With a huge market share in the area, getting your orders fulfilled by Amazon can be an attractive component for any online business. But what do you do if it’s not a good fit for you and you need fulfillment alternatives to Amazon FBA? It can seem counterintuitive to be outside the retail giant’s sphere of influence and you might not even know where to begin looking.
Unless you’re going to handle order fulfillment yourself, finding an alternative to Amazon FBA will involve partnering with a different Third Party Logistics (3PL) provider. Many 3PL’s offer similar services to Amazon with some added benefits that make switching worthwhile.
Our guide below provides you with the critical information you need to find the best fulfillment alternative to Amazon FBA.
Using a third-party logistics company can really give your ecommerce business a boost. You get a myriad of benefits from partnering with a 3PL that can allow you to perfectly scale your operations to the size that works for you and also get a handful of helpful services that can free you up to focus on bigger picture aspects.
First off, a 3PL is similar to Amazon FBA in that your goods are stored at their warehouse, they fulfill orders for you and then ship them out to your customers.
In many cases though, a company focused just on providing their 3PL services doesn't have a website to drive ecommerce sales. You will be out in front selling the items while the 3PL will be doing all the back-end stuff.
But besides just saying that a 3PL will help you out, let’s delve a bit deeper into all the ways your ecommerce business can reap the rewards. First of all, you don’t have to worry about the cost of renting or buying your own warehouse space. The 3PL in question already has the buildings in strategic spots so that your products are in the right place before they even have to be shipped. Many 3PL’s, including R+L Global Logistics, can offer cross docking services. This is a highly efficient service that reduces product storage time and speeds up fulfillment delivery.
Taking it a step further, a 3PL is going to be an expert being able to accurately and quickly fill order in a variety of different ways. Whether it’s pick and pack fulfillment, which would be most of your orders, or something different like retail fulfillment or even cross dock transloading, a 3PL has done it all.
Some 3PLs also have the required tools to actually ship your orders as freight if needed, no matter if it is by truck, rail, air or even ocean. This would be for orders in large bulk or if you were able to sell pallets full of items to a retailer, but it’s still valuable to have the option.
But even if the 3PL just leans on its pre-existing relationship with a number of different parcel services, that could also help your bottom line. Because a 3PL would work in a higher volume, it can access greater discounts on bulk shipping. The 3PL would hypothetically then be able to pass on those savings to you, which will be a big help to your bottom line.
One of the options available that would be the most radical departure from Amazon is to handle your own order fulfillment. This can be a workable option for any small business that can't deal with its own inventory management and afford to set up a business model that accommodates appropriately for shipping costs.
If you are doing your own fulfillment, you’re probably not on Amazon or, if you are, you’re not taking advantage of their fulfillment network whatsoever. In fact, to fulfill orders yourself, you’d need a space of your own — whether that be your home, a small office or even renting your own warehouse. Renting your own warehouse, though, seems the least likely of these options since it would prove to be cost-prohibitive to rent out an entire building if you don’t need that much, then the other costs like staff, utilities and the like.
So let’s look at if you’re working out of a small space that you either own or rent. You assuredly have a website where customers can place orders and you can receive them. Then you’d package the sale yourself and be responsible for shipping it out, most likely through FedEx, the USPS, UPS or something similar.
If your operation is very small or you enjoy a more hands-on approach, doing fulfillment yourself can be the way to go. You’ll never have more control of your own operations than if you choose this option.
The drawbacks should also be considered as well. The cost of shipping as a smaller outfit without access to better volume discounts that other companies or even third-party logistics providers enjoy can limit an ecommerce business’s ability to offer the best prices or realize a profit margin as big as their competitors.
Also, if you’re handling all the fulfillment yourself, it might be harder to properly scale your growing needs if you want to expand. You’ll either be responsible for a bigger space to work out of and store products. Conversely, having a third-party company take care of fulfillment usually means they have the space and resources to allow your business to organically grow without hitting a ceiling.
If you’re also considering other outlets on which to sell your products, check out our article Alternatives to Selling on Amazon.
Do you think this one is cheating? It’s not but let us explain. You can still sell your goods on Amazon without having them do fulfillment and you can do it through their Prime program, which is called Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP). You get the Prime badge on your listings but you handle the fulfillment yourself.
There is a catch, if you want to call it that: by being in the Seller Fulfilled Prime program, you are making a commitment to provide two-day shipping to customers without adding any additional shipping charges. Since you will still have costs associated with shipping, the challenge becomes setting the price low enough to entice customers but not low enough that profits are hard to come by or even impossible to realize.
Also, it might go without saying, but since this is a seller fulfillment option, you won’t be receiving any outside help on fulfilling your Amazon orders. While you get the benefit of listing on Amazon and having the Prime badge, it’s all on you. This is a win for Amazon as well, as they are able to expand the amount of products that they can offer Prime shipping to their members.
There are a few cons though. As mentioned above, you cover the costs of shipping but it doesn’t stop there. You are also on the hook for storing your goods and also responsible for handling returns. This requires additional planning and resources to be able to bear these costs.
Also, while it might not be considered a negative, Amazon requires up to a 90-day trial period to make sure you can fulfill your Prime obligations before it allows you to permanently have the Prime sticker on your listings. Depending on how you look at it, this can also be a positive so that you don’t get in over your head and become unable to properly fulfill the orders.
If you’re looking for a fulfillment alternative to Amazon FBA, you can stop your search and give R+L Global Logistics a call today to let us handle all your order fulfillment needs. As a financially secure company with many resources at our fingertips, great workers who do the job right the first time and the knowledge to run the whole supply chain on your behalf, you won’t find anyone more suited for the task.
R+L Global Logistics won’t just keep your items on the shelf but can actually pick and pack them once you submit your customers’ orders to us. We can send out individual orders, or if you have pallets worth to send at once, we can deliver those ourselves. Our freight shipping is one of the best deals in third-party logistics since we’re competitively priced and boast a 99.5 percent on-time rate. R+L Global Logistics offers additional warehouse and distribution services that can help your business such as reverse logistics (returns), kitting and even retail fulfillment should you require any of that.
So when you’re searching for a fulfillment alternative to Amazon FBA, pick up the phone and call R+L Global Logistics for a free quote to find out how we can help your business succeed.