With the speed and convenience of eCommerce, it’s hard to remember that these businesses are more than just digital storefronts. Just as they sell physical goods, there’s a whole logistical world behind the scenes that accounts for every step between your final confirmation click on your online shopping cart to when your order shows up on your doorstep. Of course, finding the right partners to provide warehousing services that keep the supply chain moving is paramount to your success if you own your own eCommerce store.
In this article, we’ll explain some of the most common warehousing services for eCommerce stores, their benefits, and what to look for when choosing a third-party logistics partner.
What are Examples of Warehousing Services
If you’re a one-person eCommerce brand, that spare bedroom or extra closet can only store so much for so long. While the world of third-party logistics (or 3PL for short) may seem daunting, choosing the right partner can make a huge difference in the amount of stress, time, money, and storage space you have to work with.
But warehousing services are more than just finding a spot to park your inventory. They include:
- Fulfillment (Pick-and-Pack): fulfillment encompasses most of the behind-the-scenes handling of your store’s orders. From receiving inventory to picking, packing, and shipping orders to customers, and even processing returns in case of any mishaps, having a team of professionals to handle all this for you can minimize delays and errors while enabling you to focus on the parts of your business that make you more money such as sales, marketing, and developing new products.
- Freight Management: once an order is packaged and ready to go, you still need a way to get it to your customers. Some 3PL companies not only handle fulfillment, but will help negotiate the best freight partners to send your merchandise out, saving you time and money by finding the best rates and packing your orders more efficiently to keep their dimensional weight down. If you’re looking to ship internationally, these companies also understand the ins and outs of customs regulations and documentation, saving you the headache of trying to figure out the details yourself.
- Third-Party Storage: while third-party warehousing services naturally include storing your inventory in a warehouse, having the professionals handle this is a boon for any online entrepreneur. Aside from saving space in your home or office by moving your inventory off-site, warehousing teams know how to efficiently store and manage your inventory on your behalf. Moreover, these warehouses often have security systems and procedures in place to make sure your inventory is safe and sound.
No matter what kind of warehousing services you’re looking for, there are many benefits to working with a 3PL company. In addition to helping you scale your eCommerce business effectively, a good 3PL partner can also help you save money on commercial shipping domestically and internationally, as well as help you choose the right kinds of packaging for your merchandise.
By using third-party logistics to automate and delegate your behind-the-scenes processes, you can turn your attention to improving customer satisfaction, in turn encouraging return business while attracting new customers. But what makes for a good warehousing partner?
How to Find Great Warehousing Services
While there are plenty of great warehousing services to choose from, it’s up to you to find the right one depending on what you need and even the industry you operate in. The following is a list of five main factors to consider when you’re in the market for a 3PL provider:
It’s true that every business starts somewhere, and there are plenty of new companies that deserve a chance. But when it comes to logistics, providers with proven track records are invaluable beyond the skills of their teams. Because logistics underpins everything in the economy, seasoned providers often have valuable networks and a strong history of successful partnerships that you, as their client, can leverage to your benefit.
The whole point of warehousing is to make storing your inventory effective. That means choosing one that’s strategically located near your target market or, at the very least, can still serve your market well. For instance, Canadian businesses looking to do business within the United States should consider facilities near major transportation hubs and border crossings, ideally on the American side to avoid unnecessary border crossings for returns or individual order shipments. Proximity to major highways, railroads, airports, and harbors is also crucial, especially if your goods require transloading.
When looking for a warehousing provider, be sure to take their size into account. A partner whose operations are too small may struggle to keep up with you as your business grows; too large, and they may be less flexible or attentive to specific requirements you may have. With that in mind, be sure to find a provider that’s just the right size that can also scale with your business at the speed it’s growing.
While there are plenty of 3PL providers that offer a general set of services, there are plenty that specialize in certain industries, product types, or customer niches (such as eCommerce). If your merchandise requires specific handling, whether it’s temperature-controlled storage for food products or extra safety for hazardous materials, find a provider that knows how to handle those kinds of goods safely. Conversely, even if you like what a specialized provider has to offer, if they’re more than what you need, it might end up needlessly costing you more.
Technology and Equipment
If you’ve never worked inside a warehouse before, it might be hard to imagine anything else besides rows of shelves with boxes upon boxes. Modern warehouses, however, are outfitted with some pretty useful technology, including digital warehouse management systems, barcode scanners, and automated storage and retrieval systems. It’s this technology that enables accurate order tracking information, inventory replenishment notifications, and various other data points that keep your business running smoothly.
Explore 3PL Warehousing Solutions with UCanTrade
Whether you’re a one-person business or a sprawling company that’s gotten overwhelmed with trying to store its inventory, you don’t have to figure all this out on your own. Third-party warehousing services can make a huge difference in your stress levels and your business’s profit margins by delegating, automating, and honing your logistics processes so that you can focus on growing your brand.
Interested in taking your eCommerce business to the next level? Reach out to us today to learn more about how the experts at UCanTrade can help.