Smart Warehousing Oct 1, 2021 3:21:24 PM 7 min read

4 Key Questions to Ask When Selecting a 3PL Provider for the Holidays

For many retailers, the holiday season becomes the most important time of the year. With more and more consumers making their purchases online, top-notch fulfillment turns into an absolute must-have for both eCommerce retailers and companies with brick-and-mortar locations.

This holiday season, U.S. retail sales are expected to reach an all-time high, increasing by 7.4% compared to 2020. Back in 2020, online sales surged by 50% due to the pandemic.

One of the pillars of a successful holiday season is finding the right 3PL provider. Since consumers are becoming more and more demanding every year, a slight mistake in the logistics process could hurt your brand reputation.

It's not too late to change your 3PL provider to ensure fulfillment success during the holidays. Let's take a look at the top questions to ask potential partners before signing a contract.

1. How Will You Support My Brand Reputation? 

Building and maintaining a stellar brand reputation takes years. During the holiday season when passions run high, it's easy to lose loyal customers simply by failing to deliver their purchases on time.

More than 60% of consumers expect their purchase to be delivered within three days. When their expectations aren't met, especially during the holiday season, these shoppers are likely to avoid working with the retailer again.

Your 3PL partner holds your brand reputation in its hands. That's why it's imperative to make sure they understand the responsibility. In a perfect world, a consumer doesn't know anything about your 3PL partner. This company acts as an invisible third party that simplifies the delivery process.

Boosting the Convenience Factor

Holidays are always extremely busy. With the COVID-19 pandemic still being a factor, many consumers will stick to online shopping.

Due to current supply chain issues and labor shortages, many companies extend their shipping times. It's an excellent opportunity to improve your brand reputation by keeping your delivery options at the same level.

Your 3PL partner should assist with offering your customers a convenient way to receive their purchases while keeping your competition in mind.

Ensuring Transparency 

According to a study by Label Insight, 56% of consumers are ready to be loyal to a company for life if it provides complete transparency. The fulfillment process is essential to ensuring transparency for your customers.

The ability to track products in real-time allows consumers to plan their activities and gain control over their purchases. Find out if the 3PL partner is ready to provide such transparency in order to support your brand reputation.

2. What is Your Delivery Timeline? 

When it comes to holiday fulfillment, time is money. According to a BigCommerce survey, 77% of consumers have abandoned their purchases due to unsatisfactory shipping options. One of these options is slow delivery time.

During the busy season, long deliveries could cost you loyal customers, especially those who aren't very good at planning. Ideally, your 3PL partner should offer a 24- to 48-hour shipping time frame. Otherwise, your customers could start looking for other options.

Warehouse Coverage

To figure out whether the potential 3PL partner can keep their word about a quick delivery, you need to find out what their warehouse coverage is. Ask the 3PL provider to give you a list of warehouse locations to figure out if they are all close enough to your customers.

If you are selling products nationwide, the 3PL company must have a large national warehouse network.

Marketing Leverage

When you are marketing your holiday offers, the delivery time could turn into a robust conversion tool. Last-minute shoppers are likely to remember which delivery timeframe you mention in your emails.

If you already promised your customers a certain delivery timeframe, you need to find a 3PL partner who is willing to stick to it.

3. What is Your Technology Capable of? 

High-quality tools are the foundation of an organized fulfillment process. With a wide variety of details to take care of during the high season, it may be hard to do it without fulfillment software.

Since this type of software can vary in complexity, you need to find out what the potential partner's tools are capable of. Things to look out for include:

  • Real-time visibility and tracking
  • Warehouse visibility and management
  • Operation tracking
  • Inventory management
  • Order management capabilities
  • Support for multiple warehouses

You can ask the 3PL partner to share which software they work with or even demonstrate how it works. If the company you plan to work with has numerous clients, the importance of fulfillment automation is even higher.

4. Can You Scale With Me? 

While you are searching for a 3PL partner for this holiday season, you may want to consider future collaboration. A fulfillment company that shows excellent results during holidays definitely deserves your attention.

If you are thinking about working with a full-time 3PL partner after the holidays are over, consider asking the company about its ability to do so.

As your business grows and the order volume goes up, you need a high-volume fulfillment solution. Searching for a new 3PL partner every time your needs change can be frustrating. That's why it's important to check how well the company can handle your growth.

If you consider turning a holiday collaboration into a full-time partnership, let the company know. It can be an excellent incentive to go above and beyond during the high season.

Selecting a 3PL Provider for the Holidays

Finding the right 3PL provider for the holiday affects your sales, reputation, and future earnings. By asking the potential fulfillment partner the right set of questions, you can get a good idea of their ability to help you get through the high season.

When speaking with the representative, pay special attention to the delivery timeframe, fulfillment software, and scaling capabilities. Make sure to find out how the company plans to support your brand reputation.

Remember, the time you spend selecting a 3PL provider for the holidays is an investment in your company's reputation and success.  For more information, please contact us at any convenient time.