How 3PL Warehouses Can Capitalize on the Escalating Demands of Prospects and Customers
2017 is looking to be a memorable year for the warehousing industry. For the first time since the mid-2000s, 3PL warehouses are not only in demand, but in a position of strength. This will provide 3PL operators with a unique opportunity to build lasting relationships with key customers, suppliers, and retailers of their choice.
However, it also means an increased demand for quality service from warehouses and fulfillment centers. In order for 3PLs to succeed in this new environment, they must be ready to respond to one of the biggest challenges facing our industry today: The escalating levels of customer and prospect expectations.
Increased customer demands can be directly attributed to the on-going breakthroughs in web-based, e-Commerce, and mobile technologies. These advancements have helped spark the explosive growth of e-Commerce sales worldwide. This growth is already benefitting 3PLs who can handle e-Commerce fulfillment. In fact, for many of these 3PLs, B2C e-Commerce fulfillment has grown from a side business to a main source of revenue.
Yet, these same advances are enabling e-Commerce customers to demand access to more data and information. Shoppers now expect to view an "endless aisle" of product options, in real-time, via their mobile devices. They also expect to be able to make purchases on the fly without any security concerns, and have access to a range of delivery options—sometimes even as soon as that same day.
B2C e-Commerce fulfillment also entails an entirely new level of expectations with regard to processing orders. To succeed in this environment, 3PLs must become proficient in a whole new range of services to ensure their retail customers' brand images are presented properly. This includes everything from the box the item is packed in—to the pre-printed custom labeling, the package contents, the neatness of the packing and so on. In the area of package presentation, it is all about the details.
This is one of the most critical requirements for 3PLs who want to cash in on the B2C fulfillment boom. A retailer's concern that they could lose control over their brand presentation is one of the main reasons why they might hesitate to outsource fulfillment to a 3PL warehouse. It is something all 3PLs must get right if they are to win the trust of their customers.
In the end, building strong relationships and providing quality service are still the keys to long-term success. 3PLs who can master the art of exceeding customer expectations will have an on-going strategic advantage. To do so, today's 3PLs must be able to do the following:
- Build Seamless Connections with Multiple Sales Channels—Great e-Commerce fulfillment service revolves around accurate, real-time inventory, pick-up and delivery information. This requires integrations throughout the length of the fulfillment chain. If connections are faulty or information is inaccurate, this most basic of requirements becomes impossible.
- Select the Right e-Commerce Engine—The right e-Commerce engine should be inexpensive, easy to integrate, and capable of working seamlessly with a WMS. Anything less could cost a 3PL valued customers or new business.
- Adhere to the Highest Standards in the Fulfillment Process—A 3PL's customer is entrusting them with their most valuable asset—their brand image. It is important 3PLs handle every item as though it was their own.
- Maintain Strong Relationships with Delivery Partners—In e-Commerce fulfillment, last-mile delivery services represent a significant challenge, as they are beyond a 3PL's direct control. Maintaining strong partnerships will be key to managing problems, lost packages, or damaged deliveries should they happen to occur. Never underestimate the power of strong partner communication—backed up by data from your WMS.
- Provide Real-Time Visibility into Inventory and Order Shipment Status Worldwide—With the explosion of mobile devices, retailers are now expected to provide real-time product availability, delivery, and pick-up options 24/7. This duty often falls to the 3PL who must have the proper technologies in place to accommodate the needs of today's mobile e-Commerce shoppers.
At 3PL Central, we believe any 3PL warehouse that is willing to adapt to the escalating customer service demands will position themselves to prosper in the growing B2C marketplace.