Third-party logistics, or 3PL, is a term used to refer to one of the most popular and cost-effective ecommerce fulfillment methods. The method involves you (the merchant) partnering with a third-party logistics provider that focuses only on fulfilling the logistical side of your operation, with tasks like inventory storage, order management, packaging, and shipping. This minimizes or eliminates costs for things like paying for your own warehouses, warehouse workers, and packaging materials. Not to mention, you can save money in the process, usually get better shipping rates and speeds, and turn your focus to other aspects of your business like marketing or product development. With all that in mind, where do you start when it comes to picking from third-party logistics companies? In this article, we outline the top 3PL companies based on their prices, reputations, offerings, shipping speeds, and more.
Keep reading to guide your search on the top 3PL fulfillment companies for ecommerce.
Which of the Top 3PL Companies is Right for Your Online Store?
Our analysis of the top 3PL companies dives into the gritty details like pricing, features, offerings, and shipping times. Those are all rather important when it comes down to choosing the best partner for your business. Hopefully, the reviews above have helped you narrow down your search. If you're still struggling to decide between two or three logistics companies, take a look at our final recommendations below:
- ShipBob: An excellent all-around solution for managing your supply chain and obtaining access to a large network of warehouses for fulfillment. ShipBob has reasonable, transparent pricing with many warehouses in the US, and several in other countries like Canada, Ireland, and Australia.
- Shopify Fulfillment: A top-notch 3PL if you're using Shopify or plan on migrating your website. It's affordable and useful for selling to customers in the United States. However, you can't use it if your website isn't on Shopify.
- Red Stag Fulfillment: Perfect if you'd rather work with a smaller logistics company that offers more dedicated support and quality control. Red Stag is best for fulfillment in the US but you can always ship internationally through FedEx. They only have two warehouses but they're strategically located.
- ShipMonk: Mainly for fulfillment in the US. ShipMonk is known for its robust inventory management software, its options for custom packaging, and extremely transparent pricing.
- Fulfillment.com: This 3PL company has a nice network in the US, along with locations in the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, and the UK. It's a great partner for international shipping and getting products on unique sales channels like Newegg and Overstock.com.
- FedEx Logistics: Consider FedEx if you want to simplify your fulfillment with one carrier. This way, you don't have to worry about working with multiple carriers, you can ship anywhere in the world with FedEx, and they offer excellent discounts. Not to mention, your products are stored in the carrier's facilities, potentially cutting down shipping times even more. They also have one of the largest warehouse networks across the globe.
- Rakuten Super Logistics: The Rakuten Super Logistics Program boasts 13 locations. They're all in the US, so most of your customers should reside there. They have extremely fast shipping times and their own low-cost carrier called First Mile.
- Fulfillment by Amazon FBA: This is a tough choice to pass up since Amazon has the most fulfillment centers on this list (although FedEx probably beats them out in terms of worldwide facilities). Go with Amazon if you want super fast shipping, affordable fulfillment, and the brand recognition of Amazon. On the downside, all of your products go out in Amazon boxes. Also, some business owners simply don't want to partner with such a giant in the ecommerce space.
Top 3PL Companies to Choose From
ShipBob is our favorite 3PL company for several reasons. First of all, it offers a solid software system for managing inventory and orders, while also syncing with your online store for notifying ShipBob of your orders and keeping tabs on the logistics management process. The company also has several partnerships with shipping couriers, allowing you to reduce your shipping fees. On top of that, you're able to bring down costs for warehousing and enjoy a lower cart abandonment rate with help from the ShipBob software.
Overall, the ShipBob logistics process works by connecting to your online store, accepting truckloads of your products to store in its network of fulfillment centers, then shipping out products when orders come in through your integrated shop. It's an end-to-end fulfillment solution with centers in several locations, affordable 2-day shipping, and pricing that's both affordable and easy to understand. The vast majority of its shipping centers are located in the US and Canada, but it also has warehouses in Ireland and the UK for access to European customers.
Along with top-notch customer support, options to scale up your business, and price listings on its website, the ShipBob 3PL fulfillment solution looks like a winner for a wide range of stores, from small to large.
You can build your own integration with ShipBob's developer-friendly REST API. This means you can integrate just about any ecommerce platform or business software into the workflow used by ShipBob.
In addition to that, ShipBob has prebuilt integrations for the following ecommerce platforms and apps:
- Cart Rover
- Happy Returns
- Many more…
ShipBob has a strong network of fulfillment centers in the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the UK. Its headquarters is in Chicago, IL, along with one of its busiest fulfillment centers.
Some other locations include:
- Woodridge, Illinois
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
- Grapevine, Texas
- Ontario, California
- Chattanooga, Tennessee
- Budd Lake, New Jersey
- Louisville, Kentucky
- Phoenix, Arizona
- Kilkenny, Ireland
- Ottawa, Canada
- Feltham, UK
- Melbourne, Australia
And that's just a portion of the warehouses from ShipBob. You can view all the locations here.
As you can see, ShipBob covers the entire United States with locations in the Midwest, on the East Coast, and on the West Coast. There are also locations in Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Australia for sending to customers in those countries and the regions around them.
Notable Features and Offerings
- A vast network of warehouses and fulfillment centers for storing your products near your customers. This means you can spread out the inventory and try to place products near people who are more likely to buy them. For instance, you may find that one product sells best in the UK. In that case, send a good amount of them to one of the UK ShipBob centers to make for easy shipments to those customers.
- Several integrations with top ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Squarespace. You can also link to your other business software and apps, with options for accounting, marketing, shipping, and more.
- Steep discounts from the major shipping providers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx. ShipBob also provides integrations with all of those couriers to ensure your store is synced with those interfaces.
- Options to sell on third-party marketplaces and other channels like Walmart's website, Amazon, and eBay.
- A sleek inventory and freight management software that works on mobile devices, and allows you to view inventory, manage where you place it, and understand how well the logistics process is going.
- A 2-day express shipping program to give your customers the option to receive their products in the fastest time possible. In general, ShipBob provides rapid shipping, but this is an extra bonus, even if you charge extra for that type of speed.
- Reporting and analytics tools to view transportation insights about shipping costs, days in transit for shipments, costs per order, and more. You can access the analytics from your mobile device or integrate it with your ecommerce platform for viewing in one spot.
- A customer experience program for making your customers feel special every step of the way. For instance, you can create custom boxes and send them out through ShipBob, or even consider placing distinctive labels or notes inside your packaging. ShipBob offers excellent options for return management, tracking, and shipping label printing.
The shipping times depend on your carrier, but ShipBob provides estimates for you to communicate these times to your customers and know how long it will take so you can advertise that.
The expedited shipping time is 2 days, but it's also possible to get products to customers in 1 day depending on your carrier and the shipping zone.
Other than that, you should expect 3-7 business days for standard carrier options, and 7-30 business days when shipping internationally. The priority and expedited shipping options start at 2 days and go from 4-12 business days for international logistics and shipments.
Pricing and Fees
As with all of the top 3PL companies, it's impossible to get a complete view of the fees you'll have to pay until you speak with a sales representative. After all, you have to figure out things like how many products you plan to store, where you're shipping, and what packaging materials are required.
However, ShipBob does a great job of giving a rough starting point to guide your pricing research:
- Receiving: $25 for the first two hours. It's $40 per man hour after those initial two hours.
- Storage: A monthly fee of $40 per pallet per month. Other fees include $10 per shelf per month and $5 per bin per month.
- Pick and pack fees: Completely free for the initial four picks on all orders. After that, it's $0.20 for every pick.
- Standard packing: Free if you plan to use plain boxes, dunnage, and tape. There's an extra fee for customizing the packaging materials.
- Shipping: This all depends on elements like the dimensions, shipping service, destination, and weight.
After checking out these rough price estimates, we recommend going to the ShipBob website to request a quote for your unique requirements.
The Shopify Fulfillment program ties into the Shopify ecommerce platform, meaning that you can only opt to use it as a 3PL partner if you're selling your products through Shopify. Having said that, it's a reputable company that's growing at an incredible rate. Shopify Fulfillment has a system where the merchant sends all products to the Shopify Fulfillment warehouses. After that, Shopify picks, packs, and sends out all orders that come in through your Shopify website. As you may have assumed, this means that Shopify Fulfillment doesn't have any integrations with other platforms like WooCommerce or Bigcommerce. That's somewhat of a downside, but if you're already using Shopify then it shouldn't matter much.
From a logistical perspective, we like that Shopify Fulfillment offers a large network of locations. It's also great that it syncs with Shopify since all of your analytics, transportation management, and order routing gets logged in the Shopify dashboard, helping you work from one dashboard location and cutting out any questions you may have about integration problems. In short, it's all perfectly combined into the Shopify ecommerce platform since Shopify is one of the best options for that in the first place. Other than that, you can expect bonuses like custom branding, order management, smart technology for the fulfillment, and data control, making Shopify Fulfillment one of our top 3PL companies. But again, we only recommend it for current or future Shopify users.
Since Shopify has its own ecommerce platform, you can't integrate Shopify Fulfillment with any other website building tool or ecommerce platform. That's not a huge problem for Shopify users, but there's no reason to look into Shopify Fulfillment if you're utilizing a platform like Bigcommerce or WooCommerce.
Other than that, Shopify Fulfillment integrates right into the Shopify dashboard for an effective order and inventory management configuration. Not to mention, you gain access to the thousands of apps in the Shopify App Store, with options for accounting, marketing, sourcing, and more.
The Shopify Fulfillment centers are only located in the United States and Canada.
The list seems to grow from time to time, but as of this article, Shopify Fulfillment offers fulfillment centers in these locations:
- New Jersey
- Ontario, Canada
Therefore, Shopify Fulfillment mainly looks like a solid choice if you plan on shipping to customers in the US, Canada, and some surrounding countries like Mexico or even parts of South America. You can still ship internationally, but the shipping times will end up much slower if you were to send to Europe or Asia or somewhere else far away.
Notable Features and Offerings
- A decent collection of fulfillment centers in the US and Canada. This means you can store your products anywhere throughout the US and use the technology provided by Shopify to understand the best distribution of products across the country.
- Inventory and order management stored in the Shopify dashboard. This saves you time by handling all aspects of your business in one place, and it also improves your workflow with the sleek integration with your order management software and the fulfillment company.
- Complete control over the data that comes in from your sales, allowing you to make informed decisions in the future. The data you control monitors things like sales, inventory, and customer growth.
- Selling through your Shopify website and a wide variety of other channels such as a POS (point of sale), Amazon, eBay, and more. It's also possible to sell and advertise through social channels like Facebook and Instagram.
- Smart tech for adjusting where you store and how you distribute inventory across the Shopify Fulfillment network. It takes most of the guesswork out of the equation since Shopify Fulfillment tells you exactly where to store your products. For example, putting some items in Kentucky (since maybe these particular products sell well in that area) makes the most sense. You wouldn't have to figure that out for yourself. Shopify does the analysis for you.
- Solid customer support, online resources, and plenty of online forums and blog posts talking about Shopify. You receive general Shopify support along with dedicated support to get your business onboarded with the fulfillment program and confident about your logistics solutions.
- Support for unique selling and fulfillment processes like for wholesale, flash sales, B2B sales, and more.
Shipping speeds from Shopify Fulfillment vary based on the shipping carrier used. However, you should expect fast, 2-day shipping options and 3-5 day shipping times for standard packages. You get to customize the pricing rules and which carrier you go with, so it seems like a fairly flexible situation where you can offer whatever you want.
Pricing and Fees
Fees depend on your type of store, how much product you plan on selling, and many other factors like shipping speeds and the weight of the products going out.
We do very much so enjoy that Shopify Fulfillment fees are logged in with your regular Shopify invoices, helping you get a clear picture of your expenses overall.
Shopify doesn't list any specific pricing for its fulfillment service, but it does tell you what you should expect to be charged for:
- Picking and packing: A daily charge based on your volume.
- Packing supplies: Daily charges depending on which packaging materials you choose and how many products go out.
- Transportation solutions: Daily fees for whenever you use Shopify for moving your products.
- Storage: Monthly fees that change based on storage rate, number of cubic feet used, and other metrics.
- Special Project: Monthly fee for anything you ask of Shopify Fulfillment that isn't included in the standard pick and pack fee.
You can also set up a pricing plan for wholesale orders.
Red Stag Fulfillment provides ecommerce fulfillment 3PL services and general order fulfillment from two warehouses in the United States. It's a smaller company and network than the ones already mentioned, but that also means you can partner with a dedicated team of people who are focusing more on your business and its success. Some of the benefits of going with Red Stag Fulfillment include the fact that you can offer same-day shipping to all of your customers, even if that means you need to ask for an extra payment from the customers. Red Stag Fulfillment also supports special fulfillment needs like subscription boxes, crowdfunded projects, and marketplace selling. Furthermore, you gain access to several impressive discounted shipping rates since Red Stag Fulfillment partners with the most popular carriers like UPS and USPS.
Red Stag Fulfillment offers a proprietary cloud-based dashboard for managing your entire inventory and order management process. You can also integrate just about any type of software into the system as long as you're willing to tap into the API.
The built-in integrations include options like Netsuite, Newegg, Opencart, OS Commerce, PayPal, PrestaShop, Rakuten, Shopify, Volusion, ShipStation, and many more.
Red Stag Fulfillment offers two warehouse and fulfillment locations: Salt Lake City, UT, and Knoxville, TN.
That may not sound like enough warehouses when compared to the other top 3PL companies on this list, but when you look at their locations it becomes clear that they're strategically placed to service the entire United States. In fact, Red Stag states that more than 99% of Americans receive their products in 1-2 days when shipped with the fulfillment company. We're assuming the extra 1% is referring to Hawaii and Alaska since those probably take longer.
Overall, the Salt Lake City warehouse has direct access to all of the West Coast, some of the northern states like Montana and Wyoming, and even South and Southwestern states like Texas and New Mexico. That covers about half of the country with just one warehouse. And when you look at Knoxville, TN, they would have no problem providing rapid shipping to the entire Southeast, the Northeast coast, and the Midwest, with states like Illinois and Wisconsin. Therefore, Red Stag has the whole United States covered for quick fulfillment and shipping, making it an efficient, reputable fulfillment solution, especially if you'd rather opt for a smaller company that will probably give you better customer service than ShipBob, Amazon, or Shopify.
Having said that, it's clear Red Stag is primarily meant for fulfillment in the US. That's not to say that Red Stag can't send products internationally, but it would take much longer than some of the alternatives that offer warehouses and fulfillment centers in other countries. Therefore, it makes sense to consider Red Stag if the majority of your customers are in the US, or if you plan on partnering with an international fulfillment company in addition to Red Stag.
Other than that, Red Stag fulfillment provides fulfillment services for Amazon orders and purchases that come in through other marketplaces like eBay. But again, these marketplace sales should really only go through Red Stag if the customers are located in the United States, or at least a country nearby like Canada or Mexico.
Notable Features and Offerings
- Options for same-day shipping all over the United States. Almost 100% of United States addresses can opt for 1-2 day shipping, along with other options depending on what type of shipping you want to offer.
- Kitting and subscription fulfillment services for things like multi-product bundles and subscription boxes that go out to customers on a monthly basis.
- A cloud-based warehouse management software for syncing your orders and seeing all logistics as they happen.
- Dropshipping support for storing a limited number of products from a supplier and only having them shipped out on-demand.
- Rapid onboarding to shift you from another fulfillment company and into the Red Stag ecosystem.
- Inventory and order monitoring tools, all of which are located on a web-based interface for easy access.
- Return processing where the customer sends the unwanted items back to Red Stag instead of your office or home. Red Stag has options to give your customers prepaid shipping labels. They also collect the returns and place them back on the shelves for later shipments.
- A promise to minimize or almost eliminate what's called “inventory shrinkage,” which is essentially the fulfillment company saying they're allowed to damage or lose a certain percentage of your inventory due to standard operational mistakes. Red Stag doesn't have an “inventory shrinkage” clause in its contract so they seem to actually take responsibility for anything they lose or damage.
- A completely automated order fulfillment process where a customer purchases from your store, then Red Stag is notified and initiates the entire picking, packing, and shipping process.
- A top-notch customer support team that's more helpful than some of the other top 3PL companies like Amazon FBA or Shopify.
- Demand planning to ensure your company always has the right number of products in the warehouse before a surge in sales.
- An excellent packaging process to improve consolidation (sending smaller, more efficient packages,) optimize for costs savings, and allow for custom packaging when necessary.
- Shipment and tracking notifications sent to the customers and your business.
- Integrations with top ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Volusion. Other integrations include software like Netsuite and marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
- Omnichannel fulfillment support for options like Cratejoy, Etsy, and Groupon, with no hidden fees, low storage fees, and a direct sync process for them to see what products have been sold and need fulfilling.
Red Stag has the option for you to offer 1-day shipping to customers, along with 1-2 day standard shipping depending on the mail carrier you choose. That quick shipping time works as long as the customer makes an order before 5 PM (we're assuming that's using the local time for the nearest warehouse).
You can choose from USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Since Red Stag primarily ships within the United States, they don't say much about sending products overseas and how long that takes. The speed of your shipments usually makes them more expensive, but it's also dependent on how far the product has to travel. Overall, you're able to provide transparent shipping speeds and costs right on your website. This is made possible by integrating with real-time carrier shipment calculators in your store.
Again, the fastest shipping you can achieve with Red Stag is overnight shipping, with another fast option being 1-2 day shipping. However, that's entirely dependant on the type of product, when it gets ordered, and where it's going. Weekend orders also slow down the process a bit. But the most important factor that comes into play for shipping times is the carrier.
For example, standard USPS shipping usually takes around 2-8 business days. UPS and FedEx can be faster, but that's also dependant on where the product is going. In addition, all of these carriers have speedy shipping options if the customer (or your business) wants to pay for them. Overall, you pretty much have all the required options available from Red Stag.
Pricing and Fees
As with most of the top 3PL companies, pricing and fees are customized based on your operation, but Red Stag still provides some guidance as to what you should expect when dealing with them.
For instance, you can look at the standard shipping rates for carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx and learn how to calculate shipping costs for your business on the Red Stag website.
Red Stag requires you to contact a sales rep and figure out the best pricing plan for your online shop, but they also provide initial guidance as to the standard fees when using them for fulfillment.
For what does Red Stag charge fees?
- Receiving and transportation services: This includes bringing inventory into the warehouse. Unlike many top 3PL companies, Red Stag doesn't charge a base intake fee. Instead, the company charges per pallet of incoming inventory. They also enter the products into inventory and move them to shelves without requiring an extra fee from you.
- Special storage: You may not have to pay special storage fees at all. It depends on the types of products being stocked. For example, assembly and kitting cost extra. The same can be said for items that require hand unloading instead of the simpler method of pallets. Red Stag also charges extra for special storage requirements like items that are hazardous or require cold storage or extra protection.
- Warehousing: This fee includes the shelf space you use at the Red Stag facilities. Instead of charging per cubic foot, Red Stag makes it simpler and usually cheaper by setting a monthly fee for all of its customers. Again, some specialty warehousing fees may be required for perishable food (cold chain supply chain), lithium-ion batteries, and oversized products.
- Picking and packing: This process involves Red Stag workers finding and grabbing your products from the shelves, packaging them with the right materials, then sending them out to the customer. For this, Red Stag charges a flat rate per order. It's an improvement of what most other fulfillment companies do, where there's a fee for the initial pick and a smaller fee for all picks after that in each order. Finally, Red Stag already ties the cost of packaging materials into the pick and pack fees.
- Shipping: As mentioned earlier, shipping fees vary based on a wide range of factors. However, there are still costs you must consider when choosing a fulfillment company. The good news is that Red Stag has partnerships with all major carriers to get you steep discounts with the likes of USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Other factors that play into shipping costs include product weight, product dimensions, the fragility of the items, shipping zones, and which carrier is used.
- Returns: Red Stag manages all return processing for you. Therefore, the return processing fees get included in your initial fulfillment costs. This covers everything from accepting the items, checking them for damage, and putting them back on the shelves.
ShipMonk offers a complete order fulfillment and shipment scaling solution for ecommerce businesses of all sizes, making it one of the top 3PL companies to consider. What's great about ShipMonk is that it provides wonderful software for managing your inventory, monitoring where it goes, and choosing the best storage solutions. Not only that, but you can integrate with a wide range of marketplaces and sales channels to sell to multiple types of customers online.
Overall, ShipMonk combines order management software, shipping software, inventory management software, warehouse management, and packaging suppliers (and many other elements) into one useful software and logistics operation. It's a 4-in-1 cloud-based software that places your products in inventory, shifts them to the order queue, then ships them out when needed. There's also the added benefit of managing your warehousing and helping you deal with forwarders and expeditors. Some other benefits of ShipMonk include the multiple warehouse locations in the US, along with one coming soon in Europe. You also receive excellent shipping discounts, top-notch customer support, and the one-click integration process that allows you to configure fulfillment for your store in a matter of minutes. Not to mention, ShipMonk nicely outlines its pricing on its website so there aren't any surprises when you get started.
As one of our top 3PL companies, ShipMonk integrates like a champ. Just about all of the major shopping carts and ecommerce platforms come supported by ShipMonk. There are dozens of ecommerce platform integrations to choose from, all of which have one-click setups. Some of them include Shopify, 3dcart, WooCommerce, and Volusion.
Some of the more popular marketplace integrations from ShipMonk include eBay, Bonanza, Groupon, Etsy, and Cratejoy. You can even tap into marketplaces like Reverb, Sears, and OpenSky.
One unique part of ShipMonk is that it integrates with physical retailers that sell online as well. You can sell your products on the Best Buy website or tap into other marketplace retailers like Target, QVC, or TJ Maxx.
We also like the integrations with third-party software and solution providers like Salesforce, Stripe, and Tradegecko. These are essential for combining your fulfillment process with whatever current workings you have going on in your business.
Finally, ShipMonk integrates with common ecommerce apps and tools like Returnly, ShipStation, and Skubana.
What's more, is that you can contact ShipMonk if you don't see a tool on the list of integrations. That sends your integrations request into the ShipMonk developers and brings up the potential for seeing that integration in the future. It's also possible they could give you a workaround for integrating a special tool or maybe even tap into the API.
As of this article, ShipMonk has a solid network of US-based warehouses in the following locations:
- Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Los Angeles, CA
- Pittston, PA
ShipMonk also has plans to open two new warehouses in the near future (stated as 2021 on the ShipMonk website). They have a Texas warehouse and fulfillment center in the works along with one in Europe (the exact city isn't mentioned) for shipping to customers outside of the US.
So, right now, ShipMonk looks like one of the top 3PL companies for shipping inside the United States, seeing as how it reaches customers on the East Coast and Midwest with the Pennsylvania and Florida locations, and you can get products to the South, West and North parts of the US with the warehouses in California and Florida.
The Texas warehouse should open up some flexibility with those Southern states.
Notable Features and Offerings
- Direct integrations to the most popular ecommerce platforms, third-party marketplace sales channels, and ecommerce software.
- Custom packaging options and predefined packing guidelines for adding special items to your boxes or including branding.
- A combination of the major carriers like FedEx, DHL, UPS, and USPS. ShipMonk automatically calculates the best shipping speed and rate for each customer.
- Automated email messaging for shipments, along with tracking numbers to keep your customers updated.
- A 4-in-1 cloud-based software that includes robust fulfillment control modules for inventory, order, shipping, and warehouse management.
- Discounted shipping rates for all of the major carriers.
- Direct customer support through the phone, live chat, or email.
- FBA prep services and seller fulfilled Prime service.
- Fulfillment services for unique ecommerce companies that either send out subscription boxes or utilize crowdfunding techniques.
- A Delivery Duty Paid tool that allows you to sell internationally and collect payments for shipping, duties, and taxes in one area in the shopping cart. This could help out with customs brokerage situations, too.
- Picking and packing for up to 10,000 orders per day (custom pricing available if you need more). ShipMonk also supports smaller businesses, even if that means you're only sending out one order per day. However, there is a minimum monthly pick and pack fee of $250 per month, so you would want to meet that.
- An intelligent storage system that decides the best place to put your products, decreasing costs in the long run.
- A complete return management software and service for customers to make exchanges and send back their products. The returns management process involves ShipMonk accepting the items, checking them for problems, and restocking them on the shelves.
The fastest possible shipping time through ShipMonk is overnight shipping. Your customers can also opt for 1-3 shipping with USPS, 1-5 day shipping with FedEx, and 1-3 day shipping with UPS.
ShipMonk uses an automated algorithm to figure out the cheapest, fastest method for each package sent to your customers. So, the shipping times depend on which carrier gets selected, the product sent, and the location of the customer.
Having said that, ShipMonk has some general estimates from the usual carriers:
- USPS: 1-4 days for First Class Mail, 1-3 with Priority Mail Express, and 5-14 days for international (depending on which method is chosen).
- FedEx: Usually 1-5 days, but 1-7 days for some methods. There's an overnight option for a 1 day delivery and a Priority International speed with 2-4 day shipping overseas.
- DHL: 2-7 for domestic shipments. 6-30 days for international packages.
- UPS: ShipMonk doesn't have its UPS shipping speeds listed, but they're similar to FedEx with an overnight option and domestic shipping from 1-5 days.
Pricing and Fees
One of the standout advantages of ShipMonk is that the company offers a Pricing Calculator to give you a far more accurate idea of your potential costs for transport services and storage when compared to other top 3PL companies. You'll eventually have to speak with a ShipMonk representative, but the pricing shouldn't change much from what you see on the calculator.
Here are some examples of what to expect with ShipMonk pricing:
For Ecommerce Fulfillment
- 0-500 monthly orders: $2.50 for picking the first item and $0.50 for all additional items in each order. It's $0.20 for promotional inserts and $2 + $0.50/additional item for return processing.
- 501-1,000 orders per month: $2.25 to pick the first item and $0.50 for every additional item in the order. It's $0.20 for promotional inserts and $2 + $0.50/additional item for return processing.
- 1,001-2,500 monthly orders: $2 to pick the first item per order and $0.40 for additional items in the order. The promo inserts and return processing have the same pricing as before.
As you can see, general fulfillment pricing for ecommerce stores gets cheaper per order as you sell more per month. However, the promotional inserts are always the same price, as is the return processing. You can go up to 10,000 orders per month. Anything above that requires custom pricing.
After that you must factor in your storage pricing:
- $1 per month for all small bins used.
- $2 per month for medium bins.
- $3 per month for large bins.
- $4 per month for XL bins.
- $20 per month for all pallets.
You also may have to pay some one-off costs based on your operation:
- Special projects: $45 per man-hour.
- Container unloading: $300 for 20′ containers and $500 for 40′ containers.
- There's a minimum pick and pack fee of $250 per month.
- Packaging materials: $0.15-$2.00.
Finally, unique ecommerce stores like subscription box companies and physical retailers have different pricing:
- Subscription boxes: There are fees for box assembly and kitting instead of the standard fulfillment costs.
- Retail: You can expect fees for pick-ups, wholesale, and special requirements.
- FBA Prep: There are pick-up fees and costs based on how many units you need to be prepped and how long it takes to prepare a single unit. They calculate this prep time by the second.
You get all of the following fulfillment services and features for free when going with ShipMonk:
- Freight forwarding and management
- Claims management
- International order processing
- Order and inventory management software
- Address validation
- Receiving photos
- Customer support
- Unlimited integrations
- Discounted shipping rates
Fulfillment.com boasts a worldwide logistics network and support for high-volume merchants scaling into new markets. This is one of the top 3PL companies to choose from due to its low cost and fast deliveries. Fulfillment.com provides a 2-day delivery window for most US customers, along with a wide variety of choices when sending products elsewhere around the world. Its fulfillment network spans the US, Canada, the UK, Europe, and Australia, opening up potential markets for your business regardless of where you're located. Everything from picking to packing, and tracking to returning is handled through Fulfillment.com and its high-powered fulfillment software.
Fulfillment.com has a solid collection of integrations for ecommerce platforms, marketplaces, enterprise resource planning software, and electronic data interchange software.
Here's a small fraction of what integrates with Fulfillment.com:
- SPS Commerce
Fulfillment.com manages 8 fulfillment center locations, all of which are strategically placed to cover the most amount of customers worldwide.
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Kansas City, MO
- Breinigsville, PA
- Savannah, GA
- Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
- Birmingham, UK
- Haelen, Netherlands
- Melbourne, Australia
With this network, your company has access to every part of the United States; only Alaska and Hawaii may take a little longer for shipments. There's also potential for fast shipping to Canadian, British, Dutch, and Australian customers. When compared to other top 3PL companies, this network looks rather expansive for reaching all customers.
Notable Features and Offerings
- Support for fulfilling orders and sending to customers all over the world with the Fulfillment.com warehouse network. You have access to warehouses in the US, Canada, Australia, and more.
- Proprietary software for order management, inventory control, warehouse decisions, and more.
- Solid customer service through the phone, live chat, or email.
- Quick integrations with the most popular ecommerce platforms, marketplaces, and enterprise resource planning software.
- A dedicated success manager who helps you with onboarding, integrates your shopping cart, and gives you a software dashboard tutorial.
- Efficient storage and shipping practices with help from a 5-point process to move your products from your supplier to the warehouse and eventually to the customer.
- Inventory tracking on your phone and software.
- Address verification to ensure timely delivery and minimize fraud and lost packages.
- Protective packaging to preserve what's going out to customers.
- A backorder management module for predicting depletion times and telling you when you need to increase inventory counts.
- An automated tool for choosing the lowest cost, fastest carrier for each shipment.
Shipping times are based entirely on the carrier. Fulfillment.com partners with UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL, and the local carriers in places like the UK, Canada, and Australia. You can find the standard shipping speeds for all of those on their websites. In short, it's possible for customers to choose overnight shipping or something a little longer like 1-4 days.
Fulfillment.com typically gets each package to the carrier within 24 hours.
Pricing and Fees
Fulfillment.com doesn't show any pricing schedule on its website. In fact, there's no set pricing schedule at all. This is a good thing because you get truly customized pricing based on your carrier choices, order counts, warehousing, and products being sent. However, it's difficult to make a direct comparison to another service like ShipMonk where you can see all the pricing ready to go online.
Therefore, we recommend contacting Fulfillment.com for a free quote.
FedEx Logistics is an interesting choice from our list of top 3PL companies since it has some limitations but many advantages. First off, you're stuck with one carrier: FedEx. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes it's nice to at least compare pricing with the likes of USPS and UPS. However, exclusively going with the FedEx Logistics program means you'll receive some of the steepest discounts possible in the shipping game. Not to mention, FedEx is known for its rapid shipping speeds, along with its ability to ship fast anywhere in the world. That way, you can get around some of the more limited regional carriers like USPS, DSV, Kuehne + Nagel, or Canada Post.
Furthermore, FedEx Logistics opens up the opportunity for you to store your products with the carrier itself. There's no need for some fulfillment company to send it off to UPS or FedEx since your products are already in a FedEx warehouse. Finally, choosing FedEx Logistics means you only have to mess with one carrier. That cuts down on the complexities of managing three or four carriers, eliminates multiple carrier dashboards, and keeps your mind at ease since you know exactly how the shipping process works.
FedEx Logistics has its own fulfillment platform software for managing orders, tracking shipments, and linking to ecommerce platforms and sales channels.
Some of the integrations include:
Not to mention, FedEx Logistics is compatible with just about every ecommerce platform and business software due to its open API. Therefore, you can integrate your website or software by speaking with a developer.
The primary advantage of FedEx Logistics comes along with its already expansive network of warehouses, fulfillment centers, and shipping facilities. This intermodal network is scattered all over the world and combines well with the massive fleet of shippers, boats, air freight planes, trucking, and automotive vehicles under the FedEx name.
FedEx has 17 distribution centers in North America, including ones in NY, GA, TX, IL, MI, CA, and Ontario.
The global logistics network expands to many other regions such as Europe, Asia, Africa, India, and Latin America. It's truly one of the top 3PL companies if you're planning on shipping globally.
Notable Features and Offerings
- A huge network of fulfillment and distribution service centers on most continents.
- Options for packaging, kitting, and customization of all packages.
- Return management for accepting packages, checking them for problems, and putting them back on shelves.
- Several ecommerce platform and marketplace integrations for selling through multiple sales channels.
- Additional reverse logistics tools for recalls, disposition, returns, unsaleables, and liquidation.
- Automated shipment optimization to find the best speeds and shipment methods for all customers.
- A complete fulfillment software for managing orders, controlling inventory, and checking on warehousing.
- A decent customer support team that's accessible via email and over the phone.
- Order tracking that gets sent out to all of your customers.
- A versatile API for connecting your business software or alternative ecommerce platform with the FedEx Logistics software.
- Options for configuring and packaging electronics.
Storing your products at FedEx facilities has the potential for speeding up your fulfillment times even more; this is because your products are already sitting at a warehouse managed by the carrier.
As for the shipping speeds, you can expect the standard FedEx delivery times:
- SmartPost: 3-7 days.
- Ground Commercial: 1-5 days.
- Ground Home Delivery: 1-5 days.
- Express Saver: 3 days.
- Direct 2 Day.
- Overnight: 1 day.
- International Priority: 2-4 days.
Pricing and Fees
FedEx Logistics doesn't have a set pricing schedule. Instead, you must contact a sales representative to figure out pricing for your own company.
Rakuten is a well-known online marketplace similar to that of Amazon or eBay. It's also one of the top 3PL companies with a warehousing and fulfillment service; that service is called Rakuten Super Logistics.
The fulfillment company boasts same-day shipping, a 1-2 day shipping speed by using US Ground, and a US-based customer service team through email and the phone. Its shipping carriers include UPS, USPS, FedEx, DHL, and its own expedited carrier called First Mile. Overall, Rakuten Super Logistics looks like a wonderful choice for those interested in shipping internationally, gaining rapid shipping speeds in the US, and cutting costs with the specialized Xparcel shipping option only provided through Rakuten Super Logistics.
It's fairly simple to integrate Rakuten Super Logistics with shipping partners, ecommerce platforms, and other software partners.
Some of our favorite integrations include:
- Rakuten Slice
- Rakuten Marketing
Rakuten Super Logistics covers the entire United States with 13 locations. As one of the top 3PL companies, they also offer fast shipping to other countries, even when sent from the US.
- Reno, NV
- Anaheim, CA
- Las Vegas, NV
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Denver, CO
- Austin, TX
- Houston, TX
- Chicago, IL
- Atlanta, GA
- Scranton, PA
- Olean, NY
- Carlstadt, NJ
- Miami, FL
Notable Features and Offerings
- Support for not only the major carriers but Rakuten's own low-cost carrier called First Mile.
- Rapid order fulfillment and return management.
- Kitting for all bundled or box-type products.
- Additional services for things like climate control, lot tracking, and project-based services.
- Very economical solutions for sending freight.
- A large network of fulfillment facilities scattered all over the United States.
- Integrations with the most popular ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Volusion, and Bigcommerce.
- A 2-day delivery network with a 99.9% order accuracy guarantee.
- Solid discounts for all major carriers.
Rakuten Super Logistics offers an automated solution for selecting the fastest, cheapest way to ship a product. The company also provides a 2-day delivery network with options to get products fulfilled and in customer's hands within those 2 days (sometimes faster).
Pricing and Fees
You must request a quote in order to obtain shipping for your unique shipping situation.
There are some elements to consider when looking at Rakuten Super Logistics when compared to other top 3PL companies:
- Rakuten Super Logistics has steep discounts for all carriers and because it cuts costs with such a large warehouse network.
- Your shipping fees are often less expensive since warehouses are usually closer to the customers.
- Rakuten Super Logistics has a carrier called First Mile, along with an Xparcel program, that significantly reduces your shipping costs for certain products.
- The main costs include fees for storage space, picking, packing, and materials.
The Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) program gets used on a regular basis by merchants selling through Amazon. It's an incredibly inexpensive and efficient way to fulfill your products when accepting orders through the popular marketplace. However, it's also possible to utilize Fulfillment by Amazon if you're not listing your products on Amazon, making it one of our top 3PL companies. The FBA program allows you to store products and have them picked, packed, and shipped to customers, all without the usual Amazon branding we all know.
Fulfillment by Amazon does a solid job of integrating with most ecommerce platforms if you work with the Amazon API. There are also some integrations for popular platforms like Bigcommerce and Shopify.
In general, you have to check with your ecommerce platform to figure out if it has an integration with Fulfillment by Amazon. Otherwise, you can usually speak with a developer, or use a tool like Zapier, to form a connection between your platform and the fulfillment service.
Here's the major upside of the Fulfillment by Amazon service. It has more fulfillment centers than even the FedEx Logistics program.
Amazon is constantly growing, too. Right now, Amazon has 110 fulfillment centers around the US and 185 global centers. The countries with Amazon centers include the US, Canada, UK, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic. You can expect to see those numbers grow in the near future.
Notable Features and Offerings
- Your customers gain access to the tried-and-true Amazon returns system which is usually free and painless when dropping off returns at Amazon, UPS, and Kohl's locations.
- You get to take advantage of the rapid US and global shipping by using over 300 warehouse locations.
- It's a trusted brand that your customers are familiar with. They'll feel comfortable seeing the boxes and completing returns without any problems.
- The fulfillment costs are all consolidated into one fee for picking, packing, and shipping.
- Many of your products get sent out with the Amazon carrier, so you're storing your products with the actual carrier and not having to wait for them to get to UPS or USPS.
- You can tell people that your products are fulfilled by Amazon on your website, giving them an idea of how fast your shipping really is.
- All of your products are sent out in Amazon packaging. This has pros and cons, but we should see more custom packaging in the future.
- Quality customer support through email, phone, and live chat.
- Potential for sending out products using the free, two-day shipping from Amazon.
All products fulfilled through FBA are eligible for free two-day shipping. This is usually only available for Amazon Prime customers, so this option isn't always possible if you're only trying to fulfill products sold through your own website.
Having said that, Amazon is known for its own carrier service (which has two-day shipping), and its partnerships with major carriers like UPS and USPS. Therefore, you still receive options for 1-5 day shipping with those. Overall, shipping times from Amazon are unrivaled, making it one of the top 3PL companies for fast shipping.
Pricing and Fees
Amazon has a very specific pricing schedule for FBA fulfillment listed here. Fulfillment fees start at $3.99 per unit. Storage fees start at $0.75 per cubic foot.
You can expect the pricing to fluctuate based on shipping weight, fee category, product size, and product type. They have several estimates and calculations for specific product fulfillment on that page. For instance, a small standard-sized product has a usual fulfillment fee of around $2.70, whereas an oversized object could cost about $76 to fulfill.
Amazon Fulfillment fees are pay-as-you-go; you're charged for storage space, and there may be fees for selling on Amazon and optional services.
Some other potential fees include:
- Removal order fees
- Returns processing fees
- Unplanned services fees
- Long-term storage fees
What is 3PL Fulfillment?
3PL (or 3rd party logistics) refers to a method of ecommerce fulfillment. It works where the merchant or website owner partners with a third-party logistics service to store, package, and ship its products. Self-fulfillment, on the other hand, involves the merchant storing its own products at home, an office, or their own warehouses. In addition, self-fulfillment requires the merchant to package and ship the products to customers. Therefore, the 3rd party logistics method outsources the logistics part of ecommerce in order to cut down on its laborforce, money spent in that category, and its need to manage things like warehouses, packing materials, and inventory in general.
Although it depends on the situation, partnering with one of the top 3PL companies results in the following pros and cons:
- Fewer expenses for the merchant when it comes to labor, warehousing, packaging materials, and shipping.
- Less time spent on inventory management.
- The merchant still maintains a significant amount of quality control.
- The merchant can still buy products at wholesale prices in order to decrease costs and increase profit margins.
- Top 3PL companies often charge per month (based on the space required and how much you sell), often making it more affordable than handling logistics in-house.
- Tracking codes and messages sent to all customers and your business.
- Some control over the process is lost, seeing as how the merchant doesn't have complete oversight over the packaging process. For instance, the merchant may want to put special paper inserts in the boxes. A reputable 3PL company will do this for you, but there's no guarantee that it happens.
- There's always the potential for an extra expense like this to cut into your profits, even though you save on things like warehousing and labor.
- You sometimes have to manage multiple carrier dashboards if you want to use them all.
Overall, 3PL fulfillment is becoming more and more common as a means to store products and ship them to customers. After all, even if the monetary expense were the same as managing your own warehouse (which is usually more expensive anyway) you're saving time to focus on other parts of your business. Not only that, but top 3PL companies are likely more efficient at completing these tasks than the merchant would ever be, considering those companies handle this type of work on a regular basis.
We mentioned the differences between 3PL and self-fulfillment, but there's also another ecommerce fulfillment method: dropshipping. The dropshipping model is newer than both 3PL and self-fulfillment but has characteristics of each. Dropshipping cuts out the middleman completely and works where the merchant partners with the supplier or manufacturer. In turn, the supplier or manufacturer stores and ships the products on-demand, as the orders come in through your website. 3PL has advantages over dropshipping like giving the merchant far more quality control, since merchants hardly even see the products when dropshipping. In addition, the profit margins are larger with 3PL, you can focus on more custom products, and it's easier to manage returns. Dropshipping has its advantages, however, since it allows merchants to eliminate holding any inventory whatsoever. They also don't have to send the products to a 3PL company or pay a 3PL for that matter.
Overall, 3PL stands as the middle ground between self-fulfillment and dropshipping. It's definitely the most trendy form of ecommerce fulfillment right now, and that's because the store owner has a significant amount of control over the process, can still maintain respectable margins, and cuts down on needless logistics expenses like warehouses and warehouse labor. Not to mention, you can typically eliminate most of the “Cons” from above if you choose one of the top 3PL companies from our list. They're all reputable and affordable.
Read our full definition of third-party logistics fulfillment to gain a better understanding of how it all works.
What to Look for When Choosing from the Top 3PL Companies
So you've made the decision to handle your fulfillment needs through a 3PL provider. What's the next step? You need to find the top 3PL fulfillment company for your needs. Not all of them are the same, and you may find that a traditionally inexpensive provider may actually end up being too pricey based on your requirements. So, we recommend going through our list above to figure out which of the top 3PL companies is right for your business.
But what should you look for in a 3PL company? Take a look at our list below to understand the ideal features and offerings from third-party logistics partners:
- Cost savings: The idea is to eliminate costs such as rent for warehouses, upkeep, and the labor force that goes into shelving, picking, packing, and shipping products in the supply chain. The top 3PL companies offer monthly or yearly subscription-type payment plans that cover all of those essential tasks. The goal is to find a partner that saves you money in the long run. Although even breaking even in the logistical expense arena makes sense (since you save time to focus on other elements of your business) you should attempt to go with a 3PL company where the monthly fee is less than what you would be spending with a self-fulfillment configuration.
- Flexibility and savings on shipping: Our top 3PL companies partner with shipping providers like USPS, UPS, FedEx, and the DHL supply chain service to gain access to savings unavailable to smaller companies. This is possible since the top 3PL companies already send so much volume, making it logical for the shipping providers to cut them deals. Therefore, it's wise to seek out the top 3PL companies that let you pick out the most efficient courier. It's also nice if you can partner with one that gets you steep discounts for shipping rates.
- Fast shipping: In the world of Amazon, 1-5 day shipping is the norm. And customers have come to expect that from all brands they shop from on the internet. Due to this, you want to go with a 3PL company that promises rapid shipping without any difficulties. This doesn't necessarily mean that every package will get to the customer in 2 days, but rather that the customer has the option to select a shipping method that's significantly faster than normal.
- Robust technology: Top 3PL companies provide incredible software for syncing with your online store, managing inventory from mobile devices, and tracking how the shipment process is going. This means you're never in the dark with your inventory and can maintain a sense of control over your logistics. In short, make sure your logistics company has some technological way to tap into your store and show you what's going on behind the scenes. This also means you need support for integrating with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, WooCommerce, or Bigcommerce.
- A large network of locations: Top 3PL companies can claim fast shipping, but that's usually only attainable if they have several warehouse locations. This way, the network of warehouses gets your products closer to customers in the first place. Like for a US company, you can store some of your products on the East Coast and some on the West Coast. Ideally, a Midwestern warehouse is in the mix as well. You want your products as close to your customers as possible, and a network of warehouses is the easiest way to attain that situation.
- Omnichannel support: Want to sell your products outside of your website, like on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy? These marketplaces have specific requirements for shipping, so it's important your logistics company knows how to deal with special orders from those other channels.
- Customization: Not every online store is the same, so it's in your best interest to go with a 3PL provider that's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Look for pricing customizations, different options for storage, multiple warehousing choices, and customizations to the software you use to manage your inventory. You also may need to figure out if your 3PL partner provides support for unique shipping conditions, like crowdfunding operations, subscription boxes, or custom-made products.
- Scalability: Your business is trying to grow, so the 3PL provider should have the ability to help you do that. Does your supply chain management partner plan on expanding into the future with more warehouses or employees? Are you aware of the storage capabilities of that company and how they plan on accommodating your company as it grows in size? These are all elements to think about if you plan on expanding your business in any way.
- Reporting and analytics: This ties into the technology part of the equation, but it's worth mentioning on its own. Essentially, your SPL company needs to offer a comprehensive take on how the logistics process is going for you to make better decisions in the future. You want to see the usual metrics like revenue, margins, and costs, but also more unique data like the average time it takes for packages to get to customers or the fulfillment and storage cost per unit of inventory.
- Quality customer support: Whether this entails receiving a dedicated customer strategy specialist or world-class onboarding, it's always essential to have some people on your team for when you need to speak with someone at the warehouse, figure out what happened to a shipment, or ask questions about how to use the software.
If you have any questions about the top 3PL companies, let us know in the comments section below! In addition, we love hearing from people who have experience with these types of supply chain solutions. If you've worked with the likes of ShipBob, Shopify Fulfillment, or the many other top 3PL companies, drop a few lines in the comments to help others understand the benefits and downsides of each option. We even want to hear if you've worked with logistics companies not on this list, such as GEODIS, Burris Logistics, Hub Group, DB Schenker, or C.H. Robinson.