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Finding The Best 3PL For Your Online Business (Part 2 of 2)

This is part two in a two-part series. Read part one here.

Now that you’ve taken a hard look at your business and know exactly where your company needs help, it’s time to interview some third-party logistics companies (3PLs).

Keep in mind that these companies are rarely the same from one to the next, and many differ in their adoption of the latest technology.

So, how can you find the right company for your needs? You have to ask a lot of questions and be prepared to look at a lot more than just the sticker price. When you’re ready to start checking out new 3PLs, ask detailed questions about areas like:

Software integration. Does the 3PL have the ability to integrate with the software package you’re already using for eCommerce order management? If not, can they provide compatible software and support to make the transition smooth? Spending a bundle on a new software package is hardly the best way to get started with a 3PL.

Custom solutions. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all 3PL — if you meet a company that wants to saddle you with a cookie-cutter package, keep looking. Your company is unique and so must your solutions be. The company you hire should be able to deal with your seasonal fluctuations, specific kitting needs and provide other additional services like customer support or shipment acceptance to keep your business running smoothly.

Communications. It’s vital that you know exactly what’s happening with your stock and your orders at any given time, but not every 3PL is set up to deliver real-time data. Make sure your new fulfillment company is as invested as you are in technology and can give you accurate updates at any time of the day or night with an easy to use software solution. Otherwise, you’re ordering inventory and trying to balance a budget without all the necessary information.

Speed and accuracy. Your 3PL may be fast, but is it also accurate? Can it ship products with nearly no errors, but it sometimes takes days to do so? Find a company running a lean warehouse and ask for its numbers. Having the best of both worlds is worth a few extra dollars if it increases customer satisfaction.

The best 3PL for your online business is probably not the first one you’ll meet — but keep asking the hard questions and you’ll soon come across a winner. Remember, your order fulfillment center and fulfillment services company is a partner in your business and you need them to behave like one.

This is part two in a two-part series. Read part one here.



May 26, 2015
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