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Is Your 3PL Ready to Handle Social Commerce?

Blog Post
When a product is featured by an influencer or unexpectedly goes viral, brands must be confident that their third-party logistics (3PL) partner can scale, contain costs, and provide an amazing customer experience.
woman making a video of her unboxing a package

Social commerce is a popular, growing sales channel for eCommerce brands. It marries lifestyle interests with digital habits and convenient shopping by leveraging people’s time on social media and their trust in influencers. Buying off a social media post or ad is easy and relevant as brands highly tailor content to shoppers’ interests. In 2024, global social commerce revenue is expected to total $1.64 trillion, a 30.8% increase from 2023. Facebook Marketplace continues to lead the pack, though the secondary marketplace skews social commerce numbers slightly. If Marketplace is removed, Instagram (both owned by Meta) takes the lead, with TikTok a close third. Across social platforms, social commerce is thriving. That’s great news for brands expanding their omniexperience strategy.   

But, when a product is featured by an influencer or unexpectedly goes viral, brands must be confident that their third-party logistics (3PL) partner can scale, contain costs, and provide an amazing customer experience. Can yours?  

High Volume, High Stakes Order Fulfillment 

Social commerce sales can surge fast, with thousands of SKUs selling within hours to days. These high volumes can continue for weeks or even months. A 3PL needs to have distribution centers close to customers, a robust delivery network, tailored automation, modern technology, the capacity to collaborate, and experienced people to handle this scale while also managing your other channel order fulfillment.  

Social commerce customers that purchase based on a trusted, admired influencer’s experience of a product expect to have a similar experience. They want a personalized, branded, feel-good, shareable unboxing experience. Brands want this, too. Much of social commerce hinges on reviews and word of mouth marketing. The entire click to delivery experience needs to be positive so customers will share their experience online. Likewise, social customers will also share negative reviews if their experience fails to live up to expectations.  

A brand that experiences a viral or sudden sales event generates a lot of immediate revenue, but continued sales to those customers over time needs to be the overall goal.  

Getting social commerce order fulfillment right at any point is essential — and during high volume events, the stakes are high.  

So, what does your 3PL need to be able to do to deliver on that experience?  

Expect these things from your 3PL:  

  • Distribution Hubs in Proximity to Customers 

    Your 3PL’s infrastructure should include the capacity to centralize inventory for multi-channel distribution as well as have multi-node fulfillment centers. Social customers typically expect fast delivery, which means a 3PL needs to be able to move product quickly — without exorbitant costs. Having inventory in proximity to customers helps contain costs and meet customer expectations. 
  • A Robust Delivery Network 

    A 3PL can achieve fast fulfillment timelines, but unless it has strategic partnerships with carriers it won’t be able to meet delivery deadlines and be able to optimize final mile costs. Transportation management becomes critical during spikes in high volumes and fast timelines.
  • A Tailored Approach to Automation 

    A 3PL that invests in automation is investing in scalability. Robotic automation reduces time for pick and pack, kitting, and empowers employees to work more efficiently. Radial tailors its robotic automation strategy to each client to ensure that the right aspects of order fulfillment are scaled to meet their unique needs for every channel.  

    Automation also plays into systems and processes, cutting down routine, manual work to improve accuracy, speed, and efficiency. Automation should never come at the cost of a great customer experience. 
  • Easy to Use Modern Technology 

    The technology a 3PL uses should easily integrate into your systems and provide clarity to everyone on your team. This may include real-time inventory visibility, transportation management software, an order management system, and analytics and reporting. Some 3PLs, like Radial, also provide payments and fraud solutions to support retailers. This becomes critical during high volume sales events and peak seasons.
  • A Capacity to Collaborate 

    Brands that collaborate with influencers need to remember that the influencer’s reputation is also at stake when they promote a product. Many influencers want to be sure their followers have a brand experience that aligns with their expectations and brand, too. This may mean a more personalized unboxing experience;  one that may include promotional materials from the influencer. Your 3PL needs to be able to work with you and the influencer to create a shareable, feel-good unboxing experience. While much of this may be automated, the ability to include hand-written cards or a more personal touch can be a key differentiator for brands (and influencers). Be sure your 3PL can offer the human touch, at scale.  

  • Values People 

    In today’s technology-focused world, it’s easy to overlook the intrinsic value of having experienced people with expertise in high-scale order fulfillment serving your brand. A 3PL should demonstrate that they value their people as much as their robotics and technology. Look for a 3PL that has experienced people and that understands how to best leverage the value of human judgment, empathy, creativity, and insight across the order fulfillment process. Your customers will experience the difference.  

Social commerce is an exciting channel for many brands. Before you jump into it, be sure you have the right 3PL partner that will have your back and be able to scale to any capacity you need. Be sure they have this capacity in place and are not promising it down their roadmap. The right 3PL will grow with you, but will also be the steadfast partner you need to help you manage your success immediately.   

Radial provides order fulfillment solutions for brands selling across all eCommerce channels, including social commerce. We’d be proud to partner with you to support your success.  

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