Logistics Solutions for eCommerce: The 3 Most Important Words

If you’re an eCommerce company researching logistics solutions, you’re halfway to putting more time and resources back into the hands of the folks who can grow your catalog sales. Now you have to find the right partner.

When I talk to manufacturers and retailers in the market for a logistics partner, I hear about the challenges they’ve had: tons of returns, issues solving shipping problems, customer dissatisfaction, and a LOT of time spent on order management. And I can tell you that overcoming those challenges with your 3PL (third-party logistics) partner comes down to three words:

  • Communication
  • Dedication
  • Automation

Let me explain why.

Communication means you have an open line between your sales team and the 3PL team to address things like expedited orders, requests for late-day shipping, returns, and replacement parts. Those topics must be communicated on a 1:1 basis; even the best automation systems won’t help you solve them, and even the smoothest-running logistics relationships won’t bring the number of those outliers to zero. Without that communication, you won’t be able to accommodate all of your customers, which will lead to bad experiences, one-star reviews, and…you get the picture.

Dedication is the foundation of great communication. Your 3PL must provide you with a dedicated account rep/account manager and a backup plan when that person is unavailable. All the algos and automation in the world won’t help you get a same-day delivery order out the door, tell you why one part of your best-selling product keeps showing up damaged, or work with you to get slower-moving products out of the warehouse and into customer hands. And beware a general “Service@3rdpartylogisticscompany.com” email address – if you don’t have one person accountable on the other end for your performance, things will slip through the cracks. Ask for a specific name, phone number, and email, as well as hours of availability and other coverage options, and prepare to poke holes in vague answers or just move to the next 3PL option.

Automation won’t replace a personal connection, as noted above, but used correctly, it will save you and your team thousands of hours over the course of a year. Software that provides you an orders dashboard and automates orders across all major retailers should be table stakes for 3PL companies. Look for customer reviews of a 3PL’s automation systems to ensure you’re not signing up for a bunch of bugs, and assign bonus points to 3PLs with proprietary software baked into the pricing model rather than 3PLs who transfer outside software costs straight to your invoice.

Of course, there are other factors to consider when choosing a 3PL; those include volume-based shipping discounts, storage fees, bulk and white-glove capabilities, etc. We’ll go into those in more detail in future posts. In the meantime, start with the basics of communication, dedication, and automation – without those, the other details won’t bring you any closer to finding the right 3PL partner for your business.

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