There are as many third-party logistics providers (3PLs) as there are unique business needs. This can make your search for the best 3PL fulfillment company feel daunting, especially when you consider all the ways that logistics companies can impact your business.
You can make the process easier by focusing on the top third party logistics companies who work with your industry, business size, and specific shipping requirements. Not sure where to find them? We’ve got you covered with this guide to the best 3PL fulfillment companies in 2023.
You’ll notice that the guide is grouped by specialty and detailed with information like order limit, shrinkage rate, warehousing, distribution services. Feel free to read straight through or jump to a section that interests you.
There’s a lot to cover here, so let’s dive in.
What is a 3PL company and why do they matter?
A third-party logistics provider, or 3PL, manages fulfillment operations for marketplace sellers. They handle warehousing and order fulfillment, with a mix of other supportive activities like inventory management, supply chain management, and carrier negotiations.
Your 3PL will receive shipments from a factory or manufacturer and store them safely in a warehouse. When customers place an online order, your 3PL company will pick the products, pack them, and hand them off to a shipping company for delivery (think, UPS, FedEx, or USPS).
By handling your receiving, warehousing, inventory management, order fulfillment, and reverse logistics needs, the right 3PL can bring a substantial positive impact to your business.
3PL vs. 4PL
Unlike 3PLs, fourth-party logistics companies (4PLs) don’t actually own the physical assets needed to facilitate warehousing and order fulfillment operations. Instead, a 4PL acts as a concierge, contracting with 3PL companies and other ecommerce fulfillment providers for supply chain management.
4PLs can be helpful if you want to be less involved in your supply chain solutions and you have enough sales to cover the costs of totally outsourcing the process. Otherwise, you’re probably better off using a 3PL’s logistics services.
Choosing the right 3PL fulfillment partner
Choosing a third-party logistics company isn’t a decision to take lightly. In fact, we highly recommend shopping around to find the right one for your business. Get multiple quotes, and ask lots of questions.
If you need help figuring out who to talk to and what to say, you can download this interview guide to help. In the meantime, consider the following questions.
Can the 3PL company meet your business needs?
Finding the best 3PL company for your business starts with how well you know your order volume, shipping needs, and customer expectations. For example, a start-up that needs temperature-controlled storage will require different 3PL services than an enterprise-level company focused on Amazon growth.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but it can be a big help to dig into the details and write everything down. That way you’re fully prepared when it comes time to talk with potential partners.
Generally speaking, your third-party logistics company should have the following:
Experience with handling products in your industry
Monthly order volume requirements and SKU limits that align with the size of your business
The ability to handle any special requirements you have for your products (e.g., heavy items or temperature-controlled storage).
Fulfillment center locations that allow fast shipping to the areas you need.
Can the 3PL company guarantee speed and accuracy?
3PL companies should take their fair share of responsibility for your customer satisfaction and business success. See if a 3PL you’re considering will guarantee speed and accuracy for every shipment. Also ask about their error rate, inventory shrinkage rate, ground shipping services, and paid guarantees.
Does the 3PL fit your budget? Do you understand their pricing model?
Be wary of hidden fees when evaluating potential third-party logistics companies. Make sure you understand their pricing model and can easily determine how it fits within your budget. Because your 3PL company impacts multiple areas of your business, it’s worth taking time to shop around. Interview prospective partners, and evaluate your options.
Now that you have an idea of what to look for, let’s discuss some of the top 3rd party logistics services for ecommerce brands in 2023.
Best 3PL companies for ecommerce
You need ecommerce logistics operations that can help you compete—and win—with fast shipping, excellent customer service, and integrations that work with your various tools and platforms.
The best 3PL fulfillment companies for ecommerce should have the following:
Integrations with all major ecommerce platforms
Commitments to order accuracy and speed
Fulfillment center locations that allow shipping across the United States.
That’s where the similarities end, though. Each 3PL company brings its own unique specializations, levels of commitment to error reduction, and ability to quickly reach your customers.
Below, you’ll find some additional info on our top 3PL companies for 2023. We’ve tried to offer enough details to help jumpstart your decision-making and find the best one for your business.
Red Stag Fulfillment
In full transparency, we’re a little biased (this is the Red Stag website, after all), but we’ll do our best not to brag…too much.
Red Stag Fulfillment is the best third-party logistics provider founded by ecommerce operators who’ve been in your shoes and know what it means to your business—and your customers—when a shipping partner drops the ball. In fact, it was a particularly bad experience during the busy holiday season that inspired our founders to start Red Stag Fulfillment in the first place.
With strategically-placed east coast and west coast fulfillment center locations, Red Stag Fulfillment can ground ship to most U.S. homes in 2 business days or less, and we offer an industry-leading 5pm cutoff time for same-day fulfillments.
We also guarantee 100% order accuracy and a 0% inventory shrinkage rate. Yep, you read that right. If we happen to mess up, we’ll pay you for the mistake. No other third-party logistics provider will guarantee anything near that.
It’s worth noting that most of our customer success team started their logistics career in a Red Stag warehouse. They know our operations inside and out, and they’re well-equipped to provide the support you need.
Red Stag works with a wide range of products across many industries, but we’ve earned a reputation for successfully handling large and oversized items, which has proven to be a challenge for other 3PL companies. We can also help you get approved for Amazon’s Seller-fulfilled Prime (SFP) or prep for Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).
We don’t require monthly minimums or an order-to-SKU ratio, but we’re best suited for companies with hundreds to thousands of orders per month. A typical package at Red Stag weighs 20 pounds or more, but we don’t have an upper limit (at least not that we’ve found yet).
ShipBob focuses on direct-to-consumer (DTC) ecommerce and serves customers across many different industries. As one of the top 3PL services, it has multiple fulfillment centers located throughout the U.S. (and beyond) and promises “100% coverage for 2-day shipping across the U.S.”
It requires a 4:1 order-to-SKU ratio, but there is no monthly order minimum. ShipBob even offers a specialized growth plan for ecommerce businesses shipping less than 400 orders per month.
ShipBob is best for low SKU counts and smaller products (think, beauty and supplement products). It has a maximum weight of 50 pounds and a maximum product size of 48 inches on any dimension (length, width, or height).
ShipMonk offers a full range of logistics and fulfillment services for ecommerce businesses of all sizes. It usually works with smaller packages (the average order is under 10 pounds) but can also support larger products.
ShipMonk might be a good fit for you if you’re an international online seller, because they have a variety of global logistics solutions, including international shipping. It’s also worth noting that an 11th location was added to its global logistics network of fulfillment centers at the end of 2022.
There is no setup fee, monthly order minimum, or specific order-to-SKU ratio. But, ShipMonk does have a minimum monthly pick-and-pack fee of $250.
ShipHero is top 3PL for enterprise-level ecommerce merchants that meet a 10,000+ monthly order minimum. It focuses on speed and reducing shipping costs, and it boasts a 35% decrease in costs for warehousing and distribution services.
With a 20-pound weight limit for products and a 10:1 monthly order-to-SKU ratio, ShipHero likes to prioritize lightweight and non-refrigerated products like low-SKU apparel, dog food, and cosmetics.
B2B sellers might be a good fit for ShipHero. But its website notes the ability to service this niche depends on which warehouse space you use.
Saddle Creek Logistics
Saddle Creek Logistics is another top 3rd party logistics provider for large, omnichannel enterprises with a reputation for successfully handling B2B logistics. It doesn’t have a specific SKU limit, but there is a minimum order volume of 10,000 packages per month. There’s no product weight limit either, but 20 pounds or less is ideal.
Saddle Creek’s focus isn’t cold chain, but some of its 54 warehouse locations are temperature controlled, which means it can partner with a variety of industries, including food and beverage.
Looking for flexibility? Speed Commerce might be the right fit for you with no weight maximum, no SKU limit, and a low monthly order minimum of just 250 packages per month. It focuses on D2C logistics but can also handle a high B2B share.
Speed Commerce is also flexible with industry preference, but it doesn’t tend to work with enterprise-level clients, ammunition, alcohol, or CBD. Clients that work with Speed Commerce have access to a U.S.-based customer support team, and specialized services like embroidery, kitting, and custom packaging.
Other Ecommerce Options
If none of the 3PL companies above fit the bill, there are plenty of other options to choose from. To save you a little time, we’ve compiled some additional choices for you to consider:
Best 3PLs services for Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) preparation
If your growth strategy prioritizes Amazon, it’s important to choose a 3PL company that can assist you. Below, you’ll find our two top choices for the best 3PL services that focus on FBA prep.
3PL Guys focuses solely on FBA prep and B2B logistics solutions, and it’s part of Amazon’s Seller Central Partner Network. Because of this partnership, clients receive real-time inventory notifications and freight forwarding quotes through an in-house warehouse management system integrated directly with Amazon Seller Central.
For FBA sellers trying to scale, 3PL Guys can help contract air and ocean freight transportation services and supply chain logistics. It also offers inspections for inbound inventory from both the U.S. and China. Its website provides some pricing info and notes that prospects can request a quote for inspection and larger items.
- Pallet receiving: $15.00 per pallet
- Storage: $40/pallet
- Warehousing Software: $29.99/month
- Pallet forwarding: $25.00/pallet
- Re-boxing: $5.00/box
According to its website, ZonPrep offers “custom solutions for your business’ Amazon FBA prep, warehousing, and support.” With 90,000 square feet of space, ZonPrep is one of the largest American 3PL companies that also serves as an FBA prep warehouse.
ZonPrep has a 99.9% shipment accuracy rate and states that it will prepare and ship inventory in 48-72 hours, no matter the size. ZonPrep also guarantees a dedicated account manager will respond to any concerns within two hours.
All customizable plans include receiving and inspection alongside FNSKU labeling and poly bags and/or any expiration labels required by Amazon. ZonPrep prioritizes low-cost structures with no hidden fees.
Best 3PLs for Cold Storage
If you sell fresh, refrigerated, or frozen goods, search for a 3PL company that offers refrigerated or frozen storage and freight forwarding. We’ve listed two of the best cold chain 3PLs below.
RLS Logistics has 11 different locations across the United States. Some focus on cold storage and warehousing, while others exist as freight brokerage locations. RLS primarily serves DTC companies, but it can handle B2B, too.
It offers a flexible order minimum of 1,000 packages per month, and clients will likely appreciate the online dashboard that’s updated every two hours with inventory data, analytics, shipment and delivery statistics, and less-than-truckload information.
Please note: RLS does not handle ice cream or gelato.
Cold Chain 3PL
Cold Chain 3PL specializes in fresh and frozen shipping for ecommerce brands. With 3 locations nationwide, Cold Chain 3PL can manage 2-day shipping to most of the country and provides services across a variety of industries.
Cold Chain provides FBA prep, as well as pick-and-pack services. It can be a great choice for startups because of its flexible SKU limits and its ability to handle a combination of frozen, refrigerated, and dry goods.
Best 3PL for Alcohol
You may have noticed that many of the top 3PL companies do not handle alcohol. That’s likely because navigating the various laws and regulations can be tricky. If you’re in the business of selling and shipping alcohol, find a 3PL that specializes in your industry.
Some alcohol companies have success with Trinity Logistics, one of our best 3PL provider choices that specializes in the food and beverage industry (including alcohol). With seven locations across the United States and over 100 agents nationwide, Trinity Logistics has an online reputation for shipping products on-time and being easy to work with.
It doesn’t disclose a parcel weight limit or order volume minimum. Instead, its website emphasizes flexibility and variety of freight partners.
Best Canadian 3PL company
If you’re looking for a Canada-based 3PL, Ottawa Logistics is a reliable, flexible option, especially for B2B sellers. With two Canadian locations, Ottawa Logistics ships across both Canada and the U.S. and has a few strategies for reducing your costs—namely, “zone skipping” and “rate shopping.”
Work with the top 3PL for scaling ecommerce stores
If you’re ready to scale your ecommerce store, Red Stag Logistics is here to help. As the only top ecommerce 3PL that guarantees 100% order accuracy and 0% inventory shrinkage, our team treats your products like our own.
Not sure if we’re the best fit? We’re happy to chat. Reach out with your questions. If we’re a good option, great. If not, we’ll say so and try to point you in the right direction.
What is the difference between an order fulfillment company and a 3PL?
Order fulfillment is the process that’s recognized broadly as receiving orders, and then picking, packing, and shipping them. A variety of different kinds of logistics companies can help you with order fulfillment. But, a 3PL manages your order fulfillment service in-house, as opposed to a 4PL that outsources the work.
Can a 3PL help me find the right box size to ship in?
It depends. Some 3PLs use tools like a dimensional weight calculator to help you find the best, most cost-effective sizes for your products.
Can a 3PL help me if I’m a subscription-based seller?
Some can. Find a 3PL that offers kitting and assembly services, which allow you to create personalized orders while still outsourcing your inventory.
How much does it cost to outsource to 3PL?
Costs vary. But if you’re hoping to scale a growing ecommerce business, budgeting can be easier with a 3PL since most provide quotes and can help you get an idea of what it may cost to outsource.