(This post was last published on December 12, 2017. We’ve updated it for accuracy and completeness.)
Consumers expect affordable (free), fast, and flexible delivery options when they order online. Free and discounted shipping is a leading reason why shoppers turn to marketplaces like Amazon to purchase. The “Fulfilled by Amazon” logo makes such a difference for shoppers because it guarantees that the seller will meet their shipping expectations.
Amazon’s advanced fulfillment system is one of their biggest differentiators. It also sets the bar high for merchants. Amazon has the resources and technology to provide customers with free and fast, even within 2-hour, shipping.
If you’re a smaller merchant though, order fulfillment is a painful process. It’s tough to meet the expectations set by Amazon for your customers. Many merchants then rely on third- party fulfillment providers to manage their fulfillment processes and protect their bottom line.
While Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is a popular third-party fulfillment service, it’s not for everyone. This post helps you compare top alternatives to FBA.
Fulfillment by Amazon Alternatives: Is FBA Worth the Cost?F
As your business grows, you should consider whether you need to outsource your fulfillment. By doing so, you can save time and money, while offering 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 shipping alternatives out there.H
How to Compare Third-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: If you sell internationally, make sure that the service is capable of shipping overseas.
- Industry Experience: See if the shipping provider has prior experience with your industry, especially if your products require special storing or shipping like food items.
- Order Volume: See what the provider’s average annual order volume for clients is. Do you fall close to their average?
- 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 fulfillment 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, so make sure you have someone you can contact when you need them.
- Integration: Since you’re using a third-party provider, you’ll need to know if their software integrates with your existing systems like your webstore, marketplaces, ERP, or accounting system.
Use these factors to determine which service provides the most value for your business.
TopThird-Party Logistic (3PL) Providers
The following are some of the top 3rd party fulfillment services out there. We consulted Multichannel Merchant’s 2019 Top 3PL list to ensure we’re making the best recommendations.
DHL eCommerce delivers international and domestic standard parcel delivery for their 1,600+ clients. DHL offers an expeditated shipping process and has a Workshare partnership with the U.S. Postal Service. This allows you to reach 154 million addresses in the U.S. six days a week, with reduced postage costs. Overall, DHL offers eCommerce logistics in selected markets within the Americas, Asia Pacific and the Middle East/Africa.
DHL provides end-to-end supply chain capabilities including fulfillment, returns management, WMS (Manhattan) and OMS (IBM) services. Their average annual order volume per client is 200,000. The top merchandise categories they serve are health and beauty, apparel and accessories, and small electronics.
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 450 active clients. Their top merchandise categories are apparel, health & beauty, and electronics.
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 eight 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 can reach 98% of the U.S. in 1-2 business days and guarantees all items pick, packed, and shipped in 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. Their average annual order volume per client is 8,000.
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.
Choosing a Third-Party Fulfillment Service
Deciding to outsource your fulfillment services could be an important step for your growing business. Picking the best third-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: