Can your 3PL handle B2B fulfillment or retail fulfillment? Should you care?
As ecommerce brands grow and their products become more popular, one of the common paths to accelerated growth is having your products get picked up by a specialty store or big-box retailer. At this point, finding a 3PL (third party logistics provider) that can handle B2B and retail fulfillment becomes a necessity — and ensures that your business will keep growing without a hitch.
Maybe your ecommerce business is not at that stage yet. Still, if you’re even thinking about it, you should also be thinking about how you’re going to scale your fulfillment operations. When the time comes, you’re going to need a fulfillment partner that can handle your existing omnichannel ecommerce fulfillment as well as retail fulfillment. So, what exactly does retail fulfillment entail? And what should you be looking for in a B2B fulfillment provider?
DTC, B2B, and Retail Fulfillment
Traditional third-party logistics providers (3PLs) and fulfillment centers specialize in direct-to-consumer (DTC) or business-to-consumer (B2C) fulfillment. They partner with ecommerce brands to store their inventory, fulfill, and ship orders directly to the individual customers that ultimately use them. B2B (business-to-business) fulfillment, on the other hand, is the process of filling orders from one business to another business.
B2B 3PLs most commonly act like wholesale distribution centers for larger ecommerce brands, fulfilling bulk orders to retailers, who in turn sell to customers. But B2B fulfillment can take other forms. Ecommerce brands that fulfill orders in smaller quantities to smaller stores and boutiques are also engaging in B2B fulfillment. Those that sell office supplies or equipment, may sell products directly to non-retail businesses. In these cases, the B2B orders are handled just like a DTC order, except that they must be delivered during business hours. That’s why it’s handy to partner with a 3PL that knows the ins and outs of both types of fulfillment.
Most fulfillment companies specialize in one or the other — DTC fulfillment or wholesale distribution. Some 3PLs, such as ShipMonk, are equipped to handle both DTC and B2B fulfillment.
How is B2B fulfillment Different?
DTC/B2C orders are usually quite small compared to B2B orders. There may only be one or two items in a DTC order, but a DTC 3PL may pick, pack, and ship thousands of ecommerce orders per day. These orders are being shipped to thousands of different addresses across the US and internationally, using multiple small-parcel shipping carriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS. The logistics involved in routing these orders is staggering.
B2B customers typically order less often, and purchase in bulk (think pallets, not packages). The order-processing technology, packing, and shipping requirements are completely different with B2B orders, yet the process is much the same. Orders are picked, packed and shipped — just on a larger scale.
A 3PL with B2B capabilities must adhere to strict packaging and labeling requirements unique to each retailer and marketplace, or face a penalty (or refusal of merchandise!) for failure to do so. The 3PL must invest in electronic data interchange (EDI) compliant technology required by most large retailers, as well as the technology integrations required by large marketplaces such as Amazon FBA.
B2B Fulfillment Capabilities to Look For
Ecommerce order fulfillment is a complex process, no matter who’s doing the ordering. Both B2B and DTC order fulfillment require technology integrations, efficient warehouse operations, and shipping expertise. But 3PLs that handle retail fulfillment have superpowers that strictly DTC 3PLs don’t have.
- Multiple Retailer Support with EDI Integration
- Freight Management
- Multiple Small Parcel Delivery Options
- 3rd Party Shipping Accounts
- Routing Guideline Compliance
- Master Case Building & Breaking Bulk
Let’s take a closer look at each of these requirements.
Multiple Retailer Support with EDI Integration
If you’re going to process orders and invoice retailers, you’re going to need technology and systems that automate these processes and allow for the secure transfer of data. EDI-compliant technology is critical to working with big-box retailers.
ShipMonk’s EDI-compliant technology, fulfillment expertise, and 75+ integrations with retailers, storefronts, and marketplaces make it easy for you to connect with a network of solution providers and ultimately take your ecommerce business to the next level.
A 3PL that can efficiently oversee your brand’s inbound and outbound freight shipments can save your ecommerce brand both time and money. As an authorized freight broker, ShipMonk can arrange domestic and international freight transportation services through our network of experienced, trustworthy providers. With ShipMonk managing your freight, your goods will get where they need to go, reliably, on-time, and at the best price.
Multiple Small Parcel Delivery Options
Not all B2B orders are full truckload (FTL) or even LTL (less than truckload). A 3PL that can process and ship 300 units as easily as 30,000 units can be trusted to manage all of your ecommerce and retail fulfillment needs. Having multiple options for both freight and small parcel carriers is key to getting the best rates and most reliable services. Want to add drop-shipping services through one of your retail accounts? ShipMonk has the know-how to automate your EDI and fulfillment process, allowing you to focus on growing your business while we handle the small-parcel fulfillment.
3rd Party Shipping Accounts
3PLs develop relationships and maintain integrations with dozens of carriers and shipping methods in order to automate the scheduling, routing and tracking process. Oftentimes, a retailer will have a relationship with its own shipping carrier and will want to use that carrier for their orders. A B2B 3PL should easily be able to handle third party shipping accounts for scheduling and billing. With ShipMonk, ecommerce businesses can designate a third-party shipper easily, right within our industry-leading fulfillment software platform.
Routing Guideline Compliance
Retailers, from the smallest to the largest, each have their own requirements for receiving merchandise. That includes prepping merchandise with proper codes, packing, labeling, palletizing, and shipping — all according to the retailer’s precise specifications. ShipMonk’s experience with numerous retailers and our trained fulfillment teams ensure that each order is prepped, packed and shipped correctly.
Master Case Building & Breaking Bulk
3PLs receive inbound shipments of merchandise in large quantities, but they may not be packaged in the same quantities that your business customers order. That’s why your 3PL needs to be flexible enough to handle special projects, like building master cases for retail, or breaking down bulk shipments into smaller quantities. Prepping a wholesale order might also include consolidating multiple orders going to the same retailer, removing or adding labels, kitting or assembly work. With some 3PLs, nobody gets special treatment. With ShipMonk, everybody does.
Automate Your B2B and Retail Fulfillment with ShipMonk
It’s a simple process to add B2B to your sales channels when you partner with a 3PL that does it all. ShipMonk makes it easy!
EDI capabilities, plus over 75 technology integrations with retailers, marketplaces, shopping carts, and 3rd party solution providers, ensure you have all the connections you need for B2B fulfillment.
2. Inventory Storage
Store your products in one or more of our first-party, tech-enabled fulfillment centers.
3. Order Synchronization
Plug & play software integrations enable all ecommerce, retail and wholesale orders to be automatically synced and managed within ShipMonk’s industry-leading, easy-to-use platform. (Watch our quick 3PL platform tour video for a taste of how easy it can be.)
4. Order Fulfillment
We pick, prep, pack, and ship the order to the retailer or end-customer.
5. Optimized Freight Shipping
Our Virtual Carrier Network takes the guesswork out of shopping for the best shipping rates and uses a powerful algorithm to automatically select the best shipping carrier and method for the order.
Can Your 3PL Do All This?
ShipMonk is a growth engine for the world’s fastest growing ecommerce brands. Our B2B fulfillment tools help growing brands quickly master the complex challenges of retail distribution and wholesale fulfillment. All that, plus best-in-class support from our expert Happiness EngineersI Contact us today and find out how our state-of-the-art EDI-compliant technology empowers you to harness the scale of B2B capabilities.