A Warehousing, Shipping and Fulfillment Refresher – Part 2
You might have started out fulfilling your own orders. But, as your business has grown, you have considered that maybe it is time to hire a third-party solution (3PL) provider. As many other ecommerce sellers, you might think that your business is not big enough to hire a 3PL provider. But, ecommerce businesses of many sizes can benefit from warehousing and fulfillment services. Fortunately, there are several companies to choose from, each specializing in smaller to larger-scale operations.
How to Choose a 3PL Provider
One of the best ways to find a reputable and effective 3PL provider is to get a referral from a business associate or a friend. There are many logistics companies that will store your product and take care of packing and shipping your orders. Here are some suggestions on how to choose the best 3PL provider for your ecommerce business:
- Get short-term leases. Many logistic companies offer flexible pricing that matches your sales needs during slow periods or unexpected peaks.
- Choose a 3PL provider with experience shipping your type of products. A fulfillment company familiar with your type of product will know how to pack and ship your items. Many specialize in certain industries or types of business.
- Hire a logistics provider who has worked with similar clients. This is particularly important for ecommerce merchants who have special sets of needs. In doing so, they will act as a strategic partner. They will better be able to assist you with any business challenges and offer advice that helps propel the business because they are familiar with your product and or customer group.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the phone or by email. Make sure you have a primary contact and don’t be afraid to ask for references. Ideally, you want to work with a 3PL who understands your needs so there are no surprises down the road.
The 3PL Fulfillment Process
Once you find the perfect 3PL partner, your fulfillment process starts to look simple and fast. From here on, all you really need to do is make sure they have enough of your products in inventory. You can ask that your orders can be sent directly to your logistics company and they’ll take care of packing and shipping the order.
If custom packaging is important to you, make sure you ask potential companies about their options. You need a 3PL that will work with your custom packaging. As they have plenty of experience in this area, they should be able to make recommendations to help you save money on packaging. Many logistics companies can also solve order fulfillment problems on your behalf, including processing and issuing returns or refunds.
Final Piece of Advice
The number one piece of advice is to do your due diligence when searching for a 3PL provider. Do not choose solely based on price. Be sure to check them out, talk with them, and make sure they are competent. This will go a long way in determining if it is a good fit for both. The last thing you need is to have to restart the search process a few months down the road due to delivery issues. Customers who feel more satisfied with their purchase are more likely to buy again or recommend you to their friends.