Choosing the right 3PL provider for your ecommerce business can be a challenge if you don’t have full clarity on the pros and cons.
Today, we’ll be helping you make that decision (at the least helping you better understand your scenario so you can ask the right questions).
Outsourcing fulfillment to a 3PL is a tough one. After all, your business is your baby, but it’s tough to continue growth without having outside help. There’s only so many things you can do.
- (A) You can outsource your fulfillment to a 3PL
- (B) You can purchase your own property, warehouse, equipment, staff, etc.
For a profitable ecommerce business, ecommerce fulfillment is at the heart of your operation. At some point, you’re going to have to make a decision.
Partnering with a 3PL order fulfillment provider can drastically grow your business – if it’s the right partner. But how can you be sure and how can you find that right fit?
(1) Do Your Due Diligence
You likely found our website doing your due diligence and research, right? It’s no different when you’re looking for a 3PL.
Take the time to review the company, read their content, check out their social media profiles. Check out reviews, check out publications, there’s a lot of different ways to ensure a company is legit. One example is seeing if the company has a BBB registration. Here’s ours for Thill Inc.
If you take your time, there’s a lot you can learn.
You can also reach out to a company to discuss your needs – do your research first of course, but there’s a lot you can do on your end to ensure your list of 3PLs are a solid list. Everything else in this guide will help you build that 3PL list.
(2) Experience With Your Ecommerce
You want a 3PL that has experience in your specific ecommerce categories. If you’re doing retail, you want a 3PL that providers retail fulfillment services. If you’re selling cold food products, it wouldn’t make sense to parter with a 3PL provider that doesn’t have controlled storage options? So yeah… it matters.
Not only do your want a 3PL that has experience in your select categories, you want a fulfillment partner that has experience overall.
Here at Thill Inc., we’ve been in fulfillment since 1959! Yes, order fulfillment has changed a lot since then and we’re specifically discussing ecommerce fulfillment, but experience matters. While we’ve seen many fulfillment competitors come and go over that span, we’ve quickly grown into one of the top 3PL ecommerce fulfillment providers in the United States.
(3) What Does Your 3PL Provider Offer?
What does your 3PL partner offer?
All 3PLs are not equal, some of them have a full suite outside the normal fulfillment, warehousing, and shipping options. For others, they may focus on;
- Value Added Services (VAS) – Some 3PL fulfillment providers offer apparel steaming, apparel ironing, poly bagging, heat shrinking, gift wrapping, product labeling, kit assembly, product assembly, even product testing.
- Returns Management – An effective, reliable and predictable returns process allows you to recover the value of the product and saves you money in the long run. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to interact with the customer and transform a return into an exchange.
- Customer Service – A happy customer is often a repeat customer, so you always want to keep your customers happy. Some 3PL providers have a full customer service team to help ensure your customers get the best of care.
- Data And Analytics – Data and analytics can be powerful, but tracking them is not enough. You need to know how to harness that data to grow your business. The technology we have does just that and you want that, so you know how to leverage it.
- Warehousing – You want to utilize state-of-the-art warehouse facilities that include climate controlled storage and secured space including video surveillance, complete sprinkler system, a superior security system and completely redundant power systems. Have special storage needs? A 3PL that has regulated warehousing space, including cage or isolated areas for valuable items; humidity-controlled facilities to accommodate pharmaceutical, agricultural and food standards; as well as refrigeration and freezer units, that is critical to know before you choose.
(4) Industry Specific (More Important Than You Think)
In the (2) option above, we discussed the importance of choosing a 3PL that has experience in your specific product category.
What about industry specific experience?
Some 3PL providers do specialize in key areas of the ecommerce business model. For example;
- Retail Fulfillment – If you own an ecommerce business, it’s likely you’re doing retail fulfillment. While this is a common type of fulfillment, some companies focus specifically on the retail side and they’re well equipped for retail ecommerce businesses.
- Subscription Box Fulfillment – In the past six years, curated subscription boxes have flooded the market. It’s a revamped concept, but the underlying principles of continuity are still the same. For decades, Thill has been helping companies like yours streamline expenses, increase profit margins and retain subscribers.
- Direct Response Fulfillment – Yes, direct response fulfillment – that is certainly a thing.
- Ecommerce Fulfillment – And then there’s the big elephant in the room – ecommerce. If you have an ecommerce business and you’re not doing drop shipping, ecommerce fulfillment is a part of your business model.
(5) Ecommerce Integrations
You have an ecommerce business, therefore, you’re using some type of ecommerce platform for selling (unless you’re a wiz and coded your own setup). And to that, we salute you!
The other 99.9 percent of the web is relying on an ecommerce platform, like Shopify, Magento, Woo Commerce, Ebay, Amazon, etc.
If you’re going to be patterning with a 3PL, you better make sure their software and easily integrate with your ecommerce software.
Fortunately, most 3PLs have endless ecommerce integrations.
- Shopify Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the Shopify platform.
- Magento Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the Magento platform.
- Amazon Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the Amazon platform.
- Ebay Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the Ebay platform.
- WooCommerce Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the WordPress platform.
- CrateJoy Fulfillment – For fulfilling orders on the CrateJoy platform
And you get the point – this is a must before you choose your 3PL.
(6) 3PL Technology
Here at Thill Inc., we can show you the inside of our order management software (OMS) and all the cool data points and analytics.
Some 3PLs are open about their technology, others won’t let you see the goodies until you’re a client.
Either way, 3PL tech is vital and you certainly want a 3PL partner that has great technology.
We live in a technological world and access to top tier tech can give your company a huge advantage over the competition. When our clients here at Thill were asked “what’s one of the most important factors you consider when choosing a 3PL provider,” over 25 percent of them selected tracking and technology. It surprised us, but data and analytics are vital to efficientcy and effectiveness.
(7) 3PL Provider That Can Scale At Will
If you’re thinking about outsourcing order fulfillment, chances are your business is growing. You want to take this thing to the next level and then some.
You better have a 3PL partner that can help you scale unlimited.
You don’t want to be put into a position where you can only grow so much and that’s the ceiling. That would be crazy, right?
The right 3PL can help you scale without limitations – that’s the right type of partner.
(8) Omnichannel Marketing
Omnichannel retail is big time now. Due to this, you better choose a provider that understands the nuances of omnichannel commerce and how to deliver the best possible customer experience.
Look for an experienced partner with proven performance, a repeatable business model, and experience with your industry or business type.
Ecommerce businesses use many channels in 2021 and beyond – you need a 3PL that knows how to leverage that to help you grow.
(9) Multiple Fulfillment And Warehouse Locations
If you want your investment to pay off, choose a 3PL that has multiple fulfillment and warehouse locations.
We talk about splitting inventory between multiple fulfillment centers, we talk about how split inventory can lower shipping costs.
It’s a proven fact, you want a 3PL that has multiple locations.
We know, it’s a lot of think about.
But it’s your ecommerce business, it’s your baby and you have to take care of your baby.
Before you choose a 3PL provider, make sure you come back to this page and use it as a checklist.
This will ensure you choose the best 3PL for your specific scenario.
If you want to learn more about Thill Inc. and how we’re helping our clients grow, be sure to reach out. You can reach us by calling 1-920-967-9201 or by using this contact form.