(This post was originally published on April 28th, 2015. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Free shipping is the incentive online shoppers want most.
Customers expect affordable, fast, and flexible delivery options when they order online. They expect you to deliver their orders by the promised date.
And, if you’re ordering from Amazon, you know that the “Fulfilled by Amazon” logo means they will meet your expectations. Amazon’s advanced fulfillment system is one of their biggest differentiators and sets the bar high for merchants. It’s part of the foundation of their company. They have the resources and technology available to provide customers with free and, even within the hour, shipping.
If you’re a smaller merchant, order fulfillment can be a painful process–it can be tough to meet the expectations set by Amazon. Many merchants rely on a 3rd party fulfillment provider to help manage online orders and save them money.
Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a popular 3rd party fulfillment service, but it’s not for everyone. This post helps you compare some of the top FBA alternatives for merchants.
FBA Alternatives: Is FBA Worth the Cost?
As your business grows, you should consider whether you need to outsource your fulfillment. Doing so can save you time and money. It also lets you offer more competitive delivery options. Learn more about why 3PLs are important to retailers.
If your goal is to meet the order fulfillment expectations set by Amazon, why not consider using Amazon? Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) allows merchants to utilize Amazon’s advanced fulfillment network, without necessarily selling on Amazon.
It’s a popular choice, but FBA doesn’t make sense for every business. Read our article, Is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Worth the Cost?, which considers the pros and cons of using FBA.
For those of you looking to not use FBA, we’ll compare some of the best alternatives out there.
How to Compare 3rd-Party Fulfillment Services
When looking to outsource your fulfillment services, consider these factors:
- Pricing Structure: Consider what type of items you have and what it’s going to cost to have them fulfilled. You will pay fees according to the size and weight of items you ship.
- International: Make sure that the service is capable of shipping internationally if you sell overseas.
- Warehouses: See what the costs are for storing inventory and picking and packing your items in their warehouses. Also, consider the number and location of warehouses relevant to where you ship many of your items.
- Returns: You’ll want to make sure that the service is able to easily manage your returns.
- Customer Service: When something goes wrong during the ordering and fulfilling process, your customers will want to be able to contact someone. Some services provide customer service for you, while others do not.
- Customer Support: You’ll want to talk with your service provider to fix any order issues right away. Services provide different levels of support, you’ll want to make sure you have someone you can contact when you need them.
- Integration: Since you’re using a 3rd-party provider, you’ll need to know if their software integrates with your existing systems like your webstore, marketplaces like Amazon, ERP, or accounting program.
Use these factors to determine which service provides the most value for your business.
Top 3rd Party Fulfillment Services
The following are some of the top 3rd party fulfillment services out there. We consulted Multichannel Merchant’s 2018 Top 3PL list to ensure we’re making the best recommendations.
Shipwire is an enterprise logistics platform. They allow sellers to store and fulfill their orders from all of their sales channels (see list of supported shopping carts and marketplaces). Sellers send either boxes of loose items or pre-sealed boxes to Shipwire, who then ships the items. They have 154+ Ingram Micro managed warehouses in 45 countries, with 10 across the US. They are capable of both shipping within the US and internationally.
Shipwire guarantees to process and ship items same day, if received in warehouses before 5:30 AM local. They offer ground shipping services, both 1 and 2-Day shipping. Customers can automatically receive personalized email notifications with shipping information and tracking numbers are available. Shipwire also helps you manage your returns.
Sellers manage their orders through Shipwire’s dashboards. You’ll be able to manage your orders, inventory, and returns. You’ll also have access to their Customer Care team, along with an online center full of support resources.
Newgistics began by revolutionizing returns management with Newgistics Smart Label in the early 2000s. Throughout the past decade or so, they have continued to add to their services with warehouse management and shipping management capabilities. In 2013, they became a fully integrated end-to-end eCommerce solution and now have over 500 active clients. Their top merchandise categories are apparel, health & beauty, and electronics.
Newgistics’ warehouse management system (WMS) has real-time reports and dashboards. Sellers can use this information to access and understand the entirety of their order fulfillment operations. Sellers can meet customers’ delivery expectations through Newgistics’s cost-effect ground rates, late cutoff times, same-day order processing, and their nationwide network of fulfillment centers.
Newgistics offers integration with most eCommerce platforms, financial systems, and other enterprise software programs. When your customers order from one of your sales channels, Newgistics processes the order and fulfills them through their USPS Workshare partnership. They fulfill orders as closed as possible to your customers for optimal shipping times. Returns are made easy through Newgistics Smart Label and Shipment Manager solutions. Sellers can ship both within the US and internationally.
Newgistics is an end-to-end eCommerce solution that integrates the entire order life cycle. They provide both an eCommerce solution and order fulfillment, delivery, and returns. If you’re looking for pricing, it is not readily available on their site. You’ll have contact them and provide your information.
Rakuten Super Logistics (Webgistix)
Rakuten is one of the world’s leading Internet service companies. They rebranded Webgistix, a leading provider of outsourced eCommerce order fulfillment, as Rakuten Super Logistics (RSL). With over 250 active clients, RSL services mostly ships apparel, consumer goods, and electronics.
Sellers can send to and store their products in any of RSL’s six fulfillment centers in the United States. Sellers than integrate their shopping cart systems with RSL’s SmartFill, which is their cloud-based fulfillment management system. (If your shopping cart is not supported already, customers can integrate with their custom API.) RSL also automatically imports orders from various popular online marketplaces like Rakuten, Amazon, and eBay.
RSL offers guaranteed shipping within 1 business day. It also guarantees that the right number and type of product is shipped. If it isn’t, RSL pays for the orders. The cost of the order is automatically refunded to your account.
Sellers can have visibility into all their orders with graphs and reports. You can compare your products and monitor frequently returned items. Sellers can also receive automatic alerts for low-inventory. Clients of RSL are assigned a personal support representative based on the facility that stores seller’s products.
If looking for pricing structure, sellers will have to fill out Get a Quote form on their website.
Red Stag Fulfillment
Red Stag Fulfillment is an eCommerce fulfillment provider founded in 2013. Their owners started the business when they couldn’t find a high-quality fulfillment provider to handle their inventory management, picking, packing, and shipping processes. After using three different 3PL service providers, Red Stag was established to be the eCommerce business partner they couldn’t find. Now, they have over 60 active clients. Their top merchandising categories are furniture and household goods, electronics, and sporting goods.
Red Stag offers guarantees for their receiving processes, inventory accuracy, order processing, and order accuracy across their many warehouses in the United States. RSF promises to pay their client $50 anytime a single mistake is made. This guarantee sets them apart from other providers.
They also offer integration with over 40 different eCommerce shopping cart and ERP platforms. This allows for compete automated order fulfillment for retailers.
Red Stag understands that it can be hard to find the right fulfillment company for your business. So, they provide additional resources for interviewing eCommerce fulfillment providers, to help you make the best decision for your company. These questions can help you choose Red Stag, or someone else.I recommend checking out this resource when comparing 3rd-party fulfillment providers.
eFulfillment Service (EFS) provides warehousing and order fulfillment services to hundreds of eCommerce merchants internationally. Started in 2001, they are a family-owned and operated 3PL provider. They currently have over 750 active clients. Their top merchandising categories include beauty, apparel, and media.
EFS’s order fulfillment software allows sellers to monitor inventory, order, and shipments. You can forecast inventory and receive low inventory alerts. EFS also helps handle returns, as well as kitting/light assembly and digital product photography. If you need integration, EFS provides free integration into popular eCommerce sites like Magento and Shopify or marketplaces like Amazon and eBay.
EFS can be an affordable solution for sellers as there are no setup fees, integration fees, minimum order requirements, long-term storage fees, or long-term contracts.
If you think EFS sounds like the right fit for your business, you can start by requesting a quote from them.
What to Do Next
Deciding to outsource your fulfillment services could be an important step for your growing business. But, picking the best 3rd party fulfillment service for your business can be a tough decision. Use this research and list of capabilities to guide your research.
Other articles that might be helpful in your research include Is Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Worth the Cost?, which considers the pros and cons of FBA; Your Complete Guide to Third Party Logistics (3PLs), which is an infographic; and the difference between Drop-Shipping and eCommerce Fulfillment, which are often confused.