Order fulfillment is one of the most important things any business owner will need to consider when setting up an ecommerce store. The only way to earn the trust and loyalty of your target audience is to ensure that the products they buy get to them as quickly as possible.
The good news is that you don’t have to handle everything from inventory management to shipping on your own. As the ecommerce world grows increasingly accessible, ecommerce store owners are discovering new ways to delight their customers with the help of fulfilment services.
Fulfilment services and networks are digital environments that you can use to track your inventory, supply chain, and shipping information. Choose the right tool, and you’ll impress your customers with products that arrive on their doorstep at just the right time.
The trouble is, with so many different options out there, how do you know you’re picking the right one?
Today, we’re going to be looking at two fulfilment solutions with a great deal of popularity: ShipBob and the Shopify Fulfilment Network.
Introducing ShipBob and Shopify Fulfilment Network
ShipBob and Shopify’s Fulfilment Network have a lot in common.
Both of these digital tools help with handling things like order fulfilment services, shipping, packaging, inventory management, and even handling returns. Thanks to a convenient back-end environment, business leaders can check that every aspect of their product delivery process is being handled the right way.
A good fulfilment system will deliver repeat business, better reviews, and improved outcomes for your organization.
Shopify is an excellent ecommerce platform – one of the best-known in the industry. The company offers brilliant tools for making your organization stand out online, including a range of amazing integrations with checkout systems.
However, it’s in the very early stages of delivering fulfilment tools. The Shopify Fulfilment Network is quite complicated in places, and it’s clear that the business is just beginning to explore a region they haven’t got much experience in.
On the other hand, ShipBob might not be an ecommerce website builder, but it is one of the leading fulfilment providers on the market. Supporting thousands of customers worldwide, and offering a robust network of global fulfilment centers, ShipBob has it all.
Although, in theory, Shopify Fulfilment Network might seem like the better option, because you can build your website and handle fulfilment in the same place, there are some aspects missing.
It’s going to be a while before Shopify gets to the point where it can offer product parity with solutions like ShipBob. Even then, there’s a good chance the company will continue outsourcing to other warehouses.
In this review, we’ll guide you through the key differences between ShipBob and Shopify Fulfillment Network.
Overall Review: Introducing ShipBob
Let’s start with ShipBob, one of the leading 3PL systems on the market – and a powerful tool for business growth. ShipBob stands out as one of the most robust fulfilment technology systems on the market. With this service, you’ll have absolute control over orders and inventory, along with absolute visibility into the order fulfilment process.
For companies running ecommerce platforms, this order management and inventory management tool has it all. ShipBob owns and operates its own fulfilment centers, with excellent experience in the field. The business owns its entire technology stock, including the warehouse management system that exists across all fulfilment centers.
ShipBob has fulfilment centers spread throughout Canada, the US, and Europe, and it ensures that companies with a global audience can enjoy great international shipping rates around the world. You can even unlock all the benefits of fast shipping for your Wix, Squarespace, , WooCommerce, Shopify, or BigCommerce store (as well as marketplaces).
In terms of pricing and billing, you can expect a handful of predictable and fixed fees that are easy to budget for. However, ShipBob also makes sure that you get a more personalized experience with custom quoted shipping rates.
Managing bundles is pretty straightforward with ShipBob too. When you mark any SKU as a bundle, and select the component SKU through the dashboard, you’ll be able to see the individual components picked by customers, make changes on the fly, and so much more.
ShipBob is a wonderfully user-friendly service, with a modern interface where you can manage all of your orders and inventory. The inventory management segment of the tool comes with features like forecasting, reorder points, and real-time SKU count tracking.
Have a problem? That’s okay, you can contact the ShipBob consumer service team for a quick and convenient response. The care team also offers access to a comprehensive Help Center for further assistance. Overall, the Trust score for ShipBob is around 4.2, with thousands of positive reviews.
ShipBob Pros and Cons
ShipBob is one of the most valuable tools for order fulfilment on the market. Ideal for small to mid-sized companies, ShipBob will help you manage your fulfillment if you’re shipping 400 orders or more a month. Less than that, and you can probably find a cheaper option out there (though they have a self-service model for those shipping less than 400 monthly orders).
Though many people agree that ShipBob is a great choice for ecommerce businesses that need a reliable fulfilment provider, this tool might not be ideal for everyone. Here are some of the pros and cons to consider when examining ShipBob for your fulfilment services.
- Excellent integration with Shopify (and other ecommerce platforms)
- 2 day shipping and express shipping options
- Best-in-class technology for order fulfilment
- End-to-end solution for warehousing, order management, and shipping rates
- Costly for people who have a high SKU count
- Though it integrates with Shopify, it does require a separate log-in
- Not much hand-holding available for ecommerce merchants with under 400 orders a month.
- Not suitable for companies that sell mostly via FBA or are almost exclusively focused on B2B.
ShipBob Order Fulfilment: The Pros
ShipBob has a lot of pros to consider. The shipping rates and services adapt very well to suit the needs of different companies. Excellent customer service helps ensure you have a true business partner and any issues are corrected.
We chose to highlight four benefits as the main points to focus on, because they’re the ones that are most likely to impact your decision on which fulfilment tool to use.
Let’s take a closer look.
Strong Shopify Integration
Just because ShipBob is a standalone fulfillment solution doesn’t mean that you can’t link your fulfilment provider to your Shopify account. One of the things that makes ShipBob so appealing, (besides it’s network of fulfillment centers and topnotch software) is how easy it is to link your online store.
ShipBob’s integration with Shopify and Shopify Plus is fantastic. Another bonus, because ShipBob is a multi-channel fulfilment solution, you can integrate the other stores and platforms you sell through too.
2-day express shipping
Shipping costs and speeds matter to your customer. When you outsource your fulfilment to ShipBob, you get more than a basic pick and pack 3PL.
This high-performance system allows you to use delivery strategies to outshine your competitors and meet customer expectations. ShipBob’s guaranteed 2-day express shipping option leverages ground shipping as a fantastic and affordable alternative to expedited air shipping in addition to a real-time rates shipping app.
If you’re looking for a fulfilment partner with the best tech and user experience, then you’ll love ShipBob. The ShipBob dashboard is brilliant for merchants, with an easy-to-use interface that you’re sure to get used to in no time.
With ShipBob, you can see exactly what their fulfillment associates pick from your inventory. The Shopify Fulfilment Network doesn’t work this way – you’ll need to rely on a rep to sort everything out with you. If you want a way to be self-sufficient, then ShipBob is sure to be the preferred option for you. They also have advanced analytics that provide detailed transparency into fulfillment performance, shipping data, and much more.
True end-to-end performance
ShipBob has deep logistics expertise to offer. With this 3PL, you can request a variety of fulfilment services, including kitting and B2B fulfillment, as well as an inventory and order management system that’s powered by the company’s proprietary warehouse management technology. The comprehensive experience covers everything from operational updates, to exceptional fulfilment tools.
ShipBob Order Fulfilment: The Cons
For the most part, ShipBob is an excellent fulfillment tool for helping your business to grow. With this convenient software and fulfillment service, you gain more control and visibility over your orders and inventory. Plus, you benefit from a company with an amazing background in logistics.
However, ShipBob is not for everyone. For instance:
Can become expensive over time
ShipBob’s warehousing fees are a little expensive. You need to pay for storage for every SKU, which means that if you have a lot of products to work with, the price of storage will add up fast. We’d recommend considering ShipBob if you have a low SKU count, or a high inventory turnover rate.
Separate login from Shopify
While Shopify and ShipBob can connect, they’re two different systems. To manage your online business with ShipBob for your Shopify store, you need to log into a separate solution. There is a two-way flow for information thanks to a turnkey integration, however.
Limited hand-holding for small companies
ShipBob offers a self-service model for small companies (shipping 0-400 orders per month) who want to use them as a 3PL called the Growth Plan. Instead of working with an implementation specialist, it allows small brands to complete the self-onboarding steps themselves. They offer live office hours and email support, but there’s less direct contacts available compared to merchants shipping over 400 orders per month However, if you grow with ShipBob, you can qualify for more benefits over time.
Not ideal for primarily B2B sales and Amazon Prime shipping
The ShipBob order fulfilment system is one of the better options on the market – but especially for direct to consumer orders. Although B2B fulfilment services are available, you’ll need the majority of your orders to come from ecommerce consumers.
ShipBob: The Verdict
Ultimately, though it does have a few downsides, ShipBob is still the go-to provider of fulfilment solutions for today’s business leaders. Used correctly, this powerful tool will save you time and money on delivering excellent customer service. Plus, the fact that you have lots of location options and features as you scale means that there’s no limit to how much your company can expand.
Compared to the Shopify Fulfilment Network, ShipBob is a next-level solution with access to everything you need to keep your business thriving, including inventory management and control. ShipBob is truly a logistics expert that is focused solely on fulfillment, who could be the ideal option for you.
Overall Review: Shopify Fulfillment Network
Shopify Fulfillment Network offers a different experience than ShipBob for companies that need help fulfillment. Shopify Fulfilment Network promises an all-in-one solution for companies that want to ship orders quickly, without spending a fortune. The full-service network allows businesses to control their data, and shipping in one place.
Although Shopify has an excellent service available for building ecommerce websites – it’s lacking a lot of functionality and visibility in the inventory management and fulfilment space.
For instance, with Shopify you won’t always be able to see why your order has been listed as an exception, or unable to be fulfilled. Additionally, you need to rely on reps to handle most of the work for you. This can often lead to significant delays in getting basic information or troubleshooting customer problems.
Unlike ShipBob, which focuses entirely on fulfilment, Shopify doesn’t seem to have as much insight into this area. It’s clear that the company doesn’t understand fulfilment in the same way. Unfortunately, because Shopify is so new to this landscape, many of the initial customers on the Shopify Fulfilment Network have reported significant issues with their experience.
Shopify Fulfilment Network outsources its fulfilment to different 3PLs, so they don’t offer any fulfilment services or run any fulfillment centers themselves. The fulfilment centers they send your inventory to are exclusively in the US, unlike with ShipBob, where you can ship and store inventory internationally.
Shopify Fulfilment Network costs are also tallied alongside various other bills and expenses for Shopify apps, which can sometimes mean that you hit billing thresholds quicker than you’d think. All that, and you don’t have the option to create or manage your bundles on your own.
Not everything about the Shopify Fulfilment Network experience is lacking. The platform is very user-friendly, and the interface is modern and convenient. However, your inventory levels in the warehouses Shopify partners with don’t always match your Shopify store – which is a huge issue, and there’s very little information available to help guide you through the setup process.
Ultimately, Shopify delivers an experience that’s much more clunky and restricted than you would expect from a typical 3PL like ShipBob.
Shopify Fulfilment Network Pros and Cons
Shopify is known across the globe for it’s exceptional eCommerce tools and website building technology. However, it’s still relatively new to the role of fulfillment provider.
With Shopify Fulfillment Network, you can unlock the benefits of a well-known ecommerce platform, with a single login for your store and shipments, as well as access to shipping carriers like DHL, FedEx, and USPS. Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to get any real-time insight into your inventory, and you’ll struggle to get basic answers to questions. Tracking information and updates on the order fulfilment process are non-existent.
- A well-known international eCommerce platform
- Single login for your shipments and your store
- Support for small businesses shipping around 10 orders per day
- Excellent for high SKU count companies
- Little control over fulfilment and inventory (outsourced to warehouses)
- Only available in the United States
- No experience with fulfillment (they have other warehouses do the work)
- Limited customer support or fulfillment visibility
Shopify Fulfillment Network: The Pros
Shopify has a strong reputation in the eCommerce landscape – but it’s still in the early days of its experiments with order fulfilment. This means that it suffers in a lot of areas, like customer communication and visibility. There are some major benefits that can help to make up for these issues, such as:
Shopify is easily one of the most popular eCommerce platform options for businesses hoping to sell online. Well-trusted around the world for the exceptional selection of tools and services on offer, Shopify earns a lot of respect in its area.
Though Shopify is still very new to the world of order fulfilment, the company has been working in the eCommerce space for years, and it has a lot of potential.
Single login to manage your store and shipments
Shopify wants to reduce the amount of time business professionals spend leaping between different tools. With Shopify, you can access a single store for all of your eCommerce needs. The centralized platform makes it easy to access all the information you need in one place, from inventory insights, to shipping requirements.
There is still some room for growth in this area for Shopify, however. For instance, the company still needs to figure out how to properly sync inventory levels that are inside the warehouses of the companies actually handling fulfillment for the Shopify Fulfillment Network. Otherwise, it defeats the purpose of being a vertically-integrated solution.
Support for smaller businesses
Shopify is an eCommerce platform that suits small businesses perfectly. With the Shopify Fulfilment Network, users who only ship 10 orders per day can get help without spending a fortune to excel with Shopify as your fulfillment provider.
Good for high SKUs
If you’ve got a high SKU count, then you might find that ShipBob is just too expensive for your needs. On the other hand, Shopify Fulfilment Network helps you to store as many as 2,000 SKUs at once. Merchants with a large product catalog benefit from an extensive storage capacity.
Shopify Fulfillment Network: The Cons
Shopify is working to improve its services constantly – but there’s still a long way to go before this company can offer the best order fulfillment process. Just because Shopify can build a good website with a powerful shopping cart, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for shipping services.
No control over inventory or fulfilment
Shopify’s Fulfillment Network doesn’t actually fulfil orders – despite its misleading name. The company outsources the fulfillment process to other warehouses that have the right amount of space. This means that you send your inventory to third-parties, and you don’t have a great deal of access to things likelive inventory counts.
Only available in the United States
If you want to access order fulfilment around the world, then you’re going to need to find a separate 3PL. Shopify only supports fulfillment the United States. Finding another fulfillment partner means a separate login too.
No 3PL experience
Shopify is an ecommerce expert experimenting with order fulfillment services – but it’s not a 3PL. If you use Shopify Fulfilment Network, you’re accessing a middleman solution that outsources to other warehouses. Shopify doesn’t have any prior experience packing boxes or handling logistics.
Shopify’s lack of experience means that it’s common for customers to suffer from critical supply chain problems, and additional risks.
Difficult to get the right support
Having access to the right customer support is crucial in today’s business landscape. If something goes wrong with your shipping or fulfillment solution, you’ll need answers fast. Unfortunately, unlike full 3PL solutions like ShipBob, Shopify offers little fulfilment visibility as the work is being done outside their four walls.
It’s difficult to find out why orders are marked as exceptions and unable to be fulfilled, and you need to rely on third-party reps to handle every order and pallet on your behalf.
Shopify Fulfillment Network: The Verdict
Ultimately, Shopify is still cutting its teeth in the fulfillment services landscape. If you’re looking for a company that can offer everything from two-day shipping to real-time inventory updates, this isn’t it. Shopify struggles to give you full control over your fulfillment strategy, and you need to rely on someone else to make all the appropriate changes for you.
If you have an issue with anything happening, Shopify’s team is often slow to respond, and they don’t have the specialist knowledge to answer some more complex questions.
Shopify is an excellent choice for people who want to build a powerful ecommerce website, without using alternative tools like Squarespace or WooCommerce. However, it’s probably not the best option or the most reliable for cost-effective order fulfillment. Even though it means that you’ll need to use multiple tools, it’s still best to stick with a real 3PL for your order fulfillment.
ShipBob’s features and functionality are far better than anything you can expect from Shopify. Right now, according to the reviews that we’ve seen and the experience we’ve had ourselves, it seems like Shopify is over-promising and under-delivering.
ShipBob vs Shopify Fulfillment Network: The bottom line
There are a handful of people who can benefit from Shopify Fulfillment Network as their order fulfillment solution. If you’re a very small company that ships around 10 items or less per day, Shopify is one of the easiest ways to get started with fulfillment solutions. However, you might prefer to work with third-party fulfillment companies directly.
Shopify also makes sense for those who have a large number of SKUs to work with. However, it’s just not going to be the right choice for most business leaders. Even the fact that you don’t have to log into another service doesn’t mean that Shopify can out-perform ShipBob.
If you really want to make the most of your order fulfillment solution and delight your target audience, then you need a company that’s a true specialist in this area, that’s what you get from ShipBob. We recommend trying ShipBob if you want to really take your customer experience strategy to the next level.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do ShipBob and Shopify Fulfillment Network compare on price?
The pricing for both solutions vary depending on a number of factors. You’ll need to know how many products you’re shipping, dimensions and weights, shipping destinations, and even order volume. There are also value-added services to consider. The pricing is pretty similar for the most part, but you do get extra value with ShipBob.
ShipBob offers greater visibility, more advanced functionality, and extra support for your inventory and supply chain management. It’s a no brainer from a budget perspective.
How do ShipBob and Shopify Fulfillment Network compare on inventory and order management?
ShipBob handles order and inventory management for your company from start to finish. You can access detailed information and reports on every aspect of the customer journey. Inventory automatically updates and marks itself as accounted for. You can also see orders that are in exception, and hover over those orders to see why they’re on hold to quickly resolve them.
Shopify Fulfillment Network is in its infancy and isn’t that advanced. The basic technology means it’s hard to know why an order hasn’t shipped for any reason. Additionally, every part of the process relies heavily on the actions of another person. You don’t feel like you have true control over your store.
How do ShipBob and Shopify Fulfillment Network compare on shipping management?
ShipBob is the much better choice for fulfillment and inventory management, thanks to a robust selection of fulfillment services, locations to ship from and to, and order management software. There’s also the option to make changes to orders post-purchase, or track orders in real-time.