Fall in Love with Your 3PL: 5 Tips for a Successful Partnership

by Carolina Cano-Espinoza | eCommerce Strategy, Outsourced Fulfillment, Partnerships

When your logistics company is a partner, it’s there for the life of your company. 

The most successful online retailers view their professional service providers as an extension of their business. This shift helps identify the difference between order fulfillment that “gets the job done” and smart fulfillment that improves business operations, increases customer satisfaction, and grows your eCommerce business.

Whether you are an eCommerce retailer looking to strengthen your relationship with your current fulfillment provider or seeking a new 3PL partner, these tips will help you create a relationship designed for success.

Tip #1: Define Your Company’s Goals

If your fulfillment provider does not know or care about your business objectives, they may not help you reach them. There are many ways in which successfully outsourced fulfillment can help a growing business. Communicate the goals your company is striving towards, even if they are not directly related to order fulfillment. There is a great chance that your fulfillment partner can play a role in how quickly your goals can be achieved.

For example, if an eCommerce company comes to RSL with a goal to increase their profit margin by 15% in 2017, our eCommerce Fulfillment Consultants can provide an in-depth analysis of the current fulfillment and shipping methods. A thorough analysis of the current storage, labor, shipping and packaging options can often reveal numerous opportunities for cost savings.

However, it’s important to also remember, when it comes to fulfillment: you get what you pay for.  A true fulfillment partner will offer you cost-savings along with guaranteed, on-time shipping and 100% accuracy with orders filled correctly. Smart retailers look for a partnership that offers alignment around mutually beneficial outcomes, and avoid watered down services designed to meet one-sided goals.

Tip #2: Understand Expectations & Follow Through

In order for a relationship to thrive, both parties must be willing to understand each other’s needs and take ownership in their role. A successful order fulfillment provider will have a unique set of tools, requirements and processes designed to help them consistently deliver positive outcomes for their customers. Take the time to understand what is needed of you when it comes to time-sensitive deliverables and procedures. Remember that your fulfillment center runs a tight operational schedule.

A fulfillment warehouse will need advanced notice regarding shipments or peak seasons to prepare and ensure they can meet their service-level agreements. Be conscious of what is needed from you, to ensure the fulfillment provider is able to deliver as promised. Of course, providers understand that sometimes situations out of your control may arise, in which case Tip #3 is crucial.

Tip #3: Maintain Clear & Ongoing Communication

What is a relationship without communication? Not very successful. It’s easy to forget about your outsourced fulfillment operations when everything is running smoothly and according to plan. However, it is important to remember to communicate any changes that may directly or indirectly affect your order fulfillment.

Events like the introduction of new products, special product promotions, or product recalls can have a direct impact on your fulfillment center. New products may need special handling or packaging, while increased sales from a new advertising promotion or increased returns from recalls demand additional man power beyond what’s normally allocated. By communicating these events with ample time to your fulfillment center, the facility’s manager can prepare and deliver on the increased demand.

Tip #4: Manage Performance & Set a Procedure for Resolving Conflict

Fulfillment operations should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure optimal performance and address any possible obstacles before they arise. While clear planning and alignment go a long way in preventing escalations, remember things can still go wrong. Uncontrollable factors and human error can occur despite best intentions. The key to easily resolving issues and quickly getting back on track is to always have a plan.

Take some time to work with your fulfillment partner to develop a plan of action for collaboratively solving issues. It is likely your provider has a standard procedure that is followed in these events, know what it is and how it works for you. Decide who is the best point of contact from your team to get the issue solved as quickly as possible to avoid unnecessary delays.

Tip #5: Take Advantage of Value-Added Services, Partnerships, & Referrals

Take advantage of all your fulfillment provider has to offer. You may not be aware of the extent to which your fulfillment partner can help accelerate your growth. Learn about value-added services available to your eCommerce business and connections gained through a well-established, large scale fulfillment provider.

Find out about additional services provided by your fulfillment provider including freight, kitting, and returns processing. You may benefit from cost savings and the convenience of having a one-stop shop for all your transporting, assembly, and order processing needs.

In addition to value-added services, your business may benefit from established partnerships through your fulfillment partner, giving you ease of access to valuable tools that accelerate growth. For example, Rakuten Super Logistics is partnered with companies ranging from customs brokers to help international customers, to oversees marketplaces to expand international presence.

Ready to Make a Commitment?

When it comes to optimizing order fulfillment, creating a long-term partnership is key to smart fulfillment. At Rakuten Super Logistics, we take the time to understand your business and work towards developing a customized solution to help you reach your long-term goals and accelerate growth.

If you’re ready for the start of a beautiful relationship, contact us, we’d love to hear from you!

Want to know more? Visit the RSL Learning Center to download free eBooks that can help you improve your fulfillment operations today.