In a blink of an eye, an eCommerce business can go from locally known to nationally known. When this happens, business owners may scramble to figure out how to ship their products nationally. For many, the first step is to use the obvious resources like FedEx, USPS, and UPS. However, leaning on a 3PL should be considered during this whirlwind of a time period — especially if you see exponential growth coming your way for your business. In this blog, we will try to help to make this decision a little easier, so you have a game plan on how to ship products nationally.
Self-fulfillment vs 3PL
Your business is successful, and orders are piling up. For many start-ups and small businesses, self-fulfillment is the first thought. However, there is a wide world of options when it comes to order fulfillment that expands beyond your company’s doors. It’s good to look at all the options and find what’s best for you, your business, and your products.
What is self-fulfillment?
When a business elects to pick, pack, and ship its products in-house, it’s called self-fulfillment. And for some businesses, self-fulfilling can be the best option, but for many others, it can get overwhelming. However, this shouldn’t scare you. Look at how your business is growing. Are your products nationally known now? Is your business trending on social media? If your company is growing at a pace that is comfortable for your warehouse and business, self-fulfilling might be for you.
What is a 3PL?
On the other hand, you might see this rapid growth in a blink of an eye, and your business space might not be able to handle the orders that keep coming in. Sudden, unexpected growth can be a dream for your business but a nightmare on your self-fulfillment operation. If this happens, it might be time to look at a 3PL. A 3PL is a third-party logistics provider that acts as an eCommerce fulfillment company. Companies like Red Stag Fulfillment work to modernize your logistics by providing services like warehousing, order fulfillment, and 3PL shipping.
How to ship products nationally through self-fulfillment
If your company elects to self-fulfill, it’s important to maintain organization and create checks and balances when first starting out. Why? Fulfillment is essentially a second business that your company owns and operates. So, it’s important to have an inventory management system to ensure items are correctly placed on the shelves and have an accurate inventory number. You’ll need workers that can pick, pack, and ship out your products correctly and without damages or mishaps — even if your “warehouse” is simply your garage, someone has to run the processes. The list can go on when it comes to setting up your own fulfillment center.
When shipping out your products, you will also need to communicate with the national carriers to ensure accurate pickup times and delivery times. By doing this, you have the ability to relay shipping times to your customers. Plus, you need to communicate with carriers to make sure your products follow specific shipping guidelines.
There’s a lot of work that goes into self-fulfillment. From finding the right people to handle your products to following national carrier guidelines, it’s like starting up a second business. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. If you are thinking that self-fulfillment might be your path, here are the pros and cons to help you make that final decision.
- All-in-one business. You can have your business and products in one place, so if there’s a mishap, it can be fixed almost immediately.
- More customizations. Since you are self-fulfilling, you have the ability to customize your outgoing orders with personal notes, packaging, and marketing inserts.
- Complete control. Your pick, pack, and ship process is within your business. You are able to control how your products go out to your customers since you are doing it all by hand.
- Labor costs. As soon as you outgrow the “garage phase” of self-fulfilling, you’re going to need a new space — and that means not only overhead costs but also hiring people to fill your orders.
- Limited space. As your business grows so does your customer base and order volume. This can cause you to run out of warehousing space quickly and new more options.
- Hard to start up. It will be time-consuming to start up your own fulfillment center. You need to think about warehousing space, hiring people, finding the right location for your customer base, and networking with national carriers.
How to ship products nationally through a 3PL
If shipping your products nationally with a 3PL is something your business is considering, the first step is finding the right fulfillment partner. You will need to do research, write down a list of your specific needs, and interview 3PLs to see which one best fits your business. Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time for the onboarding process.
You’ll need to set up communication with your new 3PL partner to send your products to their warehouse. For Red Stag Fulfillment, we have a dedicated account team to help you get set up, so you are not in the dark when it comes to onboarding.
Once your products are sent, it’s time for the 3PL to do their job. Your new 3PL will take over inventory management, warehousing operations, and shipping for your business. And if something goes wrong, the right partner will have a dedicated client success team to ensure all problems are resolved in a timely manner.
If you are on the fence about a 3PL handling and shipping your products nationally, here are some pros and cons to help make your final decision.
- More time. By handing over your order fulfillment operations to a 3PL, you now have more time to focus on the other aspects of your business — especially the parts that keep it growing.
- Money saved. In the long run, 3PLs can save your business money through shipping discounts.
- Faster order fulfillment. If you pick the right partner with optimized warehouse locations, you have the ability to get your customers’ orders to them faster.
- Less customization. 3PLs are experts in picking, packing, and shipping. However, it is harder for a 3PL to place customized notes and constantly change marketing inserts into packages before they go out.
- Reduced control. While self-fulfilling allows for you to come up with your own fulfillment processes, 3PLs have order fulfillment expertly figured out. However, you still have control by working with live support. For example, Red Stag’s client team will work with you in real-time to collaborate and communicate projects.
- More money upfront. Working with a 3PL will run you into having to shell out more money upfront; however, you will often generate a positive return on this investment through order accuracy, shipping speeds, customer satisfaction, and the ability to scale and grow.
How can Red Stag help?
If you are up in the air on how you will ship your products nationally, it’s okay! You have the ability to decide what’s best for your business. Standard packages and product sizes are easy for a 3PL to support. If your business focuses on big, heavy, or high-value products, we’ve got the expertise to help, too. Our expert teams can talk with you about the process of working with Red Stag and provide custom pricing and support plans based on your business, goals, and products.
Still unsure? Don’t just take our word for it — check out how we worked with Homestead Brands. This business went through the same tough decision you are currently going through. Homestead Brands was self-fulfilling but realized that it was becoming too much. Now, we work with them to pick, pack, and ship their products to their clients across the country.
Fulfillment doesn’t need to be a make or break for your business. Your business shouldn’t experience stagnant growth. Do your research and find the best fulfillment option for your business.