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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment 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 Fulfilment?
On the surface, ecommerce order fulfilment is defined as the steps taken for receiving, processing and delivering orders to customers. Therefore, a fulfilment company is going to be that third party company that you hire to complete all of these steps.
Some ecommerce fulfilment 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 fulfilment at its core can technically be done out of your own garage, basement or warehouse. It's when you outsource your order fulfilment when it becomes much closer to that of dropshipping.
How is Fulfilment Different from Dropshipping?
Technically, outsourced fulfilment and dropshipping are the same thing. The company that's completing the dropshipping or fulfilment 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 fulfilment is different in the fact that your items have to be shipped to the fulfilment 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 Fulfilment 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.
The James and James Ecommerce Fulfilment 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.
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.
Rakuten Super Logistics is one of the more popular solutions you can choose from, and they have strategically placed fulfilment 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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment 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.
Over to You…
Now that you've had a chance to understand the differences between ecommerce order fulfilment and dropshipping, along with some of the best ecommerce fulfilment 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 fulfilment, feel free to drop a line in the comments section below.
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