A 3PL company can be a game-changing partner for your online store. It can save your time and allow you to focus on sales, while someone else takes care of warehousing and order fulfillment. A 3PL partner can help you to optimize your supply chain and mitigate the risks of in-house order fulfillment. A good 3PL partner can also help increase your customer satisfaction and make expanding to new markets easier. A 3PL service provider can be the critical component in making order fulfillment your competitive advantage.
Stepping into the shoes of a customer – the e-commerce business – we put together a list of things that would be beneficial for an online retailer to keep in mind when considering handing the order fulfillment over to a 3PL company.
So, how to make the transition from doing it all by yourself to letting a professional order fulfillment partner handle all your e-commerce logistics as smooth as possible? Here are 8 things to keep in mind.
1. Have a plan
Make sure you’ve got a clear plan in mind for the near future, as well as for the long run. What does your roadmap look like? Are you investigating new potential markets for your business, or do you already have an expansion strategy? What do you need to consider when doing that? Is your sales growing, and if so, how rapidly?
2. Communicate your plan
In order to offer you the best service possible, a 3PL company benefits from knowing about your plans in advance. This allows the 3PL professionals to give you recommendations on aspects such as optimal warehouse locations and automation solutions, to mention a few.
3. Do your research: shipping methods and couriers
Shipping methods and carriers vary in price and speed, but also in many other aspects. What kind of services do they all provide? Are there any additional considerations, regarding return policies, for example? What kind of shipping methods do you want to enable for your customers?
A skillful 3PL partner has its own courier network and will be able to help you navigate the jungle of different courier companies, but it won’t hurt to do some research on the options beforehand.
4. The important onboarding phase
Pay attention during the onboarding process and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and take your time to get yourself comfortable.
The onboarding phase means also adopting a system to manage your orders. Your new partner will want you to feel confident with using the platform and know your way around to save everyone’s time and avoid unnecessary manual work. Watch tutorials to make the most of using the 3PL system.
OGOship's platform is your central place to manage all your shipments and orders. Once you log in to the order management system myOGO, you'll set up your merchant profile and all the other essentials to get you started. We have a comprehensive list of guides and tutorials you can check out, and we'll guide you through the onboarding phase step by step. We also let you know of all the changes and updates you need to know in our recurring merchant newsletters.
5. Shipping your products to the warehouse(s)
Before shipping your goods to your new warehouse, make sure you have your products consistently marked and coded.
Preparing your products for shipping is a critical step in the process.
The best practice for packing the products is to include one type of SKU per parcel and mark each parcel clearly with the SKU it contains: what's inside and how many items there are. By doing this, you'll make sure that the inbounding of your goods runs smoothly.
Also, remember that all SKU's should, by default, have a scannable barcode, such as an EAN-code. If you currently don't have a scannable barcode on your merchandise, your first point of contact is the supplier to discuss this.
Make sure your products have the same codes on them physically and in the order management system, so order handling will flow smoothly.
6. Spare time to do the paperwork
If you haven't yet sorted out your paperwork after the July 2021 EU VAT changes, you'll need to get that done. If you sell internationally there's a lot of cross-border shipping and selling paperwork you'll need to take care of, including:
- EU VAT registrations
- EU EORI numbers
- Customs documentation
These documents, including any others you may need to fill out, take some time, depending on the country where you sell your products.
Paperwork is an important step of onboarding, and your 3PL partner's onboarding team needs to make sure you have covered it all.
7. Consider shipping efficiency (and think green)
If you’re shipping to Scandinavia, does it make sense to have your warehouse in Southern Europe?
No, if you ask us. We believe that if you are selling your products to different locations, it makes the most sense to distribute your inventory to multiple warehouse locations, and ship to the end customer from the closest possible location. Multi-warehousing helps you to get optimal benefits in regards to:
- Shipping cost
- Shipping time
A skilled 3PL partner's job is to help you optimize your shipping and logistics.
8. Do you need customizations to impress your customers?
Give your new 3PL partner clear instructions on how you wish your orders to be packed. Maybe you’d like to add a beautiful thank you card to your orders?
Plastic-free shipments and packages are trending throughout the retail industry. Would this be something your customers would value?