What to Look for When Searching for a Third-Party Logistics Provider (3PL) in the U.S.

As ecommerce, retail and dropshipping channels continue to grow across the U.S., the complexity of the logistics involved grow, too.

As ecommerce, retail and dropshipping channels continue to grow across the U.S., the complexity of the logistics involved grow, too. Partnering with a 3PL provider can help improve efficiency, control costs and ensure ever-evolving customer expectations are met and even exceeded. Handing the task of managing logistics over to a 3PL partner allows you to focus on innovation, growth and other core business competencies. Here are a few things to look for when searching for one in the U.S.

A strong network of warehouses from coast-to-coast

Many 3PL providers offer multi-node locations to reach your end customers across the country because it tends to save shipping time and costs. However, make sure you consider the volume of products allocated to each location and the distance from the warehouse to customers — you’ll want to confirm that your fulfillment partner can accommodate the inventory levels you need in the right locations. With 25+ Shipwire-enabled fulfillment centers spanning east to west, we can reach 93% of the U.S. population within two days via ground transportation.

Technology and innovation for streamlined fulfillment

Using a 3PL fulfillment provider that prioritizes keeping their operations up to date with new technology and automation is one indicator that they’ll be able to keep your business running smoothly. A 3PL partner that uses robust ERP systems and warehouse management solutions will ensure transparency and can help you outperform competitors through better inventory management, item tracking, shipping and handling, carrier selection, security, payment processing, cost optimization and complex data analytics. Leveraging a platform like Shipwire is one way to connect supply to demand from the east coast to the west coast.

Extensive carrier and shipping options (at the right price!)

When choosing your 3PL provider, finding one that offers many carriers and service options is important so that you can meet customer expectations. In this day and age, many U.S. companies do not want to be limited to a single carrier option. A 3PL relationship provides a lot of flexibility in terms of carriers and gives customers access to cost-effective options, meanwhile your business benefits from volume-based discounts without having to worry about qualifying on your own. Leveraging volume discounts, 3PL providers negotiate with carriers to get you the best small parcel rates possible (including base rates and surcharges). Shipwire has long standing relationships with top domestic carriers like FedEx, UPS, and USPS and can offer competitive shipping rates, small parcel and freight carrier optimization for Prime-like transit time, and first- and final-mile services. Using your preferences and customer selection, our software will identify the most optimal carrier. Beyond that, our comprehensive transportation solutions save time and money and enable control and transparency over your supply chain.

Exceeds customer expectations

As ecommerce evolves and matures, customer expectations will continue shifting. Make sure your 3PL solution is flexible and has the capacity to scale and meet the demands of your customers as they change over time. Customers have come to expect on-demand shipping, quick transit times and visibility into shipping processes, so those things are critical and additional requirements will likely emerge. Finding a 3PL provider that has proven processes, the necessary geographic coverage, is able to scale and grow with your business, and has good references from existing customers regarding the customer experience is important.

Stability and strong relationships

Because your 3PL provider is a reflection of your brand and will be associated with many aspects of your company, look for one that instills trust, shares similar values and has demonstrated success and good relationships across all the regions where you will do business. The U.S. market is competitive and you want to find a provider that will stay invested and committed to your long-term success. Financial stability is also important, as it increases the likelihood of stability despite supply chain interruptions and other unforeseen issues.

Looking for a 3PL provider that checks all the boxes?

Shipwire is set up to enable brands and retailers to scale. With 200+ pre-built connectors, you can get set up quickly and integrate easily with retailers, marketplaces, shopping carts and other commerce tools. We focus on the end-to-end customer experience by prioritizing connectivity, transparency and consistency in every customer relationship, and we adhere to Lean Six Sigma best practices to ensure operational excellence. Backed by Ingram Micro’s 40+ years of operational experience and a network of U.S. and global fulfillment centers, we’re ready to help you elevate your business. If you’re looking to improve your current fulfillment processes, get in touch with us today.

Sarah Shaffer
Sarah Shaffer
Associate Business Analyst
Sarah Shaffer is an Associate Business Analyst at Shipwire. She works cross-functionally across teams and her work involves network optimizations, profitability analysis and managing transportation communication channels. Sarah is a creative, data-obsessed analyst who, when not at the office, finds joy in skiing, yoga, backpacking, and open-water swimming!
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