Switching 3PLs: When to do it and what to look for in a new 3PL provider

Sara Nawab Apr 05, 2022 • 4 Min read

There’s no denying the fact that today’s customers have high expectations, and delivery experience is no exception. In fact, this is the major reason eCommerce businesses decide to partner with a 3PL company. That’s because eCommerce businesses know that working with the right logistics service provider can significantly influence brand reputation, customer happiness, and profit margins. But this also means that the wrong 3PL can stifle a business’s future growth and lower its profit margins. 

Thankfully, not all logistics partners are created equal, and switching is easier than you may think. If your present logistics partner is slowing you down, you should move your business as quickly as possible to a 3PL that can support your long-term growth.

So how do you know it’s the right time to make the switch? And what should you look for in a new 3PL?

When to say goodbye to your 3PL

Order fulfillment

A logistics partner that isn’t the right fit for your business can hurt your organization on multiple levels. They can eat into your profit margins by overspending on shipping, or they may cost you your customers by delivering a poor customer experience. Delayed eCommerce fulfillment and lack of visibility and transparency are very real threats to customer loyalty.

The eCommerce market continues to evolve quickly, and competition is fierce, so there’s no time to waste with a third-party logistics provider that is unable to give your customers the delivery experience they expect. If things aren't going well, it's time to look for a new shipping company that can help you meet those expectations.

Here are four key indicators that it’s time for you to switch 3PLs:

  1. Your 3PL makes mistakes on a regular basis

When it comes to eCommerce fulfillment, blunders are bound to happen sometimes. But if your 3PL repeatedly fails to deliver orders, it’s a red flag that negatively impacts your organization. After all, most customers will point the finger at the brand they’re familiar with, not the fulfillment centre that is actually responsible. If your logistics partner is consistently shipping damaged items, sending packages to incorrect locations, or losing shipments, it's time to explore outsourcing your operations to a more efficient service provider.

  1. Your 3PL seems unable to change

eCommerce evolves at a breakneck pace and is always changing (along with customer expectations). Is your logistics partner moving at the same rate? Are they devising more efficient methods of delivering your goods to your customers? Keeping up with technological developments and staying ahead of the game? They're a reactive firm if they can't keep up and haven't improved in a long time, or if they've failed to simplify procedures since the beginning. 3PLs must be proactive in order to be successful in this industry, and if they’re falling short, it’s up to you to take action– by taking your business elsewhere.

  1. Your 3PL can’t keep up with your growth 

Many startups and small eCommerce businesses can manage logistics on their own at first, but eventually need to outsource to a small, local third-party logistics firm to expand outside their home office. Increased sales, however, can lead you to outgrow your logistics partner if they can’t help you scale. You’ll know it's time to transition to a larger scale operation with efficient warehousing services and a network of fulfillment centres if your company is fast-growing and your logistics partner can't handle the influx of inventory or keep up with your order fulfillment. 

  1. You’re overpaying for 3PL services

Now, we're not saying you should go for the cheapest 3PL; after all, you do get what you pay for (or at least you should). Having said that, you're probably not getting your money's worth if you're paying premium order fulfillment prices without getting top-notch support, transparent technology, and outstanding customer experiences. And if your 3PL doesn’t have established partnerships with major carriers, they don’t get discounted rates they can pass to you– and that means your shipping costs are higher than they need to be.

What to look for in a new 3PL partner

  1. Top-notch customer support

You need a 3PL that truly is a partner for your business, so make sure the shipping company you choose has an efficient customer service team that is readily available to you whenever you need support. When you join eShipper, you’re assigned a dedicated Account Manager who you can reach out to directly with any concerns or questions. This takes the guesswork out of your logistical operations and brings you peace of mind, knowing that you have a point of contact to help resolve any potential issues. 

  1. End-to-end solutions and advanced tech 

Technology and integrations are crucial: finding technology that works not only for you but with you is one of the most critical aspects of picking a fulfillment solution.

Your 3PL partner should be able to provide you with end-to-end eCommerce solutions, including warehousing services, and be able to handle everything from order and inventory management to tracking eCommerce orders and managing returns.

  1. Specialized services

You already know that 3PLs can leverage their experience and size to negotiate courier rates, allowing them to get you great premiums with reputable shipping companies, while also servicing your ground-level logistics. But given how quickly eCommerce is evolving, and how high delivery expectations are becoming, you need to look for a 3PL that offers specialized shipping services. These are the services that can take your business further and help you keep up with– or even beat– your competition. 

With a full suite of options such as air shipping for the price of ground, expedited cross-border shipping, zone skipping, and next-day delivery, eShipper can help you get your products to your customers faster and for less. 

  1. A rapidly expanding fulfillment network

If you just ship from one place, you're restricting your company's reach in crucial markets where your consumers live, and you're almost certainly overpaying for shipping and waiting too long.

Working with a third-party logistics provider with numerous fulfillment centres allows you to distribute your product over different locations. This brings your inventory closer to your shipping destinations, allowing you and your customers to ship more products to cheaper shipping zones and save money.

  1. Transparency, accountability and visibility

A good 3PL partner should never hesitate to offer you visibility into their operations, from clear pricing and insights on fulfillment performance to visibility throughout the entire fulfillment and shipping process. You should be kept informed about their service-level agreements (SLAs) and actual performance.

Final thoughts

Finding a 3PL that operates as a partner rather than a vendor will help you meet your objectives and sustain your brand over time. To make the shift as seamless as possible, look for a logistics partner that can provide hands-on help, quick onboarding, and easy technology that integrates with your existing tech stack. 

Having a streamlined and reliable shipping partner is essential for scaling your business and meeting customer expectations. Contact us to learn more about how eShipper can take your shipping and fulfillment to the next level!

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