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A Comparison of the Best 3PLs for Ecommerce Businesses in the United States

September 21, 2021 in Blog
A Comparison of the Best 3PLs for Ecommerce Businesses in the United States

When you’re in ecommerce, you’re not just competing to have the best products in the market. You will also have to compete for faster shipping to appease impatient buyers. The 3PL industry in the United States is already at $196 billion in 2021 because as more transactions are done online, third-party logistics companies are becoming better and more competitive.

But which 3PL company is right for your ecommerce business?

Related Reading: What is 3PL and How to Find a Great One in 2021 [Ultimate Guide]

What Is a 3PL and How Does It Compare With In-House Fulfillment?

3PL is short for third-party logistics. These are companies that help store inventory, fulfill orders, and manage shipments for other businesses.

Not all ecommerce businesses use 3PLs because they opt for in-house fulfillment instead. So before deciding which 3PL you should choose, you first need to determine whether you need a 3PL for your ecommerce business at all.

There are a couple of factors to consider:

  • Are your products fit for in-house fulfillment?
    • If your products require special packaging that needs to be made manually, e.g., intricate packaging for gift items, then you’re better off with in-house fulfillment as long as you can handle the number of orders.
  • Do you have enough resources to meet distribution demands?
    • Remember that you’re competing with businesses that use 3PL companies that have high-tech robots and systems in place with hundreds of workers. Can you be sure that you can keep up with your orders?
  • Are your employees ready for in-house fulfillment tasks?
    • You should at least have a few people in your team who knows how to handle fulfillment to get your products packed and shipped to your customers in time.
  • Are you ready to expand your fulfillment centers when your business needs it?
    • If you run your business well enough, you will eventually need to expand your in-house fulfillment. How will you handle international orders? Are you prepared to invest more for fulfillment when needed?

Related Podcast: E330: Focusing on Logistics to Increase Profitability

Whether you stick with in-house fulfillment or opt for a 3PL company depends on the nature of your business. Here are the advantages of each, and you can decide which factors are more important.

Advantages of In-House Fulfillment Advantages of Using a 3PL Company
  • Complete control over the whole distribution process
  • It’s easier to communicate with field personnel, e.g., drivers.
  • Issues are easier to resolve because you’re your only “client.”
  • Better customer relations. You can personalize each order easier.
  • They already have the tech and systems in place to ship orders on time.
  • It allows you more time to focus on growing your business.
  • You can take advantage of volume discounts.
  • Easier to scale your business.

Some sellers will find it easy to make a decision. Others will have no choice, just like some Amazon sellers when they found their restock limits reduced. But when you’re torn, remember you can always go for a hybrid model. Best of both worlds, eh?

A Comparison of the Largest 3PL Companies in the United States

Here, we look at six of the largest 3PLs that are trusted by ecommerce business owners. We tried to focus on tech-forward companies, generally backed by significant funding. We looked at the size of these companies as well as their features, costs, and locations.

Employees Funding Year Established Do they own their warehouses? Contact info
ShipBob 444 330.5M 2014 Yes, but they also work with partners 1-312-313-1104
ShipMonk 358 365M 2014 Yes (855) 222-4601
Deliverr 277 240.1M 2017 No [email protected]
ShipHero 108 50M 2013 Yes [email protected]
Amazon MCF 125,000 2006 Yes 00 1 206-922-0880
FedEx Fulfillment 570,000 1971 Yes 1-800-463-3339

 

Warehouse / Fulfillment Center Locations
ShipBob ShipMonk Deliverr ShipHero Amazon FedEx
Alabama x
Alaska
Arizona x x x
Arkansas x
California x x x x
Colorado x x
Connecticut x
Delaware x
Florida x x
Georgia x x x x
Hawaii
Idaho x
Illinois x x x
Indiana x x
Iowa x
Kansas x
Kentucky x x x
Louisiana x
Maine
Maryland x
Massachusetts x
Michigan x x
Minnesota x
Mississippi x
Missouri x x
Montana
Nebraska
Nevada x x x
New Hampshire x
New Jersey x x
New Mexico
New York x x x
North Carolina x
North Dakota
Ohio x x
Oklahoma x
Oregon x
Pennsylvania x x x x x
Rhode Island
South Carolina x
South Dakota x
Tennessee x x x
Texas x x x x x
Utah x
Vermont
Virginia x
Washington x x
West Virginia
Wisconsin x x
Wyoming

 

Allows Custom Packaging? Offers Kitting / Bundling? Handles Returns? FBA Prep
ShipBob Yes Yes Yes Yes
ShipMonk Yes Yes Yes Yes
Deliverr No Yes No No, but partners with Amazon fulfillment warehouses like My FBA Prep
ShipHero Yes Yes Yes, but pre-approval is required Yes
Amazon MCF No Yes Yes
FedEx Yes Yes Yes No

 

Integrations / Partnerships
Amazon Shopify Walmart eBay BigCommerce
ShipBob Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ShipMonk Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Deliverr Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
ShipHero Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Amazon MCF Yes Yes No, but you can use integration solutions such as CartRover Yes Yes
FedEx Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

*Note on the next table: These 3PLs have different pricing schemes. Some include the pick and pack fee with shipping and other costs, while others have it separated.

Storage Fees Pick and Pack Fees Returns Processing
ShipBob $40 per pallet per month, $10 per shelf per month, $5 per bin per month Pick and pack is free for the first four picks in an order, then $0.20 per pick for the fifth pick and after $3 processing fee per returned order
ShipMonk Bins: $1 to $4 per month, depending on the bin size Depends on number of orders, but there’s a minimum of $250 per month $2.00 + .50/additional item
Deliverr Starts at $0.72 per cu. ft. per month (Pick and pack fee is included in the fulfillment fee.)
Starts at $3.99 per unit
*This amount includes receiving, shipping, order handling, pick pack and package costs.
N/A
ShipHero Starts at $0.65 per cubic foot
**Charged daily per SKU based on the total cubic volume in stock
(Pick and pack fee is included in the fulfillment fee.)
Starts at $5.29
*This amount includes receiving, order processing, picking the product, packing the order, the shipping box and postage.
Restocking Fee: $2.75 for first item and $0.25 for each additional item
Inspection Fee: $3.45 per unit returned (apparel) / $2.95 per unit returned (non-apparel)
Self Returns: $2.75 for first item and $0.25 for each additional item + inspection fee per unit (if applicable)
Paid Label Fee: cost of return label
Return to Sender: shipping label back, same cost it was to send out (if applicable)
Amazon MCF Starts at $0.75 per cubic foot.
Depends on month, size of items, and product type
(Pick and pack fee is included in the fulfillment fee.) Fulfillment Fee starts at $3.99 per unit order. But more unit orders means lower cost. Depends on product type. Some have a $0 returns processing fee
FedEx $8-$15 per pallet/month Pick and pack: $0.40 per unit, including standard packing materials
*Shipping rates are discounted FedEx rates
$2.50 per order

 

Delivery / Shipping Speeds (Domestic Only)
ShipBob
  • 2-day express shipping
  • 2 to 4 business days
  • 3 to 5 business days
  • 3 to 7 business days
ShipMonk
  • 2 days
  • 2 to 5 days
  • 3 to 8 days
Deliverr
  • 2 days
  • 3 days
  • 5 to 7 days
ShipHero
  • Overnight
  • 2 days
  • 3 to 7 days
Amazon MCF
  • 1 business day
  • 2 business days
  • 3 to 5 business days
FedEX
  • 1 to 7 business days
  • 1 to 5 business days
  • Door-to-door delivery in 1 to 2 business days by 5 pm to businesses and by 8 pm to residences.
  • Door-to-door, next business day to businesses by 5 pm and by 8 pm to residences
  • Door-to-door, next-business-day, morning delivery

Related Reading: How to Make Money as a Seller From Free Shipping

Additional Features / Facts About the 3PLs
ShipBob >ShipBob’s software allows you to share it with unlimited users at no extra cost.
>You can bulk update product names
>Some awards:
>Best Fulfillment Technology by AdWeek’s Retail Awards
>Top Performer, Best Shipping Software 2021
ShipMonk >For their kitting service, you will receive three photos the day before your boxes are assembled to ensure a great unboxing experience.
>Award: 2021 Excellence in Customer Service Awards by the Business Intelligence Group
Deliverr >They have a cost calculator where you can just enter your ASIN and it will give you both the fulfillment and storage cost.
>Doesn’t offer international fulfillment
>For the two-day express shipping, your customers will receive a $5 credit from Deliverr if the order doesn’t arrive on time.
>Deliverr doesn’t insure products in its fulfillment network.
ShipHero >Has a storage pricing calculator so you can easily estimate your storage costs
>If you choose to ship with custom packaging and you run out of it, ShipHero may be unable to continue shipping your products unless you call them.
Amazon MCF >Unlike FBA, MCF has no referral fees.
>Just like FBA, some products are restricted.
FedEx >They pioneered the tracking number.
>It partners with 21,000+ retail stores, so you customers can opt to pick up their deliveries in-store.
>It has almost 800 cargo planes.

 

Which 3PL Company Should You Choose?

A lot of factors come into play when it comes to choosing a 3PL. Here’s a video to help you decide.

You should determine which factors are more important to you. Is custom packaging a must? If so, you can’t use Deliverr or Amazon MCF.

Note: Before, Amazon MCF sends only Amazon-branded boxes, but there’s a new program called Blank Box Fulfillment, where Amazon uses unbranded boxes to ship orders. However, it’s still in beta testing as of this writing.

Other things you should consider are the reviews as well as customer support. FedEx, for example, receives a lot of bad reviews, ranging from late deliveries to bad customer support. ShipMonk, on the other hand, has an overall good rating.

Conclusion

While you’re not always responsible for any delays or mistakes made by your 3PL, your buyers will associate their service with yours. Thus, finding the right 3PL is crucial for your ecommerce business. The wrong one can lead to more unsatisfied customers and bad reviews, while a good one can help you gain customer loyalty.

Which 3PL company do you use and how likely are you to recommend it? Leave your answer below.

  • About The Author: Christine Gerzon

    As EcomCrew's content writer, Christine has developed a love for all things e-commerce and a constant need to imagine Jeff Bezos with hair. Although now accustomed to the noise of Cebu City, she remains a country girl at heart and longs for the deafening silence of her home province.

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