This is part two in a two-part series. You can read part one here.
In part one of this two-part series on evaluating 3PL services for small- to medium-sized eCommerce businesses, we covered a few of the important services a 3PL partner should offer. These are the non-negotiables — if your 3rd party logistics company can’t provide the most basic services, they won’t be able to meet your needs for long.
As your business grows, you’ll face other challenges that choosing the right 3PL far ahead of time can simplify for you. An experienced 3PL will help you keep your customer base coming back for more by ensuring that packages arrive undamaged and on time, every time.
They’ll also offer these benefits:
Knowledgeable product handling. Many products require special handling, especially things that expire, like vitamins and cosmetics. A 3PL that knows how to handle your merchandise will ultimately be a 3PL that can save you a great deal of money on inventory loss. After all, there’s a specific rotational flow to expiring products that’s required to consistently move the oldest merchandise out the door first.
Scalability. A scalable logistics company is kind of like an accordion — they can expand and contract to meet your needs at will. When you’re heading into a seasonal rush, you can pay a little more for extra inventory storage and your 3PL will make the space. When you’re ready to reduce your inventory, they’ll happily let you reduce your allotment. This level of flexibility comes in handy as your business grows and expands into new areas that might not be as familiar to you.
Shopping cart integration. Modern software can do so much for your small business, but sometimes it can only help you so far. When other computers don’t know how to understand your vital programs, interfacing can be a mess. Luckily, many modern fulfillment companies are able to provide seamless shopping cart integration. This way you won’t have to start over with costly new software, letting business as usual continue.
Location. If your 3PL has warehousing and distribution centers in central locations, it’s likely you’ll be moving merchandise faster to more places. Customers love it when their packages arrive ahead of time and within very tight timetables. Coupling a customer web portal with central warehouses gives customers the ultimate in transparency and speed for their packages.
Your perfect 3PL partner might not end up being the lowest-priced, but you should consider the value you’re getting for the cost. When you can speed up your shipments with centrally located warehouses, benefit from careful handling of fragile merchandise or know that your logistics partner will grow with you, the intangible benefits add up quickly.