Remember when you had your first online e-commerce store and you were tracking your inventory shipment every hour to see where it was? Then the courier finally rocks up to your house and just dumps it at your front door and you are left standing there wondering where you’re going to put it all?
Most people would put their new million-dollar idea in the garage except I didn’t even have one of those. So it filled my living room instead.
I quickly ran into some issues. Every time someone had made a purchase on my freshly painted website, I had to crawl over the thousands of boxes to find the correct size and color that the customer had ordered, put it into my own box with an insert, wrap it up and then send it.
But I didn’t always get it right. Soon, returns started coming in that were the wrong size, and sometimes was even the wrong product. Whoops!
I quickly learned I needed extra help with inventory storage and outsource fulfillment.
As soon as the orders started coming in thick and fast I couldn’t keep up and stood in line at the post office for a couple of hours every day (when I wasn’t at work) to send 50 of these boxes to different places all over the country.
By outsourcing my order fulfillment, I was able to scale my business doing real needle-moving tasks and leave the couriers to what they do best.
I immediately saw an increase in customer satisfaction with faster shipping times and fewer returns.
But not all eCommerce fulfillment centers are the same. Even if you have the best product on the market, it won’t matter if a customer is expecting it to reach them in a couple of days but instead, it ends up taking weeks.
So to find the best company that fits in with your business needs I have ranked and reviewed the best eCommerce fulfillment services according to their shipment speed, customer service, pricing, warehouse locations, and more.
Ready? Let’s fly!
Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links that may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you (it will buy me a cup of coffee though 😉). However, these are the best fulfillment centers to use for your e-commerce inventory. You can read more about the affiliate disclosure in my affiliate policy.
- What is the Best Ecommerce Fulfillment Service?
- FulFillment Services FAQ
- Bottom Line
What is the Best Ecommerce Fulfillment Service?
Below is my list of the best eCommerce fulfillment companies, 3PL, and order fulfillment services that should be part of your team.
Best overall eCommerce fulfillment company.
ShipBob is at the top of the list as I have personally used their services for a number of years and are great as an overall fulfillment solution.
What drew me most was their ability to offer the best shipping and logistics solutions at a competitive price for small businesses and startups.
The fulfillment company also has strategically placed distribution centers that are designed for medium-sized firms as well so you know your goods will get from point A to B in record time.
The firm is a global leadership contender, with competitive advantages in customer service and operational excellence. So it comes as no surprise why this order fulfillment company stands out among rivals who don’t provide such shipping services since they just want to exploit consumers who order online.
It also includes appropriate integrations for eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce, Shopify, Magento, Amazon, and Walmart among many others.
Their onboarding team is great at getting you set up and ready to ship your products through whatever platform or marketplace you intend to use. They can configure your shipping options and help you set up shipping plans or simply just want to sync with your own online store.
2. Express Shipping Program Available
In recent times we have become accustomed to items being shipped in a timely manner. So ShipBob has also introduced their own 2-day express shipping which is available to all continental US orders.
According to their website, “merchants have been able to reduce cart abandonment by 18% and increase the Average Order Value by 97%”.
3. Order Management
The order management interface allows you to instantly get an overview of which orders have been shipped, which are ready to be picked and packed, and easily find who the carrier service is that will be doing the shipping for you.
It will also let you know of any orders that need your attention.
A great feature here is that you can also share any tracking information automatically with your customers.
4. Inventory Management
Probably one of the most important key features here. You need to be able to stay in stock otherwise you run the risk of losing any momentum you had before running out. This is particularly important if you’re using Amazon as your marketplace.
ShipBob makes it easy for you to keep track of all your inventory status and quantity across all of their fulfillment centers at any given point. Their software allows you to set reminders for when you need to replenish your stock.
One thing that eats up a lot of your profit margin is high storage costs. Thankfully, you can stay on top of that as well by searching for any inventory which may be moving a lot slower than you anticipated.
You can do this by requesting ShipBob bundle items together to help push them through the warehouses quicker.
5. Integrated Reporting and Analytics Data
Data analytics is the new currency of businesses, providing you with insights into your operations and performance.
Their free tool boasts a collection of charts to help decision-makers not only hold themselves accountable for their actions but keep ShipBob on their toes as well. Things like shipping costs, days in transit, storage costs, and more.
It allows you to also track which fulfillment centers need a restock or what impact your last promotion had at certain warehouses in terms of stock level.
6. Excellent Customer Service
One of my favorite things about their customer service is the ability for customers to return items back to the warehouse. If anything needs to be returned, it’s an easy process for the customers to print their own shipping label and track it to make sure it actually gets returned.
Customer service is extremely important for an online store so it’s imperative to get this one right.
With over 19 locations scattered across the U.S, they cover everything from California, to Texas, and all throughout the midwest to New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Worldwide, they have set up multiple fulfillment centers in Australia, Canada, Ireland, and the UK.
Pricing and Fees
For pre-startup businesses, ShipBob has a self-serve business Growth plan. This is aimed at companies and merchants shipping under 400 orders per month. For everyone else, a more detailed quote will need to be done.
However, core costs include:
|Receiving||$25 for the first 2 hours ($40 per hour after that)|
|Storage||$5 per month (bin) | $10 per month (shelf) | $40 per month (pallet)|
|Pick ‘n’ Pack||Free for the first 4 picks per order, then $0.20 per pick thereafter|
|Shipping||This varies depending on a number of factors|
If you want a fulfillment company that provides reliable service and can take care of the entire process, then definitely give ShipBob a try.
Best for heavy and oversize eCommerce order fulfillment.
The first thing you need to know about Red Stag Fulfillment is that they’re not for everyone and if you’re not a perfect fit for them, then they will let you know. This is not a bad thing so don’t be offended if you get knocked back.
They specialize in working with a certain type of business that requires shipping and handling of items that are heavier in nature (above 10 pounds).
So if you’re selling furniture, lawnmowers, or body wash by the caseload then they will definitely want to talk to you.
1. Multiple Channel Ecommerce Integration
The more platforms you can sell on means the more chance you have of reaching a greater number of customers, which will lead to more sales.
Red Stag’s dashboard is very easy to use and can seamlessly work with all major online sales platforms including 3dcart, Shopify, and Woocommerce.
2. Faster Processing of Returns
Unfortunately, this happens in every eCommerce business. It’s just fact. But it doesn’t need to be difficult. The company processes returns incredibly fast, so your customers get their refunds quicker.
If the inventory is not damaged, Red Stag will place it back into circulation.
3. Fulfillment Accuracy Guarantees
Because time is money. Red Stag guarantees the accuracy for their U.S fulfillment. For every item that is mispackaged, shipped incorrectly, late, and even if they don’t log your products into inventory within 48hrs, you will get paid $50.
4. An Excellent Alternative to Amazon FBA
Unlike Amazon, Red Stag doesn’t actually raise the long-term storage fees on your inventory just because the warehouse is busy or depending on what quarter you are in.
They are also able to handle surges in inventory during busy periods if you want to keep your stock up. This means there are no cut-off dates to have your inventory reach their warehouse facilities.
Lastly, experienced staff put your business first with exceptional customer service which leaves their competition behind. This makes them a great Amazon FBA alternative and even better fulfillment partner.
5. State of the Art Security
A 24-hour security system with multiple backups that monitor every inch of the facility, both inside and out means you can rest easy knowing your precious cargo is safe. Even their staff have undergone background checks, that’s how serious they are about security.
Even with only two physical locations in the U.S, Red Stag claims it can still reach 99.6% of Americans within 1 – 2 days, now that’s impressive!
Pricing and Fees
Red Stag will create a pricing plan individually for your needs. As part of your package, they are committed to never charging for SKU or account management fees, any setup fees, and no hidden fees with no long-term contracts.
Because they’re confident in their pricing structure they are offering a 30 day Risk-Free Trial. If you’re not satisfied after 30 days then you simply won’t get billed.
Best for Amazon Sellers.
ShipHype is based out of Toronto and services customers in the U.S and Canada. They are dedicated to 3PL easier for clients as all of their warehouses are company-owned and don’t outsource the fulfillment.
An innovative and scalable fulfillment solution for eCommerce companies, they provide the ability to dramatically scale your warehouse capacity without requiring an upfront investment in capital, machinery, or labor.
They will also help you optimize your existing warehouse space and inventory while enabling you to add much-needed additional capacity on-demand and all with no long-term commitments.
1. Amazon FBA Prep Service
Given Amazon has very strict rules regarding the shipment of inventory into their fulfillment centers, ShipHype takes all that stress away. No job is too small. They can even add all of your FNSKU labels to each unit.
One of the best features of their Amazon prep service is the ability to remove inventory. Even if you need them to just check the stock, update labels and send it back to Amazon, it’s no problem.
Given Amazon’s high storage costs, you can even drip feed your stock from ShipHype to an Amazon fulfillment center as required.
Seller Fulfilled Prime is coming in 2022.
2. Tailored Subscription Fulfillment
With an unlimited number of items to be included in your kit, ShipHype can prepare up to 1000+ kits per day for each client with ease.
A 100% accuracy is also guaranteed every time with the ability to schedule shipments up to 30 days in advance.
3. Returns Handling
Using returned merchandise authorization (RMA) processing, you have the option of shipping back all of your returns, or you can have the stock inspected and then added back to your inventory providing it passes the rigorous criteria.
You also have the option to include shipping labels with your order in case your customers need to return them. This is a great incentive because the less the customer has to do the better the experience will be for them.
4. Advanced Support
Guaranteed 99.9% uptime so you never have to worry about your orders not getting through and missing deadlines. Also, they feature dedicated account specialists who are just one phone call away if you do run into trouble.
There are also two more centers opening up in 2022.
Pricing and Fees
They have different pricing for each of their services. The picture below is of their standard e-commerce/FBM fulfillment pricing. Click the link if you want to view the complete pricing list.
What’s the next step?
Submit your information to their sales team and they will follow up as soon as possible.
4. Sprocket Express.
Best for those selling consumer goods and perishable products.
Sprocket Express may be a smaller company but this just means that they’re able to be more flexible to your eCommerce needs.
Particularly those business owners who require refrigerated storage, your inventory can be climate-controlled to between 40 and 65ºF. Sprocket is also registered by the FDA as a dry food storage facility and licensed by the state of Massachusetts.
With dedicated account managers and a smooth transition plan in place, you can be sure that they will know you by name and your business so that your customers had no idea you have even moved suppliers.
Being a full-service warehouse and distribution center, Sprocket Express’ secret sauce is in maintaining relationships with business owners and providing the highest standards possible.
1. Ability to Process from Most Sources
This includes most major shopping carts including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, Shopsite, and Ultracart. Even if you’re using one not listed here, you can ask them about integrating with your service.
Sprocket can even process orders from multichannel distributions including Amazon, eBay, or Walmart making it really simple to expand your reach and make more sales.
2. Pick, Pack, and Ship Within One Business Day
Orders are shipped within one business day with full tracking details sent to customers. Their secure propriety web portal allows you to view all of your orders and inventory.
Even if you ship internationally, all documentation will be available keeping you in the loop as to the status of each shipment. This can help in any queries you get from customers and aids in getting those five-star reviews.
3. Sprocket Are More Than Just Pick Packers
Talking about providing excellent customer service, Sprocket can help with inventory planning, forecasting, and replenishment of your products so you stay in stock and therefore stay in business!
Excellent returns management and reverse logistics policies mean you can rest easy when the inevitable happens.
Sprocket can also assist with website design and management if technology really isn’t your strong suit.
4. Detailed Data Reports
Customize your own reporting analytics to support executive-level business-based decisions.
Whether you want to know who ordered what product and from where in the world it was to your entire sales history and detailed freight cost analysis.
Sprocket currently has just one warehouse located in eastern Massachusetts.
The center is set up to receive palletized stock from any carrier. This will help those Amazon sellers which require their inventory to be palletized before being accepted to an Amazon Fulfillment Center.
Pricing and Fees
Their prices aren’t readily available from the website as they are all tailor-built to suit your business requirements. However, as a general range, many businesses ship within the range of $1.60-$3.00 per order of course depending on complexity and size.
But don’t forget about the other fees involved including storage, receiving costs, and any packing requirements needed.
Request a quote now and you’ll get $100 off your first month.
Best for international shipping.
FedEx Fulfillment is just a small division of the overall FedEx Corporation. By using FedEx for your fulfillment needs you get access to their entire network of freight and logistics services to send your orders all over the world.
Because of this, they are able to offer some of the lowest shipping rates from their already established shipping and tracking systems.
If you’re looking for an Amazon fulfillment solution then you might be disappointed to know that FedEx doesn’t provide this service. You’ll have to look to other companies within this list if it’s a primary concern for you.
1. Dedicated Customer Service
Known as customer success specialists (CSS), from the moment you get enrolled with FedEx you will be well looked after. They can help with uploading your inventory to the platform, integrate with your marketplace of choice (except Amazon), and provide ongoing support.
2. Platform Integrations
Stay in control of your business with marketplace integrations including eBay and Walmart through APIs and manage orders directly from your website shopping cart.
The platform allows you to connect to business payment tools such as Xero, Quickbooks, and Square.
3. All in One Inventory Management and Tracking Tool
See all your orders and key metrics in one place with real-time tracking. See exactly where your orders are at any given time, whether it’s pending fulfillment or in transit.
4. Reverse Logistics
FedEx offers a customer-centric supply chain for returns. With direct integration through your website, customers can request a return through a form. This will decrease the number of calls you receive, speed up the process, and provide a much better overall customer experience.
With over 130 warehouse locations in the U.S alone you can be assured of two-day shipping to stay competitive. You even have access to their own fulfillment center globally (ship to over 220 countries) as well, meaning you won’t need to deal with other 3PLs but deal with the one company from start to finish.
Pricing and Fees
FedEx charges and rates depend on the fulfillment services your business needs. There is a 400 unit per month minimum to use FedEx. If you don’t quite have that yet then take a look at ShipBob who has a plan with less than 400 units per month movements.
|Receiving||Free if the shipment meets certain standards, otherwise $35-$40 per hour|
|Storage||$8 – $15 per pallet per month|
|Pick ‘n’ Pack||$0.40 per unit|
|Shipping||Heavily Discounted FedEx rates|
|Returns||$2.50 per order|
Best for customer service and automation technology.
If you’re just getting your eCommerce business off the ground or you’re a small business already, then ShipMonk is what you need. Their customer service is outstanding with 24/7 access (because freight doesn’t sleep).
Not to mention their easy-to-use dashboard with real-time tracking of your inventory. Their seamless shopping cart and multichannel integrations make it easy no matter what platform you’re using.
1. Word Class Customer Support
Known in the ShipMonk ecosystem as ‘Happiness Engineers’, these agents are specially trained in shipping and fulfillment.
2. Warehouse Automation Technology
It’s easy to see that ShipMonk has invested heavily into their technology. They increase the efficiency throughout the warehouse and as a result, you get faster fulfillment times, a 99.9% picking accuracy, and cheaper fulfillment costs.
3. Package Customization
As part of ShipMonk’s ongoing commitment to customer satisfaction, having your own branded packaging, gift message, stickers, or promotional insert are what makes the buying experience so much better.
When you get onboard, the Happiness Engineer will ask you what your brand goals are and will then make sure that the pick packers ship your orders in line with your instructions.
If something goes wrong then the cameras situated within the warehouse will be able to confirm exactly what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
4. User Permission
Add extra users to your account at no extra charge. You can also restrict and grant certain user permissions for added security.
Pricing and Fees
There are four different business solutions that ShipMonk offer, eCommerce, subscription, retail, and Amazon FBA Prep. Click the link to take a look at their entire pricing schedule. In the table below we will look at their eCommerce pricing with just 200 orders per month.
|Pick ‘n’ Pack||$2.50 for the first item, additional $0.50 per item thereafter|
|Inserts||$0.20 per order|
|Returns||$2.00 for the first item, additional $0.50 per item thereafter|
|Storage||Starts from $1 per month|
Best for retailers with an international reach.
With the help of Shipwire (a subsidiary of Ingram Micro Services), you can now power your global logistics network with one point and an integrated fulfillment service that will provide worldwide reach.
A unique feature of Shipwire is their dropshipping solution which provides you with the ability to sell direct-to-consumer orders through any retail trading partner. This includes retail giants such as Walmart, Target, and BestBuy.
1. Award Winning SaaS Platform
Connect directly with the Ingram Micro warehouses for custom and on-demand B2B and B2C solutions. The dashboard allows access to hundreds of shopping carts instantly including Amazon, Shopify, Magento, and more.
2. Dropshipping Solutions
Finally, there’s a company that offers a fully automated EDI integration that eliminates touchpoints, thereby automating the fulfillment process, reducing the need for manual intervention.
3. Electronic Visit Verification Device Fulfillment
The technology can enable the first-ever EVV only device so that way you can be sure your package doesn’t just “fall off the back of the truck”.
4. Reverse Logistics
Returns are just as important as sending out orders. When you get a return, the fulfillment center will look after the return and offer value-added services to make sure your stock is returned efficiently.
Shipwire has over 120 centers in 45 countries including the U.S, Canada, the U.K, China, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Pricing and Fees
The company doesn’t give pricing information to non-Shipwire customers as the pricing varies depending on customer requirements or unique solutions. However, you can bet there will be charges for most services, and pay by the hour will apply for some regions.
FulFillment Services FAQ
What is a 3PL Fulfillment Center?
3PL stands for third-party logistics.
A 3PL fulfillment center is a type of warehouse that ships out products for its customers. The main types of customers are online retailers, who have goods shipped directly to consumers, and other warehouses/companies with goods being sent to customers in their area.
Warehouses can hire third-party logistics companies to manage their logistics, wholesale distribution, and return processing. 3PLs can also be used by businesses that are shipping to or from other companies in the same supply chain.
A business can ship all of its products through a 3PL to save money on storage space in company-owned buildings. Online merchants use 3PL providers to send out the goods they sell to customers.
What Does a Fulfillment Center Do?
A fulfillment center is a warehouse where items are picked, packed, and shipped to the customer. The modern world has exponentially increased the number of goods ordered online.
Countless retailers now sell their products through eCommerce sites like Amazon that allow people to shop for nearly any product using their computers or mobile phones at any time of day.
These online sales have created a complicated chain of delivery that often begins at the fulfillment center. At these warehouses, items are stored until they are requested by an actual customer.
Then, based on the order placed, the employees at the fulfillment center begin picking and packing each item one-by-one to send out to the buyer.
These fulfillment centers are usually located near the warehouses of the companies that they serve to reduce shipping costs.
When is the Right Time to Switch to Order Fulfillment?
A great time to shift your focus from warehouse storage to order fulfillment is when you have the cash available to start this process, but not enough orders to make stocking inventory a necessity.
The right time to switch to order fulfillment is when your monthly sales are growing month over month. At this point, scaling your business will enable you to sell more products faster.
If you have started to scale your business and you are not seeing a rise in sales, it could be because the scale and grow method was not executed correctly.
Before scaling inventory you should make sure that:
1. You have enough capital to maintain two inventory levels (one for the 3PL and one for fulfilling orders yourself as a backup).
2. You understand how many units of a product you need in each location.
3. You understand how much it will cost to scale your business like this.
If you scale too early you could be faced with surplus inventory and a cash flow nightmare, but scale too late and you risk running out of units to fulfill orders.
Finding the right scale and growing sweet spot is difficult but well worth the effort.
Are 3PLs the Same as Freight Forwarders?
The short answer is no.
A warehouse, also known as a third-party logistics provider or 3PL, typically provides storage services for companies that are looking to outsource the management of their physical inventory.
A freight forwarder is an agent that moves goods for a customer. A company may use the services of a freight forwarder to ship their goods overseas, domestically, or to another place in the United States.
One big difference between the two providers is that 3PLs typically do not handle international shipments since they are not required to obtain government licenses for international shipping.
Freight forwarders, on the other hand, are required to obtain customs broker credentials and can move goods throughout the world. Customs brokers must be licensed by the federal government as they act as an agent between importers/exporters and Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to clear shipments through customs.
In general, 3PLs help businesses manage their inventory and handle all other logistical needs, while freight forwarders focus primarily on shipping cargo by land, sea, or air.
You might find that many companies solve both problems with a single provider that simultaneously manages products stored at a warehouse as well as ships goods through a freight forwarder.
3PLs typically handle the following functions:
• Inventory control
• Order fulfillment
• Packaging and distribution
Having an eCommerce fulfillment center do all the heavy lifting (pun intended) for your business is necessary if you want to scale and grow.
Customer expectations have been set to get their orders quickly thanks to Amazon’s two-day shipping policy. If you’re not fulfilling orders within the time frame customers expect it will take for their products to arrive at their doorstep, they’ll go elsewhere.
The market has changed dramatically over the last decade or so with companies like Walmart going online and disrupting traditional brick-and-mortar stores.
This means if you don’t have an inventory management system up and running effectively from start to finish including inventory tracking software (which can also help minimize shrink), fulfillment center services, customer service support lines staffed during peak hours of operation, then your company could be headed for disaster.
To get started on your outsource fulfillment journey, request a quote with ShipBob today!
Which Fulfillment Center is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below.
It’s time to be the pilot of your life and not just the passenger.
Chris Bournelis is a blogger and part-time web developer. He has been working in online business since 2015. Join him here at ChrisBournelis.com for the best SaaS reviews and tips to get the most out of your online business.