts and assess the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns.

Why is CPO important?

CPO is crucial because it provides insights into the cost-effectiveness of marketing campaigns. By analyzing CPO data, businesses can identify efficient channels, optimize advertising budgets, and ultimately increase profitability.

What costs should be considered when calculating CPO?

When calculating CPO, consider both direct and indirect costs associated with fulfilling an order. These include:

  • Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): The cost of producing or purchasing the product.
  • Shipping Costs: Expenses related to shipping and delivery.
  • Marketing and Advertising Costs (CAC): Money spent on campaigns to acquire customers.
  • Custom Packaging Costs: If applicable, expenses related to branded packaging

How do you calculate CPO?

To calculate CPO:

  • Document all relevant costs involved in fulfilling an order (materials, labor, shipping, marketing, overhead).
  • Calculate the total cost of all orders fulfilled within a specific period.
  • Divide the total order expenses by the number of orders received during the same timeframe.

How can businesses optimize CPO?

Answer: Here are some strategies to reduce CPO:

  • Optimize Marketing Channels: Analyze which advertising platforms deliver the highest ROI and allocate budgets accordingly.
  • Evaluate Packaging Costs: Ensure packaging expenses don’t exceed 5% of the average order value.
  • Track Trends: Regularly analyze CPO data to identify patterns and refine marketing tactics.
  • Partner with a 3PL: Consider outsourcing fulfillment to a third-party logistics provider to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

What are some common mistakes businesses make when calculating Cost Per Order (CPO)?

One common mistake is overlooking all possible expenses associated with generating orders. Businesses often focus solely on direct advertising costs and fail to include overhead expenses, such as salaries, technology costs, and operational expenses. Additionally, inaccurately attributing sales to specific marketing channels or campaigns can lead to skewed CPO calculations.

What strategies can businesses employ to track and analyze Cost Per Order (CPO) effectively?

Implementing robust tracking systems and analytics tools to monitor expenses and track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns is crucial. Businesses should also segment data to analyze CPO across different channels, campaigns, and customer segments. Regularly reviewing and adjusting strategies based on CPO insights allows businesses to continuously optimize their marketing and sales efforts for better cost efficiency and profitability.

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