Not everything always goes according to plan. Sometimes you need to make a change — fast. Logistics is no exception. If you find yourself in the position of looking for immediate help fulfilling your customers’ orders, you may come across a plethora of third-party logistics (3PL) providers.
When it comes to getting started with a new 3PL, the onboarding process can be slow and cumbersome. It can potentially take several months before you are even ready to start fulfilling orders with them. Fortunately, this is not the case for every 3PL.
If you need to secure a 3PL before the busy holiday season, learn how ShipBob can help you get started fast.
Why partner with a 3PL for the holidays?
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not far away. The good news is that you don’t have to tackle the holiday rush alone. 3PLs can offer many benefits to ecommerce businesses that find the holiday season difficult to keep up with on their own.
Get started fast
Steve Staffan, Founder of menswear brand Brummell, needed a fulfillment partner right before the 2017 holiday season. After 15,000 units of product arrived at his apartment just before Thanksgiving, Steve reached out to ShipBob and was in luck.
“I was cutting it very close to securing a last-minute fulfillment provider before the holidays. I can’t express how happy I have been to work with ShipBob. I know it would not have been possible to manage without them, especially during the holidays.”
Steve Staffan, founder and CEO of Brummell
Ever since, he’s been using ShipBob’s services and technology to have a strong fulfillment partner during Q4 and throughout the entire year. Brummell will triple their holiday shipments this year, while having ShipBob by their side.
Steve presented a recent webinar on “How to Survive the Holiday Sales Chaos” where he explained in more detail how Brummell was able to ramp up with a fulfillment partner fast without any prior experience.
Handle volume spikes effortlessly
Black Friday through Christmas Eve is the time of year when the majority of ecommerce brands experience the biggest surge in orders. For many founders and small businesses, it’s impossible to fulfill these orders on time and keep customers happy. It can also be difficult to recruit friends and family or hire people to help pack boxes. It’s likely not your ideal way to spend the holidays either.
Anastasia Allison, Founder of hiking gear brand Kula Cloth, was terrified to outsource fulfillment at first, but she knew that what she was doing was completely unsustainable. Without partnering with ShipBob, she would have prevented her own success. When she decided not to do everything herself, ShipBob exceeded her expectations.
Previously, she found herself spending all her time on fulfillment while on vacation, constantly checking on new orders, finding wifi to print labels, and shipping inventory out of the back of her car. Since switching to ShipBob, she’s “free” and able to spend more time looking at the big picture, rather than stuffing envelopes all day.
“To say that switching to ShipBob has been life-changing is an understatement. Thinking big picture, it was an incremental cost for me to ultimately sell a lot more. My business has tripled and I got my life back.”
Anastasia Allison, founder of Kula Cloth
In addition to scaling up when many orders come in, brands can also expand into more ShipBob fulfillment centers as they grow to further cut shipping costs — something they could not do if they managed fulfillment themselves.
Offer fast shipping
The people behind best-selling book series Rebel Girls strive to make the Rebel Girls website the best place for customers to shop. To do that, they need the right logistics in place.
“It’s paramount for people to feel confident that they will receive their products in the shortest amount of time possible. We’d hate to see our customers go somewhere else because we don’t offer 2-day shipping, so during our third holiday season with ShipBob, we used their 2-Day Express program.”
Francesca Cavallo, Co-Author of Rebel Girls
ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Shipping program is a guaranteed shipping option that merchants can add to their checkout. It’s an affordable option that leverages ground shipping rather than expedited air. Learn more at the link below.
Forecast demand accurately
Since partnering with ShipBob, children’s apparel brand iloveplum has grown significantly due to infrastructure, technology, and scalability improvements. They rely on ShipBob’s software and inventory forecasting tools to track inventory change and velocity over time. They can monitor which styles are selling quickly to always keep their best sellers in stock, even as order volume changes month to month.
“With Q4 madness for direct-to-consumer sales, we’ve been able to get through our heaviest seasons while staying ahead of production using ShipBob’s inventory forecasting tools — even as our order volume more than quadrupled in less than a year.”
Ryan Casas, COO of iloveplum
Best of all? iloveplum has increased their average order value by 97% by offering fast, affordable shipping through ShipBob.
How to get started quickly with a 3PL company
Not all 3PLs are created equal. Make sure you have an understanding of your business’s needs and 3PL capabilities. We created a guide on how to choose the right 3PL for you below, which includes considerations you should not overlook and questions you should ask.
Once you begin talking to 3PLs, here’s what you should prepare for and expect.
Sharing the right details with the 3PL upfront
When you request a quote from a 3PL, there are several key pieces of information you must be ready to share with them to expedite the process. This includes:
- Warehousing and storage: If you need lot management, refrigeration, temperature control, or other special storage needs
- Product details: How many SKUs you need stored, each product’s weight and dimensions (length, width, and height to calculate dimensional weight and determine whether they need a pallet, shelf, or bin); if they contain hazardous materials or are classified as dangerous goods
- Packaging: If you will use the 3PL’s plain materials or your own custom branded boxes; if you prefer boxes or poly mailers; if you need kitting and assembly services; if you will offer bundles
- Order volume: How many orders per month you currently ship and your average units per order
- Customer locations: Order history to show where your orders are shipped (to choose the right fulfillment center location to save you the most money and for the quickest transit times); if you offer international shipping
- Inventory you’re sending: How many units you plan to send to the 3PL’s fulfillment center and when you expect it to hit
Providing this information upfront and any other services you need can help you get custom pricing fast that’s based on your unique business needs.
Going through implementation
Once you’ve determined that the 3PL’s pricing structure works for you, it’s critical to properly follow the processes you will be trained on during onboarding or implementation to set your business up for success and ensure a smooth fulfillment process.
Everything from mapping your online store’s shipping options with the 3PL’s corresponding carriers and services, to setting low inventory reorder notification points will affect your ability to get started fast, keep everything on time, and ultimately meet customer expectations.
Connecting your online store in minutes
A tech-enabled 3PL will have software that includes integrations built with all the leading ecommerce platforms and marketplaces you may sell on such as Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Amazon, eBay, and more. Syncing your store correctly will enable you to automatically push orders to the 3PL’s technology and have them fulfilled in a timely manner.
For ShipBob, these integrations are already built and take a matter of minutes to connect to our proprietary software, which also powers our network of fulfillment centers. We send critical information back to your store, including order tracking to keep customers in the loop about their deliveries.
Sending your inventory to the 3PL’s warehouse
Once the technology piece is set up, you’ll need to send your inventory to the 3PL’s fulfillment center. A fulfillment provider can help you identify the best 3PL warehouse location you can use to get started (and even help you strategically expand shortly thereafter). They can also teach you how to send your inventory properly so there aren’t any delays when they receive and stow it.
In order for the 3PL to be able to receive your products and store each SKU in a separate dedicated inventory storage location, you’ll have to carefully follow their process, indicating which products they will be receiving and how many units. This is one of the most important steps to ensuring a quick warehouse receiving turnaround.
Get started now
If you need a 3PL, check out ShipBob. Getting setup with ShipBob is very straightforward. Once we help get you up and running and have your inventory, we can quickly fulfill orders that are placed on your site. Don’t wait any longer — get in touch today to get a pricing quote.
P.S. Want to hear from more ShipBob clients? Watch the videos below.