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Fast-growing eCommerce Retailer? 7 Ways a 3PL Will Help You Seize Opportunities 

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Rather than look primarily at what a 3PL can do for you, we encourage eCommerce leaders to go beyond and look at the way they will work with you.
fulfillment center with robots moving packages

What do you do when your eCommerce sales outpace your ability to scale? Sleeping less than you do now is not the answer. Hiring more staff in a difficult market may not be either. When your business reaches a tipping point – and that fulcrum is different for every retailer – you must answer tough questions: Expand your eCommerce fulfillment infrastructure or outsource? Invest in more headcount or robotic automation? Modernize your tech stack or partner with cutting-edge vendors? Ultimately, each decision will impact your customers’ omniexperience with your brand.  

At Radial, we engage with fast-growing eCommerce business leaders who are deciding how to seize the opportunities in front of them. When scaling is the only answer, figuring out how becomes crucial.  

It’s at this junction that retailers consider third-party logistics (3PL) companies as potential solutions. And, with good reason. We can handle your fulfillment operations for you.  

Rather than look primarily at what a 3PL can do for you, we encourage eCommerce leaders to go beyond and look at the way they will work with you. We’ll explain why.  

As you consider the best strategy to scale, see how you identify with the top challenges eCommerce leaders come to us with and our advice based on 30 years as a leader in the 3PL eCommerce industry.  

  1. We don’t just need to scale; we need elasticity in an unpredictable world.  
    People often think of scaling as expanding up and out, fast. Think peak season order fulfillment. But the last few years have drilled it home that businesses need to be able to scale down as fast as they scale up. What they really need is elasticity. It’s hard to get it with internal infrastructure. Which is one reason that staffing up doesn’t work; and even temporary hiring (seasonal) doesn’t cut it when we’re seeing order volumes spike randomly. In the influencer culture, any product can become a hit overnight. Then just as quickly order volumes drop.  
    A 3PL should work closely with your teams to create an elastic capacity to scale service whenever you need it. Up or down. With predictable costs. They should get to know your business so well that they feel part of your teams and you can communicate openly and transparently with them at all times. They should also sync their technology with yours so that you are always on the same page. No surprises.  
  1. We need to invest in AI automation, but our technology lags behind.  
    AI is here to stay, but you don’t need to jump in hastily or without a solid plan. Don’t let false urgency make your AI decisions. The generative AI craze will soon settle for more rational, strategic implementations. Many retailers are grappling with legacy technology and slower-than-hoped-for transformation. You are not alone.  
    This is where a 3PL partner that is actively investing in AI automation bridges the gap. At Radial, we’ve been investing in AI and robotic automation for years and will continue to put it to work for our customers. We adopt AI innovations as they strategically make sense for our retailers and when we see true business gains – not just prophetic promises. At Radial, we believe the key to innovation is to be forward-thinking and forward-adoptive, while tying it to practical business impact.  
  1. We need to reduce overhead without hurting customer experience.  
    This is a tough one for every retailer. In today’s economy, cost reduction and containment are paramount – but so is levitating the customer experience (CX) to new heights. Most eCommerce retailers cannot reduce overhead and scale internally without damaging the customer experience. Retailers also must consider the employee experience and brand reputation. Today’s employees are more burned out and disillusioned with corporate cost-cutting than they have been in years. Necessary cost-cutting today will have a ripple effect in the future; retailers need to tread carefully.  

    One of the cleanest ways to reduce overhead without harming CX is to bring in a 3PL. The right 3PL partner will be able to improve CX while increasing efficiencies and lowering costs.  
  1. We need to streamline reverse logistics. Now.  
    Returns is a migraine for every eCommerce retailer. It’s become more so with the recent attempts to charge for returns and the ensuing loss of business. Customers just won’t have it, not while they can still get free returns elsewhere. Solving the returns problem is paramount; retailers bleed money when they don’t. Reverse logistics is an expensive operation to run.  
    A 3PL that has a solid, efficient reverse logistics operation will bring that positive impact to you immediately. Without you having to invest in creating order from chaos. They should collaborate closely with your leadership team to understand your pain points and bring expert guidance in how to alleviate them.  
  1. We need real-time visibility into our supply chain.  
    Many retailers assume they can buy software to solve this. Modern real-time visibility software is not the only factor. Supply chains are diverse, complex ecosystems with a variety of technology systems in play. More importantly, a variety of communication styles. You need effective communication with people in the supply chain. Ask 3PLs how they will facilitate this communication along with visibility. They should value both and demonstrate how they implement it. It becomes apparent in the way they prevent and resolve problems before they impact the customer. Ask for proof.  
  1. Scaling impacts everything. We need more than fulfillment help.  
    eCommerce is an orchestrated stream of connected parts. When you scale order fulfillment, it’s predicated on the fact that your digital traffic has scaled, your payment processing has scaled, your fraud prevention has scaled, and your post-sale processes have scaled. Many eCommerce leaders come to us knowing they need more than order fulfillment; few expect a 3PL can do more.  
    Most 3PLs do specialize in order fulfillment services. Radial understood long ago that eCommerce retailers need a variety of support – all of which ultimately impacts fulfillment. We also know that consolidating services into one vendor cuts out complexity; and that one-size-fits-all doesn’t account for the nuances of eCommerce businesses. We offer fulfillment, transportation management, omnichannel solutions, customer care, and payment solutions (including fully managed fraud prevention and chargeback services) – and tailor each service to a retailer’s unique needs. Just as you would if you owned these functions inhouse.  
  1. We need to be more than just an account.  
    We encourage retailers to evaluate the way a 3PL will work with you not just what they can do for you. Partnership matters. Accountability matters. Your customers cannot afford for you to be just another account at your 3PL. You need personalized collaboration with eCommerce experts and peers to create a working relationship that works. You need people you can count on, communicate with, trust, and innovate with – for mutual success.  
    You also deserve to have your 3PL championing your growth and future. Think of 3PLs as specialists and experts in their fields, with years of experience and a strong network of deep learning based on their clientele. That kind of expertise lends itself to be mentor, coach, advisor. On your side. There for you. Your best interests at heart.  

How you choose to scale your eCommerce business will have short- and long-term effects on your revenue and customer experience. Engaging a 3PL that will partner with you through your growth and provide the guidance, support, and expertise to help you make the best decisions for your business can be the wisest move. It’s not what they can do for you (as much as that matters), but how they do it with you that will make the difference.  

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