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8 Key Features to look for in a 3PL provider

By September 1, 2020April 14th, 2021No Comments
8-key-features-to-look-for-in-a-3pl

You are looking ahead to growing your ecommerce business. Your next step is to choose a 3PL provider that matches your needs. But there are so many different 3PL services out there. So, what should you look for in a 3PL?

We’ll go through eight key features for you to look at when deciding on a 3PL.

1. Scalability/Flexibility

Scalability is one of the prior key features to look for in a 3PL. The question to ask here is, “can the 3PL efficiently scale their operations according to your changing needs?”

While you strive to grow your ecommerce business, it is given that there are ups and downs in your business. This means that the amount of service you need from the 3PL will change. Therefore, it is important that the 3PL is flexible and responsive to your situation.

During your lower period, 3PLs need to be quick in scaling down their services. That way, you won’t have to spend extra money on spaces and fees that you won’t use.

On the other hand, when your business spikes up (such as before Christmas or during Black Friday), 3PLs will need to ramp up their operations. This is in order to fulfil the increasing number of orders. What they don’t want is to drop the reputation of your business and theirs.

So, make sure to check for scalability first when choosing a 3PL provider.

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2. Robust technology

Modern ecommerce businesses need to be swift in their fulfilment. 3PL technology helps to achieve that with minimal errors. It is better when 3PL providers are willing to continue improving their technologies.

3PL platform

The first technology to take notice of is the 3PL’s platform software. 3PL software is usually what you use in order to be able to see and manage your inventory.

The platform should be designed so that your inventory is easily visible and manageable. Both the graphical interface and user interface are important parts that make up the user experience (as in, your experience).

But first of all, the platform should work smoothly as a platform!

Here are some questions for you to ask yourself when looking at a 3PL’s platform.

  • Do I find myself easily navigating through the platform?
  • Can I easily see, comprehend and manage my inventory?
  • Is the platform available on different devices? (PC, tablet, phone, etc.)
  • Is the 3PL fast at fixing errors on the platform?
  • Does the platform go through scheduled maintenance?

You can try out our platform by creating a free account.

Another technology to look at is API integration, which we’ll look at further in the next section.

3. Integrations

API (application programming interface) is what allows interaction between devices and applications. It delivers data back and forth. Because the interaction is automated, it reduces human error and saves time.

In 3PL, this usually refers to the connection between online shopping channels (such as Shopify and Amazon) and the 3PL’s platform. What this means is that you and the 3PL can see all of the orders from the different channels on one platform.

Plus, you can also see your inventory from the same platform. This means you can quickly tell whether you need to re-stock your products or not. Which also connects to raised responsiveness.

Because of these benefits, it is always good to search for a 3PL that actively integrates with various other platforms.

Some 3PLs can also integrate with courier services and accounting applications. This makes it easier for you to do two things. One is to make direct requests related to shipping. Second, is to calculate your profits and fees while checking your order records.

Generally, the more integrations, the better.

If you’re interested in our integrations at KeepSpace, check from here.

4. Network

3PL’s network can point to three different aspects. One is its physical warehouses and their location. Second, is its courier partnerships and shipping locations. Last, is its connection with ecommerce businesses.

Warehouse locations

Some 3PLs have multiple warehouses distributed across the world. This can bring more benefit to both you and the 3PL.

For example, let’s say your new customer lives in Melbourne. It would be much faster and cheaper to fulfil the order from a Melbourne based warehouse. Your customer also benefits in the same way. Plus, your customer can feel more secure, knowing that the product is sent from a close location.

You can connect with multiple 3PLs that are located in different places if you want. However, you can make it easier by choosing one 3PL with a wide warehouse distribution.

Worldwide shipping

Courier partnerships provide a great variety of shipping choices. The more partnerships a 3PL has, the more ways to fulfil your orders. Worldwide shipping is one of them.

Growing your ecommerce business will include considering overseas customers. However, international shipping can be expensive when you’re on your own. Finding a 3PL with many courier partnerships will provide cheaper solutions.

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5. Stability

A stable 3PL provider means two things. One, it provides high-quality logistics. Two, there are no worries of it suddenly falling apart. Now, how do you figure out whether a 3PL is stable?

Years of experience

The easiest way to start your research is to look at how long the 3PL has been around. The long years represent the consistent quality services they provide.

Long years of business also means many years of experience in a constantly changing environment. Especially for 3PLs, because the logistics industry commonly goes through rapid changes.

This also means that the 3PL is adaptable and innovative. They can provide great insight into how to solve problems in your ecommerce business.

Financial records

3PLs are capital-intensive businesses, so it is important to know that they are financially stable as well. If they’re not financially stable, that can lead to poor quality service and negligence of your ecommerce business.

Plus, you wouldn’t want your logistics to suddenly crash down.

When 3PLs are financially stable, they will have the resources to invest in your growing business. They will also have the operational capability to provide the services that you will truly need.

6. Customisation

3PLs are about customising their services to match your needs. This includes omnichannel capacity and customised fulfilment processes. However, in this section, we’ll specifically go through the packaging and shipping customisation.

Building up your personal brand consists of various strategies. This can include raising social media presence, designing original packages, writing personalised letters, and so on.

3PL can assist with your personalisation process during its packaging and shipping process.

You can send your original designed packages and personalised letters to the 3PL, and they will be used when specified. Some 3PLs can even produce the packages and letters on your behalf, as long as you provide the design details. Here at KeepSpace, we also provide a range of customisation choices.

Customisation also applies to various shipping choices. Other options can include fast shipping, delivery tracking, palletisation, and so on.

7. Customer service

Excellent customer services are what should connect you and the 3PL’s relationship. Here is a list of what is considered as excellent customer service.

  • Quick at identifying issues;
  • Effortlessly resolving problems;
  • Providing business solutions;
  • Fluid communications;
  • Safe logistics;
  • Responsive to your needs, and more.

How do you figure out the level of a 3PL’s customer service? The best way is to ask their partners. It’s more likely that you’ll get a truly honest opinion about the 3PL provider.

8. Safety and security

When you leave your precious products and orders in the hands of your 3PL, make sure to know about their safety and security measures. Both physical, and digital.

Safety regulations go through almost constant change in the 3PL industry. Which means the 3PL needs to stay up to date with the latest ways in order to continue the business.

Therefore, safety records which show constant adaption are evidence of a well-organised 3PL.

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Physical security

3PL’s store your products in their warehouse. Which are then passed on to couriers. It’s a given that you are concerned with security. You wouldn’t want your precious products to get stolen.

Try asking, “What are your security measures?” While you’re at it, also ask for their safety records. A good record usually means a well-organised 3PL. Check here for more questions to ask your 3PL provider.

Also, take notice of their risk management.

Physical risks exist in the warehouse of 3PLs. Boxes and pallets are stacked up on high shelves. Staff use key lifts. There are products that are fragile or heavy. Risk of cuts while packaging, and so on.

If they have proper management and their staff are happy and healthy, it’s likely a great 3PL.

Digital security

The 3PL’s platform keeps your order information. This includes your customer’s personal information. Your 3PL should have proper digital security on their platform in order to protect this information.

Digital security can come in the form of security software and staff protocols.

Security software is fairly straightforward. Either they have installed security software from a trusted third party, or they have an excellent IT team.

Staff protocols refer to safe cyber habits, such as not clicking on URLs from spam mail. This lowers the possibility of allowing viruses and hackers in the platform.

Conclusion/Review

When you are looking for a 3PL provider, it is good to look into these eight features.

  1. Scalability/Flexibility
  2. Robust technology
  3. Integrations
  4. Wide network
  5. Stability
  6. Customisation
  7. Customer service
  8. Safety and security

You will want to have a long-lasting relationship between a 3PL. One that will help grow your ecommerce business.

Further readings

If you want to know more about how to choose a 3PL, check out our other blog posts that can help you.

Want to know more about KeepSpace?

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