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November 15, 2023

Partnering With the Right 3PL for Your Retail Supply Chain


The primary goal of any retail supply chain should be getting products to consumers accurately and efficiently –  a task that's becoming more and more challenging as the rise in eCommerce leads to ever-increasing competition and ballooning customer expectations.

With so much at stake, eCommerce brands often choose to outsource, looking for vendors that offer various services across the chain. However, they often see the best results when they streamline supply chain improvements through a third-party logistics (3PL) provider that can customize their solutions for your business.

The right 3PL provider should adapt their services to your unique needs and work to deliver value in multiple areas of your business. They should also approach your engagement as a dynamic business partnership, not a one-time initiative or quick way to increase their profits.

In this post, we'll walk through some helpful recommendations and pre-engagement steps you can take to ensure you find the best partner for your retail supply chain.

Evaluate Their Full Suite of Services

When shopping for a 3PL provider to help with your retail supply chain management, you'll want to prioritize critical warehousing services — the pick, pack, and ship tasks at the heart of your fulfillment operations.

You'll need to evaluate your provider's fulfillment solutions, plus their industry expertise and experience with brands similar to yours. You may choose to vet them with case studies or create a questionnaire to assess how well they really know the ins and outs of retail fulfillment. Identify whether or not your potential partner:

  • Offers standard receiving, storage, assembly, and shipping
  • Uses an integrated Warehouse Management System
  • Has processes in place to maintain order accuracy and promised delivery times

However, you should also consider how your new partner can impact your supply chain outside of the warehouse. Look for value-added services like  vendor management and supply sourcing, and explore how their tools integrate with external systems – like your eCommerce website – to simplify order processing and tracking.

Keep an Eye Out for Integrations

Effective retail supply chain management requires continuous monitoring to resolve weak spots and seek out new improvement opportunities. Your supply chain partner should have systems in place to take these routine tasks off your plate and ensure things run smoothly on the backend of your eCommerce business.

Through a robust management system and dynamic integrations, the provider you partner with should be able to optimize various elements of your fulfillment processes, including:

  • Retailer documentation and handling
  • Inventory management and forecasting
  • Detailed performance tracking and reporting

While the WMS is the foundation of a tech-enabled supply chain, your partner's solutions shouldn't stop there. Instead, they should look to leverage automation throughout the fulfillment process to reduce the risk of human error and increase internal efficiencies wherever possible.

Plan for the Future of Retail Supply Chain Management 

A reliable 3PL provider can support your growing business and provide value over time. On the flip side, if you choose a provider that doesn't play the long game, you may end up with an "all-in-one" solution that becomes obsolete after just a few months. Or you could find yourself tethered to a vendor who can't meet your needs as you expand to new markets or establish more robust retailer networks.

An effective partner will:

  • Anticipate seasonality and market trends in your industry
  • Recommend iterative solutions and new strategies as your needs evolve
  • Improve KPI tracking and reporting as they get to know your business better

A supply chain partner shouldn't simply offer a list of generic solutions or implementations. They should invest in your business by taking a deep dive into your processes, market, and existing tools during the sales process. That way, they'll be able to offer curated recommendations and adaptable solutions that align with your long-term goals.

Guide to Selecting a Logistics Partner

Set Clear Expectations Upfront

After you've gone through the process to identify the right 3PL provider, it's time to communicate your needs upfront. There's nothing worse than signing a long-term contract, only to find out afterward that your new partner is off-base.

You should use this opportunity to clarify partnership-level expectations around:

  • How and when you'll communicate with your new 3PL partner
  • Which success metrics and KPIs you'll track
  • How your 3PL partner anticipates and manages roadblocks and escalations
  • Any other make-or-break details

Open communication is the key to any successful relationship, business or otherwise. Ask about check-ins or routine meetings to review past performance, forecasting, and potential opportunities for improvement. Then, create a mutually beneficial engagement outline and action plan that keeps your partner accountable and ensures both teams work toward the same goals.

At Materialogic, we go beyond standard fulfillment services to support your entire retail supply chain, with value-added services and adaptable solutions designed to grow alongside your eCommerce business.

Plus, we invest in your success from the start by taking the time to understand your industry, key challenges, and overarching business goals before we ask you to sign a contract.

Want to see how our dynamic solutions can drive results across your supply chain?

Check out our Quick Guide to eCommerce Warehousing and Fulfillment to get the complete picture.

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