Do you need to accelerate your ecommerce strategy due to the recent 2020 pandemic? You are not alone. There has been a dramatic increase in online orders and the bar for service excellence is set high.
The B2C shipping channel is very different from B2B. Smaller orders, faster turnaround, more labor-intensive overpacking and parcel processing require system capabilities and expertise to maintain your margins. The right third-party logistics (3PL) partner can guide you through these changes, while offering the eCommerce warehouse infrastructure and experience you need to grow your direct-to-consumer business.
What you should look for in an eCommerce warehouse
Entrusting your fulfillment to a 3PL is a great way to optimize your entire operation. The infrastructure of many 3PLs will far exceed what most companies have on their own – with the systems and processes to handle not only your eCommerce, but other distribution requirements as well.
It all begins with finding the 3PL provider that’s the right fit for your business. Following are some key things you should look for.
Customization to fit your individual needs. You should first determine what your optimal fulfillment operation should look like and find the provider that can help you make it happen. Depending on your needs, this may require a high degree of customization (e.g., physical layout within the warehouse, systems integrations, staffing requirements). Some 3PLs will work with you to design and tailor operations to fit your needs. While others – especially large players like Amazon – may be cost prohibitive and offer little-to-no customization.
Scalability to support your growth. Especially if you are just starting in the eCommerce fulfillment channel, a 3PL partner that can guide and grow your business alongside you with capital investment, space and labor is important. For example, if your order projections are unclear, your 3PL has real-time data that can help you monitor the progression to make decisions and accommodate the volume.
System-driven processes and real time data. Speed and accuracy are derived from a warehouse management system (WMS) system that organizes and directs your order tasks quickly and efficiently. The system powers a wide variety of functions, including order management, inventory management, reporting, order visibility and designation of picking methodologies and instructions. It can also integrate with other systems, including eCommerce platforms (e.g., Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento) transportation management systems (TMS), parcel provider systems, retailer platforms, and your company’s systems. You will need to make sure that the functions, integrations and reporting metrics that are important to your business can be supported by your chosen 3PL’s WMS.
The ability to support multi-channel fulfillment (if applicable). If you sell products in retail stores in addition to online, you’ll want to partner with a 3PL that is adept at handling multi-channel fulfillment. This includes the ability to meet vendor compliance requirements of your retail customers to avoid chargeback penalties. B2C and B2B warehouse environments require different operational models. Don’t assume a provider that’s good at one is good at another. Look for a 3PL with proven experience in both eCommerce fulfillment and retail replenishment.
The ability to perform integrated logistics services. For many companies, eCommerce fulfillment is just one component of a larger supply chain. There may be drayage services that are required for imports, product assembly or repackaging, and transportation services to distribute products to retailers and other customers. You could slice up your supply chain “pie” into different pieces and deal with separate 3PLs for each service. However, this can be an inefficient model as you need the time and resources to manage different relationships, billing arrangements and systems across multiple providers. It’s better to work with a provider that handles all of these services and can serve as one central point of contact and accountability.
Getting started with your eCommerce warehouse
Once you’ve found a provider that has the capabilities your supply chain requires, be sure to take a tour of the eCommerce warehouse and meet the men and women that will potentially handle your business. This includes the associates on the warehouse floor, as well as senior staff.
If your search brings you to the West Coast, be sure to discuss your specific needs with Weber Logistics. With 12 warehouses across California and an integrated services approach that includes a significant volume of omni-channel fulfillment, we are happy to work with you to design and implement the fulfillment operation you need. For more information, contact Weber today.