Starting a business in today’s eCommerce world can feel like being a Stockbroker from The Wolf of Wall Street. Besides the million and one things that need to be ironed out to start a business, navigating the business world alone is next to impossible without some help.
A hallmark of any successful eCommerce business is providing a seamless shopping experience for all customers. Quick-click shopping, low shipping costs, and timely delivery are some of the most important qualities to strive for in our world of instant gratification.
But - as your business grows, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain those standards. So what can you do? Outsource your order fulfillment to a 3PL (like Atomix)! Finding a fulfillment partner can feel like another pile-on to your already full plate, so we’ve created this blog to highlight key factors to consider.
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Key Factors to Consider
If you have never partnered with a fulfillment provider, you’re in the right place! Trusting another business with your product(s) is a difficult decision to make. However, finding the right fulfillment solution can be your tool for scaling from $10k/mo to $100k/mo.
When orders are fulfilled and delivered on time, trust builds between your customers and your brand. Creating a reliable and trustworthy brand image is the key to growing as a business, and taking all of the following into account will help you do just that!
Remember: scaling your business alone is not impossible, but it doesn’t hurt to get a little help.
When it comes to finding the right 3PL for your business, choosing the right location can make a huge difference to your brand. An ideally located warehouse will improve your order fulfillment efficiency, and create a much more enjoyable experience for you and your customers.
A 3PL partner in an “ideal location” can mean different things depending on your business’ needs. In many cases, high-growth eCommerce businesses position their warehouses as close to their target demographic as possible. This allows brands to minimize shipping times - reducing cost for your business and customers, and lowering the risk of delays or damage to packages.
Another method for saving on shipping costs is by positioning your 3PL as centrally as possible. However, this method can look different based on the reach of your business. Depending on where your customers are located, there are two main routes to take as a US-based business:
In the case that your brand is primarily shipping in the US, finding a 3PL in the midwest will likely be your best option. When 3PLs quote shipping prices, they are referencing the amount of Shipping Zones that need to be crossed. More zones crossed = higher cost to ship, and a centrally located 3PL will help you cross the lowest number of zones to reach your customers.
If your brand has established itself in a primary market overseas, a fulfillment partner located on the west or east coast will likely be best for your customers. Storing your inventory near major shipping ports helps your orders go out sooner, meaning you can offer lower prices and shorter transit times to your customers.
Neither of the above options are limiting to each other, and they definitely are not the only routes a business can take. Every business is as unique as its founder(s), so make sure to assess your business’ needs regularly.
Speaking of unique - 3PLs are the same way! As a rule of thumb, any business related to eCommerce is probably amongst a spectrum of similar businesses. With that said, we’re mainly describing traditional 3PLs when we say; all 3PLs provide the same benchmark services:
At the bare minimum, these services will be enough to get a small brand up and running. But what happens when you begin shifting your brand image? Unless your 3PL partner is capable of providing specialized services, you will likely need to add “find a new 3PL” to your Rebranding Tasklist.
As brand images change, product offerings usually follow. As product offerings change, order fulfillment processes must follow. Insert - a 3PL that offers special services! Now, “special services” can mean a whole host of different things, including but not limited to:
As mentioned above; 3PLs can take on a variety of responsibilities related to order fulfillment. It’s always good for your 3PL to offer extra services - just be mindful of 3PLs that charge for services your business won’t use.
Like they always say; a book should never be judged by its cover - but a good book deserves a great cover. If you're unfamiliar with the eCommerce industry, it's natural to dismiss packaging as an afterthought — after all, what's inside the box is what matters, right?
Well - yes and no. Receiving and opening your product is the best part of making an online purchase, but the packaging it’s received in is just as important. Sure, using cardboard boxes or poly mailers does the job for transit - but remember that the unboxing experience is everyone’s first exposure to your brand. However, it’s no longer about who has the most “premium” feeling box. Now, customers are pushing more and more for a sustainable future in eCommerce.
Throughout the millions of different products sold on the internet, many brands are beginning to advertise Eco-Friendly packaging for their products. But what exactly does that mean? By most definitions, Eco-Friendly packaging refers to any packaging that is intentionally sourced and developed to minimize or eliminate its impact on the environment.
Reducing impact on the environment through the right packaging can include a number of different actions, including:
- Using sustainable materials (Recycled cardboard, mushroom-based, etc.)
- Implementing biodegradable/compostable packaging
- Providing reusable packaging
Of course, implementing Eco-Friendly packaging can be a little more complicated than it sounds, especially for growing eCommerce brands and 3PLs alike. Luckily, partners like ARKA take the pain out of this lengthy process.
ARKA is dedicated to providing fully custom, affordable, and most importantly: sustainable packaging for businesses worldwide. Spearheading the movement for accessible Eco-Friendly packaging, they’re putting the eCommerce industry on the right path for our planet’s future.
We’re not saying that your next 3PL is required to offer Eco-Friendly packaging, but the eCommerce industry is shifting to more sustainable practices. The bottom line is; whether your business prioritizes Eco-Friendly packaging or not, your ideal 3PL should provide an affordable, durable packaging solution for all of your products and deliver them on time.
The entire eCommerce industry has transformed in the last decade, and the logistics industry has been doing its best to keep up with demand. Traditional 3PLS that use legacy business models are starting to get left behind by new businesses, leaving space for new 3PLs with modern technologies to fill that gap.
The use of modern technology in the logistics industry provides a number of advantages over legacy systems, all of which benefit the end customer in their own special ways. Below are a few ways that a tech-based 3PL can help streamline your order fulfillment, and provide your customers with a satisfying shopping experience:
Today’s eCommerce brands are known for evolving and changing as quickly as internet content goes viral. Without a fulfillment partner capable of scaling with your brand as it grows, it can spell the end for your business.
Issues like delayed deliveries, missing orders/inventory, and inaccurate tracking all become possible conflicts when your 3PL can’t keep up with increasing order volume. However, because your customers don’t see your business’ backend processes, the negative impact ultimately falls on your brand's image.
To avoid creating 100 headaches for you and your [beloved] customers, make sure you find a fulfillment partner that is adaptable, and capable of keeping up with spikes in order volume. After all; when your business blows up that last thing you need is for order fulfillment to come to a screeching halt.
Cost is one of [if not the] most deciding factors in choosing the right business partner for you. Sure, it might be a stretch on the budget when your business is still small - but when things take off it is a lot cheaper in the long run.
When a brand chooses to go with in-house fulfillment, it may appear as an attractive option because owners have full control over operations and save money by not paying for storage. However, this also takes effort away from your most important front end operations - marketing, advertising, and brand building.
Additionally, it’s important to remember how unique 3PLs can be. In addition to the “general” services 3PLs provide, those who specialize in certain markets likely charge extra fees for the special services outlined above. Taking all of these factors into consideration will help you make the most informed decision possible for the future of your business.
Partnering with the right 3PL can be a game changer for any eCommerce business looking to grow. With an ideal fulfillment partner’s services, eCommerce business owners can focus on more important things like marketing and branding, while your customers receive a seamless shopping experience.
In the spirit of transparency, Atomix is happy to chat about any questions or concerns you may have regarding 3PLs. Feel free to reach out today!