Fulfilling orders is a large part of e-commerce and if you are a small business that is getting increased numbers of orders, it can be very difficult to operate in-house. The business will be too big and you will not be able to attend to the needs of the business completely. At this point, you can look at third party logistics or a 3PL company to outsource your order fulfilment requirements.
A third-party logistics or a 3PL company takes care of e-commerce logistics, 3PL warehouse services, inventory management, fulfilling orders etc. A 3PL company will allow the company to focus on the product and branding without having to worry about fulfilling orders. They have the right tools and the required infrastructure in order to provide a better shopping experience for the customer. There are also 4PL services in addition to 3PL. 4PL is a company that provides management of a 3PL service to customers. This will take the stress of order fulfilment management off your shoulders. If your company has scaled up considerably to be in need of 3PL services, you need to understand the services provided by these companies and the process that is involved once a customer completes an order online.
A 3PL company will have their own strategies and maximum capabilities when it comes to receiving inventory and storing it. They need to work closely with the customer in order to find how many items they are receiving as inventory in order for a more organised service. The inventory will be stored in fulfilment centres once the 3PL company receives it. You need to look at the scale of your company before selecting a 3PL warehouse as they will have different storage capacities. So you need to select a company that has more space than you require at the moment so it is easier for you to scale up your inventory even more. You will receive more services from a 3PL company than a warehousing company as there is more integration. Once an order has been placed, the 3PL fulfilment process will begin. Depending on the company you might need to upload these orders to their system manually or you can integrate the 3PL with your online platform directly so that it makes for a more efficient process. The warehouse picking team will receive your order so that they can collect the products.
After the ordered item or items have been picked, they will be packaged to prepare for shipping. There are different packaging materials you can use depending on the nature of your product. This is something that will be dissuaded with the 3PL company beforehand. Different companies will offer different packing solutions. Generally, the packaging materials used are boxes, bubble mailers, paper based dunnage and poly bags. The purchasing and printing of shipping labels for the item will be provided by the 3PL company in most cases. They will have a relationship with a carrier partner that will make the process easier. The carriers will pick up the orders and the tracking details involved will be automatically transferred to the customer who placed the order.