At Red Stag Fulfillment, we refer 88% of the potential clients who call us to another fulfillment company. It’s not because we don’t like working with new clients – we do. It’s because we’re 100% committed to working only with clients whose needs we can serve with near perfection. We think your business deserves the best fulfillment service for you, even if that’s not us.
At Red Stag Fulfillment it’s our honor to speak with thousands of eCommerce businesses and online sellers, foreign and domestic, who want to learn more about our order fulfillment and 3PL services. We are committed to helping businesses in their search for a long-term warehousing and fulfillment partner. We know first-hand how important it is to find the best fulfillment service for your business. Which is why we know we can’t work with everyone who approaches us. We sometimes even refer potential clients to our competitors.
When it comes to order fulfillment services, there is no such thing as the single best company in the world. There is, however, such a thing as the best fulfillment company for your needs. We believe that every business should work with the best fulfillment service to meet its needs. The truth is, that often isn’t us. After all, you wouldn’t want to marry someone who is a good match. You want to marry the best match.
Finding the Best Fulfillment Company
We’ve built Red Stag Fulfillment to be the world-class fulfillment provider for a special set of businesses. We specialize in shipping heavy or larger parcels (parcels that weigh 10 pounds or more, or parcels with DIM weights greater than 10 pounds). This focus dictates everything from the width of our warehouse aisles to the strength of our packing boxes to the size of our picking carts.
So if you’re selling flat-pack furniture, cases of shampoos, or large electronics, we’d love to talk with you!
But what if you’re an eCommerce business that sells clothing, cell phone cases, or anything small or lightweight? After all, the vast majority of items ordered online are light. Most are small enough to ship in small parcels or padded mailers. If that is you, we’d recommend you connect with one of our competitors. One of these fulfillment companies will be much better equipped to optimize your order fulfillment processes.
This guide is designed to give you an unbiased overview of fulfillment providers. Use it as a place to start your search for the best fulfillment service for you.
We’ve included details about five fulfillment companies, each of which has different requirements and areas of expertise. We’ve included average parcel weights, fulfillment minimums, warehouse locations, and SKU breadth requirements for these fulfillment services:
- eFulfillment Service
- Rakuten Super Logistics
- Red Stag Fulfillment (yep, that’s us!)
*If you’d like to add your fulfillment company to this article, please shoot us an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope that this guide will help you find the best fulfillment service for your business. If you need more guidance to match you with the best order fulfillment company for your business, please feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have and help point you in the right direction.
3 Data Points to Determine the Best Order Fulfillment Company for Your Business
When you start your search, you might think you simply need to find the best fulfillment service in the US. It’s almost impossible to quantify which is the best order fulfillment company, however. The right fit depends on the products you ship and the size of your business. The best fulfillment provider for one eCommerce business might be the wrong choice for another.
Before you start your search for your best fulfillment service, it’s helpful to get clear about your business operations. Here are three data points to quantify before you outsource your fulfillment.
1) Product Weight and Size
What are the physical attributes of the products my company sells?
Most of the eCommerce packages shipped today are under 10 pounds. Check the weight of your average order. If you sell silk scarves, your average weight might be less than 1 pound. In that case, a fulfillment warehouse that specializes in shipping small orders is the best choice for you. If you sell heavy or bulky items, you need a different kind of fulfillment provider. You need one that knows how to safely store, pick, pack and ship larger orders.
2) Order Volume
How many packages do I ship per month?
For startups with low order volume, the best fulfillment service for you is one without monthly minimums. If you ship a high volume of orders, the monthly minimum order requirements of a larger fulfillment operation could be a plus. They could be an indication that these companies are well-equipped to manage your large order volume.
3) Inventory Breadth
How many unique SKUs do I sell?
The ratio of how many different items you sell to the number of orders you ship per month is called SKU breadth. Some fulfillment warehouses have a maximum SKU-to-order ratio. Even those without a strict requirement may want to assess your SKU breadth.
Best Fulfillment Service by Parcel Weight
The majority of eCommerce orders weigh 10 pounds or less. So, it makes sense that most fulfillment companies are best equipped to handle small or lightweight packages. Rakuten Super Logistics and Fulfillment.com primarily ship packages that weigh between 1 and 10 pounds. ShipBob specializes in orders of 20 pounds and under. eFulfillment Service also handles parcels that are smaller, with package size limited to 36 inches or less. On the other hand, Red Stag Fulfillment specializes in heavy and bulky items. Red Stag Fulfillment specializes in working with businesses shipping an average order weight of 20 pounds and above.
Order Volume Minimums
Monthly order minimums can be challenging for startups and small businesses. But, the more orders you ship each month, the bigger the discounts a fulfillment service provider can pass along to you.
eFulfillment Service doesn’t have monthly order minimums. That makes the company a great fit if you have a small business, or your company is just getting off the ground. ShipBob and Red Stag Fulfillment tend to work with companies that ship at least 200 orders per month, though there is some flexibility. Rakuten Super Logistics has a 1,000-order per month minimum. Fulfillment.com is an option if your business ships at least 1,500 orders per month.
Order minimums are not a judgment on your business. Consider them a good indicator of the strengths of each fulfillment company. Fulfillment centers with higher order minimums are positioned to work well with higher volume sellers. Don’t assume, however, that a fulfillment provider that doesn’t have monthly minimums can’t handle your high-volume business.
If your business makes a few sales of higher dollar items each month, a company with a lower monthly minimum or no order minimum is a better choice. Your best fulfillment service is one that’s able to effectively match the pace of your business.
SKU Breadth Requirements
SKU breadth refers to the number of individual products your business sells. Generally speaking, the more SKUs you have, the greater the challenge it is to accurately manage your inventory. Be prepared to discuss the number of SKUs your business will need your fulfillment company to handle. This will help you potential fulfillment partner put together accurate pricing more quickly.
SKU breadth is usually considered in relation to order volume. A business with a wide SKU breadth might need to ship a high number of packages each month to be attractive to a 3PL provider. Some order fulfillment providers even have specific ratios they’re looking for:
Fulfillment.com has an SKU-to-order ratio requirement of at least 7.5:1. ShipBob requires an SKU-to-order ratio of 5:1 or more.
SKU Breadth Demystified
SKU breadth is easier to understand with an example. If you sell 100 different SKUs, you’d need to ship at least 500 orders per month to meet ShipBob’s 5:1 SKU breadth requirement. You don’t need to ship five orders from each SKU, just 500 orders overall.
Rakuten Super Logistics, and Red Stag Fulfillment don’t have SKU breadth requirements. But both fulfillment companies will still seek to understand the ration of your SKU breadth to your order volume.
eFulfillment Service doesn’t consider SKU breadth. This order fulfillment company is a good solution for businesses with minimal order volume, independent of how many SKU’s you sell.
There is an economy to selling higher quantities of fewer products, both for you and for your 3PL provider. You get greater volume discounts on your products. You also tie up less of your cash in inventory. For fulfillment providers, it’s typically easier to manage a smaller number of SKUs with high turnover. A large range of SKUs that sell less frequently provides more of a storage and fulfillment challenge.
However, there are advantages to having a wide product selection. If you only sell a few products, your customers may not find what they’re looking for in your online store. The lure of internet shopping is the ability to find precisely what you want. If your eCommerce shop has a broad selection, you’re more likely to keep customers interested and buying.
The trade-off between SKU breadth and sales volume is a balancing act for all businesses. For eCommerce sellers, it can affect your assessment of your best fulfillment service company.
Fulfillment Center Locations
Amazon continues to push the envelope on fast order delivery. Two-day shipping is currently the gold standard in the industry, thanks to Amazon Prime, but that could soon change. Amazon may offer one-day and even same-day shipping on some orders in the near future.
Amazon has a huge network of fulfillment centers across the US. If you sell on Amazon, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) can be a good fulfillment option. FBA gives you access to Prime shipping, which reaches more than 100 million Amazon Prime subscribers. That’s nearly one third of the US population who qualify for Prime shipping. The reach of FBA is hard to beat, for Amazon Marketplace sellers.
You don’t have to out-compete Amazon to run a successful eCommerce business, however. The best fulfillment service for your business might have one warehouse location or a dozen. It depends on your business model and your customer distribution.
Strategic Warehouse Location
If you ship from multiple fulfillment centers, you’ll incur the cost of shipping your goods to each warehouse location. On the other hand, the trucking cost may be more than offset by what you save on shipping. The fewer zones each package ships, the lower your shipping cost. Therefore, the closer your fulfillment warehouse is to your customers, the cheaper the cost of shipping.
If you offer free shipping, strategic warehouse locations can be crucial to your profitability. In addition, warehouse locations affect shipping time. Faster order delivery can be an incentive for your customers to place an order.
The 3PL providers we spoke to have a range of business models when it comes to warehouse location.
Red Stag Fulfillment
Rakuten Super Logistics
Fulfillment Company Questionnaire
Before there was Red Stag Fulfillment, there was a pair of frustrated eCommerce entrepreneurs. They had struggled to find a fulfillment company that could provide the service they needed to ship their (heavy) products. So, they created a fulfillment company questionnaire. Each time they interviewed a potential fulfillment provider, they asked the questions on the questionnaire and recorded the answers.
In the end, the entrepreneurs didn’t find a service that catered to their product niche. So, they decided to start their own fulfillment business. You don’t have to start your own fulfillment warehouse, however. There are lots of great fulfillment providers in the US. Start with the questionnaire developed by the entrepreneurs behind Red Stag. Feel free to modify it to add questions that are specific to your business needs. This questionnaire can be a great tool to help you find the best order fulfillment company for your business.
Outsourcing your fulfillment is an investment in the future of your eCommerce business. We hope this guide will help you in your search for the best fulfillment service for you.