Are you thinking about outsourcing your order fulfilment to a fulfilment center? You’re making a great decision! Your consumers want your products fast. They don’t care if it’s you packing their orders or your fulfilment center (also known as a 3PL).
By outsourcing fulfilment you’ll benefit from increased shipping speeds and efficiency during seasonal peaks all while reducing your operating costs. And you’ll save 100s of hours you can use to develop new products and acquire new customers through more marketing.
But beware! Hiring a fulfilment center that’s not right for your business can harm your brand’s growth. The last thing you want is to start with a fulfilment center and find yourself wanting to switch after a couple of months. And sadly this happens quite a lot.
So here are 10 essentials to look out for when you choose a 3PL for your business.
10 Essentials To Watch Out For When Choosing A Fulfilment Center
1. How Responsive Are They?
How responsive are they to your enquiries? Did they get back to you within a day of filling out a contact form on their website? Do they quickly respond to any follow up questions you send by email? If they’re slow to respond before you even become their customer, it’s not a good sign that their customer service will be any better.
Make sure to select a fulfilment center that’s eager to work with you and wants your business.
2. Do They Ask The Right Questions?
It’s crucial that your 3PL matches your fulfilment requirements. They should be asking you questions about:
- The number of SKUs you have
- Weight and size of your products
- Your monthly order volume and history
- What platforms you sell on for integrations
- Whether your orders fluctuate and have seasonal peaks
- Your forecasts and growth plans for the next 6, 12, 18 months
- Any extra requirements: B2B, Amazon FBA Prep, Branded Packaging, Kitting
Not every 3PL will be a good fit for your business. If they’re not asking these questions be concerned that they don’t care if they’re a good match or not.
3. Do They Breakdown Their Pricing For You?
Ensure you understand your fulfilment center’s pricing upfront! Ask exactly how much it costs for Receiving Goods In, Picking and Packing, Shipping, and Storage, and if they charge setup fees. And if they offer ‘free’ 90 days storage know that they’re making their money off you somewhere else. There’s no such thing as ‘free’.
Don’t get attracted to fulfilment centers offering ‘all-in-one’ pricing and free 90 days storage. They are usually more expensive than centers offering itemised pricing.
4. Do They Use Multiple Couriers?
Some fulfilment centers have exclusive relationships with couriers while some use multiple couriers. Imagine your 3PL only uses Royal Mail and then Royal Mail goes on strike. Your orders won’t go out and you will have a lot of angry customers waiting for their orders.
Don’t use a fulfilment centre that puts their eggs in one basket when it comes to couriers. Look for a center that uses multiple courier services.
5. What Are Their Shipping Speeds?
How quick will your fulfilment center get your orders into your customers’ hands? Are they located close to major transport hubs? Do they offer next-day and 48 hour delivery? What are their daily cut-off times for orders? Do they fulil orders over the weekend?
Check if your 3PL offers fast shipping. And choose a location close to your customers. Why use a 3PL in Scotland if the majority of your customers live in London?
6. Will You Get A Dedicated Account Manager?
How do they handle customer service? Will you be bounced around their team when you have an issue you want to resolve? Or will you get a dedicated account manager that’s your go-to every time you have a question?
Your fulfillment center is your partner. Check whether you’ll get a dedicated account manager whose job is to help you grow your business and ensure your partnership is a success.
7. Do They Provide A Clear Onboarding Timeline?
Great 3PLs are built on great systems and processes. They should be providing you with a clear process and timeline for how they’ll integrate with your online stores and platforms, how they’ll receive your inventory and go live to fulfilling your orders from the moment you sign your contract.
If they’re not able to outline their onboarding process with a timeline, it’s an indication that they don’t have the right systems and processes in place.
8. Will You Receive Transparent Analytics?
Fulfilment centers can be like a black box to eCommerce sellers. How many of your orders go out on time? Is your stock running low? Will they provide you with full visibility or will they only give you monthly reports and only show you what they want you to see?
Only work with a fulfilment center that gives you access to real-time analytics so you can see exactly how they’re performing and quickly flag any issues.
9. Are They Happy To Connect You With Customers?
Every fulfilment center has raving testimonials from happy customers on their website. You wouldn’t have contacted them if they didn’t have any. But that only tells a part of the story. You want to hear exactly what it’s like to work with a fulfilment center and the best way to do that is by talking directly to some of their customers.
Ask the fulfilment center to connect you with some of their customers. If they don’t want to, it’s a sign that their ‘happy’ customers aren’t so happy after all.
10. Do They Offer SLAs?
Even if your chosen 3PL ticks all the boxes, It’s nerve-wracking to hand over your entire fulfilment operations. Service level agreements (SLAs) reduce that stress by ensuring that your fulfilment center has KPIs that you can hold them accountable to.
Confirm that your fulfilment center works with SLAs and provides monthly reports on how they’re performing according to your agreements.
Choosing a Fulfilment Center
Choosing a fulfilment center is no easy task. Many offer similar services and make the same promises. It can be overwhelming to select the right one.
Using the 10 essential questions listed above will help you narrow down your options and find a 3PL that matches your requirements.
But remember. There’s no such thing as a perfect fulfilment center. There will be teething problems during onboarding. And order fulfilment mistakes will inevitably happen.
But the right 3PL will view you as their partner and not just their customer. And they will do everything in their power to make your business a success and fuel your brand’s growth.
Are You Looking For A UK Fulfilment Center?
If you’re looking to partner with a UK fulfilment center for your D2C eCommerce Brand, why not get in touch with our team at Delta Fulfilment?
Delta Fulfilment is a 3PL offering UK and EU order fulfilment solutions. We work with D2C eCommerce brands selling on Shopify, Amazon, WooCommerce, TikTok, Etsy and more. Our customers include Maelys, notoways, Nottingham Forest, Hanx, and The Happy Puzzle Company.