Sometimes, getting the day’s orders packed and out the door is a significant headache that pulls you and other leaders away from necessary operations. In these cases, you just want fulfillment solutions that work. When you’ve grown big enough that you can’t do it yourself — or you constantly have to watch over the shoulder of an existing partner — it’s time to start looking for a 3PL that gets the job done.
Finding the right 3PL or fulfillment solution doesn’t have to be a tricky process. You can take a direct approach to evaluate your options, create a short list, and move forward with a company you can trust.
What should you look for in 3PL fulfillment solutions?
Your fulfillment partner should turn a potential headache into a well-oiled machine that supports your operations. We think order management and fulfillment should never get in the way of a sale or customer service win. Your 3PL should be a valuable partner that helps you manage inventory and watch for sales and carrier trends. Plus, it should support your IT requirements, ship orders reliably, and manage returns. Its support enables you to meet the promises you make to customers.
Here are seven things to consider beyond basic pick and pack support to make the most of your decision. They’re key to creating a long-lasting, healthy partnership.
Shipping and inventory speeds
Most eCommerce companies already focus on fulfillment solutions’ speed in getting goods to customers. You know that people don’t want to wait, and some shoppers will return or cancel orders if they take too long to arrive. This makes the speed of fulfillment paramount. You require access to multiple national and regional carriers so that you’ve always got options even during the year-end capacity crunch.
The area of speed that is often overlooked is how fast a 3PL makes your inventory available to use. You need products ready and on the shelf if you’re going to fill any orders. Proper fulfillment solutions will prioritize this effort so that your goods are ready quickly while inventory counts remain accurate. That combination protects sales revenue and decreases risks associated with overspending.
Red Stag Fulfillment guarantees that, after the carrier unloads your shipment in our facility, we’ll receive it accurately within two business days or pay you $50 for the delay. Read more about our guarantees here.
Better rates and lower costs
Good partners protect margins. That should be true for your entire supply chain, especially any fulfillment solutions you employ. It’s also a good idea to look for margin- and revenue-friendly tools because integrating with new carriers gives you access to a broader range of shipping products and prices.
Your 3PL offers improved rates by negotiating directly with carriers using their entire order volume — that’s the volume from all partners, not just your store. Leveraging that larger quantity generally helps the 3PL secure lower rates and improve the carrier customer service you receive. They also can collaborate with carriers to reduce or eliminate a broad set of fees, lowering your costs even more.
Companies like Red Stag Fulfillment take this a step further by focusing on and negotiating for specific product categories — in Red Stag’s case, large, bulky, and high-end items — to make those shipments especially affordable. That’s just one of many ways working with a 3PL can boost eCommerce sales and profitability.
The right fulfillment solutions fit your products and customers, typically offering multiple warehouse locations. This ensures your goods can move quickly to customers, and the shorter the last mile, the less you typically pay a carrier. Using multiple locations also offers protection against weather and similar unexpected events that may shut down a region.
There are a variety of techniques to achieve gains here. Red Stag Fulfillment offers two locations that can reach nearly 97% of Americans within two days, plus support for advanced options like zone skipping.
Fulfillment solution scalability
Every company wants to increase its sales. In fact, you’re probably hoping to choose between fulfillment solutions quickly so you can get back to filling your pipeline, closing deals, and enjoying running an eCommerce company. Find a service provider with the room you need now, and that is proactively supporting your growth with additional space. For us at Red Stag, that means adding more than 700,000 sq. ft. of new warehouse space this year in our Sweetwater facility alone. Stay tuned for even more room and the chance to scale up to your heart’s desire.
Returns processing at each fulfillment location
Returns are a fact of the eCommerce life, and they’re a great stand-in for evaluating how a 3PL will treat your business. You want fulfillment solutions to match your unique set of needs, and you should be able to get that without unnecessary restrictions. A prime example is whether the 3PL offers services like returns processing at each fulfillment location. You can choose the best location to help customers and control last-mile costs when services are available at each warehouse. All locations having a full-service offering is a strong indicator of a healthy 3PL focused on its own growth as well as yours.
Fulfillment solutions’ proactive support
If you’ve grown large enough to use or consider using a 3PL, your supply chain is significantly complex. The more links in that chain, the more that can go wrong. You’ll want proactive support and client success teams to help you address known events like peak congestion and plan for other issues that could go wrong. Everything from COVID outbreaks and port delays to local weather or a carrier moving the wrong trailer can and will happen.
Ask any partner what their plan is to ensure your success. Look for direct answers about past events. Ask about the education or relevant supply chain news they share to help you understand what could happen next. Sometimes that means help adopting new technology or a word of caution to help you avoid potentially harmful hype.
Tailored services and pricing
Default pricing for fulfillment services only truly works if your products are like everyone else’s. If you offer something unique, your fulfillment solutions should tailor offering and pricing based on what sets you apart. That can mean everything from multiple shipping cutoff times and standard returns support to quality assurance checks on inbound goods, proper storage, and adequate testing of shipping materials. Working with big and bulky items has taught us that this means care and caution for products so that we receive, store, and ship them in ways that prevent damage.
You don’t want a cookie-cutter service that treats your business like every other business. The unique value you provide to customers should be reflected in how your partners treat you and your products. Look for a fulfillment solution that offers a custom approach to address your needs. Get pricing explicitly based on that approach. This eliminates risks of misunderstanding your goods or hiding fees until you receive your first bill.
Fulfillment solutions with the experience you need
The most innovative option is usually the one that knows you best. When it comes to protecting goods in transit and keeping customers happy thanks to quick fulfillment, that means an experienced and growing 3PL like Red Stag Fulfillment.
While others in the industry are reducing services or selling warehouses, we’re actively expanding to serve businesses like yours. Not only have we helped companies scale their sales significantly, but our partners get access to Red Stag experts to help improve their supply chain. We’ll create a customized plan to help you evaluate available locations, carriers, and more to find your perfect fulfillment solutions. And it only takes one click to get started.