(This is a guest post from our friends at ReTrans Freight, provider of integrated transportation technology solutions, focused on simplifying LTL B2B/B2C online commerce.)
When evaluating 3PL providers and logistics companies, technology should arguably be one of the primary attributes to be considered. What sort of tools are available to clients and do these come at an additional cost? How secure is the environment within which your data will be housed? Now that we are deep into the internet age, it’s imperative that merchants question the ways in which their logistics partners automate, integrate and innovate. After all, freight costs are one of the largest line-item expenditures a company manages so it behooves shippers to ensure that their getting their money’s worth.
Security and Stability
Shipping is a 24/7 process and just because you may be sleeping, it doesn’t mean your supply chain is. Information always needs to flow freely and securely so confirming that your 3PL provider is fully protecting their network is of the utmost importance. Ask about co-locations or redundant server stacks, which provides highly secure housing for servers and networking equipment. Co-location facilities offer greater protection from power outages and natural disaster than most in-house locations and often come equipped with CCTV monitoring for additional safekeeping.
Additionally, verify whether your provider is utilizing cloud-based technology and how it’s protected. We live in an age where data breaches and DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks are reality. If your partner isn’t protecting against these, your supply chain could be in jeopardy. Look for a 3PL that can keep your shipments moving even if they endure a form of cyber-attack.
Automation and Integration
The logistics industry has been notoriously slow to adopt new technologies and while it’s understandable when you consider the behind-the-scenes complexities built into most transportation transactions, it can still be quite frustrating for end-users. Within the past decade it was still commonplace for carriers to require faxed documents or hard-copy cheques, both of which are antiquated ways of conducting business that likely befuddle the most recent generation of the workforce.
Logistics partners need to facilitate the exchange of information between multiple parties, often operating on different systems. Be on the lookout for providers who can extend and improve upon the technology their carriers employ.
API Integration is an optimal method for facilitating the flow of shipment data to and from various systems including ERPs, accounting software and eCommerce shopping carts. APIs work in the background to communicate between various software and create an instant, seamless user experience. B2C and B2B consumers alike now expect a certain level of real-time information and there is no exception for logistics. For example, being able to provide eCommerce buyers with instant freight rates is a strong defense against cart abandonment and API’s make this possible.
Staying ahead of the curve is more important than ever, so while evaluating 3PL providers, take a look at the frequency with which they update or roll out new features and services. Do they have a mobile app and if so, which capabilities are available? How open to customer feedback is the provider and are they agile enough to innovate and adapt as the industry requires? Partnering with a logistics provider that can keep up with today’s continually changing digital landscape is a surefire way to set yourself apart from the competition.
For more points to consider when selecting a logistics partner, visit the ReTrans Freight blog.
Additonal 3PL Fulfillment Resources
- Using Online Order Fulfillment to Increase Sales
- eCommerce Order Fulfillment: Picking the Best Fulfillment Strategy for Your Business
- 3rd Party Fulfillment Services: Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) Alternatives
About the Author
Nicola Malaney is the Director of eCommerce for ReTrans Freight where she focuses on identifying and developing alliances that create value for merchants looking to optimize and simplify their LTL eCommerce distribution. She holds an MBA in International Business and Supply Chain Management and has used her expertise to enable many businesses to succeed in the eCommerce marketplace.
About ReTrans Freight
Seamless eCommerce integration of real-time freight rates for quotes, tracking automation and unparalleled customer service allows you to provide a friction-less online buying experience for your customer. Multi-department freight management tools help promote cost savings, productivity and overall company growth. Our integrated transportation technology solutions, focused on simplifying LTL B2B/B2C online commerce, will improve conversion rates and stabilize/reduce freight expense.