Building a successful ecommerce company isn’t easy. Not just because you have to source great products, set up a functional website, and market your products to your audience…
But you also need to get your products to their end destination — and fast!
Customers don’t like to wait to receive their orders and slow shipping could be the reason why one-time customers don’t purchase from your store again. So what can you do to speed up the shipping process as a small business?
You may think you should handle all of your order fulfillment yourself — but what if your business grows? How would you keep up with increased demand while keeping shipping times quick?
A popular and successful way to manage order fulfillment is to outsource it to a third-party logistics provider (in other words, 3PL).
What is 3PL?
The primary purpose of 3PL providers is to free up your time to grow your business and focus on the bigger picture — without breaking a sweat picking, packing, and dispatching parcels.
However, 3PL costs can appear daunting for newbies, especially if there are minimum order levels and costly warehousing prices to consider, too.
The Benefits of 3PL
3PL companies fulfill all or some of these tasks on your behalf:
- Warehousing your products (either in one location or in warehouses around the country or globe. These warehouses are sometimes called fulfillment centers)
- Managing your inventory
- Preparing, packing, and dispatching orders
- Transporting orders from the warehouse to its final destination
Think of a 3PL as the middle-person between your online store and the customer.
Top 10 3PLs for Small Businesses
Now let’s dive in and take a look at which 3PLs have made it onto our top ten list.
We specifically focused on 3PLs with small or no minimum order limits, are small business-friendly, and are well-reviewed by other small businesses and entrepreneurs.
Saltbox’s order fulfillment service is well-designed for small businesses and start-ups.
To hit the ground running with Saltbox, just connect your online store to your Saltbox account, ship your inventory to them, and then they’ll take care of the rest!
Saltbox is attractive to SMEs because it offers discounted shipping rates via UPS, USPS, FedEx, and DHL, plus they also offer flat-rate prices for pick-and-pack services.
But best of all, there aren’t any monthly order minimums or onboarding fees!
What we also like is that Saltbox not only offers order fulfillment, but it provides workspace and warehousing services, too. It also integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, and many other popular ecommerce platforms.
Shopify Fulfillment Network
The Shopify Fulfillment Network is a relatively new ecommerce fulfillment option for Shopify users.
Shopify launched the Shopify Fulfillment Network to help start-ups and smaller businesses using its platform. You can ship as few as ten orders a day, right up to thousands, making it an excellent in-house solution for smaller operations while still giving you the room to grow as an enterprise.
Just use the Shopify Fulfillment Network app to choose which products you want the service to ship on your behalf and send them your products. Then, Shopify does the rest.
Based on your customer’s locations, the service suggests where your inventory should be stored to achieve the fastest shipping times. It’s important to clarify that storage is provided via Shopify’s 3PL network rather than its own warehouses. These facilities are vetted by Shopify and consist of a network of fulfillment services around the US and Canada.
Pricing structures are customized based on what you need, and your contract is flexible, so you can opt out any time you want.
At the time of writing, the provider’s accuracy rate for picking, packing, and dispatching was 99.5%.
ShipMonk is an order fulfillment provider that works with any type of ecommerce business.
They offer negotiated discounts with all the leading shipping providers, plus ShipMonk’s fees are based on the number of orders you sell per month, starting at 0. Many 3PLs have minimum order requirements, so it’s refreshing that ShipMonk doesn’t.
Also, the more you sell, the lower the picking fees are. If you anticipate that your monthly orders will stay below 500, for example, your pick fee will be $2.50. However, if you complete more than 5,000 monthly orders, this fee goes down to $1.50.
Storage fees are fixed regardless of your monthly orders. This cost depends on the size of the bins or pallets you’ll need. Each comes with a monthly fee ranging from $1 for a small bin to $20 for a pallet.
Unlike some of its competitors, ShipMonk also fulfills orders for entrepreneurs using less-traditional online marketplaces like Etsy and Groupon. However, ShipMonk can also be used to fulfill Amazon Seller-Fulfilled Prime.
So no matter how you sell, there’s a good chance that ShipMonk provides order fulfillment services that will meet your needs.
Red Stag Fulfillment
Red Stag Fulfillment offers B2C and B2B order fulfillment at scale.
The company focuses on fulfilling large, cumbersome products that require special fulfillment services. Their average parcel weight comes in at 20 pounds, but they can ship heavier items, too.
Red Stag sets an average monthly shipment minimum of 200, although they can work with you if you send less. In contrast, some companies stick to a specified order-to-SKU ratio (the number of orders you have vs. how much you stock on their shelves). Encouragingly, Red Stag Fulfillment doesn’t do this.
The benefit of this is that you can stock a greater variety of items because you don’t have to meet specific requirements to introduce different SKUs onto their shelves.
Red Stag Fulfillment offers international shipping, Amazon Prime, or Seller-Fulfilled Prime, and, importantly, they’re small business-friendly. They have fulfillment centers dotted across the US, which lowers shipping costs and speeds up delivery times. They also offer a 30-day risk-free trial sign-up and integrate with tons of familiar names, including Shopify and WooCommerce.
The most recently available statistics tell us that in 2019, 100% of Red Stag Fulfillment’s orders were shipped on time, and 99.997% were shipped accurately. Not bad! Plus, if they make an error, you get $50!
Examples of businesses using Red Stag Fulfillment include arcade basketball company Pop-A-Shot. Their results? 100% on-time delivery, 200% growth, 40x revenue growth, and a 20,000% increase in unit volume!
ShipBob is another start-up-friendly option used by over 5,000 ecommerce businesses.
A wide range of SMEs use ShipBob, including lifestyle and gaming company 100 Thieves. They began using ShipBob as a start-up and now use ShipBob to manage tens of thousands of orders.
Impressively, ShipBob has a 99.95% accuracy rate, with 99.96% of orders delivered on time.
Prices are transparent and straightforward. There’s no minimum order requirement if you’re on its small business “Growth Plan” which is a program designed to help pre-launch start-ups and businesses shipping fewer than 400 monthly orders. It’s a self-service plan with no onboarding fees; you just pay as and when you require their services.
For ShipBob to receive your goods, this will cost $25 per inbound shipment, and there’s a monthly storage cost. However, this expense depends on the bin or pallet size you use.
ShipBob is also experienced in handling Kickstarter and Indiegogo fulfillment, flash sales, and more.
ShipBob also integrates with well-known ecommerce solutions, including Amazon, Squarespace, BigCommerce, and Shopify. The company ships anywhere globally that its carriers (DHL, UPS, FedEx, and USPS) deliver to.
eFulfillment Service has no order minimum requirements, start-up costs, or long-term contracts. Their prices also seem competitive for fulfillment and storage: You just pay as you go! For exact prices, however, you will need to contact the company for a quote.
Also, if you’re interested in a cross-docking service, eFulfillment Service can do this for you. Cross-docking is when orders arrive at their warehouse and are immediately shipped out, eliminating the need for storage and extra costs.
So, if you’re a crowdfunded start-up sending out new products to backers, eFulfillment Service could be the best option for you to choose.
If you’re thinking about selling goods on Amazon and, in particular, via Amazon Prime, Whitebox is a turnkey 3PL often favored in this area.
It differs from other 3PLs because it offers SMEs both an order fulfillment operation and a separate marketing agency, which are often used together by its customers.
- List your products on Amazon (as well as other platforms)
- Manage your stock
- Use Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service on your behalf
We mention this because their pricing structure differs from most 3PLs. They charge an “all-in-one” monthly platform fee covering everything related to 3PL aside from software and storage fees. This includes receiving, pick-and-pack, shipping, account management, and more.
But, it’s important to remember that when you use Whitebox, you’ll still have to pay marketplace and FBA fees. As such, you may have to charge hefty markups on your products to make decent profits.
Whitebox is geared towards larger sellers because of its 1,000 per month minimum order requirement. So unless you’re confident you’ll reach this threshold, Whitebox may not be for you. It’s also worth noting that it isn’t set up for B2B transactions; it’s strictly B2C only.
That said, its client success stories include:
- Herbal cough drop brand Ricola
- Cajun spice brand, Slap Ya Mama
- Premium coffee brand Kitu Super Coffee
All of these brands started out as small businesses that grew with the help of Amazon and Whitebox.
Small businesses looking for an all-in-one, 3PL fulfillment set-up may be interested in FedEx Fulfillment for its well-established and reputable brand.
If you’re a small business or startup, you don’t necessarily have to opt for a small 3PL or be put off by a 3PL that’s part of a bigger conglomerate. For example, FedEx Fulfillment is so popular partly due to its all-in-one solution offering customers storage, order fulfillment, packaging, and shipping.
It’s free to onboard, and thanks to the 3PL’s links to its parent company, customers receive shipping discounts with FedEx. There is also a monthly order minimum of 400, so if you’re confident you can reach that, FedEx Fulfillment could be the one-stop-shop order fulfillment solution you’re looking for.
Aimed at retailers wanting to simplify their order fulfillment process, Shipwire is a cloud-based platform that integrates with over 100 ecommerce partners; including Amazon, Shopify, and BigCommerce.
It has more than 145 fulfillment centers across 45+ countries and offers same-day order processing.
But, unfortunately, there’s a sliding scale pricing structure and a set charge for the first item picked and then a lesser amount for additional picks — so it isn’t easy to pinpoint actual costs here. Still, we found that the first item pick is charged at $2.85. Then, $0.95 for each additional pick for the first 50 orders, then $2.20 for the next 50 orders, then, after that, $0.75 for each extra pick.
We couldn’t find any reference to minimum order ceilings. Still, we did discover that Shipwire doesn’t ask its first-time customers to enter into lengthy contracts. However, there’s a minimum $500 monthly bill, so if your orders don’t amount to this, Shipwire reserves the right to charge you the difference. On the downside, some reviewers say Shipwire’s prices are high for small, lower volume sales outlets, so it’s worth getting an accurate quote before leaping in.
In common with many 3PL providers, ShipHero doesn’t charge set-up fees. Instead, its business model offers two different extra but helpful ecommerce solutions.
First off, there’s the fulfillment side, with no set-up fees and prices starting at $5.29 per order. Picking, packing, and postage are included, although storage costs are extra. Storage costs start at $0.65 per cubic foot and are charged daily per SKU.
Next up, the warehouse software. The prices here run at $1,850 per month.
If it’s only fulfillment you’re interested in, ShipHero provides a fully automated service across hundreds of ShipHero-owned warehouses around the US.
Over 5,000 brands use ShipHero, including oral care company Burst who reduced their costs by 35% when they began using ShipHero. Similarly, clothing brand American Tall grew its fulfillment operation by 400% with ShipHero’s help.
Our Final Thoughts
So there you have it, our guide to fulfillment warehouses with low or no order minimums.
It’s hard to decide which 3PL to go for, but there are lots of great options out there. List what you need and how you plan to grow, then use those requirements to guide your choice.
All of our picks support start-ups and small businesses, don’t ask for upfront fees, and most don’t ask you to enter into long-term contracts.