Are you a small business looking for the best 3PL provider? You've come to the right place! This blog post will help you compare some of the top third-party logistics providers and decide which is best for your business. We understand that when it comes to finding a 3PL provider, there are many things to consider – pricing models, turnaround times, technology features, customer service, and more. So keep reading to learn how to narrow your list and find the perfect fit for your company!
What Is A 3PL, And What Do They Do For Businesses?
3PL providers' primary goal is to free up your time, so you can focus on growing your business fulfillment and the big picture — without breaking a sweat picking, packing, and dispatching parcels. How can you determine if a 3PL is the right fit for your fulfillment for small businesses? And What to look for in a 3PL provider?
There is more to outsourcing your logistics than a me-too kind of thing. The services offer opportunities to reduce costs, bring efficiency to the whole process, and, most importantly, ensure the customer needs are well-taken care of. But that's only possible if you choose the right 3PL company. And "right" here isn't universal. It depends on a range of details unique to your business. Your products, plans for the future – name it.
That said, there are a few pointers you can use to land a provider who fits your needs. Could you find out about 10 of them below?
1. Consider Stability
Look for a 3PL provider that has been established for many years, has a good reputation, and is financially sound. Check to see if the company has experience in its industry and how successful they have been. Also, it's essential to research any problems or complaints customers may have had with the company.
Make sure you choose a 3PL provider who can scale up your business as it grows. Some providers specialize in serving small businesses, while others are better suited for larger enterprises.
3. Tech Capabilities
Software capabilities are essential when selecting a 3PL provider. It would help if you looked into what technology tools they use and ensured they match your needs. It's also important to consider their customer service level and how secure their systems are.
4. Customer Service
You want a 3PL provider who will be available when needed and take your business seriously. Look for a provider that offers good customer service and make sure they can help with any questions or problems you may have quickly and efficiently.
5. What Are Others Saying About the 3PL Provider
Remember to research! Read reviews from other customers and ask for feedback about a potential 3PL provider before deciding. Make sure to choose one whose customers are satisfied with their services.
6. Define Your Needs
Before settling on a 3PL provider, understand your business needs clearly. It's important to consider how much storage space is needed, what types of services are required, and whether or not the 3PL provider can provide those services. You should also consider any special requirements you may have when it comes to shipping or delivery times.
Cost is always essential when deciding this, so you get quotes from multiple providers and compare them before settling on one. It's critical to keep in mind that cheaper is only sometimes better. At the same time, the cost is undoubtedly high, and quality service and reliability should also be considered when deciding which 3PL provider to choose.
8. Consider Multiple Providers at First
Before making your final decision, considering multiple providers is a good idea. Speak with each and discuss their services to ensure they fit your business best. This will also give you insight into how well-reputed a provider is and any potential problems arising during a partnership.
9. Geographical Locations
The location of the 3PL provider can impact delivery times, so it's essential to consider this when making your decision. Ensure the provider is close enough to your customers' locations that you can still provide timely service while cutting down on costs associated with long-distance shipping.
10. Cultural Fit
Last but not least, choose a 3PL provider who is an excellent cultural fit for your business. It would help if you were comfortable with the company and its staff to have a successful partnership. Pay attention to how they communicate with you during the selection process and ensure they understand your needs and requirements.
What Is A Good 3PL?
An effective 3PL will contact you with questions and comments to help improve operations and provide better service for your customers. They're also adept at troubleshooting and coming up with creative solutions. They may re-engineer processes or apply best practices to ensure optimal performance.
How To Choose The Best 3PL For Small Business
Do your research
Before you enter into any business relationship, it's essential to research your potential 3PL. Read reviews, talk to those in the industry who have used their services before, and get a better understanding of what they offer.
Establish a partnership
When looking for the best 3PL for your small business, try to find one that will establish a partnership with you instead of just providing logistics services. This way, you can collaborate on solutions for your business needs and goals.
Look for a range of offerings
A great 3PL should provide you with efficient logistics services and additional support such as order fulfillment, e-commerce management, and inventory control. Look for one with experience in all aspects of the supply chain so that you can benefit from their expertise.
Ensure your 3PL has robust technology.
Technology is essential in successful logistics management. Ensure your chosen 3PL has up-to-date systems and processes, including automated order processing and real-time tracking capabilities.
Aim for scalability
It's also essential that the 3PL you choose can scale with your business. Look for a provider that can adjust quickly to changes in demand and provide services tailored to different seasons or special events.
Determine customization capabilities
Many businesses have unique requirements for managing their supply chain, so make sure the 3PL you pick can provide custom solutions that meet your needs.
Find a provider that commits to continuous improvement
The logistics industry is constantly evolving, so it's essential to choose a 3PL that is committed to ongoing improvement and innovation. Find one that regularly adopts new technologies and processes to stay ahead of the competition.
Find a provider that offers omnichannel expertise
As more businesses move towards an omnichannel approach, finding a 3PL with the necessary expertise is essential. Look for one with experience managing both traditional and digital channels and who can help you maximize your sales potential across all platforms.
Related: 13 Important Questions to Ask 3PL Providers
The Benefits Of Working With A 3PL
3PL companies handle all or some of the following tasks on your behalf:
Warehousing your products
Working with a 3PL to store your products can benefit small businesses in numerous ways. A 3PL handles your business's warehousing, storage, and retrieval needs. This helps to free up resources that may be better suited elsewhere. Additionally, you avoid the capital costs associated with owning and operating your warehouse or distribution center.
Keeping track of your inventory
An experienced 3PL deeply understands inventory management systems, allowing them to provide real-time visibility into your stock levels. They can also offer specialized tools for tracking products as they move through their warehouses and across different parts of the supply chain. This helps streamline operations and ensures accuracy regarding shipments going out on time.
Order preparation, packing, and shipping
3PLs are also well-versed in order preparation, packing, and shipping. They can provide businesses with better-packaging solutions that improve the customer experience when receiving products. Additionally, they have access to lower freight costs due to their established relationships with carriers. This helps reduce shipping expenses for small businesses significantly.
Orders Are Transported From The Warehouse To Their Final Destination
An experienced 3PL will know the ins and outs of all the transportation regulations necessary for getting orders from the warehouse to their destination on time. They can also find cost savings associated with consolidating shipments or using alternative forms of transport when necessary. These factors help ensure that your business operates as efficiently as possible.
Related: Why Should You Consider 3PL For Your eCommerce Fulfilment?
What Are The Four Types Of 3PL?
Four Types of Third-Party Logistics You Should Know
Standard 3PL Provider
A standard 3PL provider provides a wide range of logistics services across the entire supply chain, from inbound to outbound. These services may include transportation, inventory management, packaging, and warehousing.
3PL Service Developer
A 3PL service developer creates custom solutions for customers that require more specific or specialized logistics requirements. The answers they develop are designed to meet the customer's unique needs and provide an economical way to deliver goods or services quickly.
3PL Customer Adapter
A 3PL customer adapter is a third-party service provider that adapts existing systems to new customers and markets. They enable customers to use their existing infrastructure and software while introducing them to new business models and technologies to improve efficiency and cost savings.
3PL Customer Developer
A 3PL customer developer is a third-party service provider that works closely with customers to develop custom logistics solutions, such as specialized tracking and routing systems or new supply chain technologies. They provide the customer with the resources to create an effective global supply chain network.
The Best 3PL for Small Businesses (make sure to Include Simpl)
The following are the top five 3PL companies for small businesses fulfillment:
ShipBob stands out among eCommerce solutions, providing start-up-friendly services to over 5,000 satisfied businesses. Lifestyle and gaming company, 100 Thieves, began its successful shipping journey using ShipBob, proving its scalability. Impressing further, ShipBob maintains a 99.95% accuracy, with most orders delivered on time. A transparent and straightforward pricing program is offered with no onboarding fees, catering towards pre-launch start-ups and small businesses.
With no minimum order requirement, businesses shipping at least 400 monthly orders receive their self-service plan. The inbound shipment cost is $25, and monthly storage costs vary based on pallet or bin size. ShipBob has experience fulfilling Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, flash sales, and global shipments with their trusted carriers, DHL, UPS, FedEx, and USPS. ShipBob's integration with famous e-commerce giants, such as Amazon, Squarespace, BigCommerce, and Shopify, makes it a stand-out option for unique eCommerce shipping challenges.
Red Stag Fulfillment offers streamlined order fulfillment services for businesses of all types and sizes. They specialize in handling large, cumbersome products that require tailored fulfillment services. Red Stag is flexible regarding your shipment minimums and doesn't require a specific order-to-SKU ratio, so you can stock a vast range of products.
They also offer international shipping, Amazon Prime and Seller-Fulfilled Prime, and fast and low-cost delivery times due to the proximity of their fulfillment centers across the US. Red Stag is incredibly small-business friendly, offering a 30-day, risk-free trial sign-up and integrating with many eCommerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce.
ShipHero is a valuable 3PL provider due to its unique offering- no set-up fees. Its two eCommerce solutions cater to varying business requirements. The fulfillment solution costs $5.29 per order, covering picking, packing, and postage. You can store your products at ShipHero's warehouses for $0.65 per cubic foot. Inventory is charged per SKU daily. With warehouse software priced at $1850 monthly, ShipHero's service is fully automated and available across many US warehouses.
ShipBob stands out as one of the top start-up-friendly options for e-commerce businesses worldwide. With over 5,000 satisfied customers, ShipBob impressively boasts a 99.95% accuracy rate, delivering 99.96% of orders on time. What's unique about ShipBob is its transparent pricing model for small businesses. The "Growth Plan" has no minimum order requirement and no onboarding fees. You only pay as and when you need their services.
Moreover, ShipBob accepts inbound shipments at $25 per shipment, and monthly storage cost depends on the bin or pallet size. They're excellent at handling Kickstarter and Indiegogo fulfillment, flash sales, and other e-commerce requirements.
Lastly, ShipBob integrates with world-renowned e-commerce solutions, including Amazon, Squarespace, BigCommerce, and Shopify, enabling them to deliver globally through DHL, UPS, FedEx, and USPS carriers.
Whitebox is a turnkey 3PL solution for those considering selling via Amazon, primarily through Amazon Prime. Unlike other 3PL providers, it incorporates an order fulfillment operation and a separate marketing agency, helping SMEs elevate their selling game. They can list your goods on Amazon and other platforms, manage your stock, and leverage Amazon's Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) service on your behalf. Whitebox applies a distinctive pricing model involving an "all-in-one" monthly platform fee, covering almost all aspects of 3PL except for software and storage fees. You'd have access to receiving, pick-and-pack, shipping, account management, and more.
Simpl Fulfillment is the leading eCommerce order fulfillment service for brands of all sizes. Their cutting-edge services include:
- Accurate order processing with an industry-leading 99.98% pick accuracy guarantee
- Climate-controlled warehouses that provide first-class inventory management and storage
- Flexible Amazon FBA Prep
- Shipping solutions
- Expert support for custom packaging, marketing materials, and inserts
- Concierge-level support for fragile and hazardous materials
Simpl Fulfillment has pre-negotiated affordable shipping rates with major carriers like UPS, USPS, and FedEx. These rates are volume-based, providing you with cost-effective shipping solutions. Plus, their weight rounding policy saves you money on shipping.
Related: 3PL Services in Austin, Texas: A Better Way to Ship
Finding the best 3PL provider for your business doesn't have to be a daunting task, and now that you're better equipped with the necessary knowledge to make an informed decision – it should be a much smoother process. From pricing models, turnaround times, technology features, or customer service – consider researching each provider to understand which best suits your needs. If you're still feeling overwhelmed, Simpl is here to provide expert guidance on choosing a modern 3PL solution — so there's no need to worry! Reach out to our friendly team today and get support every step of the way!
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