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Affordable Alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon

  • Jul 30, 2015 | Laura McCamy

According to Amazon’s website, Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) will do everything ecommerce sellers need except bring you breakfast in bed. When you sign up for the service, Amazon will not only warehouse, pack, and ship your Amazon orders. Your customers can also get Amazon’s free shipping, and FBA handles customer service and returns for you. FBA can even fill orders from other online sales channels, such as eBay.

The opportunity for a small business to take advantage of Amazon’s powerful fulfillment engine is a huge draw. FBA can help you focus on growing sales, knowing that the back end is being handled by the pros.

FBA is not for everyone, however. While Amazon has addressed complaints about hidden fees with its Revenue Calculator, which allows you to figure out your costs up front, there are some serious potential downsides to FBA. When you use FBA, Amazon commingles your stock with that of other sellers of the same item, which can lead to customer complaints or worse.

In addition, your goods may be shipped from a warehouse in another state (or states), creating sales tax nexus and an obligation to collect and remit sales taxes that you might not even realize you have.

Here are some alternatives to Fulfillment by Amazon you might want to consider.

Have Tape Gun, Will Travel!

If your Amazon ecommerce sales volume isn’t huge, you may find the DIY approach quite manageable. Packing and shipping yourself allows you to add a personal touch, such as a “thanks for the purchase” note in the box. Plus, you can customize your label and/or shipping box, to build your brand.

While doing your own customer service might mean dealing with an angry customer when you make a mistake, it’s also a chance to create a personal connection. In the capable hands of the person who cares most about your business (you), a mistake can be an opportunity to turn that angry person into grateful and loyal customer.

Ship Local

There are thousands of independent fulfillment companies around the US that can warehouse, pack, and ship your orders. A nearby shipper probably won’t create nexus complications and you might save money by driving your product to their warehouse yourself.

While small, local, fulfillment companies may not have all the bells and whistles of FBA, they can offer the personal touch. If you like to build personal relationships with your vendors, finding someone local to handle your fulfillment might be just the ticket.

Third Party Logistics Services

There are a host of large companies offering ecommerce sellers third party logistics (3PL) services similar to Amazon FBA.

One advantage of these services is that even the largest of them does not have as many warehouses as Amazon, so you might find it easier to manage the sales tax nexus issues raised by using a drop-shipper. Here are a few options:

  • eFulfillment Service: Advertising themselves as family-owned, this 3PL company may be a good choice for small ecommerce sellers, since it has no minimum order requirements or setup fees. One advantage over FBA: no charge for long-term storage.
  • OnFulfillment: Geared toward authors and book companies, this company provides print-on-demand and offset printing services in addition to 3PL for ecommerce sellers. This might be a good choice for self-publishing authors who want an alternative to the Amazon ecosystem.
  • VerdeFulfillment: This eco-friendly shipper claims it “saves enough paper to produce over 2,000 average elementary school textbooks per year” by running its operations on green power and using recycled packing materials.
  • One World Direct: Billed as the "Swiss Army Knife" of ecommerce, OWD offers loads of services beyond fulfillment. Check out their video explaining the services they offer. It really shines a light on what fulfillment services can be.

This is just a sample of your many fulfillment choices. If you feel overwhelmed, FulfillmentCompanies.net promises to connect you with a pre-screened fulfillment company that meets your shipping needs.

Sales tax rates, rules, and regulations change frequently. Although we hope you'll find this information helpful, this blog is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal or tax advice.
Avalara Author
Laura McCamy
Avalara Author Laura McCamy