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Here’s Our Favorite 3 Order Fulfillment Companies

Your company’s shipping operation may have started in your basement or garage, and that worked fine for a while. Then you had to move on to a local warehouse with a few workers to handle order fulfillment.

It wasn’t long before your hard work started to pay off and your company grew. Now you have some decisions to make. To handle the next phase, you are going to need to find an order fulfillment company that can handle your growing business.

fulfillment company employee

Why should you use an order fulfillment company? Because you have better things to do than to pack boxes. Your time is better spent developing your business, finding new market opportunities and driving growth. You will also benefit from not having to store your inventory on-site, or bury yourself in boxes and packing material.

What’s more, finding the right order fulfillment company can help you quickly achieve eCommerce nirvana – the ability to offer free shipping. That’s because these companies work with you to achieve scale while helping reduce the costs of shipping through the use of localized warehouses and zone skipping strategies.

Let’s talk about some of the questions you need to answer about your business needs:

  • Do you want to ship in your own packaging? Brown box packaging is generally included as part of the service, but some order fulfillment services also offer you the option of using your branded packaging.
  • What are you shipping? Some products may have special needs, such as refrigeration or other special handling requirements. Make sure that the order fulfillment service you select can meet the needs of your customers.
  • Where are you shipping? Whether you are shipping just domestically or around the world, look for a service with established channels with international carriers. Having international capacity will allow you to grow your business around the world without having to find another company to work with.
  • What is the user experience for your business? What is the experience going to look like for your customers? You want your order fulfillment service to be stress-free and easy to manage. Look for a service that offers real-time data and analytics that will keep you up to date on inventory and order management. On the customer side, look for a product that will offer your customers a seamless checkout experience with upfront shipping costs and delivery windows.
  • What if something goes wrong?  There is nothing worse than having to wait until Monday to get an answer to your urgent question. Choose an order fulfillment service that offers 24/7 customer service so you can fix small problems before they become big problems.
  • What about onboarding? Getting set up with an order fulfillment service can feel overwhelming. The best order fulfillment services offer free training and onboarding to help you get up and running fast.
  • Does this solution integrate seamlessly with your eCommerce platform, or will you need a custom API? Most of the major eCommerce platforms have seamless integrations with shipping fulfillment services, but some still may not. If that is the case, make sure that your service has experts who can work with you to create a custom API.

Best Order Fulfillment Services Fees

 FulfillriteShipBobRed Stag Fulfillment
ReceivingFree$25 per hour $13.25 per pallet
Inbound ShippingDiscounted select carriersDiscounted select carriersDiscounted select carriers
Monthly Storage22 cents per cubic foot$5 per bin$2 per bin
$40 per pallet$15 per pallet
Pick & Pack$1.90 per order + 60 cents per itemIncluded in shipping fee$2.25 to $2.65 first item + 30 cents per item
Outbound ShippingDiscounted rates with USPS, FedEx, DHL, and ZoneJumpDiscounted all carriersDiscounted all carriers
Core StrengthGet a dedicated account manager that knows every detail of your account.Startups & batch shippingHigh-value, large & oversize items
Order Minimums$199 minimum pick and pack fee per month 100 per month 100 per month
Specialty ServicesKitting, bagging, labeling, and assemblySpecialty kitting & FBA stock prepLight assembly, branded packaging

Tip: Get quotes from many different fulfillment companies at once by filling out a single form here.

Perhaps most importantly, you should choose an order fulfillment service that meets the needs of your business today and tomorrow. As the saying goes, you should dress for the job that you want. In this case, you should ship for the business you want. Look to your goals for the future of your business and find a tool that will help you get there.

ShipBob

ShipBob is a technology-based order fulfillment service with the capacity to help you scale your business. Its web-based shipping platform allows you real-time data and analytics that let you see your inventory levels and respond quickly and efficiently to changes.

ShipBob will save you both time and money. They will help you reduce your cart abandonment rate by as much as 18% while giving you cost savings up to 13%. Using their network of fulfillment warehouses, ShipBob’s dashboard algorithms choose the closest fulfillment center at the point of purchase and routes the order directly to that location for fulfillment.

Their dashboard offers integrations with most common eCommerce platforms. Is your platform not included? Contact ShipBob to arrange for a custom API so you can get up and running quickly.

Your business may also have other needs. Maybe your product needs to be refrigerated, or maybe your customers are business customers. ShipBob offers additional services to create a customized shipping experience for you and your customers.  

With transparent pricing, ShipBob makes it easy to project shipping costs and find ways to create savings. They have negotiated bulk discounts with UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL, allowing them to offer you and your customers low shipping costs.

They offer free brown box packaging, or you can use your own branding materials, paying only for the cost of storing them. Want a unique unboxing experience for your customers? ShipBob can provide kitting and packaging services that give your products a distinctive look.

ShipBob can also help you grow your Amazon business. With their Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) prep services, they can handle your orders straight from the checkout. They will prepare, label and label your items, and ship them to the FBA facility for processing. This makes working with Amazon a breeze.

Red Stag

With two fulfillment centers strategically located east and west of the Mississippi River, Red Stag can guarantee shipping to 97% of America within 1-2 days.

Red Stag has a proprietary cloud-based shipping dashboard. This dashboard allows you to manage your account from anywhere, with a mobile-friendly interface and real-time data. That gives you the peace of mind to know that you can see what is happening with your business at any time.

You can seamlessly integrate with Red Stag’s technology dashboard. They offer integrations with many common platforms such as Amazon, eBay, Wayfair, Newegg, and others. If you have your own platform, you can work with Red Stag’s outstanding tech team to develop a custom integration.

They offer same-day order fulfillment at discounted shipping rates. Their logistical experts work hard to find ways to cut your costs, negotiating competitive rates and coordinating zone skipping strategies that save you money.

Red Stag is so confident that you will love their services that they offer a 30-day, risk-free trial at no cost, allowing you to experience it for yourself. Send them some of your products, send them some orders, and see what you think!

How can they be so confident? The data shows that in 2019, 100% of orders were shipped on time and 99.997% of orders were shipped accurately. Imagine the peace of mind that such a service could provide.

The average fulfillment service promises 98% inventory accuracy. Sounds great, right? Not so fast. That would mean that out of every $500,000 in inventory, you will lose $10,000. Red Stag won’t let this happen to you. They will reimburse you for the wholesale cost of any inventory that is damaged in their care.

Loss of inventory isn’t the only cost of working with a fulfillment service. You can also lose money from mispicks or other packaging or shipping errors. Red Stag has an error rate of 1 out of 5000 orders, but that’s not all. If an order is handled incorrectly, such as with the wrong number of items, they will fix the mistake, not charge you for that shipment and pay you $50 to compensate for the error.  

Learn more about Red Stag Fulfillment and start a free 30 day trial on their site.

Fulfillrite

From small businesses to one-off crowdfunding projects, Fulfillrite offers an order fulfillment service that will meet the needs of your business. With a high-tech client portal, twenty different shopping cart integrations, and 24/7 access to customer service, they have the tools you need to take the hassle out of shipping.

Are you an Amazon retailer? Fulfillrite can handle all the prep, packaging, labeling and shipping your items to the FBA hubs for processing. While they generally do not handle large, heavy or bulky items, they are experts in handling promotions and small product lines with limited SKUs.

With a special focus on smaller retailers, Fulfillrite does not require you to sign a long-term contract to work with them. This flexibility works especially well for crowdfunded projects of limited scope and size. They offer custom labeling for your products, or you can send your product to their warehouse in your own ready-to-ship packaging.

Nobody wants their inventory to languish in the box. When Fulfillrite receives your inventory, they are unboxed, inspected, counted and ready to go the same day they arrive. Throughout the process, Fulfillrite will send you email updates to keep you informed.

Returns can be a real hassle. Fulfillrite handles them for you. They will receive the return, evaluate the condition of the product, and then let you decide if you want to issue a refund or a replacement.

Fulfillrite takes pride in offering these services to small businesses, and although there is no maximum volume, you should reach out to their customer service if you are expecting volume over 5,000 pieces per month. This will ensure that the warehouse is properly equipped to handle your shipping needs.

Does your company need help with bagging, kitting, labeling or assembly? Fulfillrite offers standalone services to help get your product ready to ship.

They have negotiated steep discounts with carriers such as USPS Commercial Plus Pricing (CPP), UPS, FedEx, DHL, Asendia, and ZoneJump, and pass these savings on to you.

Get an exact pricing quote from Fulfillrite by filling out this simple form on their site.

Choosing a Company

When it comes to order fulfillment services, you will find many options available. Choosing the wrong service can cost you money, frustrate your customers, and stifle your growth. Evaluate each service based on your company’s needs both now and in the future.

How do you choose an order fulfillment company? There are several things for you to consider, including cost, location and shipping time. Some companies use multiple warehouses to help you save shipping costs and shorten delivery times.

Here’s some of the important questions that you should consider in your decision-making process. As you evaluate different fulfillment services, ask yourself:

  • What are your goals? Consider the current state and ideal future state of your business.
  • What are the physical characteristics of your product(s)? Are your items large, fragile, or need refrigeration? Having special handling needs could limit your choice of order fulfillment services.
  • What are your shipping expectations? Do you need a company that can guarantee 2-day service anywhere in the country?
  • What is your expected order volume? Some fulfillment services have minimums and maximums for shipping volume. Remember to think about your future volume as well.
  • How can you protect yourself from losses? Look for services that have proven track records with inventory and order accuracy.
  • What if I need help? An order fulfillment service should allow you real-time access to your inventory and shipping dashboard and support you with 24/7 customer service.
  • What if my needs change? Some fulfillment services don’t have the capacity to support future growth. If you expect to grow your business, choose a service that will grow with you.
  • What does it cost to get started? You may be able to get a free trial of an order fulfillment service that interests you. Before signing with a service, you should ask about startup costs. Will you need to pay for the initial software? Will you need to sign a long-term contract? Are free training and setup included?   
  • Will my customers be safe? The security of customer information must be taken very seriously. Ensure that the order fulfillment service that you are using is invested in information and inventory security, taking appropriate measures to keep both your data and your product safe.

You will know that you have chosen the right service when you stop worrying about customer orders. The right service will give you a reliable, low-cost, seamless order fulfillment process that gives you peace of mind, freeing you to devote your time and energy to growing your business.

How to Use Third-Party Fulfillment to Break into Global Markets

shipping internationally
Large container ship arriving in port.

Ecommerce has changed the way businesses operate. Advancements in technology have enabled companies to sell to customers across countries with just a few clicks. The prospect of opening your business to global customers might seem daunting. After all, shipping nationally is already a nuanced process. However, global fulfillment can rapidly grow your business and increase your brand recognition exponentially. The most efficient way for any business to sell online is to use a third-party fulfillment service. Fulfillment services handle the entire shipping process for you, saving you time, money, and labor. Offering your products and services to customers outside your home country has a multitude of benefits.

How can shipping globally help my business?

Global eCommerce revenue is expected to reach $4.8 trillion by 2021. By 2022, cross-border purchases will make up 20% of all worldwide eCommerce. China’s domination of global eCommerce is a great example of how shipping internationally can grow a business. With 55.8% of all global eCommerce retail sales revenue in 2019, which is expected to reach 63% by 2022, the country leads the global market. They do this by offering more international shipping options than any other country. The following are ways international shipping can grow your business:

  • Product range – Global markets vary much more widely than domestic ones. Different regions have different product needs. Shipping internationally will allow you to sell a wider range of products.
  • Customer base – International shipping will give you access to a significantly larger number of customers.
  • Brand awareness – Introducing your brand to the international community will increase your visibility and provide opportunities for thought leadership and market innovation.
  • Business growth – Opening up your business to the global community can increase your website traffic and sales exponentially.

International shipping can be difficult, as there are different rules and regulations from county to country. If you run an eCommerce business, consider the following tips for using third-party fulfillment to enter the international market.

Do some research

An important first step is finding out where you’re getting international interest. Start circulating surveys and encouraging website visitors to fill out forms telling you where they’re located. Ask them if they’d like to be able to purchase your products. Use website traffic tracking tools, like StatCounter, to collect data on who is viewing your website. You’ll notice trends in where your viewers are located. For example, you might be getting traffic on your website every day from India. If you don’t ship to India, you may be missing out on potential sales.

Identify global demand

Consider whether there is an international need for your product. You might be selling something about which there isn’t a lot of global knowledge. However, if you’re selling something more universal, international shipping can be effective. For example, people use lamps all over the world. However, things like air conditioners, garbage disposals, and various food products, might not sell well to a global market.

Find a fulfillment service that ships internationally

Now that you’ve decided to ship internationally, you need to choose a third-party fulfillment service. The first thing to look for is whether they offer global shipping options. Many services only ship domestically, so you’ll want to be certain they offer this.

Make sure your service handles every step of the process

A third-party fulfillment service should take the stress of shipping globally off your shoulders. International shipping is a tricky process. It involves dealing with tracking, duties, tariffs, insurance, shipping costs, customs, free trade zones, and delivery. The complications of international shipping often keep businesses from entering the global market. Your fulfillment service should be able to manage all of this for you. If they aren’t taking the hassle and stress of this process off of you, they’re not doing their job. Click here for more on choosing a reputable fulfillment service.

Shipping speed

Your fulfillment service should also be able to meet international delivery-time expectations. Most people don’t want to wait weeks at a time for their order. If they have the option to buy domestically and have their order delivered within a couple of days, they’ll probably take it. To compete within a global market, you need to be able to offer fast, affordable shipping. Make sure your fulfillment service can do this. Many services that offer international shipping have warehouses in other countries. If you’ve gotten a lot of interest from India, for example, look for a fulfillment service that has a warehouse there, or somewhere nearby.

Keep costs down

Shipping internationally can be very expensive. Working with a fulfillment service should eliminate some of these costs. Your service providers should be experts in using localized global warehouses and government carriers that don’t charge customs brokerage fees, as well as streamlining bulk shipping from your office to their warehouse. Some third-party fulfillment providers offer bulk discounted shipping rates to other countries.

In conclusion

Overall, international shipping can enable your brand to reach millions of people. It can allow you to tap into new markets with significantly less competition. Because shipping globally is a complex, confusing process, using a third-party fulfillment service is the best way to implement it as part of your shipping strategy.

You’ll Love These 3 Fulfillment Services for Startups

As a new startup, you have a lot of things to manage and your time is valuable. You can’t be everywhere at once, so choosing the right tools is important. There are many tools available to help you with every aspect of your business, and it can be hard to decide what tool is best for both the present and future of your enterprise.

order fulfillment

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to estimate order fulfillment costs and manage shipping services on their own and end up wasting valuable time negotiating rates with each carrier individually. Some carriers will require upfront deposits or impose minimums, and you will need to renegotiate these rates on a regular basis. Who has time for all of that? 

If you want to increase your capacity and build the logistical capabilities needed to scale your business, you need to find the right fulfillment solution. The right solution will help you to streamline the process of order fulfillment, monitor shipping, and delivery, accept payments and provide customers with discounted shipping options – all in one place.

Do you have a brick and mortar storefront? A shipping fulfillment service can help you grow sales by extending your reach to customers around the world. Are you an eCommerce business? Choosing the right shipping service is critical for the success and growth of your business. You need to find a product with all the features and services you need to build capacity.

Let’s take a look at three of the best choices for small businesses and startups.

Easyship

Easyship offers fulfillment solutions for every size of business. Whether you need to ship one package a month or thousands, their new subscription model has plans that are right for your business. Easyship has been able to leverage the purchasing power of their customers to negotiate steep discounts from carriers around the world – some as high as 70%.

Best of all, Easyship’s Rates at Checkout feature is a customer favorite that gives accurate shipping rates from a number of carriers, allowing the customer to choose the shipping service that will get their package to them quickly, at the best possible price.

Their dashboard allows for deep reporting and analytics, helping you to understand the trends driving your business, and to provide accurate forecasting to help you manage inventory. Tired of the endless customs forms and red tape involved in shipping globally? Easyship takes all the guesswork out of international shipping, giving you the confidence needed to take your business to the next level. 

And the best feature of all for your startup business is that Easyship is free for up to 100 shipments.  There are no set up, subscription or cancellation fees, all you’re required to pay is for shipping and any relevant customs or duties charges.

Shipmonk

With live online training and 24/7 online customer support, Shipmonk can get your business set up to ship around the world in no time. Their web-based platform lets you manage your inventory from the warehouse to your customer’s door. Their forecasting tools help prevent backorders and missed sales due to overstocks.

You can integrate Shipmonk with many online platforms such as Squarespace, Celery, and Stripe using their custom APIs, providing a seamless customer experience. Their multichannel distribution network and automatic order fulfillment allow you to keep your focus where it needs to be – on building your business.

New customers can start using the service for just $1 a month. Offering shipping from common carriers, to ocean and freight options, their service offers ease of use with a simple interface. An excellent choice for any small business, Shipmonk is particularly well suited for subscription box services. Some customers have even praised the customer service team for providing helpful advice for growing your business and leveraging all of Shipmonk’s tools.

Shipbob

With fulfillment centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, Shipbob is able to provide fast shipping to customers from coast to coast, and around the world.  You can choose to have your inventory held at one of those centers or all, and their inventory management software will ensure that you know what you have, and where you have it, at all times.

Shipbob offers easy integrations with most common eCommerce platforms, creating a seamless experience for you and your customers. Their proprietary software keeps you in the loop throughout the order fulfillment process. You can track shipment and delivery from Shipbob’s fulfillment centers to your customer’s door.

What’s more, Shipbob can deliver your products in the custom, branded packaging of your choice, or you can choose to use their standard brown box packaging. Either way, you can rest assured that your product will be delivered quickly and efficiently to your customers, ensuring a positive customer experience.  

What should you do now?

If you have just started your business, you have a lot of important decisions to make. Order fulfillment services offer a wide range of products and it can be hard to know which service to choose. By carefully reviewing the features of each service, you will be able to find the product that best meets the needs of your company.

When reviewing these options, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there training and onboarding services to help me get started? Work with a shipper that is willing to work with you to make sure that you are able to leverage all of their tools.
  • Will I have access to 24/7 customer service if something goes wrong? You need to be able to respond to shipping, delivery and inventory problems in real-time. It is important to know that help is there when you need it.  
  • Does it integrate seamlessly with my eCommerce platform?  Most fulfillment services offer API integrations to connect to your online store or ordering system.
  • What will customers think of this product? Is the user experience easy to navigate? While these services are intended to make order fulfillment easier for you to manage, you can’t sacrifice the user experience. Walk through the order process as a customer so you can spot problems before they impact customers.
  • What am I shipping, and to where? Some products may not offer specialized shipping options for fragile or refrigerated items. Make sure it can do what you need it to do.
  • Do I want to use custom packaging? Not all companies offer this. Check with the company to talk about its packaging requirements.

Research each product and read customer reviews as part of your selection process. Remember, you want to choose a service that will grow with you, rather than one you have to replace as you expand your market share. 

Review of Easyship – the Free Fulfillment Service for Startups

Easyship is a centralized shipping platform that has partnered with over 100 different shipping carriers to create a one-stop shipping solution. These partnerships allow you to select the best, cheapest and fastest way to deliver your package – all in one place.

In the past, merchants were forced to negotiate shipping rates with each shipper or carrier individually, often requiring contracts or upfront deposits. Easyship has handled all of this for you already, negotiating discounts with dozens of carriers of up to 70%. This represents significant cost-savings for business owners.

With the ability to integrate with major eCommerce players like Amazon and Shopify, merchants can create a seamless workflow that allows them to find the best possible price for shipping for their customers, all in one, easy-to-use dashboard.

Their Rates at Checkout feature gives customers full visibility at checkout, giving them all their shipping options at a glance. This feature gets your customers through the checkout process quickly and easily, ensuring that you capture that sale. A survey has even found that this feature has helped merchants to increase revenues by up to 300% for their international orders.

Global shipping can be a real hassle. Different countries have different rules. There are customs forms and manifests and a lot of rules. Easyship helps you cut through all of that red tape, providing all the information you need to get that package to your customer’s door. You can be confident that it will be handled appropriately. Easyship’s customers have seen a nearly 91% reduction in global shipping issues at customs.

Easyship has four core values that inform everything they do.

  • Transparency – No hidden fees, and no surprises
  • Keeping it Fresh – Easyship is committed to ongoing improvement and taking advantage of new technologies as they emerge.
  • Being Smooth – You can ship like a boss with their intuitive platform.
  • For Everyone – New business, small business, global corporation…no matter your size or needs, Easyship has a shipping solution for you.

Easyship has been making substantial investments in its shipping platform, to increase functionality and ease of use. For this reason, Easyship is now transitioning to a subscription model, which will allow them to continue to roll out new products and features to make your life and business run more smoothly.

The worldwide rollout of the subscription service will occur by February 1, 2020.

Are you already a customer? What does this mean for you?

New and small businesses will still be able to use the service for free for up to 100 shipments. If you are already a customer, you will continue to enjoy the same service and access for the next six months. At the end of that period, you can choose a subscription that works for you, at a 50% loyalty discount for life.

Easyship will offer four plans to meet the needs of every customer. Small businesses can take advantage of their free plan that offers up to 100 shipments a month, and custom plans can be created for enterprise customers. There are also plus and premier plans offering varying shipping levels and features.

By investing in the platform and leveraging new technologies to streamline shipping for global businesses, Easyship has developed a reputation for taking all the stress out of shipping for your business.  With access to a global network spanning 220 countries, Easyship is committed to helping your business grow. 

Easyship has a solution that is right for your business today and in the future. Their commitment to providing these services is fueled by a desire to facilitate the growth and success of businesses around the world.

Review of ShipBob eCommerce Fulfillment

Shipbob

ShipBob

ShipBob’s pricing is reflective of a total fulfillment cost for standard, direct-to-consumer order fulfillment. Standard fees for ShipBob include receiving your inventory, warehousing your products, and shipping each order. They also offer special pricing for special projects.

ShipBob is more than just a pick, pack, ship 3PL

ShipBob is a tech-first solution with a network of fulfillment centers in the largest cities in the US. They own, operate, and staff all of their fulfillment centers, with on-site customer success reps at each location to help troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

If you have unique needs, ShipBob can accommodate your business at an additional cost. All quotes are customized for each customer.

Planet Express

planetexpress.com reviewPlanet Express

17224, S. Figueroa Street
Gardena, California
(424) 329-3470

At Planet Express, they fully understand how frustrating it is when you are shopping online and you discover something you really want to purchase, only to find that the merchant does not deliver to outside of the United States. We believe that even though you do not live in the US, it does not mean you can’t benefit from excellent prices. The great news is that you do not need to abandon your shopping cart! With our innovative mailing and package forwarding service that has been designed specifically for those who love online shopping but live outside of the US, you can shop online to your heart’s content. You can have your goodies delivered to our United States warehouse and we will send them directly to you!

China Division

chinadivision reviewChinaDivision.com

4F, Block E, Fenghuanggang No.2 Industrial Zone,
Qianjin 2nd Road, Bao’an District,
Shenzhen, Guangdong,
CHINA
+86 13691780683

ChinaDivision is an order fulfillment company with a dedicated China local office where clients around the world connect, both online and offline, to source, stock and ship international goods directly from China. ChinaDivision offers custom pricing depending on your specific needs and whether or not you want to pay per pallet or by the case.  There are no long term commitments or hidden fees.  They also provide warehousing where your products will be safe with the strictest of security in Shenzhen.

ChinaDivision has established relationships with major shipping carriers that allows them to provide more cost efficient options than you can probably get on your own. Orders are packed and shipped according to your specific specifications including customized labels and logos.  Once you send your items to the fulfillment center, they will process your items within 1-3 days and then store them until your order is shipped.

Warehouse Fulfillment China
Just ask your suppliers in China to send your goods to the ChinaDivision fulfillment warehouse. They will group and store products from various suppliers free for 90 days. You can then check your inventory status via their leading-edge warehouse management system.

Kitting & Assembly
Need help to combine multiple components into new product kits before delivery or group and assemble your products from different suppliers? Partner with ChinaDivision to enhance your supply chain and simplify the distribution process.

Software Integration
ChinaDivision also offers a shopify fulfillment app, opencart fulfillment extension, and woocommerce fulfillment plugin all free of charge to make using their service even easier.

Order Fulfillment Process

Warehouse imageWhen it comes to eCommerce, whether you’re just starting out, or have been in business for awhile, you already know that dealing with shipping can take a big bite out of your work day. Instead of focusing on marketing, customer service, and developing your product line, you have to spend time packing and shipping your stuff to your customers. And the more product you ship, the more time you spend. But there’s good news:

The right fulfillment company can take a lot of the hassle out of the shipping end of your business. They can handle your orders, pretty much start to finish. You’ll get help with everything from getting your product from the manufacturer to the warehouse, assistance with documentation and importing inventory from the supplier, and working with just the right freight forwarder for your personal business.

The best fulfillment companies will use a premiere software to track everything through their system for you. That means that you can focus on the more important things—things like growing your business, or getting home at a reasonable hour to spend time with your family, or just being able to take a breather instead of running to the post office every other minute or calling UPS quick to catch their last delivery of the day. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It is great, and it’s totally doable with the right fulfillment company. They can take the shipping load off your shoulders and here’s how:

First, you find—or design—a totally cool product, then set it up with a manufacturer or distributor. Then you set up your online ordering system, be it website and marketplace orders, shopping carts and/or retail sales. Then you hook up with a fulfillment company.

Let’s assume you (very wisely) chose a fulfillment company that uses software as savvy as you are. This software can track your orders and integrate for multichannel shipping. The right company with the right software can even handle dropshipping for you. They’ll also receive your products, assist with quality control, and even take pictures as needed, so you’ll know what product is where in the warehouse and what condition it’s in.

So now you’re partnered with a great fulfillment company with super-smart software. This is what happens next:

The first thing that software looks for is your product. Is it in the fulfillment company’s warehouse already? Is there enough of the product to complete the entire order? Do you need to order more from the manufacturer? If it’s in the company’s warehouse, no problem, and the order goes out pretty much in a heartbeat. If it needs to be ordered, that’s still no problem. Why not?

Because the software also keeps track of how much inventory you have on the shelves and will flag you when stock runs low. That lets you order from the manufacturer ahead of time, so there’s no delay in filling your customer’s order. Your fulfillment company can also handle freight forwarding and receiving and then log your inventory. The software will let you know every step of the way—pretty much the best possible tracking system on the planet!

The next step is relatively straightforward:

The fulfillment company’s team picks, packs and ships your order to your customer using the standards you’ve set for your brand. That means they (literally) pick your product off the shelf, pack it properly for safe shipping, then get you the lowest rate possible for the carrier most appropriate for your needs.

You can also ship pretty much anywhere in the world if you want, because a great fulfillment partner will pave the way with all that tricky international documentation. And you won’t have to build a warehouse overseas to handle your overseas orders.

Another great feature of a good fulfillment company’s packing step is that they’ll also include whatever non-order materials you’ve asked for. That includes leaflets, flyers, coupons and other printed materials as well as a quality filler to pad the product appropriately. Then they’ll either send it out in a generic box or another package that fits the product—always working to avoid that sticky volumetric weight “bag of potato chips” problem—or they’ll pack and ship your things in the package you supply such as a custom size box with your brand

The right fulfillment company—like ShipMonk, for instance—can also help you ramp up your customer’s unpacking experience by supplying niceties like colored crinkle cut paper, snappy bubble wrap, and all kinds of things to make the unboxing experience one your customer remembers.

Once the order is picked and packed just right and shipped to your customer, one of two things happens:

1) You have a super-happy customer who got exactly what he or she ordered, “had fun” unpacking your product, and is off to make good use of what they purchased from you.

2) Something went wrong along the way. Maybe the order got mixed up between the shopping cart and the warehouse. Maybe something in the package is wrong or got broken or damaged, or maybe your customer is unhappy for some other reason. It doesn’t matter. Here’s what your fulfillment partner can and will do:

With the help of—once again—that trusty software, they’ll accept the return and do whatever it takes to make your customer smile. They can return the product to their warehouse. They can hold it—or dispose of it—whichever you want them to do. Or they can refurbish it to your specifications. Then, depending on how you tell them to handle things, the process starts all over:

A new order comes in—it’s picked, packed and shipped—and this time (hopefully) you have a happy customer who will reorder from you because the return process was so easy, they almost couldn’t believe it.

To sum it all up, the real trick to a great fulfillment company’s shipping magic is three-fold:

First, there’s the custom software. It flags you. It flags the company. It tracks the product all the way from your inbound order through shipping from the manufacturer to pick, pack & ship to your customer.

Second, and actually crucial, is help with customer support, especially on returns. So as you’re interviewing fulfillment firms, ask their process on customer returns.

Third, and possibly most important of all, you want a company with a dedicated team that will keep a personal eye on your shipping needs. You also want a team that can answer pretty much any question you have—anything from what size box to use to how you can solve a particularly sticky return issue.    

So, there you have it. In a nutshell, your customer calls or clicks to place an order through any one of the available ordering systems—the order travels through the fulfillment company’s system—then it ends up on your customer’s doorstep.

No more wasting time running around finding product, putting it in a box, then running to the post office or the UPS office. No more overpaying for shipping because you didn’t have quite enough volume to get a really good rate. No more worries about running out of storage space and having to rent. And no more worries about expanding your business, especially overseas, not when you’re partnered with a fulfillment company that really knows its stuff.

Just be sure to choose your fulfillment partner very, very carefully. Make sure they have good software, that they’ll help you with paperwork, and that they have a dedicated team to answer your questions and look out for your interests.

When you find all of that in one company—and you can with a fulfillment firm like ShipMonk—you’ll feel like your shipping process is almost running itself!

Third Party Logistics Providers Do’s and Dont’s

Third Party Logistics providers (3PL’s) have grown tremendously in recent years as the expectations and buying habits of consumers continue to evolve. Customers expectations are higher than ever: Retailers top concerns in 2016 are meeting these customer expectations (38%) and having an inefficient supply chain (31%). This kind of data shows that customer relationships go beyond the product; customers expect not only timely and efficient packing, but affordable packaging too.

But if your fulfillment provider is so vital to the success of your ecommerce business, how should you go about evaluating the right options?

The owners of Red Stag have learned this answer the hard way. Red Stag Fulfillment is an ecommerce fulfillment company that was established when the owners of an ecommerce brand couldn’t find a high quality 3PL to handle their picking, packing, and shipping operations. While they eventually established a 3PL of their own, this isn’t an option for most entrepreneurs, so here’s a few tips on the “Do’s & Don’ts” of shopping for a 3PL.

Do’s

  1. Define exact and measurable KPI’s

It’s hard to evaluate something if you don’t have anything to compare it to. So when shopping for, or trying out a 3PL, make sure to set measurable KPI’s that will guide your 3PL and give you something to track for efficiency. KPI’s can be set up through logs, time stamps, and even barcode scanning.

You should also have the ability to measure on-time delivery autonomously. Don’t rely on the reports from the 3PL, request access to this information so you can keep track of how well they’re performing. For example, Red Stag has a multifaceted tracking system in place that gives both their clients and their clients customers access to their shipping information.

  1. Meet your 3PL partners           

It’s important that you not only understand how everything works, but how the company manages itself and its workers. When touring the facilities, talk to management about how the employees are compensated and incentivized. Are warehouse workers incentivized to get orders picked correctly and on time? Or is it all about getting orders out the door? Do you feel they are honest, trustworthy and sincere? Do they show you their passion for the business, and a commitment to customer service? By asking these questions you’ll get real insight into how your product and business are going to be handled.

  1. Include systems capability and support as a criterion

Your business is probably prepared for the worst case scenario, and your 3PL should be too. Check their criterion for backup systems and plans for when the unexpected take place. For example, say their system crashes. Do they have an internal IT department, or do they outsource?

Check out this ecommerce fulfillment questionnaire for a list of other questions to ask your potential 3PL.

  1. Understand the 3PL’s ability to scale

Don’t just factor in the ‘now’ when choosing a 3PL, consider your future. Your business is probably brainstorming ways to grow right now, so you should be partnering with a 3PL that can handle those future booms. Or say you have a massive order volume increase unexpectedly, does your 3PL have the room and manpower to handle it? And will they have a system in place that can get those orders out the door just as quickly as before?

Dont’s

  1. Don’t limit yourself your search to your immediate proximityShipping out of major metropolitan areas like Miami or LA may seem advantageous but these can actually be the worst places to ship to customers if your customers are spread all over the country. Instead it’s best to look at centrally located cities. Shipping parcels from these cities will be far less expensive than the freight cost to get your product there.
  2. Don’t lock yourself into a long-term contractYour 3PL has the ability to influence the value experienced by your customers. Therefore, you should be able to walk away if their service levels waiver at all. And besides that, what if you scale, or have unexpected events? Your 3PL is much too important to your business to be stuck in a contract that can’t accommodate your growth, which is why some ecommerce fulfillment companies are moving to month-to-month contracts.
  3. Don’t make a decision based on Price rather than Value

 This isn’t to say the highest quality service can’t be achieved at the lowest price, but it’s rarely the case. What you need to do is properly weigh price with the aspects of your business that are going to be directly affected: accuracy, and customer service.

Take into account strategic buying situations when fast processing (in order to have product available to sell) is paramount.

You also need to consider what the effects of customer service inquiries if 100% of products ship on time and accurately. Red Stag Fulfilment has safeguards and processes in place to ensure proper delivery, that kind of efficiency pays off when you don’t have an entire call center dialed into customers complaining about late, or undelivered packages. 

  1. Don’t’ make a decision without comparing options

You shouldn’t be afraid to put a few 3PL’s on trial periods to test which one works best. In fact, it’s the smartest thing you can do. You want a 3PL who’s willing to earn your business over the long haul.