The Blackbox site mentions it operates "like a co-op". I'm curious if they're still using GEODIS for the actual services and Blackbox is just a passthrough entity for CAH to leverage higher volume for bigger price breaks, or if they're actually operating as a 3PL company themselves now.
But then I clicked on the link, and had to unvote. My eyes!
> Whoa, that header animation is incredible.
> Isn’t it? Paul Robertson made it for us.
I sent them an email support on sept 15th regarding my package. Never got an answer. Never got my package either. Experience is awful. I'd never buy or back anything to anyone using them anymore. I wish I knew.
The difference tends to be the amount of hand holding and abstraction. With 3PL, you have to know what you're looking for, research 3PL providers that fit those needs, get quotes from them, select the most appropriate one, monitor their ongoing performance, and all that jazz. You essentially still need someone internally with the knowledge to do all of that, even if you're outsourcing the physical infrastructure. Until you hit a certain size, it's a very transactional relationship.
With 4PL, you effectively hire a supply chain/logistics consulting company. They can help you design and streamline your internal processes, they identify the most appropriate 3PL provider for your needs, they leverage their industry relationships and knowledge to get you the best deal you're going to get, they handle the day to day issues that crop up (like pushing back on a provider to expedite a shipment when they screwed up, and getting them to eat the expedite cost instead of passing it through to you).
4PL is more expensive, but you don't know what you don't know. And a 4PL provider teaches you what you don't know, while making sure you don't shoot yourself in the foot during the process.
Disclaimer: No affiliation with the company other than being a current customer.
You have fine grained control of your packaging and inserts. These things make a HUGE difference in customer perception and overall happiness. Opening a package should be a joy not a chore, and if you can get a surprise in the box then do it.
I'm paying 1.60 USD per fulfilment item + shipping. And the whole operation is in the US, while I'm sitting in Switzerland and shipping worldwide, without touching the product. I'm doing low-ish numbers, but do know a lot of eCommerce experts who are doing the exact same thing.
I hope that helps!
But if it works for you, great!
Are you bringing your own shipping contracts? Some 3PLs won't let you bring your own.
Is being cost efficient on returns a big deal?
Do you need multiple warehouses for zone skipping or to optimize on delivery times?
Do you care how you interface them(eg: flat file, API)?
Are you bringing your own packaging?
Do want to optimize on cost or prefer more features?
Every 3PL is different and cater to different markets. For example newgistics specializes in returns and handles returns for a lot of the big companies even though they might not be doing the fulfillment. They also have APIs with their custom WMS(warehouse management system). Some companies have lots automation and technology(pick to light, , sorting machines) and some have none. Automation is very helpful if your sending the same stuff over and the shipments are very similar. Sorting will save you lots of money if you own your own shipping contracts and you can presort your daily orders if you have decent volume.
If you don't need FBA, don't use them – tons of issues with their co-mingling products from different sellers and damaging and losing products.
Amazon Prime free shipping and free returns is a super power. If I'm buying something I'd rather pay a couple dollars more knowing that if something is wrong with it, I can just print a label and throw it back in the mail to return it.
A lot of items are just at that awkward price point where, if they are DOA, they aren't quite worth paying return shipping. And when I buy from Amazon, half the time if something is wrong they'll just send me a new item without even requiring a return. Ended up with an extra 64-ounce "beer growler" because of a faulty lid once. The review system helps enforce good customer service.
I've ordered a lot from Amazon -- and yes, they screw up sometimes. But they're very good about fixing issues.
That said, I'm considering a Kickstarter where I might need to ship out a few hundred posters. Found a local fulfillment house that would charge me $1 for pack-and-ship per item, on top of postage and actual packaging costs. Much cheaper than FBA and, as you point out, less likely to end up with co-mingled items.
However, my brother is also big into FBA and just expanded into 3PL - I'll get his info and re-post here when I have it.
FYI - I started a newsletter to cover this stuff. Fast-paced niche, so I figured why not curate the best info and share.
He has had great success with them, if you need those services.
So far they have the simplest and straightforward pricing model. All inclusive rate so you don't have to think of all the fees that the other 3PL companies ding you with.
we have hooks into multiple warehouses all around the world - mostly in California but a couple in Hong Kong which greatly reduces costs (assuming your manufacturing there).
happy to help people out with questions, etc - firstname.lastname@example.org