Of the numerous tasks and responsibilities involved in running an online business, the most important is ensuring that products ordered by your customers are promptly delivered to them. From the time a customer places an order to the time they receive the item they have bought, though, there is a chain of processes that have to be accomplished.

Online retailers know that customers have come to expect affordable, flexible, and speedy delivery whenever they order and by the date promised.

If you are a customer ordering an item from Amazon, then you know that a ‘Fulfilled by Amazon’ logo means that your expectations will be met. Amazon’s advanced fulfillment system has changed the game for online merchants in terms of delivery timeline guarantees. As a large retailer with extensive networks, Amazon possesses the technology and resources to offer customers free – and sometimes even within-the-hour – product shipping.

Despite its market-leading position and popularity, though, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) may not be for everyone. In this article we tap into order fulfillment services that are positioned to be quality alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon (Amazon FBA).

What Is an Order Fulfillment Service?

There are certain advantages, such as flexibility and cost, that come with fulfilling your own orders. Given these perks, startup businesses with a lower-than-average cash flow or those seeking to save costs by using generic packaging options might choose to take care of their own logistics in-house. If, however, you own a fast-growing business and have the necessary financial resources to outsource, you may want to investigate the option of third-party order fulfillment and warehousing.

An order fulfillment service is a company available for businesses including eCommerce, online stores, and even brick and mortar businesses that lack their own distribution and storage facilities. They have the necessary expertise and come fully equipped to handle essential tasks and can yield improved:

  • Order processing
  • Cart fulfillment and checkout
  • Payment processing
  • Storage management
  • Packing and shipping
  • Delivery
  • Returns and exchanges

Improvement across these parameters could have a positive impact on the growth of your business because, while the order fulfillment service tackles these tasks, you have time to focus on the marketing and selling of your products.

Most online businesses move, store, and deliver items to their customers and grow their businesses rapidly due to their use of order fulfillment solutions. What options, though, are available in the order fulfillment services field? Let’s take a look at some of the leaders:

Fulfillment by Amazon

Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) is the order fulfillment solution offered by its global retail giant namesake. Any seller worth their salt understands that having a prominent presence on Amazon.com is essential to their business success, and high visibility on Amazon Prime is doubly important. According to Fortune, Amazon’s average customer spends $700 on the site each year, with Prime customers spending nearly twice that much.

The fact that FBA is backed by such a marquee company is, by itself, enough reason for many businesses to use the service. The offerings on FBA are extensive and tap into the well-developed infrastructure and worldwide presence of its parent company, giving online businesses a trusted reputation and much wider market reach. The Amazon FBA business is accessible to any business or individual who sells online, particularly those selling via multiple channels, people selling small items, and Amazon.com sellers.

Kent, Washington USA - Amazon Fulfillment Center

All this offers an enormous advantage to you as a seller, as it lets you place all your focus on building your business and keeping your product ratings high. Amazon’s mastery of both logistics and technology on your behalf means you can go back to doing the important stuff: sourcing products, building up your brand, and growing your business. Moreover, having a ‘Fulfilment by Amazon’ logo alongside your items will have a great psychological impact on your customers and can give the credibility of your brand a massive boost. Additional plusses include:

  • 24/7 email and phone customer support
  • Access to Amazon’s Multi-Channel Fulfillment (MCF) that allows you to easily sell across platforms
  • Discounted shipping rates and fast delivery
  • Oversight of customer inquiries and returns
  • Storage scaled to your product demand (meaning no inventory minimum and no cap for sellers with high inventory report scores)

With all those perks in the mix, why wouldn’t you want to work with Amazon’s FBA? Just like any other service, Amazon’s FBA also has some distinct disadvantages that alternative order fulfillment services available can triumph over.

First off, while Amazon is flexible as to the amount of inventory you store, they will charge you for that storage if it is occupied on a long-term basis (as in, over six months). You might also discover that using Amazon’s FBA results in higher returns, the potential result of the all-too-easy returns process that Amazon provides. Ultimately, you will have to do the math and have to determine whether your sales numbers will be sufficient to cater to the shipping and storage costs while leaving you with a decent profit.

In addition, Amazon requires that your goods are prepared up to a certain standard if they are to be stored in their warehouses: a costly and time-consuming process. The company also imposes strict rules on its seller to make sure that their goods do not damage other sellers’ wares within their warehouses. Since you have to play by Amazon’s rules, there is little choice but to obey and package your goods, or Amazon will charge you if they have to do it for you.

So, to FBA or not to FBA? Many sellers starting out in ecommerce probably feel that the benefits outweigh these relative disadvantages, but if you are still not sold on using Amazon’s fulfillment service there are several alternatives that you could consider.

FBA Sounds Great! So, Why Seek an Alternative?

When you decide to sell your wares on Amazon, your own website or any other popular ecommerce platform, you need to tackle an important inventory fulfillment decision: whether to operate your business under the FBA model or to find an alternative fulfillment solution. Although Amazon FBA offers a host of advantages as outlined above, it also has some distinct disadvantages that can be mitigated by one of the alternative order fulfillment services available.

First off, do you think that Amazon will open up their infrastructure and store goods in their warehouses free-of-charge? Most certainly not! Amazon has certain setup requirements that come at a cost and they also charge storage fees for your inventory depending on how much warehouse space you require and how long your goods are stored. Ultimately, you will have to do the math and have to determine whether your sales numbers will be sufficient to cater to the shipping and storage costs, while leaving you with a decent profit.

In addition, Amazon requires that your goods are prepared up to a certain standard if they are to be stored in their warehouses: a costly and time-consuming process. The company also imposes strict rules on its seller to make sure that their goods do not damage other sellers’ wares within their warehouses. Since you have to play by Amazon’s rules, there is little choice but to obey and package your goods, or Amazon will charge you if they have to do it for you.

So, to FBA or not to FBA? Despite a few disadvantages when using Amazon FBA, many sellers starting out in ecommerce probably feel that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. However, if you are still not sold on using Amazon’s fulfillment service, there are several alternatives that you could consider.

What Alternatives Are There To FBA?

Although it is by far the most popular, there are alternate order fulfillment services available besides Fulfillment by Amazon. We examine some of the top-rated FBA competitors and FBA alternatives:

1. FedEx Fulfillment

FedEx Fulfillment takes advantage of the shipping and logistics company’s established infrastructure of FedEx to offer its clients everything from transportation to packaging, warehousing, and reverse logistics. FedEx fulfillment is particularly well suited to small and medium-sized vendors who require fulfillment of orders from online marketplaces and websites. Such companies can use the service to bring together varied selling channels while managing their total inventory.

Among the leading features of FedEx Fulfillment are analytics of the spending habits of shoppers, real-time tracking of items, complete visibility of products, and trend evaluation. Ad in FedEx’s seamless returns process, same-day fulfillment cut off, two-day shipping to most of the United States, and a reach to more than 200 nations, and it is easy to see why FedEx fulfillment is a popular one.

Visit Fedex Fulfillment here.

Phoenix, AZ Fedex Fulfillment Center

2. Shipwire

With warehouses across the United States as well as in Europe, Australia, China, and fulfillment centers in more than forty countries, Shipwire makes this list of top alternatives to FBA because it is a great option for businesses that need quality global fulfillment options.

Beyond this global reach, Shipwire also boasts a remarkably sophisticated warehouse management systems that enable the storage, handling, and shipping of items to customers. The key benefit of using this service provider is that clients can choose the optimum packaging options and routes as well as couriers for a variety of products. Shipwire also utilizes on-demand and custom fulfillment tools that offer support to B2B and B2C sellers. Moreover, businesses can select the best storage locations for items, make use of its insurance policies, calculate shipping costs, and carry out brand promotion.

Visit Shipwire here.

Shipwire Fulfillment is an Alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

3. Shipbob

As a company that claims to increase your average order value by 97%, ShipBob is a highly recommended fulfillment service particularly for those living in the major US cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco since it guarantees them and their customers an affordable, same-day delivery solution in these locations. Besides these cities, the vendor carries out standard fulfillment to other cities in the United States thanks to a nationwide network of product warehouses.

ShipBob - Alternative to Amazon FBA

Shipbob offers two main services – logistics and warehouse inventory – along with a full-featured software application through which they can communicate with customers, manage orders, and keep an up-to-date product inventory. The company is enjoying rapid growth – in 2018 alone it netted $40 million to expand its network of warehouses and technology capacity – and increasing popularity due to speedy onboarding and low rates.

Visit ShipBob here.

4. Red Stag Fulfillment

Calling itself a “world-class fulfillment company to unleash scalable growth,” Red Stag Fulfillment is ideal for customers whose items may require customization or assembly before shipping to customers as well as for those selling oversized, fragile, and high-value items. They can ship oversize and heavy items at a highly discounted rate by leveraging the advanced logistics and transportation network from FedEx. A state-of-the-art video surveillance system installed in its warehouses helps to prevent damage, theft, and packaging mistakes.

What makes this provider stand out is that it offers a guarantee of 100% inventory accuracy, order accuracy, order speed, and a 48-hour window from dock to stock. Hardly anyone in the fulfillment market can beat those numbers.

Visit RedStag here.

RedStag is an alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

5. Fulfillify

Fulfillify claims to ship over 75 million items every year to customers from around the world. Outside of that reach, though, what makes Fulfillify attractive is its low-commitment policies. Signing up for their services is quick, easy, and includes free set-up. There are also no long-term contracts, which means vendors are free to switch to a different provider at any time they choose. This vendor handles all the details necessary to get started, which allows merchants to use their platform right from the go.

The platform itself is simple to use, and lets merchants easily track their products, manage their inventory, and view orders in real time, even from mobile devices. In addition, it can be integrated seamlessly with existing eCommerce and shopping cart platforms.

Visit Fulfilify here.

Fulfillify is an alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

6. IDS Fulfillment

Integrated Distribution Services (IDS) is tailored to traders who wish to ship their products quickly to US customers. Claiming they can reach over 90% of the US population within 2 days, IDS can make this happen through strategically-located centers operating with cutting edge technology woven throughout the US mainland.

Sellers can outsource part of their fulfillment requirements such as distribution, returns, and storage, or they can choose to leave the entire process to IDS. The company is ideal for sellers who want to meet peak season demands (think: holiday shopping rush) thanks to its fast shipment times and optimized service.

Visit IDS Fulfillment here.

IDS Fulfillment is an alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

Bring It All Together with An Ecommerce Platform

Once you have a clear sense of which fulfillment service suits your brand the best, the next step would be to set yourself up with an ecommerce platform that can effectively host and sell your products. These online intermediaries help you create your own online shop and, once a sale occurs, create an efficient pipeline to the fulfillment service company of your choosing.

One of the leaders in this arena is Shopify, which offers sellers a simple and streamlined platform with reasonable costs and amazing client services. In addition to optimized strategies to automatically pack and ship your items, Shopify also offers its sellers consistent inventory updates and recommends how to best distribute that inventory given the volume of purchases near specific hubs. They also excel at helping to promote your brand by offering options for third party apps that can tackle everything from SEO to follow up emails on abandoned online shopping carts.

The same can be said of WooCommerce, a Wordpress plug-in that helps sellers create a customizable, open-source ecommerce dashboard. What’s so great about open-source? It’s free, which means unlike Shopify the tools of the WooCommerce plug-in don’t come at an extra charge (you’ll still pay for the basics, though, like your website domain and hosting).

Some research is merited when searching for your ecommerce platform too, but taking the time to find the right fit and link it to your ideal fulfillment services company means you will be well on your way to building your brand a bright path forward.

There are Alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

Choosing the best fulfillment service is a tough decision. If you are new to the world of ecommerce, Amazon FBA offers you a great way to make your first steps as an online merchant and lets you ride on the network and reputation of the biggest name in the business. At the same time, there are still many other highly reliable, affordable, and effective alternatives to Amazon FBA that can boost your online success.

If Amazon FBA just doesn’t feel right for your business or brand, you should consider one of these alternatives, especially if your volumes are still low. This is because the startup costs and the monthly overheads of Amazon FBA can easily run into thousands of dollars and be prohibitive for new online businesses. Many fulfillment services give you more flexibility and leeway about product branding, making them viable FBA alternatives.