Is your ecommerce store ready to spread its wings? If so, then it’s likely you’re starting to shop around for a fulfillment center. Smart move! Outsourcing your fulfillment comes with a plethora of benefits, like scoring big on savings and having more time to grow your business. Before you take the big plunge, however, there are a few considerations you’ll need to make. Here are our top tips for choosing the 3PL of your dreams!
#1. Make a List of Musts
If this is your first rodeo, you’ll need to think carefully about what your business requires to truly flourish. For example, if you ship food items, then they need to have the proper certification, and so on and so forth. Always be clear and straightforward about your needs — your 3PL should be able to return the favor.
#2. Consider Multiple Locations
A 3PL with multiple locations can be hugely advantageous for some, but not all, business owners. It’s a great choice if you’ve got a geographically diverse customer base, and it actually allows you to save on shipping as your packages will travel a shorter distance to reach their end destination — remember that the longer an order has to travel, the more expensive shipping will (usually) be. If splitting inventory makes sense for your business, then a 3PL with multiple warehouses is the way to go.
#3. Look Beyond the Sticker Price
Money makes the world go ‘round. Or maybe that’s love. Regardless, saving some pretty pennies was likely one of the driving factors behind your decision to outsource. Taking price into consideration is obviously important, but make sure that’s not all you’re accounting for. It might be tempting to go for the cheapest option, but remember that it’s probably the cheapest for a reason. Outdated technology, improper training, and lacking customer service can all be consequences of an underfunded operation. You don’t want to save money in the beginning if it means you’ll be paying a much steeper price down the line.
#4. Ask a Lot of Questions
There are no dumb questions, especially when your business’s entire livelihood is at stake! Hesitations, doubts, worries — bring them all up. Your prospective 3PL should be more than happy to cast some light and ease any concerns you may have. Keep a pencil and pad near you at all times, and don’t cross any questions out until you’re sure you’ve completely understood the answers.
#5. Follow Up on References
From landlords to employees, you’re probably pretty familiar with giving references. Now, it’s your turn to ask for them! If your 3PL is looking great on paper, go the extra step to make sure they really walk the talk. Look for references and client case studies to verify their claims so that you know you’re signing up with the real deal. This might even be a good chance to speak to fellow business owners and listen in on some words of wisdom.
#6. Visit the Warehouse
If you’re not in the area, don’t sweat this step! It is absolutely not necessary to physically visit your 3PL’s warehouse — instead, ask for a virtual tour so you can get all the info you need without ever leaving your couch. Ah, the wonders of technology.
Of course, if you’re close by, visiting the warehouse is a wonderful way to get acquainted with your inventory’s new home, meet the team, and perhaps reserve some bragging rights for when you tell your friends and colleagues about how cool your new fulfillment center is.
#7. Perform a Test Run
Don’t tie the knot with your fulfillment partner just yet — you’ve got to perform a test run first. Begin by sending a small quantity of your inventory to the 3PL. Pay close attention to their performance (and to any changes in customer feedback) to see if their service meets or even exceeds your expectations. If there are any kinks in the process, this is the perfect time to wring them out. Of course, you may also come to find that, despite all of your due diligence, they are simply not the one for you! No worries. Like they always say, there are plenty of fulfillment centers in the sea.
Now that you’ve been armed with our best industry tips, it’s time to make one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make as a business owner. No pressure! 🙂
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