How to ensure a successful partnership with a third-party logistics provider

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Brands spend large sums of money to create positive connections with customers. They seek touchpoints to build awareness, create personalized experiences and establish emotional connections that drive greater engagement, sales and loyalty. And they are well aware that every interaction counts.

Yet amidst this flurry of activity, there’s one vital relationship that brands may be overlooking that can make or break their entire connection with customers: it’s the partnership with their third-party logistics provider (3PL ).

Just like any successful relationship, this connection is based on clear communication, mutual trust, compatibility, and a deep understanding of each other’s needs and goals. It’s not just up to the 3PL to make the relationship work: it’s a collaborative journey that leads to its success.

Going well beyond contractual agreements, here are three essential strategies brands can adopt to cultivate a thriving 3PL partnership and improve the customer experience:

Related: The 4 Key Principles of Every Successful Partnership

1. Communicate openly and often

When a brand partners with a 3PL, establishing transparent and consistent communication is critical to its long-term success. It starts during the evaluation phase, when brands lay out their requirements, and leads to the proposal phase, when 3PLs share their core competencies. Before a partnership decision is even made, 3PLs should have their implementation plan mapped out, taking into account brand system integrations, inventory management, packaging details and carrier preferences, among other factors main.

Open communication should not end with a service contract. For a truly successful partnership, brands cannot take a “set it and forget it” approach with their 3PL. They can make warehouse visits, establish communication channels and regularly share vital information. The same goes for 3PLs. They simply cannot deal with warehousing, inventory management, picking and packing, shipping and delivery without understanding all the nuances of a brand’s business, from brand identity and SOPs to its specific compliance for order fulfillment. Each partner must be willing to make every effort to communicate transparently, frequently sharing forecasts and sales data, providing visibility into inventory levels, and discussing any issues, performance metrics, and customer feedback that arise.

By fostering a strong collaborative relationship with their 3PL, brands can achieve efficient operations, transparent pricing in line with expectations, and effective communication tailored to its specific needs. This alignment cultivates a positive customer experience, characterized by predictability and reliability.

2. Treat your 3PL as an extension of your brand

A successful 3PL brand partnership goes beyond simple transactions. In the most successful partnerships, brands see their 3PL as a true extension of their team. This is an intentional process that requires more than just collaboration. It requires a willingness by both brands and their 3PLs to integrate into each other’s businesses.

3PLs are not typically experts in retail, but they are experts in providing products to shoppers. By relegating a 3PL to just operational tasks without integrating them into the larger strategic picture, brands can encounter inefficiencies and missed opportunities.

Take sales and promotions for example. Let’s say a brand has invested a lot of time and resources in launching a new product with a spectacular advertising campaign, but has not informed its 3PL partner of the expected recovery in inventory and sales. This will result in staff shortages, delays in order fulfillment and disappointed buyers. By leaving the 3PL in the dark and not giving them the opportunity to prepare, the brand has not supported a successful partnership.

Communicating changes, whether new SKUs or expected volume fluctuations, is an easy way to take the 3PL along for the ride. Brands and 3PLs can go further by establishing a point of contact that regularly shares updates, discusses KPIs like dock-to-stock metrics or inventory and picking accuracy, and aligns customer support programs to quickly resolve customer issues. buyers.

Operating as an integral part of a brand’s team gives 3PLs the flexibility to adapt their operations to meet partner needs instead of imposing rigid, one-size-fits-all solutions.

Related: These are the dos and don’ts when working with a third-party service provider

3. Embrace 3PL technology and the visibility it offers

As retailers look for ways to improve the customer experience, 3PLs that embrace technology are rising to the occasion to meet their needs.

However, it’s not enough to just partner with 3PLs at the forefront of technology. Brands must focus on the technology they offer to stay competitive and meet the ever-changing demands of their customers.

Various technology platforms, such as order management systems (OMS), warehouse management systems (WMS), and transportation management systems (TMS), offer brands real-time insights into their 3PL, fulfillment, and delivery operations , drive efficiency and provide visibility throughout their entire business. operation. Additionally, a 3PL’s automation, robotics, and AI tools can increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve the workforce experience, making warehouse and delivery workers happier and performing better for workers. brand partners.

Embracing technology and the 3PLs that adopt it improves operational efficiency and provides brands with the visibility they need to make informed decisions and proactively respond to customer needs, ultimately leading to a more seamless and satisfying shopping experience .

Related: How to get the most out of external partners

Maintaining open lines of communication, viewing 3PLs as a strategic partner rather than a service provider, and embracing their technology are all key to forming successful partnerships.

With a strong 3PL relationship, brands can enhance the customer experience to increase brand loyalty and stay ahead of the curve in the increasingly competitive retail environment.

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