When you're managing a start-up business and you don’t really deal with much volume of products, it’s easy to keep and track your inventory in your garage and make time to do the packaging and shipping yourself. However, fulfilling orders can quickly become a demanding task when your sales starts to increase, requiring you to invest in more storage space and additional equipment and staff.
Fulfillment services companies are firms that provide assistance to your business in terms of receiving and processing orders, packing, labelling and shipping them to the customers.
By outsourcing a fulfillment service company, you are saved from the trouble of hiring more staff and expanding your in-house capabilities. Therefore, this is a great business solution for logistical challenges faced by your growing business.
How to choose a fulfillment service company
The selection process of which fulfillment service company you would want to work with, requires you to thoroughly review your alternatives and prospects and to recognize your business plans, needs, budgets, and financial forecasts well.
Here are a few factors to consider when selecting a fulfillment company for your business.
How many warehouses does the company have?
Companies with more warehouses give you a wider geographic footprint where you can carve up your inventory across these destinations. This can also result in significantly lessening the transition lifts and shipping expenses.
How large are they?
Larger fulfillment companies sometimes require their customers to meet a minimum order threshold, so they may not be an option for smaller or start-up businesses.
Where are they located?
It is important to consider the company’s proximity to your store and to your target audience to help you save on transition lifts and shipping charges.
What is the length of the contract?
Ideally, it is best to avoid getting locked into a long-term contract. A month-to-month plan gives you the flexibility to quickly switch to a new solution in case circumstances change. However, there are also some long-term plans that can still be flexible if there are designated penalties for forfeiting the arrangement.
What is the fulfillment order policy for damaged items and shipping mistakes?
As much as possible, you’ll want them to take responsibility for this. Some companies have “shrinkage” or “breakage” fixed into their contracts. For example, you’re responsible for losses up to a certain amount, and then the order fulfillment company will start paying for losses after that amount has been reached.
Do they offer specialized and customizable services tailored to your business?
If you want to add your own brand logo or specialized elements to your packages, or perhaps you may also be interested in “kitting,” which involves merging products with multiple stock keeping units (SKUs) together into one package with a single SKU, you will have to look for a company that accommodates these specific services.
Best fulfillment service companies
Now that you have a better idea of how to choose an order fulfillment company, let's review some of the top names in the industry. Each comes with different advantages and pricing models. Therefore, a good grasp of the fulfillment services and how they operate will influence your final choice.
Ship Bob is one of the best fulfillment service providers for small and startup businesses that want to grow, expand and profit as they make sure the process is easy and straightforward for starters.
Thanks to its reasonable pricing and fast shipping services, you can guarantee your customers’ satisfaction. Moreover, not only does this company offer qualified services, but it also offers discounts and affordable rates. By using ShipBob software, you can ensure that you will increase your conversion and boost your revenues.
However, you should note that the overall pricing will depend on your business and inventory. Also, this company offers customers customized quotes tailored to their business needs.
Cons: It doesn’t take-in items that require refrigeration. They only have fulfillment centers in the USA and Europe.
Freight Pros is another provider perfect for small and startup businesses, most especially those that are new to the system and have limited knowledge in handling everything smoothly and smartly.
They work closely with their clients and support them in discovering the most effective and cost-efficient ways to augment the onboarding process and lessen the shipping costs. They have a team of sales, accounts and management experts that will assist you in coming up with the best solutions and decisions.
It also ensures that all their customers receive detailed and customized messages about the shipment of their orders. With that being said, the company takes the responsibility of managing the whole process themselves, making things much easier for you.
Cons: They don’t offer international shipments. It works only within the USA.
Since its launch in the year 2001, e-Fulfillment Services rose up in the industry as one of the most reliable and trusted fulfillment providers. Thanks to e-Fulfillment Service continuous development in terms of support, technology and consumers’ gratification, it deserves to be one of the companies you may want to consider.
The company works closely with small to medium-sized businesses as well as startups that sell and distribute small packages shipments. This means that it has the capability to manage a vast array of different products at competitive prices.
Order shipping wise, there are both domestic and international services. The international sphere includes Canada, Europe, the Far East, and Developing Markets. There are different ways of shipping and the company offers discounted choices. It also allows you to keep on track and update on your shipment process.
Cons: Pricing is not available on their website
In the last 35 years, FedEx Full has definitely become a household name as one of the leading companies when it comes to shipping and fulfillment services. It provides solutions to small businesses to grow fast and expand in bigger markets with their wide array of services which includes reversed logistics, packaging, storehouse, and order realization. Name it, FedEx got you covered.
The company offers businesses great customer support and assistance by providing them with thorough solutions at competitive prices. With its over 220 distribution facilities network, the company ensures global expansion.
Moreover, FedEx Full hires a team of experts to give you all the essential details on how everything is managed and carried out, enabling you to finish the entire process effectively and successfully.
If you have an online shop, FedEx Fulfillment enables its clients to integrate and connect with preeminent and leading e-commerce channels such as Shopify and more.
Cons: Minimums are not considered during the first 4 months of the onboarding process.
Just like Freight Pro, Red Stag offers cloud-based software for more effective and efficient operations. The company ensures transparency, the accuracy of order and inventory, and prompt delivery. Red Stag has two facilities in the USA.
Red Stag works closely with its customers to enhance the protection, concentration, and stabilization of the different commodities inside each package, which helps in reducing the number of packages the customers have to ship therefore LESSENING the shipping costs.
Long term contracts are not required. They have a user-friendly interface.The company also provides support to their customers in terms of managing their inventory and dealing with their logistical procedures. Not to mention that they take full responsibility if there is mispackaging, inaccurate shipping, delayed shipping, damaged, or lost products while they are in the facilities and more.
Cons: Pricing packages are not available on their website.
If you’re looking for a partner that guarantees an efficient fulfillment process for your customers then Phase V should be one of the most ideal for your small or startup business. It provides a large depot system, clear-cut pricing, seamless online market integrations, and reliable 24/7 support.
The company works closely with its customers to customize and personalize their pick and pack shipping procedure and ensure their receivers will be receiving the orders without any unwanted issues. It situates logistic technologies to offer customized fulfilling services that are made uniquely for your business.
Phase V is known for its protected, adequate temperature and humidity regulated facilities.
Your customers will be updated with reports and detailed data regarding their inventor, and no hidden charges for both international and domestic shipping pricing.
Cons: Only operate 1 warehousing located in Florida and no pricing plans available on the website.
Fulfillment by Amazon
Amazon, the marketplace that's second to none in the industry, takes pride in its fulfillment services that mostly cater to business with online platforms. You don’t have to sell on Amazon to use FBA, but it’s mainly geared for Amazon-focused sellers and multichannel sellers with a presence on Amazon.
Instantly gain trust and confidence from your customers by hopping on Amazon’s well-built reputation. Plus, they offer free shipping services for members of Amazon Prime. Not to mention, their fast and affordable shipping services thanks to their vast warehouse network that puts products close to customers across the globe.
If you’re considering FBA as your ecommerce fulfillment center, be sure to understand all of Amazon’s FBA fulfillment costs and service details.
Cons: If your products aren’t labeled properly, you’ll face a relabeling charge. Amazon also tacks on hefty long-term storage fees for unsold stock.
Shopify Fulfillment Services
The Shopify Fulfillment Network is a new ecommerce fulfillment center specifically for sellers using the Shopify platform for website and multichannel sales. Any Shopify seller can connect this built-in Shopify service to their store manager dashboard in just simple steps.
The Shopify Fulfillment Network is designed to meet the needs of startups and small businesses using the Shopify platform. Order minimums are very low, but the service scales up to accommodate plenty of growth. Currently, if you ship as few as 10 or as many as 10,000 orders per day, you qualify. This ecommerce fulfillment center service will soon be available to startups and micro-sellers averaging just three orders per day, as well as mega-sites shipping over 30,000 daily orders.
The Shopify Fulfillment Network uses data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to determine where to store your products within its warehouse network for quick and economical delivery to your customers. They also track your sales velocity and provide stock replenishment reports to help you avoid backorders and missed sales.
Shopify has fulfillment centers all over the USA and Canada.
Shipwire has warehouses in the US, China, Europe, Australia, and Asia, with more storage facilities being built. The service uses a warehouse management system built for enterprises to provide clients with safe and secure storage for their products as they go through the procedures of shipping and handling. It efficiently selects the best shipping couriers, packaging options, and routes for customers’ products, helping reduce shipping and fulfillment costs.
They also employ a cloud-based platform to enable businesses to boost their global logistics network through a combination of clients’ or Shipwire’s warehouses for international or domestic shipping. To provide support for B2B and B2C commerce, it utilizes on-demand and custom order fulfillment solutions. Built around a robust technology, the Shipwire allows customers to personalize and scale shipping solutions to fit their logistics requirements.
BoxMe offers an eCommerce fulfillment network across South East Asia, with warehouses in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia and China, as well as the United States. Working with businesses of all sizes, BoxMe is a great option if you’re considering to sell into the aforementioned regions, regardless of whether you sell tens or thousands of monthly orders.
Another special feature is their temperature-controlled warehouses which enable different storage conditions - both normal (for conventional products) and cool (for goods such as cosmetics). Another benefit to using BoxMe is that there are no long-term storage fees or penalties, and they won’t charge you any storage fees for the first 30 days of using their fulfillment service.
Should you need support with duties and taxes, or even a local presence in these Asian markets, this is also something that they can help with.
The ecommerce fulfillment industry is booming and fulfillment centers are emerging around the globe, making picking the best fulfillment center for your ecommerce business a challenging task. Costs, services, minimum requirements, and account management all vary greatly among providers, so finding the perfect partner takes some serious consideration, and a thorough understanding of your business’ needs and objectives.