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Three Signs You Need a New 3PL/Fulfillment Partner in 2017

Now is the perfect time to take a breath and enjoy the brief quiet. We advise not to wait too long, however. It’s crucial to gather your operations team quickly in the new year to discuss your peak season. How did it go? Were you satisfied or disappointed overall? What were the main pain points? Hashing this out while the memory and the stress of peak are still fresh in your mind is the best way to make positive operational changes for 2017.

As the U.S. eCommerce industry grew 14.6 percent in 2015, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, you can trust you were not the only retailer who may have struggled to manage peak demand. Luckily, there are resources and teams available that can help ease your eCommerce fulfillment challenges.

These three common peak season pain points below may be a sign of needing help from a new 3PL partner:

Limited visibility into operations

Were you frustrated by an inability to access key fulfillment and operations data that could have guided strategic direction? If you don’t have access to these metrics, it’s nearly impossible to make informed decisions about your business. In keeping yourself in the dark to operations metrics, you’re risking poor forecasting of inventory velocity and an influx of customer complaints your representatives must scramble to deal with. Since the shipment to the customer holds a lot of power over customer satisfaction, getting these elements right is crucial, and accurate, thorough operations data makes all the difference. The solution requires getting access to daily reports or the real-time view of what’s going on in your operations facility. Partnering with a 3PL who prioritizes this and understands its necessity ensures you’ll have an accurate and real-time snapshot of the state of your operations, even if the warehouse is thousands of miles away from your headquarters.

Poor system integration

Was your business’ efficiency and effectiveness negatively impacted by the lack of full-scale warehouse systems and system integrations? If your operations are much more manual than they should be, this is often a major red flag. When scaling up eCommerce operations as the business grows, there comes a point where upgrading to a warehouse management system is crucial. Remaining manual in the tracking of your orders, inventory, and returns can also lead to bigger problems, like poor customer service (out-of-stock items, back order status, etc.).

However, the switch over to full integration isn’t easy. It should be done with the help of a 3PL partner who has experience in helping eCommerce brands make this transition. Your 3PL partner should have experience in the integration of operations management systems and warehouse management systems, as well as knowledge of the shipping and transportation methods that are right for your business.

Feeling less trusting

If your current fulfillment provider does not share details or provide strategic operational guidance for your growing business, you may be feeling like you have no control or like you’re blind to the state of your operations. The same applies if your fulfillment partner only shares the good news and not the bad, or if they stop short of sharing with you how to improve inventory based on this year’s movement in the warehouse. You as a retailer deserve a full picture of the state of your operations. The main benefit of a 3PL partner should be their expertise and willingness to help guide you through the fulfillment side of your brand. If that’s not an offering with your current partner, it’s advisable you start shopping around for one that will give you your money’s worth in 2017 and beyond.

Feeling the pain from these challenges during the peak season is very common for growing businesses. If you’re hoping for a smoother peak season and 2017 overall, reach out to us and let us know how we may be able to help!