What makes your ideal 3PL efulfilment partner?

What questions should you ask, and what answers make them the best fit for your business model, products, and buyer markets'


We’ve created a needs analysis framework to help you challenge your understanding and find the most suitable 3PL efulfilment partner. If you are an established brand looking to take the next step in scaling your online sales it can feel quite overwhelming. Looking for the best 3PL efulfilment partner is about asking the right questions so you can find the best fit - but you don't know what you don't know!


There are three core areas you need to be clear upon:

1  |  Operational Needs

What does your SKU catalog look like'
An SKU catalog is a record of all the products a business stocks, identified by their individual Stock Keeping Units (SKUs). It's essentially a database containing information about each product.
What's the geographical factor'
Are you selling into a specific region or the UK mainland' What about Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man'
Are you selling overseas'
It’s crucial to provide detailed information about the countries you sell into (and those you have aspirations to sell into). This enables them to tailor their services and expertise to best serve your needs and optimise your international operations.
Logistics & Operational Information
What’s your inventory management strategy, what are your picking & packing requirements and do you need any value added services, like bespoke packaging'
Delivery timescales and options
Do your customers care about whether they receive their order in 3 versus 5 business days'
Don't let operational desires cloud your judgment
You’ll need to clearly communicate delivery options and costs to customers during checkout. So dive into these questions to identify your brand's true must-haves, and align delivery options with your target audience's expectations and purchasing habits.


2  |  Technical Needs

In today's fast-paced e-commerce world, choosing a 3PL partner that embraces technology is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for sustainable growth and success.

Choosing a 3PL efulfilment partner involves careful consideration of their technical capabilities to ensure seamless integration with your brand's systems and provide optimal order management and stock visibility.

Order Tracking and Visibility: Can customers track their orders in real-time through your platform or a dedicated portal provided by the 3PL'

Returns Management: Does the 3PL have an integrated system for handling returns, including tracking, processing, and restocking'

Data Security and Compliance: Ensure the 3PL adheres to industry data security standards and complies with relevant privacy regulations.

Inventory Synchronisation: Can your inventory levels be automatically synchronised with the 3PL's warehouse management system (WMS) to ensure accurate visibility and prevent overselling'

Delivery Tracking Information: Real-time tracking data for shipped orders, including estimated delivery times and carrier updates.

Performance Metrics: Data on order fulfilment accuracy, shipping times, and other key performance indicators.

Thorough research and clear communication with potential partners are key to finding the best fit for your brand's technical needs.


3  |  Culture & Collaboration Needs

You’re selecting a partner who has the power to help you grow or could potentially damage your brand. It takes more than a few Google searches and a price comparison exercise.

You need to understand what makes a good fit and will give you a solid foundation for growth. It's about finding a partner you can truly collaborate with, trust, and grow alongside.

  • Will you have a named account manager as a liaison - or just a support desk'
  • Are they client-centric - or do you need to fit within their framework'
  • Are they proactive problem solvers - or are you left to figure out how'
  • Can you see their operations – or is it smoke and mirrors'
  • How often is your account reviewed - and what’s the objective'

How they treat you as a prospect will give you an idea of the fit, but beware!
It's easy to get charmed by a slick sales pitch. Every 3PL will tell you they're the best, but it's to pick the perfect partner you need to cut through the fluff. Look for substance over style – seek out evidence of data-backed achievements and precise instances where they've tackled challenges akin to yours.

A great way of getting a gut feel for the business is to ask to walk the warehouse floor, follow the process from orders in to picking and dispatch. In getting to see their facilities first hand you should get a feel for the people and the relationships.

While not quantifiable, these subjective measures should hold equal weight in your decision making process.


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