Whether you're selling on Amazon and thinking about whether or not you should have some of your products fulfilled by them, or if you're trying to look for a completely different ecommerce fulfillment company to store and deliver your products, it makes sense to understand the differences between that and dropshipping, while also viewing some of the top ecommerce fulfillment companies to choose from.
The choices are plentiful, but if you choose the wrong one you may end up with some hefty charges and angry customers. After all, you're putting the logistics of your company in the hands of a third party company. It better be a good one.
What is Ecommerce Fulfillment?
On the surface, ecommerce order fulfillment is defined as the steps taken for receiving, processing and delivering orders to customers. Therefore, a fulfillment company is going to be that third party company that you hire to complete all of these steps.
Some ecommerce fulfillment companies offer more than others, but the general idea is that you don't have to store an item at all, you don't have to ship it out to the customer and the order and return processing is all done without you having to think about it at all.
Order fulfillment at its core can technically be done out of your own garage, basement or warehouse. It's when you outsource your order fulfillment when it becomes much closer to that of dropshipping.
How is Fulfillment Different from Dropshipping?
Technically, outsourced fulfillment and dropshipping are the same thing. The company that's completing the dropshipping or fulfillment for you is storing, handling and shipping all of your products. Most of them even take in returns without you having to lift a finger.
However, dropshipping generally takes one initial step out of the equation. When companies dropship they generally contact a manufacturer that is already making the products they would like to sell. Therefore, all the retailer has to do is put a product page on their website then communicate to the dropshipper when an item is sold.
This means that a company that makes proprietary, or unique, products doesn't have a chance to dropship. All of those items need to be built by a separate manufacturer or in-house. Therefore, you could say that fulfillment is different in the fact that your items have to be shipped to the fulfillment company at some point for them to store, while dropshipping often has a situation where the products are already in the possession of the manufacturer or dropshipper.
What Are Some of the Top International Fulfillment Companies?
Red Stag Fulfillment won an award for Best Fulfillment Service in 2016. It's a well-run operation that picks, packages and ships your products. You'll also notice that storage and returns are done through Red Stag Fulfillment. This company has become so popular because it promises (and delivers!) speed and reliability, so you don't have to worry about your customers getting mad. The best part is that you don't have to pay for any long term contracts, setup fees, hidden fees, account management fees or SKU management fees.
ShipStation is known for working well with Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento customers, and it has some wonderful packages that start at $25 pr month. The shopping cart integration is one of the best parts of the ShipStation interface, while orders and shipping are all automated on the backend. What's more is that ShipStation gives you the freedom to add your own branding to all the packaging and anything that goes in the packaging, strengthening the effectiveness of your company in the long run.
For more info about this service check out our detailed ShipStation review.
ShopMonk‘s custom API integrations allow users to sync new shopping orders automatically into their software. The products are then shipped without delay. They promise a scalable solution and promise the same type of service for every single order. They also offer some unique services like crowdfunding fulfillment and Amazon FBA Prep services. They have a coveted customer service section that boasts 24*7 availability and 1-1 service, and they promise super fast delivery without delays.
The James and James Ecommerce Fulfillment company is ideal for businesses located in the UK. International shipping is certainly available, but it seems to have some strong benefits for those in the UK. The same day dispatch and packing accuracy is the kind of stuff that all online stores like to see, while the storage of your items is performed in a way that nothing gets damaged and all of your boxes go out to the right customers.
Rakuten Super Logistics is one of the more popular solutions you can choose from, and they have strategically placed fulfillment centers located all over the world. We like the idea of the SmartFill feature, which is a cloud-based platform for keeping track of your fulfillment process, anywhere in the world and at anytime. They also have a SmartStock solution for keeping items on the shelves at all times and getting people their products when they need them.
Consider GoShippo if you're looking for yet another international order fulfillment service with quality service. The API is open for you to integrate with your store upon signing up, and they have an interesting pricing model that takes the price of shipping plus five cents. The shipping tracking lets you understand where all your packages are located, while the intuitive dashboard allows you to connect with your data from anywhere you want. You have the option to add insurance to your shipping, and the deep discounts are nice for saving money on USPS labels. Along with address verification, return labels and international parcels, you can't go wrong with GoShippo.
ShipBob works great with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, SquareSpace, and Magento stores. It also provides shipping services for crowdfunding organizations. ShipBob offers fulfillment centers in major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. This way, you can split your inventory to the location closest to your customers in order to speed up deliveries and lower costs.
Over to You…
Now that you've had a chance to understand the differences between ecommerce order fulfillment and dropshipping, along with some of the best ecommerce fulfillment companies in the world, feel free to give one of them a call to see what else they can offer you. I'm sure you'll be please with each of the five we recommended above.
If you have anymore questions about order fulfillment, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below.
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