Frictionless Fulfillment: Choosing a 3PL Partner Recap

April 28, 2022

At Saltbox, we know finding a third-party logistics (3PL) service is no easy task. There are hundreds of options to choose from and it can quickly become overwhelming. This past month, we hosted a webinar “unpacking” the logistics of picking the perfect 3PL partner for all your business needs. Here’s what Saltbox Director of Marketing, Jennifer Zember, and Product Manager for Fulfillment, Brynn Morelock, covered:

  • Today’s 3PL Ecosystem
  • Key Factors in Choosing a 3PL Partner
  • Cost Per Order Modeling
  • Fulfillment Use Cases and Partnerships

Let’s dive right in.

Today’s 3PL Ecosystem

As your ecommerce business grows, there are a variety of reasons you may need to expand your fulfillment operations. These include:

  • Space needed for inventory and supplies
  • More orders to process than time in the day
  • Frequent trips to the post office
  • Receiving large deliveries at home
  • Needing extra hands to tackle orders

But this list is fairly general. What about YOUR specific business? We’re glad you asked! There are numerous ways to leverage a 3PL fulfillment partner, and multiple options exist for all the many use cases we’ve seen in our time as a provider. Not all 3PL partners are created equal, however. Let’s break down the key elements of the 3PL ecosystem.

Every 3PL service has something to offer that’s unique and specific to them, just like your business is unique and specific to you. It’s not an easy task to select a service that will achieve all your business goals in one place. Let’s untangle the factors involved in this decision.

Key Factors in Choosing a 3PL Partner

Picking the right 3PL service isn’t just about closing your eyes and randomly choosing (at least, we hope not). Whenever you’re working with a 3PL, you’re handing off a very essential part of your brand. You are picking a partner, someone who is helping to build and support your brand WITH you. Finding a 3PL service that supports your brand vision and goals is key to expanding your business efficiently and effectively.

Along with that? Find the service that meets all your logistics needs at the right price. Comparing per order pricing is key to gauging what your fulfillment services will cost. From the price of storage, to special handling fees, packaging dues, and staffing needs, all pricing should be considered.

Sound a little easier said than done? Lucky for you, we’ve created the perfect checklist involving the key questions you should be asking any 3PL service before signing on board. It’s important to ask the tough questions before you commit to a service that may not meet all your needs. This is a partnership, after all!

Check out our full checklist for more!

Cost Per Order Modeling

Most of these questions surround the important topic of pricing! Your business is expanding, and as a growing business, you should not be hemorrhaging money towards a 3PL service that is charging your business extra dues and fees with growth.

It’s tricky comparing the costs for similar services. Occasionally, you’ll find two perfect 3PL services that offer the same incredible benefits... at slightly varying costs! It’s important to break down the cost per order, so you’re aware of exactly the money you’re putting into each aspect of the fulfillment process. Here’s an example:

Each question correlates to a specific portion of the model and the fees you may be charged for each of the corresponding questions. Taking a look at the overall cost per order guarantees you gain a good perspective on the money you are buying and selling for. Your bottom line and margins depend on it!

By breaking it down by each individual line item, including those standard monthly dues, you ensure you’re considering all of the potential fees that may come about as your business grows and expands.

Fulfillment Use Cases and Partnerships

Every business hits a point where expansion is in terms of space, technology, or additional people becomes necessary. As a 3PL service with a human-centric approach, we love working with small businesses to support and expand all logistic needs, no matter what they may be.

Moving While Expanding Into a 3PL

Logistic Need: Your small business has just made a big move to a new city, causing an abundance of growing pains when it comes to choosing a 3PL service that supports all of your business needs.

Saltbox Solution: Seeking to support an increasing order volume with a growing brand, Saltbox offers an abundance of business solutions that serve your business needs. With the transition, your business now enjoys:

  • Easily accessible inventory and convenient warehousing
  • Opportunity to connect with numerous selling channels (Shopify + Amazon), so they don’t have to worry about balancing inventory needs

Drop Shipping With Care

Logistic Need: You’ve begun running a highly successful apparel business and want to launch a new drop-ship channel with a successful luxury retailer, forming a large wholesale retail partnership. You also aim to expand your marketing and build out your brand through multi-channel marketing.

Saltbox Solution: With a growing business in a roaring city, it’s important you expand your brand while also expanding your fulfillment needs. Your business now enjoys:

  • Confidence in superior customer support
  • Tech integration with the luxury retailer’s order processing (with very strict and timely requirements)
  • Co-location and storage at the same facility with Saltbox Fulfillment

Leveraging Spreading Inventory With Multiple Locations

Logistic Need: Your medical supply company is growing and adapting to the developing ecommerce space. The key to any successful medical company is timeliness on these important orders, both to customers and healthcare providers. You need to scale your business fast, efficiently and cost effectively without a partner.

Saltbox Solution: Your business is growing at an exponential rate, and is about to branch out across the country. With numerous Saltbox locations in major cities nationwide, your business now has the ability to leverage numerous warehouse facilities across the country. Your business now enjoys:

  • 2-day ground coverage across the country with fulfillment out of LA and Atlanta
  • Huge time savings by outsourcing fulfillment
  • Ability to leverage Saltbox team as an extension of their own, with the confidence that medical grade equipment is handled with care

Interested in learning a little bit more about choosing the right 3PL service for your growing business? Look no further. Check out our blog post here. Ready to read up on 3PL pricing? Another recent blog post will walk you through all the main fees your 3PL service will have to account for.

Choosing the right 3PL service means considering what needs your business requires currently and where your business needs are headed in the future. Focus more on growing your business and less on the logistics, and find the 3PL service that works best for your business today and supports you as you scale up.

At Saltbox, we want to grow your small business with you. Offering all the key fulfillment services businesses require, Saltbox aims to benefit your growing business by focusing on those personal needs that many 3PL services overlook. You don’t have to expand your business alone. Get started with Saltbox Fulfillment and let’s grow your business together.

About Saltbox:

Saltbox is on a mission to enable the modern economy with human-centric logistics that solve the hardest parts of running an ecommerce business. Our purpose-built network of flexible warehouses, fulfillment centers, on-site support and other services are powering the ecommerce economy and the next generation of entrepreneurs to launch, grow and scale.

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