Are you selling on Amazon and thinking about whether or not you should have some of your products fulfilled by them? Maybe you're trying to look for a completely different ecommerce fulfillment company to store and deliver your products. Either way, it makes sense to understand the differences between that and dropshipping.
Dropshipping is one of the easiest ways to take your ecommerce business to the next level. You can “stock” a wide selection of amazing products for your customers to choose from, without having to worry about the headaches of things like storing and shipping items. Additionally, unlike selling on Amazon and eBay, you can choose to deliver your products from your own branded website.
The question is, where do you get started? How do you choose the fulfillment option that’s actually right for you, and where can you find the differences between some of the biggest contenders?
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.
Table of contents:
Let's start with the basics:
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.
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.
If you’re looking for something that can save you a lot of time on things like warehousing and order fulfillment, then this could be the ideal tool for you. Everything you need comes built into the back-end, for inventory management, to supply chain control.
You’ll love how easy it is to use this service. The easier it is for you to make the most out of your ecommerce platform, the more customer satisfaction you can unlock. You can even check for potential same day shipping in certain areas.
Pricing: The service is a little more expensive than some of the others that we’ve covered so far, as it’s $5 per month for storage of your items. There’s also package shipping fees to consider.
- Wide range of excellent features
- Very easy to use
- Complete control of your online business
- No need to store your own products
- Pricey in some areas
Check out our ShipBob review.
Fulfillment.com is a simple easy-to-use cloud-based solution that has been automating repetitive tasks and streamlining order fulfillment for over 7 years now, which essentially translates to about 16 million packages.
Hence, the company has managed to perfect the art and it now runs 7 international warehouse locations, from where it delivers orders to more than 150 countries across the globe. 3 of the warehouses are in the US while others are based in Melbourne Australia, Mexico City in Mexico, Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and Mississauga in Canada. Every single package received in any of these warehouses is processed in less than 24 hours.
And while its agents handle processing, packaging, and delivery, you get to take advantage of Fulfillment.com’s online dashboard to manage the entire process. It’s pretty efficient when it comes to tracking your order fulfillment parameters, establishing the amount of time left before stock depletion, determining the appropriate dates to place new product orders, verifying shipment delivery addresses, grouping orders, reviewing your package postage fees, comparing shipping carriers, etc.
Customer service is also a huge plus here, as Fulfillment.com will assign you a dedicated customer support agent (or success manager) to help you with everything.
Overall, Fulfillment.com is worth considering if you’re interested in enterprise-level warehouse management, shipping carrier optimization and order grouping to minimize costs, backorder management, inventory tracking, as well as integrations with all the major ecommerce and dropshipping platforms.
Pricing: Starts at $10 per month for the basic features. You may need to upgrade to something more advanced if you want to run a more comprehensive business.
- Excellent customer service
- Great for managing your back-end
- Fantastic for enterprise-level warehouse management
- Plenty of advanced tools
- Can be complicated for beginners
- Might not be best for small businesses
Check out our detailed Fulfillment.com review.
ShipStation is known for working well with Shopify, BigCommerce and Magento customers, and it has some wonderful packages that start at $25 per 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.
ShipStation has basically everything you need to run an ecommerce business with ease. There’s automatic order retrieval, a real-time calculator for shipping costs, and even customizable tracking information. You can even integrate your solution with various tools for things like third-party logistics and reporting tools.
In terms of feature richness and value for money, this is a solution that really does have it all. It could be the best addition to your eCommerce platform.
Pricing: Packages start at around $25 per month. That means that it might not be the cheapest solution for ecommerce fulfillment, but it’s value is still through the roof.
- Calculate shipping rates in real-time
- Tons of advanced features
- Integrates with third-party tools
- Works with your favorite ecommerce builder
- No phone calls for customer service
For more info about this service check out our detailed ShipStation review.
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.
Red Stag works best with retailers that need to ship heavier and bulkier packages through multiple sales channels. Because of that, you need to actually contact the team if you want to figure out how much the fulfillment cost is going to be. On the plus side, there is a month of free trial support available, so you can test out how well the system will work for you first.
One of the best things about using Red Stag for your fulfillment strategy, is the fact that the management system is so easy to use. Figuring out how to keep track of your shipping orders and inventory is a piece of cake. Plus, the software integrates with a range of ecommerce solutions too.
Pricing: Business owners can only get pricing by contacting the team and finding out more based on their specific needs. Usually, your price will be based on things like custom packaging prices, inventory levels, and fulfillment operations.
- Great choice for companies with a lot of order volume
- Ideal fulfillment solution if you have bulky products
- Easy to use interface
- A range of automated features to tap into
- Complicated pricing structure
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.
Shipmonk stands out as a convenient and reliable multi-channel e-commerce fulfillment service and inventory management solution. It gives you everything you need to adhere to your customer expectations when it comes to things like a wide selection of products and fast shipping. Because the company picks and packs your orders for you, the whole experience is easy and totally customizable.
You can even decide how fast you want your fulfillment provider to send your items to your customers, from amazon prime style shipping to two-day delivery from your ecommerce store.Most importantly, the pricing is affordable for virtually every kind of business.
Pricing: There’s no free trial with ShipMonk, but the pricing starts at $1 per month depending on how much you need.
- Excellent range of shipping options
- Good fulfillment cost for some companies
- Wide range of services for ecommerce companies
- Good checkout experience
- Bit of a learning curve
Check out our detailed ShipMonk review.
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.
James and James has delivered a reliable order fulfillment process to various top brands, including those like cards against humanity. The company is committed to helping businesses to grow their sales with a reliable inventory storage system, and the ability to ship orders quickly.
You can even implement tracking into your fulfillment solution so that your customers never need to worry about where their products are. It’s a great choice for those in search of reliable pallet storage and fantastic customer service.
Pricing: You can only check the costs by emailing the team for a tailored price. This means that the cost will depend on what you want to do with your ecommerce business.
- Lots of advanced features for satisfied customers
- Reliable and easy to use software
- Fantastic brand with lots of high-level clients
- Reliable performance
- May be too much for beginners
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 any time. They also have a SmartStock solution for keeping items on the shelves at all times and getting people their products when they need them.
Yet another company that only delivers pricing when you contact the team for a specified quote, the Rakuten Super Logistics team can be a little costly for bigger brands. However, it’s a great option for people who want to ship a wide selection of inventory choices. You can even send products overseas with a limited shelf life.
One of the features that really makes this product stand out, is the fact that it integrates well with a range of other software solutions, ranging from PayPal to BigCommerce and Amazon. That means that you can support your business through a host of great sales channels.
Pricing: You can only get a price by contacting the team for a personalized quote. The price will depend on your order volume and the size of your business, among other things.
- Reliable and feature-rich technology
- Excellent performance
- Great for complex deliveries
- Works well with a range of third-party tools
- Pricing can be high depending on your company
- Bit of an old-fashioned interface.
Consider Shippo 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 Shippo.
Probably one of the most popular multi-carrier shipping solutions on the market, Shippo is very user friendly and easy to use. You can purchase shipping from a range of companies in the same place, and get discount rates in some cases too.
Pricing: There’s a free version, and a solution that starts with $0.05 as a one-time payment. The pricing goes up depending on the fulfillment operations you need.
- Very easy to use and intuitive
- Fantastic pricing
- Range of shipping rates to choose from
- Excellent customer service
- Can come with a learning curve
- No mobile app
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 services 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.
header image courtesy of StockSnap.io