If your brand or business is growing quickly, you may have reached a point where you simply can’t handle your shipping in-house anymore. Or perhaps you just want to focus more on your core business. That’s when you start looking at third-party logistics (3PL) providers. There’s a lot to figure out when making a choice about the company that does your 3PL fulfillment because the decision could make or break your business.
Your choice of fulfillment partner is going to have an effect on you, but it’s going to make a huge impact on your customers’ experience with your business. Will they get their order in a reasonable amount of time? Will the product be intact or damaged upon arrival? Did their order get lost somewhere along the way? Will your retail partners receive your inventory on time, flawlessly packaged and labeled?
With that in mind, here are some things to look for when you’re choosing a 3PL for your business.
Ask the right questions
Every logistics provider offers different services and expertise. You want to make sure your 3PL company has the people, capabilities, location, and technology your business needs. Do research about each company’s reliability, handling times, operational processes, scope of services, carrier relationships, and parcel rates. Ask your potential partner for references and speak with some of their clients.
Omnichannel expertise is key
We’re in an omnichannel retail world, and you want to look for a provider who understands the nuances of omnichannel commerce. Make sure your provider can handle any needs you’ll require as you scale, such as Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) , Amazon’s Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM), and Drop Shipping for your online marketplaces. And don’t overlook retail fulfillment for brick-and-mortar stores, an important channel in any omnichannel strategy with very specific requirements. You need a 3PL partner who has the flexibility to meet your business’s unique needs and the experience to deliver on what you—and your customers—expect.
Look for scalability
Choosing a fulfillment logistics provider takes a lot of work, and you don’t want to have to do this all over again if your business grows beyond what your 3PL can handle. A good 3PL will be able to scale to meet their customers’ business needs. Make sure your provider can meet the logistics needs of all your channels and customers, even during busy times such as the holiday season. Is their technology flexible, nimble, and easy to modify for special promotions and seasonality? Can they ramp staff as needed to meet your needs?
Check the tech
Your 3PL should be able to integrate into your existing processes and systems. Whether you have an off-the-shelf shopping cart system or a custom-built inventory management system, it’s crucial for a fulfillment provider’s technology to work and play well with yours. Their warehouse management system should be flexible, customizable and easy to update, and it should provide secure integration to eCommerce platforms, order management systems, and EDI protocols as well as 24/7 access to real-time data anytime, anyplace.
Know their safety & security
Your 3PL should have all the necessary processes and training in place to ensure the safety of its employees and security of your merchandise. This includes the security of your data, too. And make sure your provider has any specific certifications required to handle, store, and ship your products properly, such as Hazmat or FDA registration.
Seek out stability
You’re entrusting your 3PL with your brand, so it’s crucial to find a provider that has been around for a long time, weathered economic downturns, and created long term client relationships. You also want a provider who continues investing in the facilities, equipment, systems, and human resources needed to do right by you—and your customers.
Good customer service is key
Your 3PL should prioritize service, responsiveness, and communication. You need to be able to contact them when you need them, and they should offer a variety of ways to do so. A reliable partner will offer prompt assistance and clear lines of communication for issue resolution.
Look beyond traditional 3PL services
There’s a lot more to logistics than getting the product from point A to point B. Some logistics providers offer additional value-added services like custom kitting; product assembly; re-boxing; and refurbishing. You may find that delegating these services to your 3PL partner makes your life as a business owner so much easier!
Last, but certainly not least: Go for a visit
Meeting your team in person and seeing the facility is an important step in your selection process, so be sure to pay them a visit. After all, seeing is believing! Does the warehouse have the layout and flexibility to accommodate your needs? Does it seem clean, organized and well-run? Is it equipped with the right equipment and technology? And be sure to meet the people who will be managing your business on a daily basis, such as your building manager, client services representative, and any other key people. Are they knowledgeable and professional? After all, they will be the ones you are entrusting to keep your business running smoothly every day!
In the end, a good 3PL will provide peace of mind, taking the burden of logistics off your hands and allowing you to focus on what you do best – serving your customers.
Want to know more about Motivational Fulfillment & Logistics? We’d be glad to tell you! Just fill out our contact form below, and one of our experts will get in touch with you to learn more about your 3PL needs.