If you’re at the helm of a growing retail brand, getting your ecommerce and retail order fulfilment right is essential. Successfully managing your supply chain can feel like a hefty undertaking – but one that can be effectively addressed with the help of a third-party logistics company.
3PL (third-party logistics) providers have become a staple in the modern retail sphere, aided particularly by the burgeoning growth of ecommerce brands. Of course, working with a 3PL provider means you’ll be outsourcing your order fulfilment – which can be daunting at first, but if done right for your business, it can pay dividends.
Why Should You Outsource Your Order Fulfilment?
There’s a strong case to be made that outsourcing to a 3PL company is the best ecommerce fulfilment solution. This is especially true in that crucial stage of your business’s growth where you outgrow your initial storage and delivery solution, and need access to larger, higher-spec facilities, more advanced tech and a wider pool of expertise.
It’s also perfect for instances in which your current warehouse lease is ending, or you need additional warehouse space in a pinch (when launching a new product, for example).
If this rings true for you, outsourcing order fulfilment is an essential investment that streamlines an important chain of functions, ultimately enhancing the customer experience and getting your products to the right people at the right time.
Reliable, Flexible Stock Storage, Processing and Delivery
The fulfilment process can be an intense undertaking when done in-house. With a reliable and experienced 3PL provider, the stocking, picking, personalisation, packing and delivery of your goods are all accounted for, allowing you to relax and focus on the other elements of your business.
Running a warehouse carries with it many considerations, such as health and safety checks and regular staff training. The best fulfilment companies will take this off your hands, as well as only charge you for what you use with an activity-based cost model (meaning you’re only charged when your products are handled directly).
Greater Reach for Your Distribution
Distribution and delivery are also where good 3PL companies excel. When you partner with a global provider, the reach of your distribution network greatly increases.
This makes it a great option if you want to scale fulfilment to meet the needs of your business’s growth, granting you access to the global marketplace. If your 3PL specialist has expert knowledge of international logistics, your brand can benefit from an effectively increased delivery network, reduced cross-border friction and greater buying power.
Bespoke Packaging and Product Personalisation
Did you know that 3PL fulfilment providers can also personalise some stock (particularly fashion and beauty products)?
In addition to handling packaging for you – with some providers offering a bespoke, on-brand packaging service –personalisation of fashion or beauty products can also be factored in, with the fulfilment company effectively becoming an extension of your own business to provide a high-quality value-add service to your customers.
Ultimately, a fulfilment company should do more than free up a logistical load; it should understand your brand and work to enhance the purchase experience and help promote your brand to your customers.
Excellent Customer Service and Industry Expertise
Regarding customer service –outsourcing to a trusted logistics partner gives you access to their expertise, which again allows them to reinforce your team with their robust knowledge of the industry.
Excellent fulfilment is all about freeing you up to focus on what you do best, maximising your working day and letting you rest in the knowledge that you’re in safe hands. For this reason, we highly recommend chatting to a potential fulfilment partner in detail about your expectations and their services, ensuring that you’re on the same page and that you’re happy with the expertise they can offer.
Read our blog for more reasons why it makes sense to outsource your fulfilment.
How Do I Choose the Right 3PL Provider?
Once you’ve determined that 3PLfulfilment is right for your business, knowing when to outsource your fulfilment and who to trust it to is the next step.
There’s no one-size-fits-all fulfilment company – each will provide its own unique services and pricing plan. Nevertheless, there are some general pointers to keep in mind.
Look for a 3PL Provider with an Activity-Based Cost Model
To ensure you see the best return on investment, pay attention to the cost model employed by your chosen fulfilment partner.
3PL fulfilment partners with an activity-based cost model will only charge you when your goods are handled directly (with some fixed costs for storage, IT and management/admin). This cost model gives you greater control over your expenditure, allowing you to pay only for the services you use, when you use them. With customer behaviour becoming increasingly difficult to predict, this cost model ensures you aren’t caught off-guard.
Choose a Provider with the Right Experience
Of course, your fulfilment partner’s service offering means little if they don’t have a successful track record of fulfilling orders to retail networks. Ensure that your 3PL provider has plentiful retail experience and robust know-how when it comes to fulfilling B2B and B2C orders, with a portfolio of stories from happy fulfilment clients to reinforce their reputation.
Look out for sector-specific experience too. Select a fulfilment partner with knowledge of your industry. You’ll want to work with people who have picked, packed and dispatched products similar to yours and serviced clients with comparable requirements.
Find Out More About 3PL Fulfilment for Your UK Business
If you’re looking for a fulfilment partner you can be confident about, ILG is a fulfilment and delivery expert perfectly geared towards enabling brands to better reach their customers. With a global network designed to broaden the reach of UK brands, our warehouses and support services offer market-leading 3PL results for fast-growing, premium brands.
We’re passionate about working with ambitious brands to get their goods in the hands of their customers around the world. So, whether you’re a beauty, fashion or wellbeing business, feel free to explore our fulfilment services or find out more about outsourcing your fulfilment for the first time.
Check out our guide to outsourcing fulfilment successfully for more advice.