My business was basically burning down due to being so overwhelmed by everything (one man show) and I was facing the realities of scaling on my own. After doing the math and factoring in all expenses (finding, setting up, staffing, maintaining, and operating a warehouse), including my precious time, I just couldn't justify the time and cost when I knew there were 3PL companies out there that could do it at close to the same overall costs without any of the hassle. Understandably, you give up control but that's what due diligence is for (these guys will work with your needs). I went through all the main 3PL companies (yes, including Amazon but no thank you. I refuse to give them almost 50% of my sales for FBA to other channels in addition to how restrictive their inventory controls are... I could keep ranting). They all wanted commitments and contracts signed and they all had convoluted fee structures that I honestly and for the life of me, could not do an accurate cost analysis on. The search was brutal.
But there is hope! I stumbled upon ShipRelay and let me tell you something... I have my life back! In addition to that, I finally have the time to focus on sourcing, sales, marketing and growth which really, is the only thing I want to focus on.
Firstly, they don't do contracts. They have a simple and easy to understand pay-as-you-go pricing model. If you need extra options like fragile packaging, promo inserts, custom internal packaging, sticker removal, etc., etc., they offer them as options with clear pricing. None of these extras are required but they are there if you need them. They have many box selections available and at competitive rates. That said, they will let you send your own boxes (custom boxes or your own sourced boxes) if you like (they just are treated as a sku on the shelf).
Secondly, they are omni-channel so I can use one pool of inventory and list on Shopify, eBay, Amazon, Etc. and all inventory in stock is available for sale on all channels but the inventory adjusts and syncs automatically as orders come in. This is huge and a major feature.
Another major feature is their ability to provide a live and accurate quote of their fulfillment/shipping fees (that you will be charged) directly into your Shopify Checkout so your customer can be offered your exact fulfillment/shipping fees, if you so choose. I offer free shipping on everything but for expedited shipping, I show my customer's ShipRelay’s expedited quote (which I reduce by a percentage - yes, reducing/increasing this is a feature). This is huge as it potentially allows you to recover 100+% of your fulfillment fees if you have the ability to charge for shipping.
In regard to the software, these guys built something special as it’s pretty freaking awesome (and getting better - they keep updating it and adding features). It pretty much automated the whole operational side of my ecommerce business. The only real manual thing left is placing orders with my suppliers but even that's streamlined in the software by allowing you to send your suppliers purchase orders directly from ShipRelay’s console. I don't touch or see inventory anymore and it’s amazing (they offer QC service if needed).
What’s cool about the algorithm is that it’s constantly looking to reduce your shipping costs based on a number of dynamic variables (destination, time in transit requirements, inner packaging, outer packaging, weight, dimensional weight, size, contents, etc). If it notices you can get a shipment to a destination faster and for less cost by say, choosing Priority Mail (free box - more expensive label) over FedEx (paid box - cheaper label), even if the channel indicates it can go a slower service, it will automatically choose the faster, cheaper service. As in, they are not nickel and diming you by having the software choose a fulfillment service that will net them a box sale. They choose the best service that’s in your best interest based on inputs from the inventory and from the sales channel. I was happy to see that. Another cool thing the software does is merge orders. Say a customer places two separate orders (two separate payments - happens all the time), the software will understand this is the same person and destination then analyze all possible carriers, shipping methods, packing arrangements (3D Tetris they call it), packaging types, etc. and automatically determine if it should be merged with the other order or not. If it’s more efficient (cheaper/faster), it will be merged. If it’s not, it won’t. The algorithm also looks at the potential cost savings of breaking packages down so if a massive order comes in, the software will break it down into the most efficient number of shipments mathematically possible (the break-down feature though I’m noticing is not yet consistently working - FYI there). There is just a whole smorgasbord of things the software does to save you money. Even on the storage side, they track how much storage you’re using dynamically so you’re never paying for storage you’re not using. As inventory leaves, you are using less space and you are charged for less space, daily. (tracked daily, charged monthly).
Lastly, the guys/gals staffing the warehouse are amazing. I get little messages from them through the software informing me of an optimization they were able to make and how much money it will now be saving me. For example, I had a SKU that could be “wedged" into a smaller package type without damaging the item or risking damage during shipping. It technically was too large for that package but they suggested it, made it work and saved me almost $2 per shipment for that SKU. And it’s happened more than once. They’re like consultants over there.
Anyway, I could go on and on. I really can’t say enough good things about their product and service and so far, their customer support. I’m also psyched about where their software is going as again, I keep seeing new features and I’m loving how robust it’s becoming. I can’t wait to replace ALL of my software systems with ShipRelay. Besides some technical glitches here and there (which they get on immediately), the only thing that’s lacking is sales reporting. But again, they are a fulfillment company and they do have all the fulfillment reports and processing reports you need for your internal books. But they did tell me sales reporting for all channels is coming! Once that’s done, it’s a one stop shop.