Last mile, first impressions: ensuring your e-commerce 3PL provider is up to the job.

The rapid growth of online shopping and blink-and-you’ll-miss-it advances in technology, coupled with frenzied speculation about ‘the Amazon effect’, have sent many small (and not-so-small) retailers into a tailspin. New entrants and experienced retailers alike are scrambling for resources to keep up with the demands that e-commerce is placing on all aspects of their supply chains. It’s no longer a marketplace but a complex business ecosystem, and it’s a jungle out there!

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Equally, third-party logistics (3PL) providers are feeling the heat as their infrastructure struggles to service a new and fast-growing market.

Until now, 3PL providers’ facilities have centered on palletised, bulk shipments moved to stores or hubs at scheduled and relatively infrequent times, typically within regular business hours.

E-commerce clients, however, have very different needs based on thousands of individualised, smaller shipments direct to consumers at highly unpredictable times, 24/7. Never before has last mile been so important. The customer owns it and it is the last interface between your business and them.

Research confirms that consumer expectations are high; they’re demanding an experience, not just a service, and this places greater pressure on last mile operations. One bad experience loses you a customer – and they’re not short on alternatives.

So who do you trust to handle your product and protect your brand?

The 10 questions you need to ask your 3PL provider

1. Do they have the cloud technologies to allow customers to move seamlessly between channels?
2. Do they have a dedicated fulfillment warehouse? If not, what adaptations have they made to accommodate picking and packing for e-commerce?
3. Is their location relevant to your customers and requisite shipping hubs?
4. How strong are their delivery partner relationships?
5. Do they offer your customers 24/7 visibility and tracking of their orders?
6. Do they have a warehouse management system that can accommodate multiple shopping cart technologies?
7. What quality controls are in place to manage presentation and packing standards in order to care for your brand?
8. Can they handle late changes to orders?
9. How well do they handle returns?
10. How well positioned are they for future growth?

Siecap Project Management and Advisory is a specialist firm providing a full range of corporate, capital project and operational services to help clients optimise cost, increase performance and manage risk.

Contact us to discuss how we can help your business navigate the exciting but complex landscape that is the e-commerce supply chain. There are new rules of engagement that you must understand to ensure your last mile delivers the experience your customers deserve and secures the future growth of your business.

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