Fulfilment Services: The dos and don’ts of using a 3pl
Are you currently pondering partnering with a 3pl for your fulfilment services? Are you perhaps already aligned with a 3pl and want to make a change? Whatever the reason, or if you don’t know about 3pl services, this is the article for you. By the end, you will understand what third-party logistics provide for your online business and how you can avoid the common pitfalls of using inferior 3pl companies.
You want to form a strong and productive relationship with your fulfilment services partner. They are an extension of your brand, so trust and reliance are critical. Let’s discuss the complete dos and don’ts of using a 3pl.
Fulfilment services are a third-party logistics provider that assists online sellers in housing and delivering their products to customers. Fulfilment services are vital to any online business, as they both simplify the ordering process and help businesses streamline operations. They essentially act as the logistics arm of your operations for getting your goods to your buyers.
3PLs offer a variety of fulfilment services for eCommerce businesses. For example, storage and inventory management, picking and packing your products, and shipping your orders to your customers when items are purchased on your website. They also offer custom packaging, inventory management software (so you can manage products online from anywhere), next-day delivery, and returns management.
A comprehensive fulfilment services provider gives you the ability to rapidly build and scale your online business by enabling you to ship large volumes of products – without all the hassle of actually doing it yourself!
What is a fulfilment centre?
Fulfilment centres are centralised warehouse locations where goods are processed, then stored and packaged for shipment to customers. Many online retailers prefer to use 3PLs for fulfilment services as owning or renting a warehouse themselves is expensive – plus shipping and packing products for delivery are time-consuming. Fulfilment services free you up to focus on your core business, meaning growing your product line or marketing your brand.
Inventory management is the process of managing the storage and flow of inventory within a 3pl warehouse. Many retailers are not aware of how important it is to have an accurate inventory of their products. Product and supply chain managers take inventory of items that need replenishment and oversee all necessary operations related to warehouse stock. With multiple SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) and omnichannel fulfilment, inventory management can get tricky if your business doesn’t facilitate good practices.
Do use a 3pl that digitally maps their warehouse and use tech-first methods for scanning, storing, and managing products. Warehouse management software (WMS) should always be used for accuracy and efficiency. Selazar has a 99.9% order accuracy rate because of our technology.
Do not use a 3pl that uses manual methods of managing your inventory. These older primitive warehouse inventory management methods are inefficient and prone to mistakes.
Custom Packaging Fulfilment Services
If you’re a brand-focused seller, chances are you require custom packaging for your products. After all, having great “unboxing experiences” creates a strong affinity with your customer’s brand perception – so it’s imperative to use a 3pl that handles your custom packaging. 3pls that offer custom packaging will have their own standard boxes but will use your custom box if you have them. They also have their own packing supplies – but will insert your custom cards, and other custom additions should you require them.
Do use a 3pl that offers custom packaging. Even if you don’t currently need custom packaging, it’s a favourable option if your brand chooses to do so later.
Don’t use a fulfilment services solution that doesn’t offer custom packaging if it’s important to your brand. One of the worst purveyors of fulfilment that do not do custom packaging is FBA – which delivers everything with its own branded packaging. Though fulfilling with them has perks, complete brand control is not one of them.
Dispatch Times and Services
When fulfilment services refer to dispatch, that means an order that has been made online from your store has been picked from its shelf location and been made ready for pickup from the courier. If you were to think of this as delivering a parcel to a post box – then this is accurate. Though it’s not been delivered yet, it’s been (dispatched) made ready for pickup. This means packages can be delivered the same day or the next day depending on courier pick-up times.
Do use a 3pl that offers same-day dispatch and has longer dispatch times within the warehouse. This offers the best solution for your customers. Dispatch speed is your competitive advantage – which is why Selazar offers later cut-off times for dispatch than its competitors. Any orders made by 7 pm are guaranteed same-day dispatch.
Do not use a 3pl with standard industry dispatch cut-off times around 1 or 2 pm. This delays delivery times for your customers.
Next Day Delivery
Today customers have higher expectations than they did five years ago. Waiting 3 – 5 days for a package used to be normal – then it increased to 2 – 3 days. As eCommerce has expanded and supply chain logistics have gotten more efficient, more customers are expecting next-day delivery. A recent survey found that 62% of people expect next-day delivery options.
Do use fulfilment services that offer next-day delivery for your customers. It’s much more convenient and will keep customers happy.
Don’t use a 3pl that is unable to offer next-day delivery. Your competitors will be looking for the same solutions for fulfilment services, so don’t neglect these options – or you may lose customers simply due to delivery options.
Fulfilment Services Contracts
Going into business with any 3pl for fulfilment services can make you feel nervous – after all, they are looking after your business interests. Getting into a contract that you can’t get out of (when you’re very unhappy with services rendered) could be a nightmare. It’s always a smart idea to have the freedom to decide your business strategy – if and when you want to.
Do use a 3pl with rolling month-to-month contracts. Whether due to budgetary constraints or you’re simply unhappy with their services, it’s always best to have an immediate exit strategy later.
Don’t get into annual or multi-annual contracts. This could be detrimental to your businesses should your fulfilment services provider not “deliver” on its promises. Also try to avoid unnecessary administrative costs such as “joining fees” or arbitrary annual costs. All 3pls have their own costs associated with their services to function obviously but be aware of unnecessary price-gouging practices.
As a tech-forward 3pl, we pride ourselves on our technology for smart and efficient fulfilment services. However, when it comes to service, nothing beats good old-fashioned. Business is challenging, and when issues arise, you don’t have time as a business owner to wait for email replies or make a customer support ticket. Business moves fast, and sometimes you need help right away. Live customer service support will always remain a mandatory tenant of b2b service – no matter where technology takes us.
Do use a 3pl that you can call and speak to over the phone (or via video chat) if and when you need it during regular business hours. Your business and time are valuable, and you should be treated with the respect and dignity you deserve. Never settle for less than excellent customer service with your 3pl.
Don’t partner with a 3pl that does not value your business enough to pick up phone calls when you need them. In business, you need trust as well as respect. Make sure your 3pl is there for you and makes you their priority.
Sustainability and green fulfilment strategies are responsible business practices that are mandatory for everybody to reduce our worldwide carbon footprint. We believe that sustainable practices are the future of supply chain logistics. That’s why we make it our mission to be a leader in environmentally friendly and socially responsible practices for our industry.
Third-party logistics are a single-source, integrated platform and service to help grow your eCommerce company faster, easier, and more cost-effectively. Finding the right fulfilment services partner will allow you to focus on your core competencies and reach more customers – while giving your business a hands-off worry-free experience.
One of the most common questions we hear about eCommerce fulfilment is whether companies should use a fulfilment service for their orders. The answer depends on the customers your company is trying to attract, the size of your order volume, and how you want to run your business. Fulfilment services are very useful and can help you save time and money. Outsourcing and automating your logistics for managing, packaging, and shipping products could reshape the future of your brand. If you have more questions about this or have other related fulfilment services questions, schedule a free no-obligation discovery call with us today.
As the writer and content manager for Selazar Matt’s aim is to provide useful content on logistics, technology, marketing, and strategy for eCommerce businesses. He wants to help businesses and retailers thrive by staying updated on the latest trends while also learning the best practices to expand their operations.