When you’re hiring for your company, you probably have a job description ready with specific skills or responsibilities for the person you’re looking to bring on. A list of 3PL services offered by a company is like the resume for a third-party logistics provider. Once you have it, you just need to match it against your needs (and maybe vet your rapport together) to see if you’re a good fit.
3PLs are a lot like team members: you bring them on because they have expertise that can handle responsibilities for which you don’t have time. Delegating responsibilities to someone with years of experience in that area lets you focus on strategy and growing your e-commerce business.
And the resume of these 3PL companies? Extensive. There’s a lot to understand about a 3PL company’s “resume,” but we’ll do our best to walk you through their services point by point.
Understanding the Role of 3PL Providers & 3PL Services
Imagine having an employee who's an absolute whiz at organizing. They can handle everything from receiving your inventory, storing it safely, and then packing and shipping your orders out to your customers. That's basically what a 3PL provider does. They take care of all these complex, time-consuming tasks so you can focus on growing your business. And the best part? You don't even have to nag them to get stuff done.
3PL providers aren't just about packing boxes and shipping orders, though. They offer a wide range of services that can be tailored to your specific needs. These can include anything from custom packaging and kitting to returns management and even international logistics.
If any of that is overwhelming—we get it, we do a lot here at All Points—hang tight; we’ll break down each of them for you.
Streamlining Your Supply Chain: Warehousing and Distribution Services
A third-party logistics provider is your golden ticket to streamlining your supply chain. And when we talk about streamlining, we mean making it faster, more efficient, and more economical. How? Mainly through their warehousing and distribution services.
The Magic of Warehousing
Managing your own warehouse can be a Herculean task. You've got to ensure adequate space, manage inventory, handle packing, and keep everything organized. It's like trying to juggle while riding a unicycle. But what if someone else trained for such a balancing act could do this for you, while you focus on growing your business?
- Space: A 3PL provider has vast warehouses ready to store your products. No more worrying about running out of space!
- Inventory Management: They'll keep track of your stock, ensuring you always know what's in store and when to replenish.
- Packing: 3PLs handle the packing too, relieving you of another time-consuming task.
The Power of Distribution
Getting your products from the warehouse to your customers can feel like navigating a road full of potholes—especially when your customers are getting more and more accustomed to one- or two-day shipping. With a 3PL provider on your team, though, it becomes a cakewalk.
- Shipping: 3PLs have robust shipping networks, ensuring your products reach your customers swiftly and safely.
- Tracking: With real-time tracking, you and your customers are always in the loop.
- Return Handling: Returns are a hassle, right? Not with a 3PL provider. Companies that list reverse logistics on their list of 3PL services handle the returns, making the process smoother for you and your customers.
So, the question isn't why you should use a 3PL for warehousing and distribution. Why not? Save yourself the headache and enjoy the benefits of a streamlined supply chain.
Efficient Order Fulfillment: Pick and Pack Services
Even if you don’t know the phrase “pick and pack,” it’s a critical component of your order fulfillment and a 3PL service you probably need. Simply put, pick and pack is all about locating products within a warehouse (the pick part), and then packing them up nicely for shipment (you guessed it, the pack part!).
Examples In Action
Imagine you have an e-commerce store that sells trendy t-shirts. A customer orders three different shirts. Here's what happens:
- Your 3PL partner gets the order details and sees they’ll be pulling multiple items from your inventory.
- They head into the warehouse, and find the specific shirts ordered (that's the pick).
- Next, they securely package those shirts together, ready for shipment (that's the pack).
- Finally, they send them out so they reach your customer quickly and safely.
Or, maybe you're selling a mix of clothing and accessories. A customer orders a pair of jeans, a watch, and a hat. Your 3PL does the same thing—they find each item in the warehouse and pack them up together.
Why Let a 3PL Handle This?
It's all about efficiency. Third-party logistics providers like All Points are pros at this. They have the systems, the processes, and the experience to get it done quickly and correctly so you can outsource fulfillment to an expert. The best warehouses are also using technology to help them further streamline storing, picking, and packing your items as efficiently as possible.
Second, it's about cost savings. Instead of you footing the bill for warehouse space, staff (for your warehouse space and fulfillment centers), and packing materials, your third-party logistics provider picks up the check. You’ll pay for their services, but still come out well ahead on your P&L so you can experiment a little with social media advertising spend and worry less about the bottom line.
Lastly, it's about scaling. As your business grows (and it will), you'll have more and more orders to fulfill. A 3PL can easily handle the increase since they’re outfitted to handle much more inventory than you could ever be, letting you focus on what you do best—growing your business!
Inventory Management: Keeping Track of Your Stock
You’re a growing e-commerce business, which means you probably have a number of products that you’re increasing as you achieve more success. You've got stacks of products just waiting to get into the hands of your excited customers. But let's face it, managing this inventory can be a real headache. Here's where a 3PL company can offer support and alleviate stress.
When it comes to inventory, third-party logistics companies have the skills to make your life a heck of a lot easier (and you'll also enjoy some cost savings).
- Storage: Your third-party logistics company has the space to store your products. No more cramped warehouses or overflow in your garage! They've got this covered.
- Organization: They don't just throw your products into a room and hope for the best. These companies know how to keep track of where everything is, so when an order comes in, they know exactly where to find it.
- Restocking: Running low on a popular product? Your 3PL will notice and let you know it's time to reorder.
3PL providers are not just storage facilities, they're inventory experts. And since inventory management is one of their core services, they have the bandwidth to keep close tabs on your inventory and truly understand how to store it and the ebbs and flows in each item’s sales.
As well as mastering the physical side of things, 3PL providers also offer technology to keep your inventory management digital and up-to-date:
A third-party logistics provider offers a comprehensive solution to your inventory management woes. It's like having a personal assistant for your products, keeping track of everything and letting you focus on growing your business.
Transportation and Freight Solutions: Ensuring Timely Deliveries
Third-party logistics services also often include transportation and freight solutions. Let's say you're shipping a bunch of products across states, or even across oceans. With a 3PL’s transportation and logistics services, you don’t have to sweat the small stuff.
- Carrier Negotiations: Third-party logistics providers can negotiate with carriers on your behalf and get you the best deals possible. Say goodbye to overpriced shipping costs.
- Multi-modal Solutions: Whether it's by air, sea, or road, your 3PL provider is your one-stop solution for all modes of transport and integrated freight management services.
- Optimized Routing: Your 3PL provider can help you find the most efficient routes to ensure your products reach their destination fast enough to ensure customer satisfaction.
Freight Solutions: More Than Just Moving Boxes
Freight solutions are more than just moving boxes. Integrated freight management services are integral to ecommerce growth, especially if you’re looking to expand to international shipping. Here's what a third-party logistics provider can do:
- Freight Consolidation: They can combine smaller shipments into a single larger one, saving you money and reducing the number of shipments you have to track.
- Customs Clearance: Your 3PL partner can take care of all those pesky customs documents and ensure your shipment sails through without a hitch.
- Real-time Tracking: No more sleepless nights wondering where your shipment is. Real-time tracking means you'll always have the 411.
Remember, transportation and freight solutions are about more than just moving products from point A to point B. It's about doing it efficiently, affordably, and with minimal hassle. That's the kind of peace of mind a third-party logistics company can offer.
Global Logistics: Expanding Your Reach Internationally
Some of this was covered above, but it’s no simple task to move into an international market. The fulfillment process becomes more complicated when items from your online shop move across borders. Third-party logistics service providers can make this expanding scope feel downright simple with a range of services that cover every step of your global logistics:
1. International Shipping
Right off the bat, your 3PL can handle the nitty-gritty of getting your products from A to B, no matter where in the world B is. They’re the pros at dealing with all the fulfillment process details like tariffs, customs, and freight arrangements. Translation: You won't need to pull your hair out trying to understand complicated shipping rules and regulations. Your 3PL has likely already been doing this for years and knows the process inside and out.
2. Warehousing and Distribution
Next up, your 3PL can provide warehousing services in multiple countries. This means you can store your products in fulfillment centers closer to your customers, reducing delivery times and keeping your customers happy. (You'll likely also save some money on shipping costs and transportation services thanks to these fulfillment centers.)
3. Managing Inventory
Can’t keep track of all those products flying off the shelves? Your 3PL can help with that using software to ensure your stock levels are always right where they need to be.
4. Order Fulfillment Services
From picking and packing to returns, your 3PL can manage every aspect of order fulfillment—even on the international stage. That means fewer headaches for you but also more free time to focus on your marketing or influencer strategy.
Here’s a quick look if you’re skimming between meetings:
These are just a few of the ways a 3PL can help you take your online store to the next level. Remember, going global doesn't have to be scary. With a 3PL by your side, it's just the next step on your exciting business journey.
What we didn't mention in the list above is the cost savings you'll enjoy by using third-party logistics services to handle your international shipping. You read about this above, but a 3PL is truly a logistics partner. They'll handle the entire shipping process for all the international orders for your e-commerce store, meaning you'll save by leveraging a company that benefits from economies of scale. Shipping costs will always be more cost effective with 3PL companies because they're able to bundle things like supply chain operations, transportation services, and logistics operations.
Reverse Logistics: Managing Returns and Exchanges
You can’t please everyone, unfortunately, so reverse logistics will inevitably be part of your e-commerce business needs. This 3PL service is all about managing returns and exchanges. The stuff customers send back, the items they didn’t fancy, or those that just didn't quite hit the mark. It's a part of the business many folks forget, but it's oh-so-crucial.
Yes, returns are a normal part of business, but for lean teams, handling returns internally is a bit like looking to the past when you need to be focused on the future, or growth. A third-party logistics company can help you keep your eyes ahead with these services:
- Managing returns: Your third-party logistics company will handle the whole process, from receiving the returned items to inspecting them for damage.
- Handling exchanges: Size too small? Color not quite right? Not your problem. A 3PL can handle all your exchanges, making sure your customers get exactly what they want. Happy customers mean a happy business.
We truly can’t underscore the need for smooth reverse logistics enough. Easy returns and exchanges are a huge component to customer satisfaction. How you handle the first return or exchange directly affects how likely they are to come back. You want to put that responsibility in trusted hands. All Points knows that these small things add up to the success of your business and take them seriously for our clients.
Technology Integration: Leveraging Tech Solutions for Efficiency
Some 3PL services gets a lot of attention. Technology integration is not one of them, but it's a critical part of your logistics operations.
Imagine this: you have several different software applications for managing various aspects of your e-commerce business. One for inventory, another for shipment tracking using a global positioning system, and perhaps another for customer service. It's a lot to juggle, and that’s where this 3PL service comes in.
A 3PL company like All Points uses technology to unify these separate systems into a single, easy-to-use platform. It's like having a command center where you can see and manage everything, saving you valuable time (and, likely, from a headache).
- Inventory Tracking: With a unified system, you can keep track of your inventory levels in real time
- Shipment Tracking: Keep both you and your customers updated about the shipment status.
- Customer Service: Streamline your customer service by having all customer-related information in one place. Happy customers, successful ecommerce business!
What's In It For You?
How exactly does that translate for your business and its growth? Here’s what you need to know:
The role of technology among other third-party logistics services is much like a master conductor of an orchestra. Without it, the individual parts may still play, but it's the conductor that brings them all together to create an amazing symphony.
So, are you ready to let technology integration turn your online store into a finely-tuned symphony? A 3PL can do that, and All Points has been doing that for our clients for years.
Customized Packaging and Branding: Enhancing the Customer Experience
Isn't it fantastic when your customers recognize your brand the moment they see the packaged product? It's like love at first sight! Customized branding adds a personal touch and helps your brand stand out. Here’s how your 3PL can sprinkle that magic on your ecommerce operations.
Customized packaging is not just about putting products in a box. It's about creating a memorable unboxing experience for your customers!
- Hands-on Assistance: Your 3PL can give you a hand by providing custom boxes, padding materials, and even custom tapes that resonate with your brand’s theme. It's all about letting your customers know you've gone the extra mile.
- Smart Solutions: Have some special requirements? No problem! Whether it's temperature-controlled packaging, eco-friendly materials or strong packaging for fragile items, your 3PL has got you covered.
Branding is all about sending the right signals. Here's what a 3PL can offer:
Remember, an unforgettable customer experience isn't all about the product. It begins at the very first interaction. Make it count!
When your business partners with a 3PL for customized packaging and branding, you're not just sending out a package. You’re delivering an experience. You're telling your customers, "Hey, we value you!" There's no better way to boost customer loyalty.
Value-Added Services: Going Above and Beyond
As a business owner, one thing you're no doubt looking for from your logistics provider is value-added services. These are the little extras that elevate a “just okay” provider into your reliable growth partner.
In the simplest terms, these services are those special, above-and-beyond activities that 3PLs provide to make your business life easier. They're not just packing and shipping your goods (though that's critical, too). They're helping you level up your game in impressive ways.
The Importance of Value-Added Services
These services create efficiency, effectiveness, and embellishment (the trio of E advantages). They help streamline processes, improve customer retention, and give your brand that extra kick. These services are how you look good and grow while doing it:
- Packaging and Kitting: Your 3PL can help design custom packages that really pop, or assemble kits of products to make unboxing an absolute delight.
- Inventory Management: You sell, they track. Your 3PL can help make sure you never run out of your top-selling products with advanced inventory management systems.
- Reverse Logistics: Returns, repairs, and recycling: A good 3PL can handle all aspects of reverse logistics, turning product returns into a positive experience.
And since a company with industry expertise is handling all of it, you can feel confident that they can keep up with increasing consumer demand as you grow.
Scalability: Growing Your Business with a Reliable 3PL Partner
Maybe you’re already growing without a 3PL—and while that’s great, it also means more orders to fulfill, more customer inquiries to manage, and less time to strategize growth. This is where the logistics services offered by the pros at 3PLs like All Points help you step up your game.
- Handling Increased Order Volume: As your customer base grows, so does the number of orders. A 3PL can handle that surge with ease, allowing you to focus on sales, marketing, and other key areas.
- Inventory Tracking and Management: With a wider customer base, you need more stock. A 3PL not only stores your products but also manages your inventory effectively. Never worry about running out of stock or managing a warehouse again!
- Cost-Effective Shipping: 3PLs have great relationships with carriers and can negotiate lower shipping rates. That means your customers get their products on time and you save some cash.
- Expansion into New Markets: Want to take your product global? Your 3PL partner can make it happen by managing the logistics of shipping to new geographies.
Getting the Most Out of Your 3PL Partnership
Okay, so you're convinced that a 3PL provider is the key to scaling your business. But how do you ensure you're getting the absolute most out of this partnership?
- Clear and Open Communication: Be clear about your expectations and encourage your 3PL to do the same. A great partnership thrives on communication—at least that’s what we believe at All Points.
- Trust but Verify: Don't be afraid to ask for reports or metrics to ensure they're fulfilling orders promptly and correctly. Remember, you've got a business to run!
Partnering with a 3PL provider can be like adding a turbo boost to your e-commerce business. In the race for growth, it's a definite winning move.
Cost Savings: Maximizing Efficiency and Reducing Expenses
We’ve covered a lot of this above, but it’s worth calling out the cost savings of using a 3PL company again. We’ll summarize here in case you were skimming above (no judgement, we know you have your hands full).
Transportation and Warehousing Efficiency
3PLs are like that friend who always has a bigger car when you need to move. They have the means and the networks to store and move your products in the most efficient way possible, usually at a fraction of what it'd cost to do it on your own. This efficiency refers to:
- Reduced shipping costs: With large networks and efficient route planning, 3PLs can make shipping your items cheaper than ever.
- Less warehousing needs: No paying for warehouse space, fulfillment centers, or labor costs for either of them. The 3PL's got you covered with their expansive warehouses.
Time (and Money) Saved on Operations
Not having to worry about tedious operations tasks can free up a lot of valuable time, saving you money in the process. This includes:
- Labor: Staffing and training your own team is costly and time-consuming. 3PLs already have well-trained staff, ready to box, ship, and manage all your products.
- Packaging: These pros handle all the packaging needs, and many can offer custom packaging services to ensure your deliveries stand out.
Reduced Investment in Technology
Staying on top of the latest technology, equipment, and software can be a costly endeavor. But—we know you’re sensing the trend here—your 3PL company handles that, too.
- Software: They maintain and provide the latest, top-shelf supply chain software—no more late-night Googling "best logistics software" for you!
- Equipment: The right equipment will already be in place and maintained by your 3PL, no investment necessary on your part.
Partnering with a 3PL can save you cash in not-so-obvious ways. More efficient warehousing, less time spent on operations, and reduced tech investment—it all adds up.
Risk Management: Ensuring Compliance and Minimizing Losses
It’s no one’s favorite subject, but let's talk risk management. It's a bit like trying to walk a tightrope while juggling flaming torches—exciting but, let's face it, pretty darn risky. A 3PL is like your safety net in the logistics industry.
Compliance is King
Compliance isn’t the most thrilling topic, but it's as important as the air we breathe. Mess up here, and it's a slippery slope down to fines, lawsuits or even business closure. You have enough stress running a successful e-commerce business. This, at least, is some stress you can outsource. Enter: 3PL companies.
- Regulatory Compliance: These wizards are up-to-date with the latest rules and regulations in the logistics world. They'll make sure your ecommerce business is up to par.
- Environmental Compliance: They'll also help you navigate the maze of environmental rules if you’re looking to be greener (and customers want you to—a 2023 Business of Sustainability study found that 78% of consumers want to buy from environmentally friendly companies.)
- Trade Compliance: International trade is a minefield of complex laws and agreements. But 3PLs have got your back, ensuring your business is complying with all trade laws.
Losses? What Losses?
Losses are like those annoying mosquitos that buzz around when you're trying to sleep. They're pesky, irritating and, no matter how hard you swat, they keep coming back. But an expert 3PL is the proverbial bug zapper in your loss prevention strategy.
Imagine a world where lost, damaged or returned goods are no longer your headache, but someone else's. That's the beauty of a 3PL. They take care of all that messy stuff so you can focus on what you do best: growing your business!
No need to navigate the stormy seas of risk management alone.
Wrapping It All Up
Here's the bottom line: if you're serious about scaling your business, leveraging 3PL services should be a no-brainer. Not only will it streamline your operations, but it could be the key to unlocking growth you've never even dreamed of. (Classic “work smarter, not harder” maneuver, right?) Remember, success is a team sport and 3PL experts, like those we have on staff here at All Points, can offer vital support. So, take a deep breath, and let third-party logistics do the heavy lifting. You focus on being the e-commerce superstar we already know you are!
Third-Party Logistics Services FAQs
What are the types of 3PL services?
Third-party logistics (3PL) companies offer services at every step of the fulfillment process. Their core competencies include transportation services, logistics services, inventory warehousing, value added services, freight services, freight forwarder services, and order fulfillment services with years of industry expertise. They do not, however, offer supply chain optimization. If you need your entire supply chain optimized, you should look at a 4PL service.
What do 3PLs do? Third-party logistics (3PL) providers are key supply chain management partners for B2B and B2C companies. 3PLs focused on B2C companies specialize in order fulfillment service and control every step of the process from storing your products in a third-party logistics warehouse to printing the shipping label and ensuring efficient delivery to the end customer.