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How a 3PL partnership enables business growth

Illustration of packages on a conveyor belt with a graph and dollar signs above it.

Rapid growth is one of the biggest markers of success for a retail brand. Watching competitors scale more quickly than you, even when your products, customer service and brand strategy are solid, can be a frustrating process.

It could be that your growth is being hindered by managing fulfillment in-house, rather than outsourcing to a reliable 3PL provider. The focus of this article is how the right 3PL can be a strong partner in your long-term success – not just a vendor that ships your products.

3PLs: More than just shipping and storage

A good 3PL does so much more than just store and ship products. The classic conception of a warehouse, where products simply flow in and out, doesn’t capture the fullness of what a good 3PL can do for a business’s growth trajectory. 

When you have an experienced, well-resourced 3PL by your side, you can forge a collaborative partnership that identifies and capitalizes on key growth opportunities and trends within the marketplace, ensuring that your brand always stays a step ahead of your competitors.

What does a 3PL actually do?

Business strategy

3PLs are something of a barometer for what is happening in the retail space. Thanks to partnering with so many businesses, fulfillment providers develop a finely tuned sense of what strategies are successful – and which aren’t.

If you engage with your 3PL partner as an extension of your in-house team, they can lend their expertise and experience to your business strategy. A 3PL like Ryder E-commerce By Whiplash has dozens of clients across a range of industries, and these insights can lead to ideas that help your business scale more quickly and provide options about how to effectively manage the challenges that come with rapid growth.

Inventory management 

Although inventory management is often synonymous with storage, it takes more to keep your SKUs organized and in good condition than just sticking them in a warehouse until they’re needed to fulfill orders.

Inventory is often one of the largest expenses for a business, meaning every brand should be concerned about inventory management. Efficient management of SKU counts, inbound volume, inventory turnover, and shrinkage are all critical to intelligent growth for both 3PLs and their clients. Forward-thinking 3PLs will make ongoing investments in technology, equipment, facilities, and labor to optimize inventory management and keep costs down.

At Ryder E-Commerce By Whiplash, we work closely with our clients to understand their precise needs and help their businesses evolve by: 

  • Monitor product aging to provide insight and data-driven opportunities.
  • Intelligently adding and removing SKUs as their business scales.
  • Proactively identifying slow-moving inventory and creating sales or liquidation strategies.
  • Designing optimum pick strategies to minimize travel time and speed up order fulfillment.

Technology integrations

In one of the oldest industries in the world, technology prowess has become the key differentiator that separates old-school logistics providers from the new-age approach of building customer demand via positive brand experiences. 

With most brands now managing multiple sales channels and fulfillment strategies, a 3PL partner who can act as the nexus of your retail operation is essential to achieve seamless data sharing and visibility over inventory, sales, shipping, business intelligence, and more. 

A partner who has the expertise to build and maintain integrations between your selling platforms and their Warehouse Management System (WMS) means there is no guesswork over inventory levels or the status of outstanding orders. This way, your brand can focus on what you do best, and leave logistics to the professionals.

Customizable configurations 

As a retailer, an unexpected fulfillment need is only ever just around the corner. You might want to add seasonal packaging during the holiday season, include a free gift with every order for a short-term promotion, or include product bundles in your refreshed catalog. It can be difficult to pre-empt these demands ahead of time, so having a 3PL provider who can customize your fulfillment process to meet your specification is a valuable asset.

That is why Ryder E-commerce By Whiplash offers a full menu of value-added services that are completely configurable to your supply chain needs. This allows you to keep pace with rising customer expectations, without facing the complications of bringing in external partners.

Scalability and Flexibility

Pursuing an aggressive growth plan doesn’t make sense for any business unless you have the infrastructure to support it. Because as brand awareness increases, so do your order volumes. If your fulfillment operation cannot grow seamlessly alongside, you’re looking at the development of serious bottlenecks that result in order processing and shipping delays. 

To accommodate rapid growth, brands require scalable and flexible environments that include:

  • A savvy team with seasoned experts.
  • Best-in-class technology and equipment.
  • Effective workflows and a commitment to continuous improvement.
  • Thoughtfully designed, well-engineered facilities.

For a brand to complete this checklist on their own requires a significant investment, along with the capital to manufacture more product, hire more people, and rent additional storage space. However, this is rarely cost-effective for individual businesses, which is why most in-house fulfillment operations ultimately fail to support a brand’s growth goals.

As you consider your growth initiatives and how best to support them, it’s worth exploring 3PL options. Make sure you understand their ability to scale and flex to meet your requirements both short and long-term. Our blog 21 questions to ask a 3PL partner provides a great starting point for your search.

Supply chain management

Thanks to the fulfillment services and support they provide to clients during the normal course of business, 3PLs play a critical role in the supply chain. 

Helping clients to work with their suppliers to reduce inbound freight and inventory receiving costs, educating them on how to prepare products for inbound routing compliance, and passing back fees and fines to suppliers for mistakes they’ve made are just a few examples of how a 3PLs can streamline supply chain management and eliminate key pain points.

In addition to helping manage supplier partnerships, 3PLs often have deep relationships with various freight carriers and can help clients to navigate the confusing world of freight and transportation to reduce cost and tailor a customized freight plan that works for them. Ryder E-commerce by Whiplash, for example, offers clients the use of our SmartRate Selection tool to compare carrier rates in real time.

Customer Success

As we said at the start, fulfillment is far more than just getting goods from A to B. It’s the job of a 3PL to ensure that brands are equipped to meet the changing needs of their customers in a rapidly evolving retail landscape. 

Customer expectations never stay static; as technological innovations streamline the customer journey and make shopping more convenient, consumers expect brands to keep pace and continually find new ways to surprise and delight them. This is where Customer Success comes into the picture:

“Customer Success is about ensuring customers get the most value out of their business relationship with a partner,” says Leslie Karr, VP of Customer Success at Ryder E-commerce By Whiplash. “It’s about discovering a customer’s specific needs, developing goal plans, and executing them using a combination of valuable insights and hands-on expertise.”

Put simply, Customer Success recognizes that there’s no one size fits all approach to client needs. 3PLs that invest in Customer Success are much better equipped to handle the unique demands of established and emerging retailers.

Minimizing opportunity costs 

Possibly the most important aspect in growing your business, and the biggest benefit of working with a 3PL, is minimizing those opportunity costs.  

For example, ask yourself how costly it is to:

  • Not have sufficient inventory to fulfill orders.
  • Ship incorrect orders to customers.
  • Delay or avoid growth initiatives for fear that your business cannot support them.
  • Suffer errors because of bad processes and ineffective technology.
  • Lose valuable time that could be spent on marketing and sales initiatives.

Stepping up by partnering with an experienced and reliable 3PL is a crucial step toward accelerating business growth, while minimizing the mistakes, frustrations, and resulting opportunity costs that come with managing fulfillment independently.

Choosing to partner with a 3PL can be a daunting prospect, but the short-term challenges of making this transition can set a foundation for long-term success. If you think your growth is being hindered by not using a 3PL – or perhaps not working with the right 3PL – it may be time to consider a change. A little leg work now will pay big dividends down the road!

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