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19 Aug, 2021

The Importance of Finding a Strong 3PL E-Commerce Fulfillment Partner

For e-commerce stores, a lot rides on the order fulfillment process, and when you’ve outgrown the basement or garage, the right fulfillment warehousing partner can help you scale your business and improve customer relations through superior service.

Will any ol’ warehouse with space available do the trick? Not if you’re looking for a 3PL partner that will help your business boom. It’s important to get the right fit so that you can achieve your goals.

What Should You Look for In Your 3PL E-Commerce Fulfillment Partner?

There are some key features you should consider when you’re shopping around for a fulfillment partner.

Location

Your ideal 3PL partner will have facilities close to your customers. When your product doesn’t have to be shipped as far to get to your customer, whether it’s large quantities of product for a B2B relationship or a single item directly to a customer’s door, it can cut down on both shipping costs and the time it takes to get the product to its destination.

Expediency

In today’s Amazon-centric world, consumers expect their items in record time. Same-day, one-day, and two-day shipping are all very common where once they would have been unheard of.

That’s why it’s important to know how quickly 3PLs can fulfill your orders. Can they ship items on the day they’re ordered so long as orders are in before a shipping deadline?

Expertise

A wealth of logistics knowledge is one of the biggest benefits of using a 3PL e-commerce fulfillment service.

Be sure to ask about the staff’s experience in the industry and whether they offer consulting services to help you improve customer relations and keep costs down.

Customer service is another area of expertise for many fulfillment centers. Be sure to ask if customer service is included in a potential partner’s services.

Tech Capabilities

A fulfillment center is only as good as the tech that props up their services. First, you’ll want to look for a center that can communicate with your e-commerce platform via API so that orders can go directly to your 3PL partner without intervention on your part.

It’s also important that your fulfillment center has the tech available to provide you with full visibility when it comes to orders and your inventory. For instance, cloud-based inventory management can give you a real-time look at your inventory at any given time. Ideally, these metrics will be presented in an easy-to-read, easy-to-use dashboard that makes it simple to get the accurate information you need to manage your business.

Security and Insurance

Be sure to ask how your 3PL protects your inventory. What security measures do they take within their facilities and what measures do their shipping partners take while items are in transit? The ideal fulfillment partner will take reasonable precautions to keep your inventory safe, including thorough vetting of security protocols for any of their partners who will come into contact with your inventory.

You must be clear on who’s responsible for damaged freight at every point in the logistics process. If a package arrives at your customer’s door damaged, is replacing or refunding the item their responsibility or yours? If an item is damaged in the warehouse, does the 3PL pick up the costs only after their shrinkage allowance (small amounts of freight they can write off as damaged without incurring penalties) is met?

Bonus Services

There are some bonus services that companies offer such as freight forwarding, international shipping, and an asset-based model that may make them better candidates depending on your specific needs.

For example, some companies use automation for picking and packing and other parts of the fulfillment process that can help improve the speed and accuracy of orders. If you have a high order volume amongst very similar SKUs and need orders shipped out the same day without fail, a fulfillment center that utilizes this type of automation might be ideal for you.

Price

Whether you’re just starting your search for a 3PL or you’ve had a 3rd party handling your fulfillment needs for some time, the cost is always something you must consider. However, it shouldn’t be the first thing you consider.

If a 3PL fulfillment center is unable to meet your other needs, it could cost you money and customers in the long run. When you’re shopping for a partner, make sure you take into account not only their rates and the rates of their shipping partners but also the money their positive features or shortcomings will save or cost you.

What Could Go Wrong with a Sub-Par Fulfillment Partner?

How bad could the wrong pick and pack partner possibly be, you might be thinking. There’s actually a lot that could go wrong if you choose the wrong fulfillment center.

First and foremost, customer satisfaction may suffer. Poor or inconsistent customer experiences could lead to fewer repeat customers and a reputation that suffers. This could lead to a drop in business and with fewer sales, the costs of a fulfillment center could become a huge burden.

If your 3PL isn’t compatible, tech-wise, orders may wind up sent into the ether, leaving customers unhappy and orders unfulfilled. Lack of critical data could lead to strategy issues on your end. Even if data is provided eventually, delays can lead to inventory issues.

 

Essentially, the right 3PL e-commerce partner can help keep everything that could go wrong during the fulfillment process from going wrong. For e-commerce stores, the key to success is often positive customer relationships, and the fulfillment process is a big part of building and maintaining those critical relationships. Choose a partner that can give you everything you need while keeping fulfillment costs down, and you’ll be on the road to big things.

Newl offers customer-centric Canadian warehousing and distribution services with a centralized location and key shipping relationships that can provide clients with top-notch fulfillment services. Set up a consultation so you can ask the questions you need to find out if we’re the right e-commerce fulfillment partner for your business.

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