I'm Michael with Fulfillrite.com, a Shopify fulfillment partner and app.
We get questions all the time from Shopify shop owners about choosing a fulfillment center. There are so many fulfillment center out there, how do you know which one is the right fit? This is a great forum, and hopefully I can help the community with some of their questions.
It's hard to give one solution for everyone, but there are three basic questions to ask, which will save you lots of time researching, and help you narrow down your choices to the really relevant ones.
1. What are you selling? While many FCs can do many products, most fulfillment centers specialize in certain types of products. Some, like Fulfillrite, specialize in smaller, lightweight objects, with less than 200 SKUs. Others will focus on larger store inventories with several thousand skus each. If your store has lots of SKUs, make sure the fulfillment center will do that. Likewise, if you have larger, heavier items, or products that need special handling, find out first if the fulfillment center is optimized for that.
2. What are your sales like? Fulfillment centers charge for many different services. Some have receiving charges, and others, like Fulfillrite do not. Storage is assesed and charged differently, and the per item fee, maintenance fee, and even shipping rates vary from center to center. Before you get too involved, discuss how many orders you anticipate, average item-per-order amount, packaging supplies, and storage needs, with the fulfillment center. A fulfillment center that seems like they have better rates, may have fees for services that you don't need to pay for.
3. How is their service? Is there someone available to answer your calls and emails? Do they know you and your products, and look out for your business growth? You need to feel comfortable that the fulfillment center is not just doing a service, but they are real fulfillment partners. This includes integrating with your online store, and providing support, both technically, and personally. You can usually get a pretty good feel for this in the first few interactions with them.
I hope this makes it a little easier to narrow down your fulfillment options and choose the ones that are best for you. This forum is excellent, as well, and you can ask me any fulfillment related questions, or post them to the forum for the Gurus and contributors to chime in.
Good luck with yout stores!
That's a great post, Michael! Over at ShipMonk, we have many apparel companies who choose to do business with us. I'd like to point out -- perhaps in both the sales and service sections -- you will want to know how returns are assessed.
The most profitable customers by LTV for apparel companies often have the highest return/exchange rates. It's imperative that you understand how the fulfillment center will handle both returns and exchanges if you're in the apparel business (or, really, any business).